Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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zedz
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#176 Post by zedz » Tue May 29, 2018 4:53 pm

Would anybody else appreciate an extension of a week or so? I'm racing to get through my pile of rewatches but doubt I'll complete them by the deadline.

Last night's pair were:

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Chekhovian Motifs (Kira Muratova, 2002) - Maybe I'm just getting inured to Muratova, but this film, which seemed exhausting and relentless the first time I saw it now seems almost restrained. A young man leaves his home in a country village for the big city, then returns, then leaves again. His father has fits of hysteria and rage, but who wouldn't when your wife incessantly asks dozens of slight variations on the same question in breathless sequence? Anyway, that framing plot comes to seem beside the point when the lad, and the film, get stranded at a bizarre country wedding for about an hour in the middle. It's a hell of a set piece, as only Muratova could (or would bother) to construct, with dozens of characters expressing their petty psychoses and momentarily diverting the glacially ritualistic proceedings. It's all very handsomely shot in black and white, and this time around, relieved of narrative expectations, I just enjoyed the ride. This is one of the few Muratova films legitimately available in an English-subbed DVD edition, from Ruscico.

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Summer 1993 (Carla Simon, 2017) - This was one of my favourite films of last year, and it just looks even stronger now. A young girl is sent off to live with her aunt and uncle in the country when her mother dies, and the entire film (including the complex actions of the adults) is viewed from the child's point of view, so we're piecing together the relationships, tensions and backstory along with her. Sustaining that perspective without cheating is the first-time director's second-greatest achievement with the film. Her first is the astounding performances she elicits from her lead actress Laia Artigas and the even younger Paula Robles, who plays her three-year-old cousin / sister Anna. The subtlety and naturalness of their interactions is amazing to behold. Very highly recommended, and I'm going to have to cut something essential to make way for this on my list. The Spanish BluRay (under the title Verano 1993, though the actual original title is the Catalan Estiu 1993) looks great, with the feature subbed in English.

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Kirkinson
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#177 Post by Kirkinson » Tue May 29, 2018 5:12 pm

zedz wrote:
Tue May 29, 2018 4:53 pm
Would anybody else appreciate an extension of a week or so? I'm racing to get through my pile of rewatches but doubt I'll complete them by the deadline.
I certainly would! I've watched 7 movies in the past two days (which I haven't written about here yet) but even if I could sustain that pace I wouldn't get through my list by Friday. And I'd love to give a little extra thinking space to the ones I'm just watching for the first time.

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domino harvey
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#178 Post by domino harvey » Tue May 29, 2018 5:23 pm

I am not unopposed but two things:

01 That would bring us perilously close to infringing on the deadline for the 1920s List-- if swo's fine with that, I'm fine with that
02 I'm opening up the Renoir List on Saturday regardless

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swo17
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#179 Post by swo17 » Tue May 29, 2018 6:10 pm

I'm fine with that

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domino harvey
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#180 Post by domino harvey » Tue May 29, 2018 6:13 pm

Okay, y'all can have until June 8th. Keep in mind the first round for the 20s List also ends that weekend on the 10th

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zedz
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#181 Post by zedz » Tue May 29, 2018 6:19 pm

Thanks domino. Now I can get to work identifying another couple of dozen films to squeeze into my list!

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zedz
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#182 Post by zedz » Wed May 30, 2018 5:26 pm

I watched the two Carla Simon shorts from the Summer 1993 BluRay. Neither had English subs, so I was struggling, but I think I got the gist. They both anticipate major elements of her first feature.

Llacunes (Carla Simon) - I don't know when this was made, because it doesn't appear on imdb. It's a documentary short that starts and ends with home movie footage of Simon's dying mother, then progresses through a series of postcards / letters written by her mother throughout her life, each one carefully dated and accompanied by forward tracking shots through different spaces, and by different means (by car, by boat, handheld and walking etc.) It culminates with the letter in which she spells out what is to happen to her daughter when she dies. So in effect, this is a prologue to Summer 1993.

Las pequenas cosas (Carla Simon, 2015) - This is a much more conventional, and slick, dramatic short. A mother and adult daughter engage in a passive-aggressive domestic cold war, which ultimately thaws a little. The daughter is a dwarf, anticipating Frida's beloved aunt Lola in Summer 1993, and the theme of a religiously repressive older generation is also common to both films. Very well made, but lacking the distinctiveness of her subsequent feature.

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Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001) - I consider this the weakest link in the amazing run Denis had from I Can't Sleep to 35 Rhums, but it's nevertheless a hell of a film, possibly her most tactile and atmospheric (which is saying something). The weak points for me are a handful of uncharacteristic expository scenes (between Vincent Gallo's character and various scientists). It's a Denis film, so it's pretty oblique as exposition goes, but those scenes are still bare patches amidst all the gothic richness. The other thing that occurred to me this time through that I'm still not 100% sure on is:
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I think the reveal at the end that Gallo's Shane is the same kind of vampire as Dalle's Core might be intended as a surprise, and his other actions throughout the film are intended to be read as those of someone striving to eliminate the monster (i.e. he's Van Helsing, not Dracula). There's that bloody flashback he has in the aeroplane at the beginning, but that could work with either reading. However, Gallo's affect is so peculiar throughout that it never occurred to me the first time through that he could be kosher. That assumption in a way defangs the narrative, but it's hard for me to see the film the other way, with a surprise ending
The actual end of the film is absolutely superb, and a great moment to close on. I can't think of any other horror movies that end of such a moment of realisation.

Oh, and it occurred to me that this film really provides the template for Glazer's Under the Skin. There's a lot of hat-tipping in the later film when you think about it.

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Hide and Seek (Su Friedrich, 1997) - Rewatched based on the recommendations in this thread. It's a wonderful film, a study of "lesbian childhood" (whatever that is) that collages interviews, found footage, snapshots and dramatised sequences in a typically rich Friedrichian stew. When I first saw this, and to a lesser degree now, I found the dramatic sequences the weakest part of the film. When they work, they're great (that "Stop! In the Name of Love" scene is a joy), and the main actor, Chelsea Holland, is terrific, but sometimes the acting and tone is a little shaky, and I found this more conventional aspect of the film a step back from the audacity of how Friedrich dealt with narrative in her earlier films. Nevertheless, this is highly recommended, and where else are you going to see this material treated cinematically?

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zedz
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#183 Post by zedz » Thu May 31, 2018 7:35 pm

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Take Care of My Cat (Jeong Jae-eun, 2001) - This is kind of a companion film to Jane Campion's great Two Friends, as it also charts the growing apart of a tightly knit bunch of school friends. It's rather more conventionally dramatic than Campion's film, but it's also broader in scope, focussing on five friends (though two of them are clearly dramatically secondary) and the immediate post-school timeframe, when bonds are naturally dissipating and it takes real effort to maintain relationships. The cat of the title ends up as an exchange token that helps keep the group tentatively tied together. In many respects it's an update of the old-fashioned 'women's film' formula, but it's one that's really attentive to nuances of class and economics. For much of the film it seems to be relying on a predictable conflict between Hye-joo, the upwardly-mobile girl who has moved to Seoul to work in a brokerage firm, and Ji-Young, the girl from an disadvantaged background who seems doomed to escalating personal tragedy. But towards the end of the film, it's patiently revealed that all three of the leads are stuck in their own personal traps, and Hye-joo has just ended up on the lowest rung of a different ladder.

The three leads (including the always reliable Bae Doo-na) are all fantastic, and the film juggles a very large cast of supporting actors without any false notes - a remarkable achievement for a first-time filmmaker, I think. Jeong's mise-en-scene is in many respects a simplified take on Edward Yang's (no bad thing), but she adds her own innovations to the mix.

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There's a sparing but smart use of split-screens (in one instance, we're watching the twins watching television alongside what they're watching, a weird composition because the split is masked by the identical wall colour and only fully exposed when one of them stands up and passes from one field to the other), and this is one of the first films I remembered that really tackles the brave new world of cellphone proliferation. They're an integral part of the plot mechanics, a social signifier, and Jeong toys with ways of integrating texting into the film's visuals (with a stream of text appearing on the side of a building, or in an inset frame). I was afraid this aspect of the film would have dated badly, but it's still quite charming.

I'd love to fit this on to my list, have no idea whether I'll be able to manage it, and you should all see it anyway.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#184 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu May 31, 2018 9:14 pm

Seconding the recommendation for Take Care of My Cat. This was the film that sparked my interest in Korean cinema and my adoration of BAE Doo-na. JEONG's second film, The Aggressives, was sort of a male version of TComC, which I felt was quite good (if maybe a little less perfect than its predecessor). Sadly, this got no popular or critical support -- and lacking cute heroines, no international interest either. After a long period of teaching and occasional documentaries, she may be tackling a new feature film "one of these days".

BTW -- the Korean DVD of TComC had some earlier shorts which were quite interesting -- but which are now probably pretty unfindable.

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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#185 Post by yoshimori » Thu May 31, 2018 9:34 pm

Sorry to arrive late to the party. Rarely visit the "Other" sub-forum but just read through this entire thread, expanding my "too see" list by another dozen films. Thanks.

As per moi, besides the usual suspects (Ramsay, Arnold, much of the Denis, some Campion, some Kawase) I wanted to highlight a couple titles that've gone un- (or barely) mentioned:

My second favorite film directed by a woman is also the only film that woman made. It's SHIN Jae-in (Jane)'s 2004 Shin Sung-il is Lost, set in a Christian orphanage with bizarre culinary restrictions. It's hard to find, but a now OOP Korean DVD was issued back when.

Two other recent favorites among Asian women directors are SAKAMOTO Ayumi's 2013 Forma, which is filled with surprising characterization and brilliant formal turns. Here's the somewhat misleading trailer. And YANG Rui's experimental semi-documentary 2010 Crossing the Mountain, which, as this trailer suggests, is hard to describe.

Surprised there's been little mention of Malaysian director Jasmin Ahmad, best know for her Petronas spots. Before she suddenly died, at age 50 (?), she'd won the Best Director prize in Berlin, for Mukhsin (2006). Her last film, Talentime (2009), which, though technically generic, never fails to reduce its entire audience, including hardened film critics, to tears, would get a place in my top ten.

Athina Rachel Tsangari's Attenberg deserves mention, along with ... ... and ... ... and ... ...

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knives
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#186 Post by knives » Fri Jun 01, 2018 4:47 pm

Goodnight Mommy (Dirs. Fiala & Franz)
This has enough of an aesthetic strength to hold itself together, but on the whole it is too incoherent and plotty (e.g. Chekhov's pizza) to have more than the basest respect for. The style is the all too familiar arthouse, serious Euro-trash one knocking off Haneke and producer Seidl though with much more traditional editing. The film handles that well, but the characterization is so nonsensical and the torture porn ending so repetitive that it becomes hard not to just shrug the whole enterprise off. For the first hour the mother is such a horrible and weird character that the only logical place for the film to go is with her as the villain. It doesn't go there.

Seven Beauties (dir. Wertmuller)
I suppose it is only appropriate that the most successful of Wertmuller's films is also the one I've had the weakest reaction to. It's a good movie of course, but its satire is a little flat and the plot is presented in an unnecessarily complicated way. A lot of the humour also isn't as effective as in some of her other films though the hardiest laughs are just as delightfully dark. The opening credits and run through the woods suggest an early and more mainstream take on the structure Godard would start to fiddle with in the '90s, though once it slips into a Slaughterhouse Five thing it starts to loose steam. Still, if this turns out to have been Wertmuller's weakest than she should be even better remembered.

River of Grass (dir. Reichardt)
What happens when someone wants to make Badlands, but has no money though they have seen a Jarmusch film? You get this film which occasionally shows flickers of promise, but mostly is a bad movie firmly built in the micro-indie mold of the late '80s and '90s. Watching these early Reichardt films is an experience which makes me appreciate how the current version we have is easily the best possible one given how many awful routes are suggested here. The narration provides a lot of humour which is the main thing making this better than most of its peers and shows a decent degree of self awareness that also manages to provide some light tension for one scene. It's the rare idiots narrative that doesn't lay that on thick.

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zedz
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#187 Post by zedz » Mon Jun 04, 2018 4:48 pm

More Muratova:

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The Tuner (Muratova, 2004) - This is perhaps her mildest mature film. So mild, in fact, that it might be an ideal starting point for a novice, to whom it will probably still look extremely outre. It's a long (two and a half hours), patient and absorbing film, shot in crisp black and white, about two elderly women and the several con artists who prey on them. A successful con relies on verisimilitude, which possibly explains Muratova's more naturalistic stylistic choices in this film. There's still plenty of eccentric mise-en-scene - the title character lives in a cramped attic only accessible by an emergency ladder; another character's palatial home and grounds is revealed by the parting of a curtain (a nod to Ulrike Ottinger, perhaps, and maybe the germ for Muratova's next feature) - and eccentric sound design - the romantic encounter that opens the movie is swamped in romantic music, until the conversation actually begins, and it's abruptly replaced with dead studio silence. There are some nice self-reflexive gags, too. Renata Litvinova's character Lina at one point advocates the lunatic cause of her character Opha from Three Stories, and her bizarre Muratovian affect (hers is the least naturalistic performance in the film) is actually remarked upon as weird by one of the other characters. A fine film, but too far down my list of Muratova favourite to make the cut for this project.

Certificate (Muratova, 2005) - A brief, dark joke (a grieving son wheedles his mother's death certificate out of hospital officials), the punchline of which is easily guessable about five minutes in if you've seen any of the director's work. Slight but well-executed, and completely characteristic.

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Two in One (Muratova, 2007) - My disc of this is a nightmare to watch, freezing and jamming multiple times, so I need to shut down the machine, restart, and skip past the problem point(s). I tried an alternative source, but it did exactly the same thing, at the same points, so it seems like something really wonky with the encode (which is pretty poor in most other respects). Fortunately, it's a fascinating film and worth the headaches. Like Three Stories, this is a showcase for multiple Murotavian modes. It starts out as a crowded, stylised backstage drama, in which almost all of the director's recurring players fret over the inconvenient body of an actor who hanged himself on stage overnight. The show must go on, even as the wait for the police to arrive drags on and on and on and the audience files in. By the time the cops finally do get there, there are two corpses to investigate. It's fun, but exhausting in true high-octane Muratova fashion, with dozens of characters and their micro-dramas glancing off one another. Stylistically, this section of the film is something of a departure: the mise-en-scene is strikingly fluid, with a highly mobile camera exploring an ever-changing physical space (with backdrops and curtains flying up and down) in three dimensions. It's a brilliant example of how to make a theatrical space thrillingly cinematic.

Then, about three quarters of an hour in, the play begins, and everything shifts sideways. A narrator enters through the audience in a flurry of fake snow, and climbs onto the stage to introduce our three main characters, their house, and describe the story. When he refers to two servants delivering a painting, we cut not to the wings, but to a grand staircase up which they're lugging the huge portrait. When the father of the house looks out his window into the street, we get a reverse shot from inside his fully-furnished house. Reality slowly and steadily seeps into the theatrical artificiality, but for about twenty minutes we're suspended in a weird hybrid world between stage and reality (or more precisely, stage and screen, except that this hybrid world is only made possible by the cinema). Soon after the hour mark, we're in a completely 'realistic' cinematic narrative, and we never return to the world of the stage (though the completely different story we're now following is haunted by tokens of the first part of the film, such as familiar props and actors.)

Muratova reliably applies incongruous tones to her narratives, and this section of the film is a good example of this. The basic tale is a horrific one: on New Year's Eve, a deranged father persuades his daughter (Muratova mainstay Natalya Buzko) to bring home somebody to be his new wife (i.e. to rape). The dawning realisation of the man's intentions leads the proposed victim to find ever more inventive ways to delay the event while her 'friend' tries to find where her father has hidden the keys so they can flee the house. It's a horror film presented as a goofy comedy, and the victim Alisa (the inevitable Renata Litvinova) can hardly stop giggling about it all. Because the women ultimately triumph, their giddy, contemptuous attitude finally reads like a refusal of victimhood, though it's much weirder and more disconcerting earlier in the film, especially the daughter's jaded complicity.

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Kirkinson
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#188 Post by Kirkinson » Mon Jun 04, 2018 6:10 pm

The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993) - It's odd it took me so long to see this — I like Campion's other films, and I'm a huge Michael Nyman fan. And for the first 20 minutes or so, I thought I was watching a new all-time favorite. Unique, indelible imagery, a strange, dreamy mood, and even a sort of platonic ideal of how music can function in cinema, as Nyman's score really seemed to be tapping into Ada's psyche, expressing her interior life to the audience and drenching the whole film in it.

Somewhere along the way, though, this all started to break down for me. The use of music becomes a little more conventional, there are fewer impressionistic dives into Ada's feelings and perspective, and as a result, the film starts to falter in its attempts to articulate its silent protagonist's state of mind. This becomes a serious problem for me as the story moves into more and more uncomfortable territory, particularly in the development of her relationship with Baines.
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My reading may be too reductive, but it seems to me like the film ultimately sets up a conflict between an abuser who is cold, violent, and impotent, and another man who has raw sexual charisma and is sensitive and deep because he appreciates music — but is nonetheless also an abuser, even if he uses "gentler" forms of manipulation. That would be fine if that's what the movie seemed intended to be, but it feels instead as though I am meant to accept Ada and Baines' love at face value, and to feel actual joy and relief at their eventual happily-ever-after ending. I'm sad to say that, despite the film's many great qualities, this conclusion creeped me out enough to soil the whole experience.

Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991) - Previous comments in this thread are spot-on. A beautiful, poetic work that doesn't just portray a culture little seen in cinema, but actually feels as if it belongs to a completely unique and previously unheard of storytelling tradition. Fittingly seems like it has more in common with African cinema than anything that was going on in the US at the time. Dreamy, compelling, even rapturous, but like zedz already elaborated, that soundtrack is abominable and sticks out like a broken (more than just sore!) thumb.


Peppermint Soda (Diane Kurys, 1977) - Everyone is so mean in this. The girls are mean to each other, their teachers are even meaner, parents are unsympathetic, relationships that have gone on for years crumble before our eyes. But there are still fleeting moments of kindness and joy amid all this pain of growing up. I appreciate the film's attempts to show us multiple perspectives — rather than simply recreate autobiographical memories, Kurys has made an effort to understand what all these people who left an impression on her were going through. At the same time, I'm not sure there's much insight into many of these characters, and as a result these scenes sometimes unfocus the film a little bit.

It's interesting to compare this to Dinara Asanova's teen films made around the same time that I watched earlier for this project. Without the strict state control on content that Asanova had to deal with, Kurys can directly confront subject matter like sex that Asanova can barely hint at. On the other hand, Asanova's looser plotting and more down-to-earth performances make her teenagers feel far more authentic, whereas Kurys' characters and events often feel much more deliberately and rigidly constructed. There's a sense of intentional detachment here that is interesting in regards to the film's explicitly autobiographical nature, but which ultimately kept me feeling too distant from what the characters were experiencing much of the time.


Entre Nous (Diane Kurys, 1983) - I'm not sure whether this film would suffer at all from having the entire first half-hour removed. While it is theoretically useful to see where both of these women were coming from before they met, Entre Nous is practically lifeless whenever Miou-Miou and Huppert are not on screen together, and it really does itself a disservice by delaying that meeting for so long. Even after that, though, I'm sorry to say this didn't do much for me. I think Margarethe von Trotta's Sheer Madness, made the same year, covers similar thematic ground in more interesting ways — much less subtle, maybe, but more involving than the sort of cool detachment that I initially thought was a bug in Peppermint Soda, but now realize might in fact be a feature of Kurys' work.


Losing Ground (Kathleen Collins, 1982) - The first several scenes of this film really don't prepare you at all for how good it eventually is. It starts out awkward and stilted, but slowly rolls out a looser, subtler, and far more multidimensional story and style than it seems capable of at first. And since it eventually turns self-reflexive in some weird and surprising ways, it's hard to tell whether that shift was at least partially intentional or merely a result of a production finding its footing as it went along, which I love. I mean this in a good way: some scenes feel right out of Richard Linklater's more rambling work (the protagonist meets a man dressed as a magician in the library, they have an erudite talk about theology and philosophy — "Who are you?" she asks, and the man sharply replies, "In which life?") but this was almost a decade before Slacker! A really interesting film, and it's clearly a terrible tragedy that Kathleen Collins died so young. It'd be great to see what she could do with more/better resources.

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knives
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#189 Post by knives » Mon Jun 04, 2018 6:21 pm

Glad to see someone else loving Collins' work. I caught it on TCM ages ago and it has stayed with me as an almost Rivette like haunting (Duane Johnson's whole character is probably the cause of that feeling). You mention Linklater, but I think on the whole she presents many seeds of where American independent film would be going and continues to be with much of mumblecore feeling like a dumbed down version of what she pulls off here. I think part of that success here is that the lead is an actual adult rather than one of those whining children even the best mumblecore films present as their leads.

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zedz
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#190 Post by zedz » Mon Jun 04, 2018 6:45 pm

The weekend's Claire Denis revisits:

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Vendredi Soir (Claire Denis, 2002) - This gorgeous, immersive film is at once Denis' most straightforward and most ambiguous film, and it says a lot about her unique skills as a filmmaker that this could be the case. Laure is packing up all her belongings to move in with her boyfriend. She finishes the job late and heads across town to have dinner with friends before meeting the removal men in the morning. But there's a huge traffic jam which brings Paris to a standstill, and a rainstorm, which prompts a radio host to suggest that stranded motorists offer pedestrians shelter in their cars. Laure offers Gregoire Colin a lift, but he refuses and walks out of the film. Instead, Vincent Lindon's Jean hops in. Together, they escape the traffic jam for an oddly deserted Paris, where they have a drink, a meal, and a night of steamy sex, before Laure runs off to her real life at dawn.

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This is an incredibly sensuous film, and Denis and Godard (and Quettier) are gloriously indiscriminate in their sensuality: a shot of a lit-up corner bar can be as sexy as a shot of sealed and labelled boxes can be as sexy as Lemercier and Lindon rolling over one another can be as sexy as blurry headlights in the rain or a twilit roofscape. There are sublime dissolving pillow shots of neon signs that serve as transitions - a brilliant borrowing from and updating of Ozu - and Dickon Hinchliffe's intoxicating score, all adding to the tone of an erotic reverie. And that's where the film's real brilliance emerges: it's established early on that Laure is exhausted and on the brink of sleep, and also that she has an active imagination that allows her little surreal flashes like the anchovies on a pizza smiling at her, or projections like Jean seducing another woman while he's briefly away from her. The entire tone of the film is fundamentally subjective, and there are enough conventional signals (Laure falling asleep at the wheel), seemingly impossible events (Jean escapes the traffic jam by speeding backwards) and unlikely coincidences (Laure finding Jean in a bar after losing him thoroughly on the backstreets) to suggest that some of the night, at least, is imagined by Laure. Perhaps she heard the radio host's suggestion, glimpsed Lindon across the intersection, then fell asleep and dreamed of an erotic encounter with this rakish stranger on her last night of freedom. Or perhaps she did offer him a lift, he left her on the back streets, and she fantasized about finding him again and having a romantic night together. Maybe the only thing she imagined was Jean's sexual encounter with the other woman in the restaurant, or maybe she didn't even imagine that. Denis fills the film with elements that suggest the irreality of a dream, but she doggedly counterbalances that with elements that confirm the reality of what we see, like a brief moment when we stay with the hotel receptionist after both characters have left the scene. It's an extraordinary balancing act, and Denis fully understands that sometimes your life, especially when it's lived late at night, outside your comfort zone, can feel more like a dream than reality.

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L'Intrus (Claire Denis, 2004) - First, let's get the domino harvey capsule review out of the way: this film makes no fucking sense.

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Actually, it does make perfect sense if you pay attention, but it's a far better strategy to approach it with no narrative expectations and let its imagery wash over you, to the throb of Stuart Staples ominous, minimalist score. It's a strange, troubling, trippy, globe-hopping quasi-thriller, and for the first hour it's as much about dogs as it is about people. Everybody has a dog, and everybody we see is connected to the main plot, though their connection to the protagonist, Michel Subor's Louis Trebor, isn't immediately revealed. His name isn't even revealed until the end of the film, in two parts. Characters spy on one another; a killing takes place in a hallucinatory flash and is then almost completely ignored; snowbound dreams intrude on reality; identities and roles swap and mingle. The film has a reputation for withholding narrative information, but watching it this time I was surprised by its continual provision of new information. Just about every scene has some aspect to it that explains character, motivation, context or back story, if you look at it from the right angle. If you're patient and observant, it's possible to reconstruct a narrative that accounts for all the little oddities. Your narrative might be completely different from mine, however, so watch the film first!
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Louis Trebor is an extremely wealthy man with a chequered past, living on his own in the Jura mountains with his two beloved dogs. His estranged son lives nearby with his wife and two children, who Louis barely knows (there's a great, tense encounter in the street where Louis accuses his son of always asking for money, which he denies, and Louis pushes a wad of notes on him anyway, which explains where he gets this 'always asking for money' from - he doesn't have any other way to transact their relationship). He has a serious heart ailment and suffers regular attacks. A mysterious woman is in the vicinity, with a team of men. One night, one of the men comes to Louis' cabin to kill him, but is killed by him instead. The next day, he lets the mysterious woman know that he wants to go for the "other option" (whatever that is). This option turns out to be a black market heart transplant. My theory about what's going on here is that Louis, knowing he was dying, employed Yekaterina Golubeva to assassinate him, so he 'didn't know it was coming', but changed his mind at the last minute (possibly because he was not alone that night) and opted for the more expensive Plan B. Louis abandons his family and his dogs and heads for Geneva, where he arranges the payment for his procedure with Golubeva's mysterious woman. The film transitions via ellipsis to Korea, where Louis is recovering in a hotel room, and is plagued by nightmares set in a snowscape where he has been betrayed (in one, he is dragged behind horses by Golubeva's character and forced to pay again, and again; in another, he discovers that his heart - against his orders - has come from a young girl, the one he saw through his binoculars near his home who has now, unbeknowst to him, occupied his cabin and adopted his dogs). More troublingly, he's also haunted by waking visions - unless you believe Golubeva has nothing better to do than stalk him all over the world. In Korea, Louis arranges for a luxury boat to be built for his son, who loves sailing. Then he heads for Tahiti, and we learn that the son he's talking about is somebody we've never met and Louis barely knows, the result of a long ago fling. This final, virtually dog-free section of the film, revolves around Louis's search for his lost Tahitian son, Tikki. Tikki's family are resentful to see Louis back after so much time and are cagey about Tikki's whereabouts. Louis settles in and waits, then becomes extremely ill. It seems his body is rejecting the transplanted heart, and he ends up in hospital. Local friends and family hold an audition to find a substitute son that might rally Louis. A young man, Toni, is finally decided upon, and he meets Louis, who does indeed rally from his deathbed, until he realises that Toni is a fake and becomes ill again. Finally, it is revealed that his real son is dead, and he is taken to the morgue to see the body. When the face is finally revealed, Louis sees instead the face of the son he had abandoned back in Switzerland. With this realisation of his folly he leaves Tahiti, though it is doubtful he will survive the return trip. The Queen of the Northern Hemisphere just laughs.
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So, in short, it's the story of a wealthy westerner who, rather than look after his dependents at home, instead devotes his resources to a doomed colonial adventure. Now why would a filmmaker be a making a film about that subject in 2003?

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Some days - usually the days immediately after I've watched it - this is my favourite Denis film. Like Vendredi Soir, it's a film deeply enmired in ambiguity, but it's used in a radically different way in this film, where continuity of character and action is what we have to work to piece together, rather than weighing the 'reality' of individual sequences in a strictly linear, focussed narrative. Both films are extraordinarily dreamlike and thus tend to dissipate in my memory and seem fresh and surprising with every revisit. I feel like I need to include both on my list, but I have no idea how!

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zedz
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#191 Post by zedz » Mon Jun 04, 2018 6:53 pm

Kirkinson wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 6:10 pm
The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993) - It's odd it took me so long to see this — I like Campion's other films, and I'm a huge Michael Nyman fan. And for the first 20 minutes or so, I thought I was watching a new all-time favorite. Unique, indelible imagery, a strange, dreamy mood, and even a sort of platonic ideal of how music can function in cinema, as Nyman's score really seemed to be tapping into Ada's psyche, expressing her interior life to the audience and drenching the whole film in it.

Somewhere along the way, though, this all started to break down for me. The use of music becomes a little more conventional, there are fewer impressionistic dives into Ada's feelings and perspective, and as a result, the film starts to falter in its attempts to articulate its silent protagonist's state of mind. This becomes a serious problem for me as the story moves into more and more uncomfortable territory, particularly in the development of her relationship with Baines.
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My reading may be too reductive, but it seems to me like the film ultimately sets up a conflict between an abuser who is cold, violent, and impotent, and another man who has raw sexual charisma and is sensitive and deep because he appreciates music — but is nonetheless also an abuser, even if he uses "gentler" forms of manipulation. That would be fine if that's what the movie seemed intended to be, but it feels instead as though I am meant to accept Ada and Baines' love at face value, and to feel actual joy and relief at their eventual happily-ever-after ending. I'm sad to say that, despite the film's many great qualities, this conclusion creeped me out enough to soil the whole experience.
Gossip at the time among those who worked on the film was that Campion had two very different endings for the film that she couldn't decide between, so she shot them both, and nobody knew which one she'd put in the film until the cast and crew screening. Then they saw the film and said, "oh look, she decided to use them both!"

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bottled spider
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#192 Post by bottled spider » Mon Jun 04, 2018 7:00 pm

I'd been meaning to ask you, zedz, about Two in One, the only Muratova I have some familiarity with. My disc is also poor, skipping very slightly every minute or so. Irksome, but not unwatchable. The problem occurs in two different players, but not however using the Windows Media Player on my workplace computer. A non-technical complaint is that the subtitles are too small, and flash by too quickly. Between the two issues I was too irritated to persevere with it. But I love Muratova's colour, and her tracking camera movements, qualities that also struck me in the brief clip of Melody for a Street Organ shown in Cousin's A Story of Children and Film. And I enjoyed her particular brand of cruel humour -- although she may have only just begun rolling up her sleeves in twenty minutes or so I watched!

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zedz
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#193 Post by zedz » Mon Jun 04, 2018 7:22 pm

Some other chicks I saw on the weekend:

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Nana (Valerie Massadian, 2011) - A remarkable first film that plays a lot like the more austere cousin of Summer 1993. It's another tale of a very young girl dealing with personal tragedy in a lonely rural setting. Massadian's protagonist is considerably younger and her style is much cooler and distanced: lots of statically mounted, extended long shots in the almost clinical modern style of people like Jaime Rosales. But this is absolutely the right choice for the material, as it's intrinsically tense and involving watching a tiny little girl left all alone in an isolated farmhouse. Nana's grandfather has taught her a lot about the life and death realities of the farm (warning: the film begins with the slaughter of a pig), and she resourcefully employs these half-understood practical lessons when
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her mother dies.
A very impressive and intense film. The French DVD has English subs, not that it's a very chatty film! I see Massadian finally released a follow-up last year, Milla. Has anybody seen it?

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Ydessa, the Bears & etc. (Agnes Varda, 2004) - One of my favourite of Varda's documentaries, a playful look at a really fascinating art project, in which Ydessa Hendeles collected thousands of photos of people with teddy bears and curated them within an inch of their lives. The film is superb for the way in which it teases out the complex meaning of the work and the responses it provokes. I love this film and am somewhat alarmed by how little room I'm going to have to accommodate Varda on my list, so it's one of the contestants.

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A Girl's Own Story (Jane Campion, 1986) - Another film I'm trying on for size to represent its director. This film was amazing at the time of release, and though some aspects have become a little shaky with age (e.g. resolving into a pop video was an interestingly anachronistic choice, and fortunately it's a really good song, but it now seems so very mid-80s), but it's pretty damn good, and thoroughly representative of everything that made and makes Campion a distinctive cinematic voice.

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Vivienne Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist (Lorna Tucker, 2018) - Standard artist portrait that distinguishes itself in a few important ways: it's largely narrated by Westwood, who is blunt, caustic and fabulously reluctant to return to well-tromped ground; it's also uncommonly candid about the business of fashion, with Westwood as a rare designer who has remained independent and not sold out to large corporations. Hardly a contender for the list (I watched it with no knowledge that the director was a woman), but well worth a look if it passes your way.

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zedz
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#194 Post by zedz » Mon Jun 04, 2018 8:02 pm

Since we're on the final stretch, I'm going to comment on a few films that I'm probably not going to rewatch, either because I've watched them fairly recently or don't have them to rewatch, but which look like they're going to make my list:

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The House Is Black (Forough Farrokhzad, 1963) - This remarkable poetic short documentary was Farrokhzad's only film as director, but it was nevertheless visionary enough to spark off an entire strain of artistic Iranian cinema. It's an amazing film that needs to be seen rather than described, and it's one of a handful of films vying for the top of my list.

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Exhibition (Joanna Hogg, 2013) - All three of Hogg's features to date are great, but this one is really special, an exploration of the effect of a house (and the imminent departure from it) on a long-term relationship.

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Chamisso's Shadow (Ulrike Ottinger, 2016) - My token Ottinger pick is going to be this epic documentary on the landscape, history and people of the Bering Strait. If you haven't seen it already, you're probably too late to watch it now, as it's twelve hours long. Visually stunning, contemplative and thought-provoking. The German DVD set has English subs.

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Le Bonheur (Agnes Varda, 1965) - Maybe I've already commented on this? This is increasingly looking like my token Varda film, and even I'm surprised. It was kind of a curio the first couple of times I watched it, but it really came into focus as a candy-coloured nightmare on my last viewing, and it's the film that keeps rising to the top of my consciousness when I think about what Varda film I should include.

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Crazy (Heddy Honigmann, 1999) - Honigmann has made so many great documentaries over the years that this is really a default pick as the one which had the biggest emotional imapct on me.

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Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go (Kim Longinotto, 2007) - The same goes for Longinotto, and this draining film about a special school for troubled and abused children.

And I probably haven't specifically reviewed Kelly Reichardt's Old Joy and Certain Women in this thread, but I'm hoping to include both in my list of 25.
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Kirkinson
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#195 Post by Kirkinson » Tue Jun 05, 2018 12:38 am

zedz wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 7:22 pm
I see Massadian finally released a follow-up last year, Milla. Has anybody seen it?
I have, I thought it was excellent and it's currently #2 on my 2018 top ten (I saw it in February at PIFF, but it's getting distributed in the US later this year by Grasshopper, I think). I still haven't seen Nana, but much of your description could just as well apply to Milla. The formal elements sound exactly the same, and there are similarities in the story as well, though this time the protagonist is in her late teens or early 20s, and she has a boyfriend who initially shares half the screen time. The story goes in some pretty unexpected directions, though, and because it has the same distant style you describe in Nana, its emotional impact snuck up on me so slowly that I don't think I fully appreciated it until several days after I had seen it.
zedz wrote:Gossip at the time among those who worked on the film was that Campion had two very different endings for the film that she couldn't decide between, so she shot them both, and nobody knew which one she'd put in the film until the cast and crew screening. Then they saw the film and said, "oh look, she decided to use them both!"
Yes, that makes so much sense to me. And Campion evidently regrets that decision now!

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zedz
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#196 Post by zedz » Tue Jun 05, 2018 4:51 pm

Another definite (top 10) film that I forgot to mention above is Lidia Bobrova's In That Country. . . (1998). Unfortunately, I don't think this (or her superb debut, Hey, You Wild Geese! (1991)) has ever been released on English-friendly home video.

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bottled spider
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#197 Post by bottled spider » Tue Jun 05, 2018 4:54 pm

Some Canadian stuff:

American Psycho (Harron, 2000)
On the whole rather bland and trivial, a sort of artsy, blood-splattered Office Space that once or twice rises to the level of mild wit. Lord preserve us all from quotable dialogue.

I Shot Andy Warhol (Harron, 1996). Interesting. Significantly better than the above.

Suddenly Naked (Anne Wheeler, 2001)
A successful novelist on the brink of forty meets up with a talented new writer she's been instructing by correspondence, and discovers to her consternation he's only twenty. Banging ensues. After a promising start, the movie falls into the convention of erecting a dubious romantic obstacle (she's mortified at the prospect of openly dating a twenty-year old), the resolution of which of paces out an hour and forty-five minutes. All the same, it's perfectly likable, and much enlivened by the cattiness of Wendy Crewson.

Better than Chocolate (Wheeler, 1999)
If it's forgivably corny and forgivably earnest in places, it is also genuinely funny at times. And even if it weren't, it still has the benefit of adorable young lesbians frolicking in the nude with body paints. The Vancouver setting is an added pleasure.

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zedz
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#198 Post by zedz » Tue Jun 05, 2018 5:12 pm

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That reminds me of another Canadian feature I don't think has been mentioned yet, Patricia Rozema's I've Heard the Mermaids Singing, which was quite a big deal in the little indie fishpond of 1987 (and I see was later voted one of the ten best Canadian films of all time). It's quirky and charming, and must have sold a lot of copies of Delibes' Lakme.

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Red Screamer
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#199 Post by Red Screamer » Tue Jun 05, 2018 7:35 pm

Write-ups for three documentaries by Claire Simon, an unjustly overlooked filmmaker.

Le Concours [The Graduation] (Claire Simon, 2016) A behind-the-scenes look at the selection process of one of France's most prestigious film academies. From entrance exams to interviews to on-set practice to backroom deliberations, the film shows how this unusual creative institution is run, philosophically and practically. Simon has a real sensitivity for her subjects here and throughout her documentaries, capturing their body language, personal interactions, and moments that genuinely feel as if they don't know a camera is in the room. The most fascinating parts of this film are the arguments with and about potential students that interrogate conceptions of auteurism in cinema and artists in general: What does it mean to be a good filmmaker? Is there an 'artistic temperament'? How can you predict if someone will be a good filmmaker before they make a film? Do enthusiasm and hard work make up for a lack of talent or vice versa? Does talent make up for madness or misbehavior? Prospective and established filmmakers fight for the future of French cinema.

Mimi (Claire Simon, 2003) A casual portrait of Simon's close friend Mimi Chiola walking around Nice telling stories, autobiographical and anecdotal, like a one-man Before Sunrise. Chiola is fascinating, and Simon's skill in filmed portraiture shines, with gorgeous cinematography.

Récréations (Claire Simon, 1993) A masterpiece of observation and one of the very best films about childhood. In this Direct Cinema-style document of kindergarteners at recess, Simon (who shoots all her own films, I think) gets incredibly close to the kids without them ever acting like an adult is present—even when they acknowledge the camera, it's as an equal. The film paints a vivid portrait of the secret parallel world inhabited by children, usually so closed off to adults, that will give anyone who's ever been a kid an intense rush of déjà vu. It's also a work of anthropology; through the games the kids play, the hierarchies they form, and the roles they enact, recess becomes a Lord of the Flies-esque vision of uninhibited human nature and a social allegory, true in a way that, if invented by grown-ups, it never could be. Stories from the film's production show Simon having some Kiarostami-like mastery of invisible artifice: the soundtrack on location was shoddy, so she directed these 5 and 6-year-olds to ADR themselves, with a seamless end result. This will definitely be in my top 5 or so for this list, though I don't know where you can find it to watch at home.

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domino harvey
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Re: Women Directors List Discussion + Suggestions

#200 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:55 pm

Marguerite et Julien (Valérie Donzelli 2015)
Two siblings fall in love and run away while society pursues them for their sins. This is an interesting mishmash of stylized excesses— the film is ostensibly set at the turn of the 17th century and yet the first shot we see is the willfully anachronistic image of a helicopter. Later Anaïs Demoustier’s husband will be seen behind the wheel of a 70s roadster. And despite candlelight and messengers, a trial late in the film will still feature microphones. I don’t mind this kind of thing, but even in works I love (like Stella Gibbons’ novel Cold Comfort Farm) it seems like an unnecessary distraction. There are other aesthetic choices here that are fun, and some work, such as when the siblings’ capture is relayed solely through over-lit still photographs:

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but others, such as a slow motion shot after a wedding, seem far too indebted to Wes Anderson. I think Donzelli is a gifted filmmaker, but this isn’t a great film. It is a good one, though, and I’d gladly watch another, hopefully more fully realized work from Donzelli. The framing of a lovers against the world narrative is effective, surprisingly so considering that regardless of what a million PornHub users may think, incest is widely and rightly frowned upon, and the success at securing audience investment seems far more bold than the more showy artistic flourishes of the picture. Also loved seeing Sami Frey on screen again as the disapproving but not heartless abbot. Recommended.

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