Zero Days – 6.5

The story is better than the storytelling. How many people do we need to hear saying, “I can’t comment,” in order to grasp that a virus to destabilize Iran’s nuclear program is a state secret, an obvious fact to begin with. Then there is the problem of how to film computer code, which supplies the main visual for the movie’s first half. With so much shrouded in mystery, telling the story out of chronological order doesn’t help either. What saves the film is its final quarter, in which far-reaching questions about cyberwarfare and secrecy are raised: questions that perhaps have no answer.

Microbe and Gasoline – 5

A summer piffle – watchable mainly because it was French. Nothing was believable, or terribly charming, if that was the justification. Two young boys on an adventure, but it didn’t make us care about them or identify with any of their experiences. How much better was Mud, for example.

The Innocents – 6.8

For me, this was too much of the same thing. It was beautifully shot – one of those films you remember as black-and-white, even though it was in color, with every other shot framed like a painting, a Vermeer or Hammershoi or Tooker. The lead actress was easy on the eyes, but the nuns all looked the same and the attempts to differentiate their stories didn’t amount to anything dramatically. When I saw the trailer I felt I’d seen the whole movie, and seeing the whole movie didn’t change this.

A Man Afar – 5

I was left totally blank – which, not coincidentally, was the main character’s only expression – by this story of an older dental technician in Caracas who picks up young men for his sexually deviate purposes and doesn’t mind being beaten up, rejected and exploited. Then at the end he maybe manipulates his young charge into killing the man’s father, but for what reason we’re never told. And then he turns the young man in. Nothing made sense or was particularly enjoyable to watch – compared, say, to Viva, which had a similar setting.

The Lobster – 7

Just as art can be abstract or surrealistic as well as realistic, there’s no reason a movie can’t deviate from realism into an alternate world such as this, where people are not allowed to remain single and if they do not remarry in 45 days will be transformed into an animal of their choice. (Isn’t that sort of like what Hindus believe?) The characters in The Lobster inhabited this world quite convincingly and human nature remained eminently recognizable. I enjoyed that director Yorgos Lanthimos used actors from Ireland, England, Greece, France and America as his leads to give a universal flavor to the strange world. If there was a moral – something about love or marriage – I couldn’t quite make sense of it.