Film Review

Life sucks

A Lebanese vampire makes his mark at the Arab Film Fest
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By now it's natural to expect a lot from the Arab Film Festival, which is opening its 11th annual survey of cinema from the Arab world and diaspora with veteran Tunisian filmmaker Nouri Bouzid's excellent feature Making Of, then presenting more than 80 features, docs, and shorts from 13 countries in screenings around the Bay and, for the first time, in Los Angeles. Ghassan Salhab's The Last Man (2006), on the other hand, delivers something probably less expected: the first Lebanese vampire movie. Read more »

Seven up

Picks from the Vancouver International Film Festival
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1. Dans la Ville de la Sylvia (José Luis Guerín, France/Spain)

2. My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, Canada) My two favorites of the festival were both ghost stories in which a haunted protagonist (fey Xavier Lafitte in Sylvia and Maddin's voice-over in My Winnipeg) traces his past in a city charged with memory. Read more »

Visions of excess

The CounterCorp Film Festival
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Trucks of day-old bread emptied into landfills, a sea of chicks shoved through an assembly line — the horrors of the global food industry make for wildly surreal and yet all-too-real images in We Feed the World, one of six feature documentaries at this year's CounterCorp Film Festival. Read more »

Ideals made reel

Enter Joseph Cornell's prison of silver light
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"Joseph Cornell's cinema remains the central enigma of his work," Anthology Film Archives founder and Visionary Film author P. Adams Sitney wrote in 1980. Read more »

Who wrote the book of love?

For the Bible Tells Me So
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At first glance, For the Bible Tells Me So comes across as a fairly conservative film. Technically and aesthetically speaking, there are no surprises: interviews, found footage, a cute short cartoon, and familiar traditional documentary techniques are mixed with a certain amount of predictability and sentimental cheesiness. But is cinematic form all that defines whether a movie is conventional or groundbreaking? In terms of content, Daniel G. Read more »

Lovejoy and company

Film: America labors with its childhood in "My Kid Could Paint That"
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"Think about the children!"

That cry, most memorably a mantra for Reverend Lovejoy's wife, Helen, on The Simpsons, encapsulates the pervasive movement to childproof American life. Parents no longer have the time, will, or ability (so they claim) to properly censor all aspects of culture their kids might be exposed to, so a rising chorus demands the government do it for them.

Yet these efforts only underline the scattershot nature of an institutional overview of today's wide-open mediascape. Read more »

Atmosphere and an actress

A gliding guide: the double visions and global nightmares of Olivier Assayas
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Olivier Assayas's films are both strange and engrossing, so much so that they may evade broad comprehension on the first go-round. Whereas instigating French new wave directors like Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut played fast and loose with tone and narrative structure to create jarring juxtapositions, Assayas does so to effect a subtler, more mysterious sense of illumination. Read more »

You rescued my "Battleship"!

Eisenstein's step-laden Potemkin gets new life at the Mill Valley Film Festival
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Sergey Eisenstein's legendary 1925 film Battleship Potemkin was declared a masterpiece from the moment it premiered, and it has placed near the top of greatest-film polls for as long as such polls have existed. According to legend, Douglas Fairbanks imported his own copy and showed it to the Hollywood elite in private screening rooms; no one was converted by its politics, but everyone was euphoric over its pure technical prowess. Read more »

Last Tango in Shanghai

There's sex in your violence, Lust, Caution posits
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There's a moment in Lust, Caution (Se, Jie) in which you can clearly make out the writing, and this most awkward title's embedded warning, on the wall. The scene: a humid, tryst-friendly boudoir in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. Read more »

Scary Larry

The Last Winter certifies Larry Fessenden as a horror auteur
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Nature enjoyed rebelling against arrogant, polluting humankind in the paranoid ecosploitation cinema of the 1970s: Prophecy, Phase IV, Frogs, Sssssss, The Food of the Gods, and even the Oscar-winning fake documentary The Hellstrom Chronicle all suggested Mother Nature was mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Back then, though, nature was just bitching within safe fantasy confines. Read more »