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