Compellingly strange or strangely compelling, this Mexican film at the Walker Art Center was like a puzzle without an answer that was still fun to do. Just as all paintings needn’t be realistic, not all movies need to make narrative sense. Here, one discrete scene followed another – some were past, some present, some imaginary – but all involved the same characters, whom we came to know and even care about. Carlos Reygado’s direction evoked the magical realism of Garcia Marquez and the scenes all fit to create an often beautiful tapestry. The mysteries of Upstream Color were often just annoying; here they were lyrical.
The power and brilliance of Shakespeare has never, for me, shone more brightly than in this semi-documentary of a prison production of Julias Caesar. Italian criminals brought a peculiar resonance to the depiction of Roman senators, and the fact that they looked like people I know (Richard Blake as Cassius?) made the message even more timeless and universal. What stood out were Shakespeare’s words and psychological insights. The dialogue and scenes that weren’t from the play came across as banal, which only made Shakespeare’s contribution stand out all the more. This stands alongside Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus as the best modern Shakespeare I have come across.
I learned more from hearing director/actor/producer Shane Carruth comment after the movie than I did from watching it. As I watched larva being implanted, I felt I was in a Matthew Barney art-house special. Nor could I make much sense of what followed, although the characters were compelling in a way, if you like lost souls. The soundtrack was too loud and portentous, but there was an artistic vision at work. I suppose Hieronymous Bosch got some bad reviews, as well.
A Huck Finn boy’s adventure story, in which the messy adult world is viewed, but not quite understood, by 14-year-old Ellis and his best friend Neckbone. The plot hangs together neatly – too neatly for some, satisfyingly for me – and the setting is as real as Beasts of the Southern Wild was fanciful. My only problem was having the prissy, pretty Matthew McConaughey in the title role; a plainer, rougher actor would’ve been better. And then, too, I might not have felt so cheated by the ending. Reese Witherspoon, on the other hand, was wonderful. But they are the side attractions: it is Tye Sheridan and his amazing portrayal of a certain stage of adolescence that is the movie’s wonder.
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