The Criterion Voyages (Spine #1159): The INFERNAL AFFAIRS Trilogy -- More Important Hong Kong Action Cinema Added to the Collection
By Sean Boelman
Many viewers likely recognize the first Infernal Affairs film thanks to its enormous legacy, but fewer cinephiles have gotten the chance to see and appreciate the two other movies in the original franchise. Criterion’s box set of the Infernal Affairs trilogy allows cinephiles to bring home all three films on Blu-Ray, or perhaps even discover them for the first time.
The first Infernal Affairs is perhaps one of the most acclaimed movies to ever come out of Hong Kong — its story of a mole and an undercover cop trying to outwit each other and figure out whose allegiances lie where entertaining audiences worldwide. Thanks to a perfect whirlwind of Andrew Lau and Alan Lak’s direction, Andy Lau and Tony Leung’s acting, and a sharp script, it became a global sensation.
The influence of Infernal Affairs has stretched internationally, to the point of inspiring Martin Scorsese’s Best Picture-winning crime saga, The Departed. Although the film had already received some recognition thanks to its warm critical reception, this remake catapulted it into the spotlight and cemented it as an important movie in cinematic history.
Infernal Affairs would also kickstart a series in Hong Kong with two more feature films that had been much less widely available internationally until Criterion put out this box set. Infernal Affairs II, a prequel following the younger versions of the characters as they first embed themselves into the triad and the police force, the movie does lack the starring duo of Leung and Lau.
Leung and Lau would return for Infernal Affairs III, a true sequel to the first film, which was still not as acclaimed as the first movie but still very enjoyable. Released in the same year as Infernal Affairs II, this had all the potential of becoming an event trilogy a la The Matrix, but suffered the same fate of giving audiences too much too quickly.
All three of the films are presented in beautiful new 4K restorations that were released in theaters earlier this year. And while there are only a handful of new bonus features, the relative unavailability of the sequels in the United States means that these materials will largely feel brand new to audiences.
Now that audiences across the world finally have the opportunity to easily access the remaining two movies in the Infernal Affairs trilogy, this Criterion box set is one that any cinephile will want to add to their shelves. Criterion has recently been showing a commitment to releasing important Hong Kong action cinema, and this was a natural progression.
The Criterion edition of the Infernal Affairs trilogy is now available.
Review by Sean Boelman
Bringing nonfiction cinema to viewers across the United States in a hybrid format for the third year in a row, DOC NYC returns with a 2022 edition that is even bigger and better than in years past. Featuring an extensive lineup of documentary films — from ones that have been picking up buzz on the festival circuit to smaller independent productions waiting to be discovered by audiences — there is something for everyone who loves watching docs.
We, at disappointment media, are excited to again be covering the festival remotely. As we screen films in the lineup, we will continue to update this page with more thoughts about the films so that you can find something you want to watch in-person or at home via their virtual festival offerings.
Cirque du Soleil: Without a Net
Dawn Porter has made several acclaimed and successful civil rights documentaries over the past few years, so the subject of her newest film is rather surprising. However, Porter brings her same humanistic touch to Cirque du Soleil: Without a Net, which documents the iconic acrobat troupe’s return to performing live after the COVID-19 pandemic. Generally, the performers at Cirque du Soleil are hailed for their nearly inhuman abilities, but this documentary focuses on the people behind the costumes and spectacles. While this may be a relatively straightforward stagecraft story, Porter tells it in such a way that it is enormously compelling for fans and neophytes alike.
Finding Her Beat
Finding Her Beat tells the story of a troupe of women specializing in the Japanese drum performance of Taiko — a historically male-dominated artform. The mission of these women is extraordinary, and their performance skills impressive, but the film gets a bit too focused on their personal lives at times to be as captivating as it could have been. While the cutaways to the performers’ families are a welcome bit of grounding, the portion of the film that explores how the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic almost affected their performance showcase feels unnecessary and ineffective.
Plenty of documentarians have attempted to ape the style of filmmakers like Michael Moore, who seamlessly integrates humor and wit into his political takedowns, but few manage to pull it off in a way that is satisfying. Blake Zeff’s Loan Wolves tackles an interesting and timely subject — the student debt crisis — yet all of the genuinely important things Zeff and his interviewees have to say are undermined by his constant attempts to make wisecracks. There’s definitely some worthy information to be found in this documentary, but Zeff’s apparent need to constantly prove himself to be hip is annoying at best and distracting at worst.
The 2022 edition of DOC NYC runs in-person from November 9-17 and online November 9-27.
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.
By Sean Boelman
The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the hottest film events of the Fall, often acting as the introduction of several high-profile awards contenders on the scene. This year featured the World Premieres of some of the biggest films for the rest of the year, but also plenty of other films that audiences will certainly want to pay attention to.
We at disappointment media got the opportunity to cover TIFF again this year, and for the first time on the ground in Canada. Here are some of our brief thoughts on some of the films we saw.
Hlynur Pálmasson’s previous film, A White White Day, was a unique spin on the revenge thriller genre, so hopes were high for his religious epic Godland. Unfortunately, this story of a Danish priest traveling to remote Iceland to build a church and photograph its parishioners explores themes that have been done before (and much more effectively) in other anti-colonialist commentaries like Silence and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, by which this is so clearly inspired. It’s unquestionably one of the most gorgeous film’s to play at TIFF this year, but the narrative is an absolute slog.
TIFF usually has one or two movies that could have earned a place in the Midnight Madness program make an appearance in another section, and this year, it’s Mercedes Bryce Morgan’s Fixation in the Contemporary World Cinema program. This psychological horror film has an intriguing concept, but it is told in a way that is almost unbearably pretentious. The production is cheap, and it thinks that it is much smarter than it is, when it really only offers a shallow exploration of its themes.
The premise of Luxembourg, Luxembourg reads as if it’s a pretty standard road trip comedy, but it’s something much harder to connect to. This story of two brothers hoping to reconnect with their dying father who left them years before sounds like something that could be really compelling, but it’s shockingly difficult for the audience to find some sort of connection with the characters. The film feels disappointingly cold, and that makes it not worth watching.
The Umbrella Men
John Barker’s The Umbrella Men offers an interesting premise — a group of jazz musicians teaming up for a heist to save their beloved, indebted nightclub. It’s a pretty standard heist movie, but it’s enjoyable enough for what it is. It is the musical flairs that give this film the personality it so desperately needs to succeed, creating a fun atmosphere even if it is entirely predictable at every beat.
The main draw of Christophe Honoré’s Winter Boy is a supporting turn from Juliette Binoche, but she feels entirely wasted in a role that is largely insubstantial. Unwitting viewers who go into this hoping to see the next great Binoche film will instead be met with yet another bleak queer coming-of-age drama. It’s the type of dour film about self-loathing that the community likely thought it had grown past. It desperately wants to be Mysterious Skin but isn’t anything close.
Bones of Crows
Marie Clements’s Bones of Crows is a condensed version of an upcoming CBC miniseries, and it shows. This story of Indigenous oppression is undeniably well-intentioned, but it is told in such a maudlin way that it is hard to get behind. It’s the type of film that clearly wants to be something extraordinary and even awards-worthy, but it has such a limited budget and poor execution that it feels like a Lifetime movie.
The late Sidney Poitier is certainly a legendary actor, but some people might not know the contributions he had on society as a whole. Reginald Hudlin’s documentary Sidney takes a very standard approach to telling the story of the actor and activist, but Poitier is such an extraordinary subject that the story speaks for itself. Cinephiles will love hearing from some of the most notable Black actors of today as they talk about Poitier’s legacy, but the true highlight is the interviews conducted with Poitier slightly before his passing.
Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu’s first film in six years, R.M.N. starts out really slow, but has an absolutely explosive second act that sets it apart as one of the year’s most extraordinary films. This exploration of xenophobia and masculinity is shocking and harrowing, and even though it takes about an hour for the film to find its footing, once it does, it will stick with viewers long after the haunting final image.
Love and Mathematics
The Mexican film Love and Mathematics is the type of movie that is best experienced if you go in blind. Blending genres seamlessly, it is an exploration of the mundanity of the life of a once-famous member of a boy band. It’s unsettling and occasionally darkly funny, powered by a strong performance from Roberto Quijano. Claudia Sainte-Luce is certainly a filmmaker to look out for in the future.
The Young Arsonists
Sheila Pye’s The Young Arsonists presents itself as if it is going to be some profound experimental art film, but in reality, it’s just a pretty standard coming-of-age tale with a decent sense of visual style. It’s just another story about a group of girls who find solace in one another after they are rejected by the community around them. From a narrative standpoint, it’s nothing special, but Pye does show some potential as a director in her feature debut.
The Blue Caftan
Moroccan filmmaker Maryam Touzani’s newest feature, The Blue Caftan, gathered quite a bit of acclaim after its debut at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. While it is exquisitely shot and well-acted, from a narrative standpoint, it’s just another story of forbidden love. The film hardly explores any of its themes in a deeper level, resulting in a film that is disappointingly inoffensive and unprovocative, even if it is well-made.
While We Watched
Vinay Shukla’s documentary While We Watched explores what is undeniably a very important topic, albeit in a way that doesn’t feel as urgent as it deserves. We are still very much living in an era of censorship, propaganda, and misinformation, and journalist/activist Ravish Kumar is one of the most extraordinary voices fighting back against these forces of oppression, but Shukla’s film doesn’t feel like it quite does justice to its subject.
Many times, critics will describe films as being “style over substance,” but what is really frustrating is when the film thinks it has substance but has nothing to it at all. Darlene Naponse’s Stellar has an extremely thin narrative that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, resulting in the film being nearly unwatchable. Perhaps it could have been forgiven if the visuals were at least somewhat interesting, but the film’s low budget really makes it just a big waste of time.
Cyril Schaüblin’s Unrest has an intriguing concept — new technology transforming labor in a watchmaking town in 19th century Switzerland — but it doesn’t do anything particularly interesting with it. The visuals of the film are undeniably gorgeous, but even at just over ninety minutes, the film will struggle to keep viewer’s attention due to the highly technical nature of its story.
Marie Kreutzer’s slightly anachronistic biopic Corsage is one of the most enjoyable period pieces you will see this year. The film isn’t over-the-top with its modern flair, resulting in a film that doesn’t feel tacky whatsoever and explores gender dynamics in a fantastically interesting way. Of course, the highlight of the film is Vicky Krieps’s knockout performance as the Austrian monarch.
Chevalier starts out with what is perhaps the best ten-minute sequence of any film this year. Unfortunately, the rest of the film fails to match the excellence of its extraordinary introduction. Kelvin Harrison Jr. carries this biopic of an unsung African-American legend in the classical music community, but its writing is standard in a way that makes it feel like just another entry in the genre.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Laura Poitras’s documentary All the Beauty and the Bloodshed earned the Golden Lion at Venice, and it’s no surprise. One of the most nuanced works of nonfiction cinema in recent memory, the film doubles as both a biography of photographer-turned-activist Nan Goldin and an exposé on the opioid epidemic. It’s a moving film in many ways and perhaps even one-ups Poitras’s excellent work in Citizenfour.
Domingo and the Mist
Ariel Escalante’s Domingo and the Mist is an interesting ghost story that is quietly affecting in unexpected ways. Following a man who is visited by the ghost of his dead wife in the mist as land developers attempt to kick him out of his home, it’s a gorgeously-shot film, but also one that offers profound ruminations on life. It’s not the type of film that everyone is going to be on the same wavelength as, but those who get on board with its unique style will find it to be quite compelling.
Saim Sadiq’s film Joyland was the winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, and has only gathered even more acclaim since its debut there. Following a young man who comes from a traditional, patriarchal family as he joins a dance troupe and falls in love with its trans leader, this is a wonderful, nuanced dissection of the patriarchy. Sadiq finds the right balance between being subtle and yet not pulling back on any of his punches, making the film altogether effective.
Queens of the Qing Dynasty
Ashley McKenzie’s Queens of the Qing Dynasty explores the theme of mental health in a way that is more sensitive than any other movie has in quite a while. McKenzie takes an almost clinical approach to telling this story, and while that may put some off, it makes sense given the tone that the film is aiming for. The character work in the film is extraordinary, approaching these characters with nuance and sympathy rather than pity.
Wendell & Wild
Henry Selick is one of the best filmmakers in animation of all time, and Jordan Peele is one of the most exciting voices in horror, so a collaboration between the two was certainly very exciting. However, Wendell & Wild is an unfocused film that bites off more than it can chew with its story. At once, it’s both very generic and has too many moving parts for its story to work. However, most disappointing is the fact that the world Selick and Peele built isn’t visually distinctive enough to work.
As another collaboration between screen legends Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, Moving On should be great, especially when you throw in supporting actor Malcolm McDowell and director Paul Weitz into the mix. Unfortunately, due to a script that borders on tasteless, the film manages to be nearly unwatchable. Following two best friends who decide to get revenge on a friend’s husband after their passing, this is an innocent enough film… until it isn’t.
The Margaret Qualley and Christopher Abbott two-hander Sanctuary might not have much in the way of substance, but it’s a very sleek film that is undeniably fun to watch. Following a dominatrix and her wealthy client with whom she shares an unorthodox relationship, the film unfolds with plenty of twists and turns that you’re not really sure where it’s going. Qualley’s performance is fantastic in what could have been a caricature, and Abbott serves as a perfect foil to her.
North of Normal
Carly Stone’s first feature The New Romantic was edgy and hilarious, so it’s disappointing that her sophomore film North of Normal is so straightforward. Following a teenage girl who has to adjust back to society after living most of her life off-the-grid, there are certainly some charming moments here, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. It’s crowd-pleasing enough to be diverting, but it could have been so much more with the talent involved.
Sebastián Lelio is one of the best filmmakers working today, so it’s absolutely shocking that The Wonder is one of the biggest disappointments of the year. Based on a novel by acclaimed author Emma Donoghue, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where this film went wrong. The score is absolutely gorgeous, one of the best of the year even, but everything else about the film is so standard that it’s truly a chore to suffer through.
Brett Morgen’s David Bowie documentary Moonage Daydream is supposedly a transcendent experience, but that might just be code for something that’s shallow but gorgeous. There’s no denying the power of the way in which Morgen combines images and sound in the film, particularly if you get to see the film in the wonders of an IMAX presentation, but viewers will leave the film having learned disappointingly little about Bowie or his art.
The star-studded ensemble of Catherine Hardwicke’s film Prisoner’s Daughter does much of the heavy lifting. Kate Beckinsale leads the film in what is a departure from her usual work — allowing her to do something a tad more dramatic — and Brian Cox yet again plays the gruff old man with a good heart. The story is conventional, contrived, and melodramatic, but it is the leading duo’s superb work that really makes the film effective and allows it to hit its emotional beats.
Hirokazu Kore-eda is one of the most acclaimed Asian filmmakers working today, but a majority of his work is in the Japanese language. His first Korean film, Broker, stars Parasite actor Song Kang-ho, and is a much more conventional film than one would expect from Hirokazu. Although there are some decently emotional moments here, there isn’t a lot of substance, and as a result, it ends up being little more than just “cute.” However, the strong acting and direction elevate what otherwise could have been a relatively standard family drama.
Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish is one of the most influential investigative documentaries of the past decade, so her next documentary, The Grab, was certainly an exciting prospect. And while the story it is telling — an exploration of the power dynamics that go into land grabs — is fascinating and shocking, the presentation becomes repetitive after a while. Not only does the film’s argument begin to grow redundant, but so does the evidence that is used, making this less powerful than it should have been.
The Eternal Daughter
British filmmaker Joanna Hogg partners again with A24 for her restrained ghost story The Eternal Daughter after The Souvenir duology which was quite acclaimed by critics and cinephiles. Although there isn’t a whole lot of substance to be found in this film — and that bit of substance feels somewhat shallow — it is a thoroughly effective exercise and atmosphere. Hogg creates something that is genuinely spooky and eerie, and of course, Tilda Swinton delivers yet another extraordinary performance, this time playing two characters.
Sometimes, films with controversial subject matter have the best intentions, but they simply cannot pull it off. That is the case with Amy Redford’s thriller Roost, depicting a young girl’s relationship with a man who is much older than her. It takes a while for the film to reveal its hand and prove that it isn’t actually creepy, but audiences have to wade through a lot of clunky melodrama to reach this point. Kyle Gallner is such a talented actor, but it would be nice to see him not getting typecast like this.
Although the Rosemary’s Baby trope has been done time and time again, there is a reason that filmmakers continue to attempt to explore motherhood in this way. Playwright Bess Wohl’s debut as a filmmaker, Baby Ruby, is an interesting psychological horror flick, and while it follows familiar beats, it adds some interesting commentary on its themes. At times, Wohl’s direction does feel amateurish, but other portions are shockingly effective and haunting.
Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi was in the news earlier this year because he was arrested (again) in his home country, which makes his newest film, No Bears, resonate even more. Like many of Panahi’s films, No Bears depicts a version of himself as he discusses the political turmoil in his country and the challenges of being a filmmaker under the oppressive government. It’s a miracle that this film was made — and it would be praised if only for its bravery — but it’s a damn good film anyway.
Theater of Thought
Even in his eightieth year, filmmaker Werner Herzog’s still got it. Even though his typically rough filmmaking style shows in his newest documentary, Theater of Thought, it’s such an entertaining and fascinating approach to these ideas that it becomes truly mesmeric. The tangents that Herzog goes on can be unintentionally hilarious at times — at one point, he begins to question whether or not fish have souls while talking with one of the creators of Siri — but it’s also a documentary experience the likes of which only Herzog could offer.
Other People's Children
Rebecca Zlotowski’s Other People’s Children is one of the most underappreciated films to have debuted on the fall festival circuit. Starring Virginie Efiria (Benedetta) as a woman who forms a bond with her lover’s child, this is one of the most tender, moving portraits of parenthood you will ever see. The level of empathy with which Zlotowski approaches her characters is uncommon, but Efiria gives the performance of a career in her lead role, making the film all the more emotional and absorbing.
A Man of Reason
One of two films at the festival this year directed by Korean action stars, Jung Woo-sung’s A Man of Reason is a pretty standard action thriller, but an entertaining one at that. The story is nothing special whatsoever, but there’s no denying the film’s action choreography. It’s not a film that is anything to call home about, but it does a decent enough job with its hour and forty minute runtime that it’s worth watching if you’re a fan of the genre or the actor.
Like the rest of Albert Serra’s films, Pacifiction is an excessive portrait of excess. The nearly three-hour runtime of the film may not be earned, and the film’s message may boil down to “colonialism bad,” but fans of art house cinema will certainly find something to enjoy here. The gorgeous visuals, sharp dialogue, and a tremendous leading performance from Benoit Magimel keep this afloat even when it feels like it may be sinking.
The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival ran September 8-18.
By Sean Boelman
The Toronto International Film Festival was one of the first to embrace the hybrid format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is now one of the first to bring back filmmakers, journalists, and fans from around the world to celebrate some of the highest profile films the fall has to offer.
We at disappointment media are covering TIFF for the third year in a row — and this year, for the first time ever, on the ground in Toronto. We’ll be providing plenty of coverage throughout the festival, but for those of you who will be joining us in Canada, we wanted to make sure you knew which films we think you shouldn’t miss!
The Pakistani film Joyland, directed by Saim Sadiq, largely went under the radar at Cannes until it won one of the top prizes in the Un Certain Regard section. Telling the story of a man from a traditional Muslim family who falls in love with the transgender leader of an underground dance troupe he joins, this is a fantastic dissection of gender dynamics in a patriarchal country. Ali Junejo’s extraordinary and vulnerable lead performance is reason enough alone to see this film.
Having debuted at the virtual edition of Sundance 2022 to great acclaim and quickly getting snatched up by Sony Pictures Classics, Oliver Hermanus’s Living is making a quick stop at TIFF before its prime awards season release date in December in the US. This remake of master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru isn’t particularly flashy, but therein lies its charm. It’s a simple, powerful film, in large part thanks to a commandingly subtle turn from Bill Nighy.
Alice Winocour’s Paris Memories may not have been one of the buzziest titles to come out of this year’s Cannes — not even picking up a US distributor as of yet — but that doesn’t change the fact that it is one of the finest. The film explores the ways in which we deal with trauma to absolutely harrowing effect. Virginie Efira got much acclaim for her performance in last year’s Benedetta, but her turn in this film shows that she is a force to be reckoned with. It’s a haunting film in unexpected ways, so don’t miss this one.
I Like Movies
While everyone is going to be buzzing about the other two “filmmakers make their own Belfast” movies at TIFF this year — The Fabelmans and Empire of Light — it’s important not to forget their indie cousin, I Like Movies. Written and directed by critic-turned-filmmaker Chandler Levack, this film is an ode to all the cinephiles who grew up during the Blockbuster generation. Yes, it’s another coming-of-age story, but an endlessly charming one at that.
What is a good TIFF schedule without at least one Midnight Madness selection? This year, genre cinephiles should check out Jamari Helander’s brutal and fun WWII action flick Sisu. Like Rambo by way of Inglorious Basterds, this film follows a seemingly-immortal commando who takes a stand against a group of Nazis with the type of gory results Midnight Madness fans have come to expect. It’s definitely worth the late night to see this one with the crowd at the Royal Alexandra.
These are just a few of the films playing at this year’s TIFF that you absolutely will not want to miss. From high-profile world premieres to some of the hottest films that have played other festivals, there is certainly something for everyone to check out at this year’s festival.
By Sean Boelman
Fantasia is known as one of if not the single best genre festivals in the world, so cinephiles both local to Montreal and across the world are coming together to celebrate the best in weird and niche cinema that the year has to offer. With a lineup that is diverse as ever, the 2022 edition of the festival has returned to an in-person-only format after a virtual edition in 2020 and a hybrid one in 2021.
We at disappointment media are excited to again be providing remote coverage of the festival in its 26th year. As we are able to screen some of the films from the lineup, we will continue to bring you our brief thoughts here, so make sure to keep an eye on this page for more updates.
Fresh off its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, the Korean film Next Sohee now made an appearance at Fantasia where it is a highlight among this year’s Asian showcase. The film is carried by a powerhouse performance by Kim Si-Eun as a young worker in a call center whose job causes a tremendous amount of emotional pressure on her. It’s a very depressing, sympathetic film, and while the second half pivots in a way that is slightly less compelling, July Jung’s sophomore feature is still wonderful.
Whether the Weather Is Fine
The Filipino film Whether the Weather Is Fine has been touring the festival circuit since last fall to a great deal of acclaim. Carlo Francisco Manatad’s film, set in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, is a slice-of-life film that has a lot of potential but ends up feeling a bit underdeveloped. Daniel Padilla, Charo Santos-Concio, and Rans Rifol make this a solid three-hander, but it is missing the sense of urgency — emotional or otherwise — that would have made this really powerful.
Led by acclaimed French actor Gérard Depardieu as the legendary eponymous detective created by author Georges Simenon, Maigret is a brisk ninety-minute mystery. And while the film is certainly short enough to not be dull, the mystery isn’t all that compelling or unpredictable. Depardieu’s performance is the main reason to watch the movie, and while this story itself might not be very interesting, it shows a lot of potential should there be further adaptations of the detective’s other cases.
The Criterion Voyages (Spine #1136): DRIVE MY CAR -- Your Chance to Bring Home the Best Movie of 2021
By Sean Boelman
When Drive My Car was picked up by specialty distributor Janus Films, cinephiles knew that it would only be a matter of time before the film was added to the Criterion Collection given the companies’ long-standing business relationship. Now, physical media collectors have the chance to bring home one of the finest movies of 2021 and add it to their shelf.
The moving three-hour drama follows a theater director who puts on a unique performance of Anton Chekov’s play Uncle Vanya two years after the passing of his wife. It’s a perfect fit for Criterion — literary but not too pretentious, and almost universally beloved among the film community.
Although the movie picked up much acclaim on its festival run — garnering several awards at the Cannes Film Festival, among other fests — few expected it to break out into such mainstream success at the Oscars last year. But that recognition has allowed it to find the audience it needed to be remembered as the masterpiece it is.
The film tenderly explores its themes, ranging from grief to artistic expression, and while its three-hour runtime can be a bit daunting to some, the opportunity to own the movie on home media allows you the opportunity to admire it at your own pace or the chance to rewind and watch some of your favorite scenes over and over again.
Hidetoshi Nishijima’s leading performance remains one of the most criminally unrecognized of last year. The amount of nuance he brings to the role is simply mind-blowing, as is the amount of emotion he is able to get out even the smallest of emotions. And his chemistry with Toko Miura is subtle but particularly impactful in the third act.
The Criterion release is a new 2K master, and while it would have been nice to see them take advantage of the 4K format in which they have been working recently, it’s still nice to be able to own the film in a physical format. After all, Hidetoshi Shinimiya’s gorgeous cinematography is going to look exquisite regardless of what format you see it in.
The bonus features on the disc do draw a lot from other sources, but there is a new interview with writer-director Ryusuke Hamaguchi. Given that this is the movie’s initial home media release, it almost makes sense that it resembles more of a standard Blu-Ray release than a Criterion Collection edition, but cinephiles are going to jump on it regardless.
Drive My Car is hardly a surprising addition to the Criterion Collection, but that doesn’t make it any less deserving of its spot. Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s film is an early contender to be one of the best movies of the decade, and having this Blu-Ray will ensure you remember that.
The Criterion Collection edition of Drive My Car is now available.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.