Thursday, August 17, 2017

100 Words on Alexandre Aja's The 9th Life of Louis Drax (2016)

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By Thomas Puhr

Despite an unconvincing performance by Aiden Longworth as the titular character and a glaringly-obvious twist ending, Alexandre Aja’s The 9th Life of Louis Drax (2016) is still noteworthy as a phantasmagoric cocktail of genres (it mixes elements of feel-good family dramas, creature features, psychosexual thrillers, police procedurals, and [naturally] graphic horror-shows in its story of the mysterious circumstances surrounding Louis’ coma-inducing fall from a cliff during a family picnic) and as an opportunity for the director to display some genuinely-startling imagery; consider, for example, an extended, dreamlike hypnosis session, or the del Toro-esque monster that guides Louis through his subconscious.  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

100 Words on Jim Jarmusch's Paterson (2016)


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By Thomas Puhr
Things repeated in Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson (2016): circles, symbols of repetition, painted on curtains; twins, both literal and figurative (the titular Paterson [Adam Driver], an aspiring poet, encounters a Japanese doppelganger at a crucial moment); the daily routines of Paterson and his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), the small variations of which feel like different drafts for the same, universal poem; word-filled pages replaced by empty pages, which must be filled again; and water, indicative of both life’s transience and endurance. Paterson, recognizing these cycles, continues his life’s work; to paraphrase his “twin,” an empty page sometimes presents the most possibilities.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

100 Words on Lorcan Finnegan's Without Name (2016)

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By Thomas Puhr

As its title suggests, Lorcan Finnegan’s Without Name (2016) addresses nature’s inscrutability. Eric (Alan McKenna) and Olivia (Niamh Algar) are land surveyors working in a remote Irish forest: a setup that allows for some eerily-beautiful nature shots. In one scene, Eric vanishes in the forest; while Olivia frantically searches for him, Finnegan’s clever camerawork makes the surrounding trees appear to shift and warp her (our) perspective, like a naturally-occurring hall of mirrors. A stroboscopic sequence reminiscent of A Field in England (2013) adds to the visual experimentation.  “Communicate!” Eric shouts at a phantom-like figure roaming the forest. Nature remains silent.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

100 Words on Sean Byrne's The Devil's Candy (2015)


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By Thomas Puhr
Sean Byrne upends the clich├ęd association between heavy metal music and Satanism in The Devil’s Candy (2015). Though shaggy-haired and covered with tattoos (a characteristic of many a villain/henchman), metalhead/artist Jesse (Ethan Embry) emerges as a sympathetic hero who resists the devilish presence threatening his family’s new, countryside home. Byrne largely favors suspense  over gore (a sequence in which Jesse’s daughter struggles to escape a killer’s bathroom is particularly nail-biting) and incorporates some vivid imagery, such as an arresting montage of Jesse’s frenzied painting with a killer’s frenzied cleaning of a murder scene. Who says heavy metal can’t be subtle?