"French critic Pierre Bergé said that you have to bring a belief to Diary of a Country Priest, in either heaven or in the cinema." Rob Humanick in Slant: "Like the atheistic Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St Matthew, Robert Bresson's film is evidence to a collective spirituality that exists far outside the labels imposed by our creaky systems of belief; the film itself evokes the act of worshiping. This intense spiritual inquiry doesn't cater to any religious persuasion (Georges Bernados, the author of original novel, was Catholic, while Bresson himself was agnostic), but instead speaks to the universal need for personal foundation in pursuing fulfillment and meaning in one's life. The career of a priest, then, acts as a most pure example of one who attempts to lead the examined life."
Tony Pipolo for Artforum: "One of the few indisputable masterpieces of post–World War II French cinema, the film excels in all the characteristics of the classical tradition that the later Bresson would curtail, if not renounce: memorable performances, dramatic scenes, a powerful musical score, and atmospheric cinematography. On the other hand, the integration of diary entries, their filmic enactments, and the voiceovers of the protagonist is something Bresson would continue to refine to leaner proportions in other films. And, as the tight and elliptical editing that marks his later work confirms, never again would he indulge in extended long takes, deployed with such aplomb in Diary to profoundly emotional effect. No filmmaker I can think of went on to take such pains to dismantle the very grounds of such an achievement in pursuit of a more disciplined, purer form of film art."
"The function of art, the filmmaker maintained, 'is to tie new relationships between persons and things which are, and as they are.'" J Hoberman in the Voice: "How do you document a soul? As Bresson's first film in the six years since Les dames du Bois de Boulogne, Diary was clearly influenced by Italian neorealism — shot entirely on location with non-actors and a measure of social criticism. In his recent book on Bresson, Tony Pipolo suggests that the movie's concluding durational shots were inspired by Rossellini's Open City and Paisan: 'It would be hard to find comparable use of the static long take until the mature work of Antonioni or the avant-garde cinema of the 1960s.' Few artists since the Renaissance have so convincingly wed the aesthetic to the spiritual. Diary's final shot makes its allegory absolutely apparent even as the priest's last words — 'All is grace' — suggest cinema itself is the holy sacrament."
Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York: "When the moment of illumination arrives, the full scope of the film's brilliance hits you with the force of a knockout punch." Rialto's restored and re-subtitled 35mm print is at New York's Film Forum for two weeks.
Dan Callahan introduces a profile at the House Next Door: "When I first saw Xavier Dolan in his debut film as a director, I Killed My Mother (2009), I immediately thought that he looked like a Jean Cocteau drawing, with his impertinent nose, his big, swirly ears and the curly hair that fell down over his forehead. In that movie, which he wrote, directed, and acted in at the age of 19, the Quebec-raised Dolan seemed a kind of cinematic Raymond Radiguet, who was Cocteau's young lover and wrote a major novel, The Devil in the Flesh, before his death at age 20. Many critics saw Dolan's visual influences as a director, the borrowings from Wong Kar-Wai and Jean-Luc Godard, but his rude sensibility as a writer and as a squirrelly, antic performer are all his own. Dolan deals directly with the large feelings of youth; it's clear that he works mainly by instinct, and I hope he's able to keep throwing out movies fast."
And here's Callahan in the L: "'The only truth is love beyond reason,' reads the opening title of Xavier Dolan's second movie as director-writer-actor, Heartbeats, but the dreamy narrative that unfolds between Francis (Dolan) and Marie (Monia Chokri) and their object of desire Nicolas (Niels Schneider) proves that young love is really just desire that refuses all reason. Dolan has moved past the more monochromatic palette of his first autobiographical film, I Killed My Mother, and into the 1960s-like pleasure of primary colors; more than half of the movie is set in slow motion, so that we can watch the beauty, the yearning and the butterfly-pinned-to-a-corkboard awkwardness of Francis and Marie as they vie for Nicolas's affection."
For Karina Longworth, though, writing in the Voice, Heartbeats "bounces between montages of faux-interviews with young lovelorns — shot with 'documentary'-style jerky zooms, establishing that Dolan's interest in generational anthropology is more style than substance — and an equally superficial narrative dissecting the passive aggression of young lusters."
More from Richard Brody (New Yorker), Edward Davis (Playlist), Stephen Holden (New York Times), Eric Kohn (indieWIRE), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY, 4/5), Scott Tobias (AV Club, B+), Bill Weber (Slant, 2/4) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 6.5/10). Earlier: Reviews from Cannes and Veronika Ferdman from Karlovy Vary. More interviews with Dolan: Logan Hill (Vulture), Aaron Hillis (GreenCine Daily, audio, 15'32"), Lisa Kirchner (BOMB), Stephen Saito (IFC), Damon Smith (Filmmaker) and Deenah Vollmer (Interview).
"We know that Xavier Beauvois's Cannes Grand Prize-winner Of Gods and Men was drawn from the 1996 incident in which seven Tibhirine Trappist monks were kidnapped and eventually beheaded during the Algerian Civil War, the exact circumstances of their slaughter a matter of controversy and contention to this day." Josef Braun: "So we might expect something draped in dread to unfold here, a drama whose hopeless fluctuations amount to nothing more than a death march. But inevitability is a force one strives to come to terms with when one's life is devoted to worship and public service. That things are bound to end poorly becomes a matter of secondary importance once Beauvois and his collaborators usher us into this realm of carefully nurtured quietude, where disparate, overwhelming inner struggles are conducted and resolve terribly hard-won, where fraternal bonds are largely strengthened as much through disagreement and prolonged panic as they are through a sense of harmony and shared ideals. This is indeed a meditative movie (how could it be otherwise?), yet also at times a joyous one, one that reminds us of several important things: that running away only brings new things to run from; that need, vocation, and genuine communion transcends the confines of dogma; and that god (or God), whether regarded as a concept or a true presence, is only alive when his followers engage fully with the world in all its disorder."
"Courses on religion in cinema are a staple of the film studies curriculum," writes AO Scott in the New York Times, "but movies that try to illuminate religious experience from within constitute a tiny and exalted tradition, in which Mr Beauvois's story of faith under duress clearly belongs. Its more-or-less recent peers include movies as diverse as Carlos Reygadas's Silent Light, from Mexico, Philip Gröning's sublime documentary Into Great Silence, Bruno Dumont's Hadewijch and The Apostle, Robert Duvall's acute and sympathetic study of the glorious contradictions of American Evangelical Christianity." Towards the end of his review, Scott brings up the scene everyone brings up when writing about Of Gods and Men, the scene that "comes during a meal, when the residents of the abbey sit and listen to a famous passage from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake and lose themselves as completely in aesthetic reverie as they otherwise do in religious devotion. The identical music figures, coincidentally enough, in Black Swan, a movie so utterly different from Of Gods and Men that they barely seem to belong to the same medium. In Black Swan, Tchaikovsky delivers the extravagant melodrama that is the film's entire reason for being, whereas here his lush, emotive orchestration emphasizes the utter absence of such wanton emotionalism. And yet it also serves as a reminder that even in wartime, and even in lives governed by restraint and self-denial, there is an essential need for beauty, feeling and art."
More from Sam Adams (AV Club, C+), Joe Bendel, Chris Barsanti (Filmcritic.com, 4.5/5), Richard Brody (New Yorker), Steve Erickson (Gay City News), Kevin Jagernauth (Playlist), Mark Jenkins (NPR), Glenn Kenny (MSN Movies, 3.5/5), Elvis Mitchell (Movieline, 8/10), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) and Keith Uhlich (TONY, 4/5). Earlier: Reviews from Cannes and Daniel Kasman, the New York Film Festival and Glenn Kenny. Sylviane Gold profiles Lambert Wilson for the NYT.
Update, 2/26: As Peter Knegt reports at indieWIRE, Of Gods and Men won Best Film at last night's César Awards ceremony in Paris, beating Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer, "though Ghost ended up taking home the most awards, including best adapted screenplay, best editing, best original score, and best director for Polanski himself (who was in attendance)."
"Bobby and Peter Farrelly have brought water to the arid desert currently calling itself American film comedy," declares the Boston Globe's Wesley Morris. "Hall Pass is the brothers' 10th movie, and their most gangbusters since Me, Myself & Irene, which turns 11 this year. The new film's hook makes a gimmicky first impression. The wives of two suburban salesmen [Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis] give their men a week to cheat. This sounds like something ripped from The New York Times Sunday Styles section and processed into the sort of movie that brought us, say, I Love You, Man, in which two straight strangers fall platonically in love."
The AV Club's Keith Phipps warns us that "Hall Pass isn't consistently funny: It takes a while to get going, and throws in a few more subplots than it really needs. But a few jokes hit hard, the rest prove mildly amusing, and the care taken with the characters goes a long way."
"The Farrellys aren't the only contemporary filmmakers who have a tough time making marriage funny, even if it is heartening to see them try," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "And this movie is certainly an improvement over their last, an uncharacteristically malicious and sexist remake of The Heartbreak Kid. Hall Pass, unlike most American comedies without Katherine Heigl and a wedding dress, at least gives women almost equal time and space if, of course, not the good jokes. Once upon a time, in the 1930s and 40s, wives (and exes) were funny, as in His Girl Friday and The Awful Truth, romantic comedies that found men and women negotiating, in between pratfalls and quips, the new equality between the sexes in what the philosopher Stanley Cavell has called 'a struggle for mutual freedom.' Did greater equality make women unfunny or does it now just seem that way to male comedy writers?"
For Slate's Dana Stevens, the screenplay raises more questions, in that it "reflects a deep ambivalence about female people: Are they frightening? Boring? Sickening? Do they represent freedom or constraint, safety or danger? In the end — I don't think it's spoiling anything to say this — Hall Pass reaffirms the primacy of the male-female marriage bond. But, boy, is it an uneasy alliance."
More from Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 2.5/4), Jesse Hassenger (L), Kevin Jagernauth (Playlist), Glenn Kenny (MSN Movies, 1.5/5), Elvis Mitchell (Movieline, 6.5/10), Adam Nayman (Cinema Scope), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Nick Pinkerton (Voice), Mary Pols (Time), Ray Pride (Newcity Film), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY, 3/5), Betsy Sharkey (LAT), Scott Tobias (NPR), Bill Weber (Slant, 2/4) and Mike Wilmington (Movie City News). Steven Zeitchik profiles the Farrellys for the LAT.
Tom Huddleston in Time Out London on Drive Angry 3D with Nicolas Cage and Amber Heard: "Patrick Lussier's second 3D movie following 2009's well-received My Bloody Valentine may be a bit too slickly self-aware for its own good, but it's also rivetingly paced, outrageously funny and makes retina-scorching use of the new 3D technology." Dissenting opinions: Jenni Miller (Cinematical), Logan Hill (Vulture), Wesley Morris (Boston Globe), Tim Robey (Telegraph), James Rocchi (MSN Movies, 2/5) and Scott Tobias (AV Club, C). Back on the other hand, Simon Abrams gives the film 2.5 out of 4 stars in Slant, Stephanie Zacharek 7.5 points out of 10 at Movieline.
"Everything Strange and New captures Wayne (the excellent Jerry McDaniel) as he begins to realize that the dream of heterosexual domesticity he bought into is not only a nightmare, but an existential farce," writes Diego Costa in Slant. "A bona fide blue-collar straight guy with the wife, kids, and drinking buddies to show, Wayne narrates his springing into consciousness, that love is a fiction and the happy hetero-normative family is an impossible project, as something that used to be very solid flounders… For all of its heavy-handed dialogue and some unnecessary subplots, Everything Strange and New does something quite amazing in allowing the kind of bottled-up emotional dynamic that heterosexual masculinity requires to finally express itself in speech." More from Stephen Holden (NYT) and Brian Miller (Voice). Interviews with director Frazer Bradshaw: Stephen Saito (IFC) and Michael Tully (Hammer to Nail). At Brooklyn's ReRun Gastropub Theater.
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