As Venice winds down and Toronto revs up, US audiences are looking at a strange weekend at the movies. 9 and Crude (roundups) are already out and what's left signals a reluctance on the part of the studios to bite into the fall season just yet. Small films, then, some of them tiny, and lots of them, are rushing into, as they say, select theaters. Most of them, of course, in New York.
"American audiences may find Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly, the debut feature of the one-named Indonesian director Edwin, a bit slow and cryptic for a dark comedy about feeling out of place in one's own country," writes Mike Hale in the New York Times. "But given censorship - relaxed since the 1990s, but still there - and a national reluctance to confront the ethnic scapegoating that occasionally results in the murders of large numbers of Indonesian Chinese, it's a sign of changing times that the film could be made at all."
Nicolas Rapold in the Voice: "Funded by the Hubert Bals Fund out of Rotterdam (where Edwin's shorts have played), the work has pedigree, steadfast confidence, and a stoically twisted sense of humor. Visually, the filmmaker draws on the dented depth-of-field of (fellow Bals alum) Tsai Ming-liang and the deliberate pans of Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The resulting experience could very easily be described as off-putting - which well suits the uneasiness of the subject."
Running for one week at MoMA.
"Deriving inspiration from Pollock and Rothko in 50s Paris, Sam Francis stood at the forefront of American abstract art, creating hypnotic, amorphous works that captivated collectors," writes S James Snyder in Time Out New York. "He was bestowed with the sort of fame and fortune that affords unfettered creative freedom, all the while despising explanations of his imagery. 'You can't read a painting!' chirps Francis's son in Jeffrey Perkins's portrait of the brush wielder, and you can see euphoria wash over the artist: The young one has found the words he never could."
Ella Taylor in the Voice: "Just about every dilemma of modern Jewish identity gets an airing in this densely packed tale of a clan of more or less secularized Belgian Jews thrown into spiritual crisis by the death of the matriarch who has held all doubts and internecine warfare in check.... The Rashevski Tango begins and ends with a burial, but the movie teems with cranky life, then heals all rifts with a dance that sets a seal of comically erotic approval on that undying genre, the domestic melodrama."
Also at the Cinema Village: "Gogol Bordello Non-Stop will probably play better to those already well acquainted with the music of the titular band, an NYC-based group that performs 'gypsy punk' and in no way fails to bring the altogether insane eclecticism implied in such a genre title," writes Rob Humanick in Slant. "This documentary is an earnest, if uneven, attempt to contextualize their lightning-in-a-bottle energy with the history that informs their political flair, a musical presence instantly made tangible during any one of several included performances of 'Immigrant Punk.'"
"Pascal-Alex Vincent's first feature, Give Me Your Hand, harks back to an earlier and much better film, Bertrand Blier's Going Places (1974)," writes Mike Hale in the NYT. "Two young men of less than sterling character take a road trip across France, finding and discarding sexual partners as they go.... And as the story goes south, literally and figuratively, in the film's second half, the landscape, at least, becomes increasingly dramatic." More from Nicolas Rapold (Voice) and Stephen Garrett (TONY). Reviews from New Directors / New Films. At the Quad Cinema.
"The value of No Impact Man, a compelling and suitably exasperating documentary about one family's attempt to not harm the environment for a year, is that it forces viewers to reflect on their own casual consumption and waste," writes Scott Tobias at the AV Club. "The experiment is inevitably compromised - and as a self-promotional venture, it just spreads more waste - but that only makes the film more engaging and provocative."
More from David Edelstein (New York), Aaron Hillis (Voice), Liz Kilduff (L), Kristi Mitsuda (indieWIRE), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Nicolas Rapold (TONY), AO Scott (NYT), Dana Stevens (Slate) James van Maanen and Bill Weber (Slant). John Pavlus talks with Colin Beavan for Vulture.
Keith Uhlich in TONY on Walt & El Grupo: "This Disney-sanctioned documentary on Papa Walt and company's 1941 visit to South America is a dull, dry bit of mythmaking." More from Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT), Ernest Hardy (Voice) and Noel Murray (AV Club).
"A thriller that wants to be taken seriously probably shouldn't feature Borat's hairy, rotund comic, Ken Davitian, in the role of a somber Catholic priest, but that's just one of the problems affecting director Dror Soref's off-kilter Not Forgotten," writes Tim Grierson in the Voice. More from Stephen Garrett (TONY), Mike Hale (NYT) and Nick Schager (Slant).
"It would ordinarily seem foolish to remake any Fritz Lang film," writes Aaron Hillis, reviewing Beyond a Reasonable Doubt for TONY, "but the German director's 1956 courtroom noir actually had room for improvement - if only because of screenwriter Douglas Morrow's laughable twists and underdeveloped death-penalty debate. Peter Hyams's generically shot, impatiently edited update proves foolish anyway, by removing the social issues entirely and repeating enough of its precursor's fundamental flaws to earn the title Beyond a Reasonable Plot." More from Melissa Anderson (Voice), Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT) and Nick Schager (Slant).
"Despite its respected cast, accomplished director and distinguished source author, The Other Man is, at best, a minor work," writes Gary Goldstein in the Los Angeles Times, where Susan King profiles Antonio Banderas. More from David Fear (TONY), Stephen Holden (NYT), Adam Keleman (Slant) and Ella Taylor (Voice).
"The Thing is the thing. Whiteout is just a pale imitation." That's Stephanie Zacharek in Salon. More from Matt Barone (Critic's Notebook), Alonso Duralde (MSNBC), Paul Matwychuk, Drew McWeeney (Hitfix), Tasha Robinson (AV Club), Nick Schager (Slant) and AO Scott (NYT).
Now then: Mike Russell's comic, "Zen and the Whiteout Movie Deal."