By Sean Boelman
In a rare move, a majority of the films released in the Criterion Collection this October were in the horror genre — although that doesn’t mean they departed from their usual auteur fare. One of the new highlights is J-horror legend Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure, featuring a new 4K restoration of the film released by Janus Films theatrically earlier this year.
The movie follows a detective who investigates a string of unusual murders, where a suspect is found near the scene of the crime with no recollection of the events of the killing. It’s a structure that has been copied time and time again since — a detective unraveling a bizarre mystery with seemingly supernatural elements — but Kurosawa’s direction is so strong that it still holds up.
One of the most unorthodox things about the film is its approach to its characters. The characters all feel distant and cold, which really gives it the feel of a procedural thriller over being a horror movie. Kōji Yakusho is excellent as the weary detective who has to unravel the truth behind what is happening.
There aren’t many horror movies in the Criterion Collection, but Cure is absolutely an essential addition thanks to its role in globalizing the genre of J-horror. The film established Kiyoshi Kurosawa as a force to be reckoned with in international horror, and set the stage for other filmmakers, like Hideo Nakata or Takashi Shimizu, to enter the mix.
This isn’t what audiences will be used to with horror movies in that it isn’t super scary, instead opting to create a sense of overwhelming dread. Even within J-horror, the film is pretty tame, dealing more in atmosphere than it does in being overtly disturbing — however, it will creep under the viewer’s skin.
Indeed, this slow burn allows the movie to be haunting to viewers and stick with them long after the credits roll. Much of this is due to Kurosawa’s exquisite direction and strong crafts, especially the cinematography by Tokushô Kikumura. There is definitely a reason that Kurosawa is hailed as one of the greatest filmmakers of his genre.
The highlight of the bonus features is a new conversation between Kurosawa and fellow Japanese filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi, who directed last year’s critical darling Drive My Car (which joined the Collection itself only a few months ago). The film also features some archive interviews and a booklet with an essay.
For cinephiles looking for an expertly-crafted horror movie to add to their collection this spooky season, look no further than the Criterion edition of Cure. Although it’s a bit bare bones, it was difficult to find on home media for quite a while, so this is one you will definitely want to add to your shelves.
The Criterion Collection edition of Cure is now available.
By Tatiana Miranda and Sean Boelman
One of the largest LGBTQ+ film festivals in the United States (and the world, for that matter), the 2022 edition of NewFest is back to take New York City by storm. Featuring a lineup of narrative features, documentaries, and short films made by LGBTQ+ filmmakers or featuring LGBTQ+ characters and themes, this is a showcase of some of the best queer films you will see all year.
We at disappointment media covered NewFest this year, both in-person and remotely. Here are some of our brief thoughts on some of the films we were able to see at the fest:
Review by Sean Boelman
Craig Boreham’s Lonesome is being sold as a modern gay cowboy movie, and while it is about gay lads in the modern-day south, it shares more in common with Mysterious Skin than it does something like Brokeback Mountain. Boreham’s film has some good visuals, but it doesn’t have the story to back it up. Instead, what we get is a barrage of excessive and explicit sexuality and sexual assault. That isn’t to say that sex in film is a bad thing — but there is little point here other than exploiting gay trauma, and it’s just quite unpleasant to watch.
Nelly & Nadine
Review by Tatiana Miranda
Nelly & Nadine is Swedish director Magnus Gertten's third film centered around WWII. However, it isn't a documentary solely about the war, instead spanning across subjects such as family, love, and the LGBTQ+ identities of the past. More a love story than a war story, Nelly & Nadine depicts the lives of Nelly Mousset-Vos and Nadine Hwang, two women who meet at the Ravensbrück concentration camp in 1944. Told through the lens of Nelly's granddaughter as she unpacks the letters and photographs her grandmother left her, this documentary is heartfelt and eye-opening to the fact that love can persevere even in the worst conditions.
Please Baby Please
Review by Tatiana Miranda
Please Baby Please is a pleasant surprise, as it is marketed as a musical but is hardly that, with only one lone musical outburst hidden between the rest of the film's antics. The movie follows two newlyweds, Suse and Arthur, in 1950s Manhattan as they witness a gang's outburst of violence. This leads to a broader discussion between the two and their friends on the topic of gender roles, kinks, and sexuality. While those topics might seem entirely separate from the main plot, they are cleverly interwoven and portrayed by the cast of characters through fantasy sequences and intense monologues that captivate the audience.
The 2022 edition of NewFest runs October 13-25 virtually and in-person in New York City.
Review by Sean Boelman
The fall festival season is filled with so many great films that it would be impossible to find a regional fest that showcases all of the big contenders, but the Chicago International Film Festival comes pretty close. Featuring some of the best films you will see all year — with a large focus on international films — CIFF has something to see for every Chicagoan, and with this hybrid edition, will feature both in-person and virtual screenings.
We at disappointment media are again covering the Chicago International Film Festival, mostly via remote coverage (but we’ll be on the ground for one or two films). As we see more films, we will continue to update this article with our brief thoughts:
Manuela Martelli’s Chile ‘76 is a portrait of a family in crisis, both externally and internally. Martelli and her co-writer Alejandra Moffat attempt to blend family drama with political turmoil, and the result is interesting if not entirely compelling. There is no denying how gorgeous the film is from a visual standpoint, and lead actress Aline Küppenheim is extraordinary in her role, but the film leaves something to be desired in terms of creating a feeling of suspense.
Return to Seoul
Davy Chou’s identity crisis drama Return to Seoul is a film having an identity crisis of its own. A primarily French production largely set in South Korea, the film ended up being the Cambodian submission to the Oscars for Best International Feature. However, regardless of what is considered its country of origin, it’s pretty good. The film tells the story of a woman who returns to her homeland after being adopted by a foreign couple soon after she was born in the hopes of reconnecting with her birth family. It’s a story we’ve seen done before, but Chou’s exquisitely tender direction and Park Ji-Min’s extraordinary performance go a long way.
Alcarràs, the sophomore feature of filmmaker Carla Simón (Summer 1993), won the Golden Bear at Berlin earlier this year where it debuted to great acclaim. And while it is an all-around well-made film, it feels almost as if something was lost in translation. Following a family of Spanish peach farmers, the film is like pretty much any other slice-of-life film told from the perspective of a group of young children, with conflicts that we have seen dozens of times before. Simón’s direction is certainly very good — and the visuals are exquisite — but the narrative simply felt a bit too conventional to be impactful.
Lukas Dhont’s Close made quite a splash at its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 2022, where it won the Grand Prix and scored a distribution deal from A24. This story of two inseparable young friends whose friendship is suddenly torn apart is absolutely devastating, perhaps one of the most heartbreaking films of the year. The biggest highlight of the film is young actor Eden Dambrine, whose performance is compelling and nuanced in a way that will leave very few audiences with dry eyes.
The Novelist's Film
South Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo is known for his very prolific output, often putting out multiple films in a year. For 2022, he has two films — Walk Up, which premiered at TIFF and was not very good, and The Novelist’s Film, which debuted at Berlin earlier this year and is much better. Like the rest of Hong’s work, it is a very talky drama in which its characters chat about cinema, art, and literature while under the influence of soju. It may be slight, but Hong’s dialogue and character work are generally exquisite, and this is some of his best in both aspects.
The Woodcutter's Story
Finnish filmmaker is best known to this point as the co-writer of The Happiest Day in the Life Of Olli Maki, but now he makes his directorial debut with the satirical comedy The Woodcutter’s Story. The film follows a woodcutter as his idyllic, simple life begins to fall apart in a series of increasingly bizarre encounters. It’s quite an ambitious film, and for a directorial debut, it’s very accomplished and confident. While it would be impossible not to praise its gorgeous and often funny visuals, the film is an exercise in quirkiness without substance, often resulting in a film that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
The 2022 Chicago International Film Festival runs October 12-23.
By Sean Boelman
After the big fall festivals — Telluride, Venice, and TIFF — smaller, regional festivals tend to showcase some of the highlights that audiences will see pop up in awards season. The Chicago International Film Festival, as always, has a great lineup for 2022, featuring some of the best movies you will see all year. Here are some of the films we think you won’t want to miss:
Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO is the type of film that you just have to experience, and you will never forget the day you saw it — whether you like it or not. Following a donkey who drifts through the world interacting with various people, it’s a modern take on Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar. The message about animal cruelty is extraordinarily urrgent and impactful, but thankfully, the film is entirely sensitive and restrained with its approach. It’s a mind-blowing work of cinema that you won’t want to miss.
Marie Kreutzer’s Corsage is the Austrian selection for Best International Feature, and it is one of the strongest contenders thus far. A gorgeous but slightly anachronistic biopic of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, the film is both a ton of fun to watch and engages nicely with its feminist themes. The crafts are some of the best of the year, and Vicky Krieps gives a career-best performance in the leading role, absolutely captivating the audience every time she is on screen.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
In addition to being a showcase for some of the Best International Feature submissions, CIFF also serves as a showcase for A-list contenders in other categories, such as Best Documentary. The presumed frontrunner in the category is All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, the newest film from director Laura Poitras (Citizenfour), and Chicago audiences will get the opportunity to see the film early at the festival. Functioning both as a biography of photographer and activist Nan Goldin and an exposé of the opioid epidemic, it’s a moving, harrowing documentary, much like the rest of the work Poitras has done in the past.
The Banshees of Inisherin
Although it will be opening in theaters pretty soon, don’t miss the chance to see Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin with an audience that can love it just as much as you. Boosted by two great performances from Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson and some gorgeous cinematography by Ben Davis, McDonagh is firing on all cylinders here with a pitch-black comedy about friendship. It’s much more subtle than McDonagh’s recent output but no less sharp.
Top Gun: Maverick is the highest-grossing movie of the year so far, so the entire country has been left with the need for speed. Another Naval aviator drama has come along to fill that desire: J.D. Dillard’s Devotion. Based on the true story of Jesse Brown, the first Black fighter pilot to complete the U.S. Navy’s basic flight training program, it’s an inspiring watch. It is led by Jonathan Majors (in attendance to receive one of the festival’s top honors) and Glen Powell (who also starred in Top Gun: Maverick), who do an exceptional job in their roles.
This is just a sampling of the many films playing at the festival, and it was hard to narrow it down to just five recommendations. With several different sections offering some of the best fall cinema has to offer, you’re sure to find something to love.
The 2022 Chicago International Film Festival runs October 12-23.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.