DFF Review — BIRDS OF PASSAGE (Pájaros de verano)

Birds of Passage — from directors Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra — is a masterpiece. Set in Colombia and spanning the years 1969 to 1980, Birds is divided into five sections, songs really, that recount the tale of ancient rituals, tight-knit tribes, and the sudden and violent encroachment of capitalism thanks to the profitability of the drug trade. Like most stories depicting the rise and fall of an empire, it begins with an attraction. Specifically, between the young Zaida (Natalia Reyes) and the bachelor Rapayet (José Acosta) at Zaida’s coming out ceremony. With a flurry of images, Gallego and Guerra invoke … Continue reading DFF Review — BIRDS OF PASSAGE (Pájaros de verano)

DFF Review — WILDLIFE

Wildlife’s signature image (seen below) is of a husband and wife pensively looking at each other across an empty chair. Momentarily, their only child will occupy that chair, but his presence will not unite them. Instead, it will only amplify the gulf between the two. Set in 1960 Montana, Wildlife finds this suburban family caught in an existential crisis. Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) has been terminated from his position at the local country club. The officially cause: “overstepping his boundaries with the clients,” which Jerry interprets as being too friendly — he was actually gambling with the golfers. Emasculated, Jerry quietly … Continue reading DFF Review — WILDLIFE

DFF Review — ASH IS PUREST WHITE (江湖儿女)

It’s only a matter of minutes before a loaded gun is produced. Not unusual considering Ash is Purest White revolves around two gangsters, but this is mid-90s China and unregister firearms are illegal and come with a heavy penalty. Just showing someone the gun is enough to make your point; firing it would seal your fate. Qiao (Tao Zhao) is the girlfriend, and Bin (Fan Liao) is the gangster on his way up. Rival gangs are a constant menace, and sudden attacks are a way of life. Most are harmless, a few are even a simple case of mistaken identity, … Continue reading DFF Review — ASH IS PUREST WHITE (江湖儿女)

Conversations from the Telluride Film Festival: FIRST REFORMED

This conversation between Eric Kohn of Indiewire, writer/director Paul Schrader, and actor Ethan Hawke took place following a screening of FIRST REFORMED at 2017’s Telluride Film Festival. Spoilers follow. ERIC KOHN: Paul, first of all, anyone who’s seen your films knows that a lot of what’s going on here is very personal to you. Just how personal is this setting and the things that we see you working through here? PAUL SCHRADER: Not that personal. I didn’t have to do much research to do. But you try to find a metaphor, whether that be a cab driver or a drug dealer or a small … Continue reading Conversations from the Telluride Film Festival: FIRST REFORMED

The 39th Denver Film Festival — Days 8–12

THE PULITZER AT 100 Hungarian immigrant and yellow journalist Joseph Pulitzer wanted to elevate his chosen profession by honoring the best in the business. He gave his fortune to Columbia University to start a school of journalism and on June 4, 1917, six years after his death, the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded. Almost a century later, the Pulitzer remains the highest award to honor writing and journalism and director Kirk Simon pays tribute to the award and the those who it has graced, in the new talking heads documentary, The Pulitzer at 100. While the doc touches briefly on the history of Joseph Pulitzer, Pulitzer … Continue reading The 39th Denver Film Festival — Days 8–12

The 39th Denver Film Festival — Day 6 & 7

I, DANIEL BLAKE When I, Daniel Blake was announced as the winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the critical press was stunned that anything could have topped Maren Ade’s German comedy, Toni Erdmann. Granted, comedy gets no love from juries, and I, Daniel Blake’s social consciousness makes it very much a movie of the moment, but neither should detract from Ken Loach’s moving portrait of human kindness and compassion. I, Daniel Blake isn’t just a middle finger to the establishment and the absurdities of bureaucratic rigmarole; it is a plea for human decency and a celebration of the small moments that … Continue reading The 39th Denver Film Festival — Day 6 & 7

The 39th Denver Film Festival — Day 4 & 5

ACTOR MARTINEZ If acting is reacting, what is Actor Martinez? Blurring the lines between documentary and fiction a Denver-based actor, Arthur Martinez (playing himself), hires two indie directors, Mike Ott and Nathan Silver (also playing themselves), to make a movie about his life. They oblige, and all three quickly disappear down the hall of mirrors that make up self-reflexive cinema. The audience is never quite sure if they are seeing the movie Ott and Silver are making, or if they are watching the movie Ott and Silver are making about the movie that Ott and Silver are making. It’s like Charlie Kauffman’s Synecdoche, New York with … Continue reading The 39th Denver Film Festival — Day 4 & 5

The 39th Denver Film Festival — Day Three

CALIFORNIA TYPEWRITER California Typewriter takes its title from one of the last typewriter repair shops in America. Located in Berkeley, Cali., California Typewriter opened over 30 years ago by Herb Permillion, an IBM repairman. Apple released the personal computer one year after Permillion opened up shop, but that didn’t deter him or his longtime repairman, Ken Alexander. Both men believe in the typewriter and know that if they hold on long enough, the typewriter will come back into vogue. They might be right, but they also might lose their shirts. With passion like this, who cares if you lose it all? But Permillion and Alexander aren’t … Continue reading The 39th Denver Film Festival — Day Three

The 39th Denver Film Festival — Day Two

DFF39 eases us into Day Two with only 11 movies, all of which are featured at the Sie Film Center of Colfax. From here on out, it gets crazy, but for today let’s all convene at Henderson’s for a drink and discussion. JACKSON Jackson is home to the last remaining abortion clinic in the entire state of Mississippi. There were more, but that was then. Now, the religious freedom movement has forced legislator’s hands and made women’s health clinics jump through almost impossible hoops to stay open. Only one has. Jackson, from documentarian Maisie Crow, is a ground-level look at what it takes to keep that … Continue reading The 39th Denver Film Festival — Day Two

The 39th Denver Film Festival — Day One

The 39th Denver Film Festival gets underway tonight with opening night film, La La Land, a modern-day musical set in the City of Angels where some dreams are realized while others are crushed underfoot. The movie stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, and Stone, along with writer/director Damien Chazelle, are set to attend the opening night festivities with a post-screening Q&A with Denver Post film critic emeritus, Lisa Kennedy. La La Land is currently under embargo, so I’ll leave it at this: La La Land is heart wrenching, acidic and poignant. Easily one of the best of the year and co-lead Ryan Gosling is magnificent. But … Continue reading The 39th Denver Film Festival — Day One