Tomas Alfredson's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, that showcase of contemporary British acting, has opened in the UK this weekend, and that roundup has been updated through today. The entry on Gus Van Sant's Restless has been updated with pointers to pieces related to the Museum of the Moving Image's retrospective, running through September 30. And of course, we've got roundups running on Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive and Rod Lurie's remake of Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs. Meantime, two weeks after the release of Steven Soderbergh's Contagion, we've entered the think piece stage, so that roundup's been kept up-to-date through today as well.
"Imagine that a semi-pagan society quietly survives in the heartland of Russia, amid the leftover Soviet-era factories, the old shops and stores strung along the roadsides, the new concrete towns with their shopping malls." Stuart Klawans in the Nation: "Imagine that the people of this half-forgotten tribe have themselves all but forgotten their folkways, except for an uncommon love of the rivers running through broad, forested plains. Imagine a quizzical effort to recover some of the tribe's words and beliefs; a fragmentary family memory; a funeral rite for someone deeply loved, who in life was deeply frustrated. Imagine a journey strung together from bridge to bridge to bridge. This is Aleksei Fedorchenko's whimsical, melancholy and utterly beautiful Silent Souls."
Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York: "Aist [Igor Sergeyev] buys a pair of bunting birds. Tanya [Yuliya Aug], the wife of Aist's boss and best friend, Miron [Yuri Tsurilo], passes away suddenly. These seemingly unrelated incidents — two of many to come — occur at the start of Aleksei Fedorchenko's enigmatic and entrancing feature, which follows these two men as they transport Tanya's body from a small Russian town to the shores of Lake Nero."
"At 75 minutes, Silent Souls has the sustained flow of a musical composition," writes the Voice's J Hoberman. "Past and present are seamless. The conviction is so strong that it only gradually becomes apparent that we are watching a posthumous tale, narrated by Aist from somewhere beyond the grave. Dour yet affirmative, this laconic, deliberately paced, beautifully shot movie seeks the archaic in the ordinary — and, though somewhat off-putting in its diffidence, largely succeeds."
More from Jeannette Catsoulis (New York Times), Anthony Kaufman and Alison Willmore (AV Club, B+). Earlier: Daniel Kasman and roundups from last year's festivals in Venice and Toronto and New York. Somewhat related: "Russia is not Europe," a roundup from Bookforum.
"2011 is turning out to be a strong year for what can only be awkwardly summarized as films about aging hipster couples," writes Alison Willmore at Movieline. "That's dire, dismissive-sounding shorthand for what are actually plangent, pensive works about people facing the realization that time is making their carefree choices to forgo a more mainstream path into hard facts…. The main works here belong to husband-and-wife filmmakers Mike Mills and Miranda July with their respective Beginners and The Future, and with those you can also group 3, the latest film from Run, Lola, Run director Tom Tykwer and his first in German since 2000's The Princess and the Warrior."
Giving 3 a C, Nick Schager sets it up: "In modern-day Berlin, long-time couple Hanna (Sophie Rois) and Simon (Sebastian Schipper) are struggling with a loss of sexual excitement, a problem that leads first Hanna, and then Simon, into the inviting arms of Adam (Devid Striesow), a geneticist whose stem-cell research — in which new cells are created from old ones — provides Tykwer with a dreary central metaphor for his story's advocacy of pansexuality as natural and progressive."
"Although there's apparently nothing Adam can't do — advancing stem-cell research, sailing, motorcycle-riding, avant-garde choral singing, maintaining an excellent relationship with his ex-wife, bedding beauties of both genders — Striesow, with his gelatinous face, is an exceedingly uncharismatic screen presence," finds Melissa Anderson in the Voice. "More willing suspension of disbelief — or suppression of giggles — is required when Adam, trying to assuage besotted Simon's uncertainty about how he should now define himself, instructs: 'Say goodbye to your deterministic understanding of biology,' a line last uttered by women's-studies majors circa 1987. Tykwer himself is unable to bid farewell to it, as is all too evident in the larded final scenes."
More from Mark Asch (L), David Fear (TONY, 2/5), Stephen Holden (NYT), Tasha Robinson (AV Club, B-) and Andrew Schenker (Slant, 1/4). Dennis Lim has a backgrounder in the NYT, Gary Kramer interviews Tykwer for Slant, and indieWIRE has a clip (1'01").
"One miserable couple collides with another in the cringe comedy Happy, Happy, a prizewinner at Sundance and Norway's official submission for the foreign-language-film Oscar." Benjamin Mercer in the Voice: "Kaja (Agnes Kittelsen), a chipper teacher of German and 'arts and crafts' at a local junior high, lives to please her disengaged closet-case husband, Eirik (Joachim Rafaelsen), and their casually cruel son, Theodor. Enter the new tenants of the house across the way."
"It's no surprise that the teacher and the henpecked husband of Happy, Happy eventually fall into bed together," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club, "though what happens next is somewhat surprising, as director Anne Sewitsky and writer Ragnhild Tronvoll consider whether all concerned can learn to live peacefully with this new arrangement, or whether they prefer to return to their previous state of misery."
"Sewitsky's debut feature shifts into a blend of infidelity farce and domestic-strife melodrama that never quite finds an organic middle ground," writes Time Out New York's David Fear. "Throw in some quirky interludes of a Norwegian quartet singing old American spirituals every so often, and you've got something that's truly messy, messy." More from Stephen Holden (NYT), Betsy Sharkey (Los Angeles Times) and Gabe Toro (Playlist, B-).
Melissa Anderson in the Voice: "I Don't Know How She Does It is based on Allison Pearson's 2002 diaristic, comic bestseller and directed by Douglas McGrath. But its real auteur is screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, scripter of wan workplace romantic comedies such as the limp fashion-magazine satire The Devil Wears Prada and the TV-news-show time-passer Morning Glory. The heroines of those two films are single and ambitious and triumph both professionally and romantically. Kate Reddy (Sarah Jessica Parker), the protagonist of I Don't Know How She Does It, must balance even more: a career in hedge-fund managing, a spouse, and two young kids. Workplace movies, McKenna is quoted as saying in a recent, favorable New York Times Magazine profile, 'allow characters to really tell each other the truth.' The screenwriter's latest project, however, is filled with lies." And of course, she explains. More from Xan Brooks (Guardian, 2/5), David Edelstein (New York), Stephen Holden (NYT), Haylay Kaufman (Boston Globe, 1.5/4), R Kurt Osenlund (Slant, 1/4), Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), Mary Pols (Time), Tasha Robinson (AV Club, C), Dana Stevens (Slate), Keith Uhlich (TONY, 1/5) and Alison Willmore (Movieline, 4/10).
And once again, Melissa Anderson in the Voice: "Celebrity airplane wizzer Gérard Depardieu, playing massive dimwit Germain in this syrupy tale of intergenerational friendship, looks aghast when a bar buddy, in a state of pickled despair, takes a leak on his own front steps. No PR materials I've received for My Afternoons With Margueritte, based on a novel by Marie-Sabine Roger, have highlighted this unintentionally timely scene, though it proves to be the only selling point in a film otherwise clogged with life-affirming hooey." More from Rachel Saltz (NYT), Betsy Sharkey (LAT) and Bill Weber (Slant, 2/4).