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Critics reviews
Ismael's Ghosts
Arnaud Desplechin France, 2017
 I often find myself so hard put to navigate Desplechin’s multiple allusions to and borrowings from Philip Roth and Woody Allen . . . , much less those from James Joyce, Alfred Hitchcock, Norman Mailer, and Alain Resnais, that I have to forsake any sustained effort to rationalize how these and countless other figures could all belong to the same curious tribe of role models.
January 02, 2019
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The manic pace at which this auteur sifts and slides through tones can be overwhelming, even alienating, but Desplechin’s insistence on wandering down paths most filmmakers wouldn’t dare explore, much less envision, provides a heady, heart-searching pleasure for those of us willing to follow.
March 22, 2018
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Multiple meanings are Desplechin’s bread and butter and the fertile terrain of his mostly wonderful films. Like Ismael, though, he seems to have lost the thread that will tie together his stories and generate something for us to chew over. Instead he noodles around in time and place, testifying to the bewilderment of his protagonists — and, alas — his audience.
March 22, 2018
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As is customary in Desplechin’s work, there’s a lot of dialogue in “Ismael’s Ghosts,” but this movie’s nerve endings vibrate most avidly and tenderly in scenes where not a word is spoken: Sylvia on her first ride home with Ismael, . . . Carlotta in tears, letting the blast of water from an ornamental shower head blast against her brow. It’s moments like these that make “Ismael’s Ghosts” an unforgettable experience.
March 22, 2018
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Drawing on a lithe, pastel-hued palette and delicate, unobtrusive camerawork, Desplechin movingly portrays the contrasting facets of her character in two sensuous moments driven by Cotillard’s expressive silent performance: Carlotta weeping under the shower in a kind of spiritual cleansing and provocatively dancing to Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe”. . . . At once opposite and complementary, these scenes epitomize the film’s theme of self-reinvention through embracing the moment.
March 03, 2018
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The film is flush with stylistic elegance and brio. Desplechin manages each fraying narrative thread through grounding innovation and intimacy. Just when the film seems to be getting away from him, it slows and he somehow finds a new way to film two lovers stripping each other’s clothes off.
October 14, 2017
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It feels more substantial and immersive than the original cut. Scenes that have been restored (including some extra time at a beach house with Ismael, Sylvia, and the intruding Carlotta, as well as a strange diversion involving Ismael’s relationship to his real brother) tend to deepen our engagement with these characters’ turbulent emotional experiences—and by extension, our connection to the film’s commitment to reframing defiant inhibition as a kind of tragic form of compensation.
September 28, 2017
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