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"Two in the Wave," "Cremaster"

"An anniversary present for the new wave — tied to the upcoming 50th-birthday screenings of BreathlessTwo in the Wave gives the gift of received wisdom as it recounts the erstwhile friendship of film-critics-cum-directors François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard," begins Nick Pinkerton in the Voice.

"Never mind that Rohmer and Chabrol technically produced the first shorts and features," writes Joseph Jon Lanthier in Slant: "Godard and Truffaut were the Romulus and Remus of the Nouvelle Vague, precocious aesthetic malcontents who suckled greedily at the royal teat of Cahiers and clawed their way up the smooth precipice of international cinematic renown in tandem. As evinced by the era's correspondence and testimony, the Godard-Truffaut story appropriates the Cain and Abel motif as well, or even — to draw a parallel with more cultural resonance to the duo — the bloody dynamic between equally impassioned but ever-so-slightly disjunctive visionaries like Robespierre and Jean-Paul Marat. But the many, busy, self-contradictory layers of their relationship may additionally reveal what appeared so provocatively fresh in films like The 400 Blows or Breathless — the progenitors of these works were operating in an environment that needn't, or couldn't, distinguish between the personal, professional, political, or traditional."

"These Hitchcocko-Hawksians, as they were sometimes known, set out to change French cinema, and in assessing their campaign, Two in the Wave becomes frustratingly vague," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "The grandiose rhetoric of revolution and reinvention is certainly there — mostly courtesy of Mr Godard, a fount of aphorisms on the nature of 'le cinéma' — but apart from a few remarks about hand-held cameras and jump cuts, there is not much in the way of concrete analysis. So the audience is left to guess at what exactly made Truffaut's and Mr Godard's work so transformative. And yet the evidence provided by the films themselves is a powerful reminder of just how exciting that work remains."

"The most interesting part of the film deals with actor Jean-Pierre Léaud, Truffaut's Antonie Doinel and Godard's leading man in several movies." James van Maanen: "Léaud, now in his mid-60s, clearly felt buffeted by the directors' dispute and seems a bit lost without one of his mentors."

For Time Out New York's Keith Uhlich, the doc "hardly rates as a DVD special feature." Director Emmanuel Laurent "knows the facts of his subject, but he loses the emotional thread amid all the flimsy homage."

At New York's Film Forum through June 1. Note, too, that the 50th anniversary restoration of Breathless opens at Film Forum on May 28.

Updates: Criterion's Michael Koresky interviews Laurent.

Michael Tully at Hammer to Nail: "My advice for those in the know: see it, but keep your bar measured. As for those who aren't in the know, I suggest first renting The 400 Blows and Masculin-Feminin. If those films don't butter your bread, this certainly won't."

"Though he completed his five-film Cremaster cycle less than a decade ago, then topped off the whole project in 2003 with a museum-spanning exhibition of sculptures and installations at the Guggenheim, Matthew Barney has quickly become a figure from a seemingly distant, more ostentatious age — the art-world equivalent of a stretch Humvee." Ed Halter for Artforum: "Even the distributor of the films' current run makes pains to reinforce the moneyed-class crudity that mere scarcity equals worth. The cycle 'is not now, nor will it ever be, available to consumers on DVD,' the organization's press release warns, with overtones of the Disney vault. 'The only place it can be seen is on screen in theaters, making this re-release a welcome return to true theatrical repertory programming.' By this Barnumesque logic, Barney might as well be the Feejee Mermaid."

"The Cremaster Cycle is unrivaled as spectacular pastiche," writes Nathan Lee in the Voice. "In what now looks like the freakiest Lady Gaga video ever, Cremaster 1 (1995) fuses Busby Berkeley with Marcel Duchamp to propose an allegory of sexual differentiation onboard two Goodyear blimps subject to the bizarre geometric dictates of a football field in Idaho. Cremaster 2 (1999), the most visually compelling entry, introduces heaps of quasi-narrative content (murderers, magic, Mormons) in service of a 'gothic Western' indebted to David Lynch and Richard Prince. These increasingly elaborate narrative and symbolic structures come to an unbearably tedious climax in the three-hour-long Cremaster 3 (2002), which opens in the mists of B-movie Celtic prehistory before proceeding to a lugubrious rumination on the construction of the Chrysler building and Barney's own art-world apotheosis — as staged on a Guggenheim spiral busy with heavy metalloids, cheetah-women, Comme Des Garçonism, and Adobe After-Effects."

All in all, "a mostly tedious succession of striking but vacant imagery whose effect diminishes the longer you look at it," finds Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York.

At New York's IFC Center through the end of the month.

Update: The New York Times presents a slide show of "images from each film in the series along with related articles and the original Times review."

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