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 Criterion Voyages (Spine #1142): Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project No. 4 -- A Collection of Historically Significant Films From Around the World
By Sean Boelman
Although he is best known for his own work as a director, Martin Scorsese has also done some significant work to preserve the legacy and availability of historically significant films. Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project No. 4 features six films from around the world that have been identified by the director’s efforts as films worthy of note and preservation.
Previous editions of Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project have made an effort to highlight historically important contributions by women directors, and Sarah Maldoror’s Sambizanga is that film in this volume. The first woman to direct a film in Africa, Maldoror documents Angola’s independence movement in this powerful fictionalization.
For those who are fans of Latin American cinema, Mario Soffici’s Prisioneros de la Tierra is likely to be one of the most exciting offerings in this edition. A work of social realism, the film provides a glimpse into the oppression of workers in Argentina in the 1930s, making it an important document of cinematic history and history as a whole.
The Iranian film Chess of the Wind recently received a theatrical re-release with its restoration recently through sister company Janus Films, and is finally making its way to home media through the Criterion Collection in this box set. It’s a genre-bending film that, as is the case with so many films from the country, has an important social commentary.
Jean-Pierre Dikongue-Pipa’s Muna Moto (The Child of Another) is one of the more soft-spoken films included in this particular collection. Exploring the role of customs in conservative African society, this is a heartbreaking love story if there ever was one, making this film resonate in unexpected ways.
Directed by André De Toth, whom you might know as the director of camp horror classic House of Wax, Two Girls on the Street is one of the most formally impressive films in this altogether beautiful collection. It’s a stylish melodrama, exuberant in the way you’d expect a film by a maverick Hollywood designer to be.
An early work of meta cinema, Kalpana is without a doubt the most epic film in this box set. The only film by dancer and choreographer Uday Shankar, this is the type of kinetic, transfixing film you will wonder hasn’t already received a wider release, but with this box set, you’ll be able to discover it.
All of the editions of Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project have brought some exciting international films to the forefront, but No. 4 is particularly exciting in the variety of voices it showcases. For cinephiles looking to discover a great, historically significant film, this is a must-buy.
Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project No. 4 is now available via the Criterion Collection.
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.
The Criterion Voyages (Spine #1139): HOTEL DU NORD -- A Depressing, Essential Piece of French Cinema Hits the Collection
Review by Sean Boelman
One of the best things that the Criterion Collection does is bring historically significant cinema that was once largely unavailable to the forefront. With a new 2K restoration available for the first time on Blu-Ray in the United States, Marcel Carné’s Hotel du Nord is a heart-crushing romance that any cinephile should be glad to have on their shelf.
The film follows the guests of a hotel in the low-income part of Paris as a young couple is torn apart by a suicide pact gone wrong. For some reason, the movie is billed on IMDb as a comedy, but don’t believe it. It’s actually a very depressing film — and while viewers are unlikely to finish the movie feeling good, that doesn’t make it any less of an essential watch.
Based on a novel by Eugène Dabit, the film uses its sometimes melodramatic storylines to explore themes that were then very timely about the plight of the French working class. And yet, while the movie was specifically made as a response to the zeitgeist of the 1930s, there are several aspects of its story that still ring true today.
Like many of Carné’s films, Hotel du Nord is an essential piece of cinema history in the movement that was poetic realism. With his contemporaries including Jean Renoir and Pierre Chenal, Carné was shining a light on the social issues of the time, albeit with a lens that has a very longing, almost fantastical view of life.
In the movie, audiences will see the star-crossed lovers’ plight and be absolutely heartbroken by the tragic romance that follows. It’s a classically trope that is virtually as old as literature itself, peaking in popularity with Shakespeare but standing the test of time thanks to its emotional resonance.
Much of the acting in early French cinema is theatrical in nature, and that is also the case here. The emotions on display from all involved, particularly lead actress Annabella, is exaggerated and grand in nature. But given the lens through which Carné is making the film, it’s a perfect fit for what he intends to accomplish.
The bonus features on this Criterion Edition are led by a new conversation between iconic modern French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet and journalist Philippe Morrison. The disc also includes a making-of program from 1972 and a 1994 documentary on the life and career of Marcel Carné.
Hotel du Nord is a quietly influential work of French cinema, and while its depressing tone can make it hard to watch at times, it’s something that cinephiles need to see. The new restoration is absolutely gorgeous on Blu-Ray, so you should absolutely pick this edition up.
The Criterion Collection edition of Hotel du Nord is available August 23.
By Dan Skip Allen
The Cinequest Film Festival champions filmmakers from different backgrounds with unique visions. Based out of San Francisco, the festival showcases films from all over the world. There are loads of narrative films, documentaries, and shorts, many of which deal with the human condition. After a couple years of virtual editions, the festival is returning to an in-person format from August 16-29. Here are some films playing in the festival that we recommend you check out!
Linoleum takes place in Fairview Heights, where the lead character Cameron Edwin (Jim Gaffigan) hosts a children's science show, a la Bill Nye the Science Guy, called "Above and Beyond." He is married to Erin (Rhea Seahorn, Better Call Saul), who sometimes helps him on the show but works at a science & space museum in town. They have a daughter named Nora (Kathryn Nacon) who goes to a private high school, but she doesn't fit in. She meets a boy in school, but he's the son of her father's rival. When a rocket lands in Gaffigan's backyard, he decides it's time for a change in his own life.
This film is trying to say something about motherhood, parenting, and how parents interact with their children. It uses some weird ways to do this, but they work in an odd way. It wasn't easy to be a parent in the '80s or today, for that matter. Director Colin West creates a very existentialist film but uses the weird things going on in the movie to tell a straightforward story.
You Resemble Me
You Resemble Me deals with two Sisters, Mariam and Hasma, that look alike. It's a French film, subtitled, but the girls and their families are Moroccan. Their mother is abusive, so the girls get out and run away. They live on the streets in Paris, France, but the girls get taken to child services. Each one is put into different separate homes. Hasma runs away from their foster parents and goes back home, but her mother doesn't want her anymore. Now she's an adult on her own, and she's struggling to make a life for herself, and she reaches out to her cousin, who's a terrorist in Syria,
Films about terrorism aren't easy to digest. This film puts the viewer in the first person aspect of how a downtrodden life can lead to a life of terrorism. Terrorists prey on struggling Muslims to get them to do their bidding. This happens with any religion, though. Catholic, Protestant, or Baptist. They see weakness, loneliness, and anger and direct those emotions into getting their bidding. The writer/director Dina Amer captures this lifestyle perfectly. It's a shame that people are preyed on in this way. This film might not be for everybody, but it was an eye-opening look at how things that happened in this film come about.
What We Do Next
What We Do Next takes place in New York City, around Washington Heights, and follows an ensemble of characters. One of the lead characters is Sandy James (Karen Pittman), a city councilwoman and career politician. Another is Paul Fleming (Corey Stoll), a financier of 500 hundred dollars used to buy a gun. The third character is Elsa Mercado (Michelle Veintimilla), who murdered her father who was molesting her, and went to prison for 16 years but got out. Sandy and Paul try to help Elsa when she gets out, but there is a miscommunication involving what the money would be used for. It's not as a down payment for rent. Now she is blackmailing them for a job making 75,000 dollars a year.
Stephen Belber shapes this film in seven parts, but it's more like a stage play than a movie. It's like a three-man play set in this area of New York. As a dramatic piece about politics and crime and punishment, it works perfectly. As a film, it drags, and the conversations seem at times like they are going nowhere until someone changes the subject or the stage changes to the next one. The acting is fine by all three leads, but I feel they forced the issue too much to be as effective as it could be. On a personal note, politicians can help family members in need after committing a crime, but it's not generally this dramatic. Velvet pushes the envelope a little too far for my liking.
A young woman, Mack (Madison Lawlor), leaves home to spend time alone at a secluded cabin after her sister's death. Unexpectedly, her friend from childhood, Alex (Decker Sadowski), and her college roommate Dylan (Olivia Blue) show up to console her in a time of need. And then a couple of guys, one the brother of Alex, show up as well, making it five people at the cabin.
The director Kathrine Dudas brings these people together so they can work out their differences and grieve in a way that's not normal for most people. The drama between the characters seems forced, and the acting doesn't seem genuine. The location is fine, but the overall execution of the story and characters seemed off. They didn't seem authentic, and neither did the entire situation.
A Union soldier, William (Garren Howell), gets scared off of war and decides to flee the fight. After an injury, he gets found by a young slave, Kitch (R.J. Cyler, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), who brings him into his life and introduces him to his family. Inexplicably, they become friends. They are helping out on the Underground Railroad. First, they must avoid men trying to capture and kill them, led by Silas (Ewen Brenner). Kitch's grandmother Caddy (Carol Sutton), teaches them her ways about life and the kitchen.
Writer/Director Brett Smith captures the world of the 1800s South perfectly. It's no 12 Years a Slave, but it is an authentic, true look at the South during that time in our country. The cast is very good, and the cinematography is beautiful to look at. It's a shame people of different races can't seem to come together today to form a bond in hard times. Hopefully, more people will watch this film and see how life can change if you give someone different than you a chance.
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.
Review by Sean Boelman
Bong Joon-ho already had a couple films in the Criterion Collection (Parasite and Memories of Murder), and while fans are waiting for the inevitable box set for the South Korean auteur, his 2017 Netflix satire Okja joined the Collection this month. Making it even more special is that this is the first time the movie has been made available on physical media, meaning this is one fans will surely be excited to add to their shelves.
The film is an environmentalist satire, and while it’s imperfect, like the rest of Bong’s work, the script sharply uses its genre leanings to explore its themes. And even five years after its release, what the movie has to say about industrial farming and the dangerous path the world is on still rings true.
What allows the film to work so well is that the script by Bong and Jon Ronson really emphasizes getting the audience invested in the story of this young girl and her pet “superpig.” It has all of the emotional resonance of a kid-and-their-pet movie without being as trite or manipulative.
The real highlight of the movie is the acting, though. Child actress An Seo Yeun is simply extraordinary as the protagonist, giving a performance that is stunningly restrained and emotional. Paul Dano’s chemistry with her as her animal rights activist ally is also fantastic, and he gives a performance that is typically brilliant.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are Jake Gyllenhaal and Tilda Swinton, who are also fantastic but giving thoroughly flamboyant performances as the antagonists. It’s particularly fun to watch Gyllenhaal chew up the scenery, and it fits given the surreal, whimsical nature of the film.
The visuals of the movie look quite good on the Criterion Blu-Ray, but it’s not an upgrade or anything given that the film was already released in high definition on streaming. Still, the world which Bong has built for this movie is immersive, and it’s nice to see it preserved in a format like this.
Admittedly, the biggest disappointment about this Criterion edition is that it is a little minimalistic when it comes to bonus features. While it does include a few new interviews and such, the truth is that it will take a lot more to get anyone who isn’t a diehard fan to purchase a film that they can already watch on streaming, and this doesn’t quite justify it.
There’s no denying that Okja is a good movie, but the question is whether or not it’s worth picking up the Criterion Collection edition of it. While it is a bit on the bare side, the chance to complete your Bong physical media collection means it’s at least worth getting while the sale is still running.
The Criterion Collection edition of Okja 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.