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And the rest is…

THE FILM BEGINS with the sound of cicadas rhythmically whirring over a black background. The sound cuts out, the film title (simple white letters) flashes on-screen. Cut to a vision of hell: a guard shrouded in steam stands beside a wood shelf containing severed heads. We are at the volcanic springs of Unzen, near Nagasaki, where friars are strung up on crosses and longhandled ladles with holes sprinkle boiling hot water on them, delicately poaching their skin. (Today of course the springs are a popular vacation resort).

Domesticated helper

ALFONSO CUARON’s Roma is, yes, one of the most beautiful-looking films of the year, a blend of artfully lit footage digitally stitched together to appear a seamless whole.

Klandestine

SO GET this -- Ron Stallworth becomes the first black police officer in a large largely white town (the “Jackie Robinson of the Colorado Springs police force” as his superior puts it). He is consigned to the records room, requests a transfer to undercover; sees a recruitment ad for the KKK, dials the number, gets an unexpected voice at the other end, improvises a racist rant, is invited to join the group.

Two women

LAST October my mother died.

A good man with a gun

SAY THE name “Jacques Tourneur” and the first word come to mind for most folks is “horror” (the second is possibly “cat”). Tourneur had been directing since 1931, mainly shorts, finally made a splash early ’40s working for producer Val Lewton in Cat People (low budget, eerily beautiful) and I Walked With a Zombie (despite the pulpy title, my favorite adaptation of Jane Eyre). Say “Tourneur” and the word “westerns” rarely pops up -- but some of his westerns do in fact represent his finest work.

Springtime for Hitler

ERNST LUBITSCH’s To Be or Not to Be opened to mixed reviews and so-so box office. A picture that poked fun at Nazism and Adolf Hitler? At a time when fascism threatened to swallow the world (Pearl Harbor happened a few months before)?

Joan unornamented

THE first film to come to mind watching this stony ground of a picture is Carl Th. Dreyer’s silent film, a wondrous series of gigantic closeups shuffled through at speed, arguably one of the most revered and the best-known version of the story.

Monster, Inc.

By Noel Vera Video Review My Neighbor Totoro Directed by Hayao Miyazaki (CAUTION: plot and narrative twists — which aren’t all that much and anyway aren’t the heart...

Memory play

MICHAEL Almereyda’s Marjorie Prime (2017) adapts Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-nominated play to the big screen in a small way, and it’s marvelous. Eighty-five year old Marjorie (Lois Smith, who played the role in two previous stage productions) suffers the initial symptoms of Alzheimer’s; to help her deal with the memory loss, her daughter Tess (Geena Davis) and son-in-law Jon (Tim Robbins) have installed a “Prime” — a hologram-projected Artificial Intelligence (AI) — representing Marjorie’s husband Walter (Jon Hamm) when he was a relatively young 40.

The impossible dream

FANTASY DOUBLE FEATURE: Akira Kurosawa’s I Live in Fear and Roberto Rossellini’s Europa ’51 both ask the question: how should we deal with the man who holds extreme views on life? Humor him or condemn him? Or—unsettling thought—listen to what he has to say?

Crazy rich a**hole

IF WE’RE TALKING lighthearted romantic fare involving pretty prosperous Asians, I don’t see why we need to go all the way to Hollywood when Hong Kong has been doing perfectly fine for years.

Four by three

PLAYING CATCHUP: In the ever-changing landscape of World Cinema, what happened to Hong Kong’s “heroic bloodshed” movement -- those action filmmakers who featured slow motion, balletic action sequences, guns pointed at each others’ faces?

Tocino

By Noel Vera Video Review Porco Rosso Directed by Hayao Miyazaki DVD HAYAO MIYAZAKI’S Porco Rosso started out as a manga for a modeling magazine, was turned into a...

Best superhero movie of the year

By Noel Vera Video Review Psychokinesis (Yeom-Iyeok) Directed by Yeon Sang-ho Netflix I KNOW, I know, I know, I know — if you’re sick of the genre as I...

Who’s the boss?

By Noel Vera Video Review Amo Directed by Brillante Mendoza Netflix WHEN streaming giant Netflix announced that it would be showing pro-Duterte filmmaker Brillante Mendoza mini-series shot and set...

Tale spin

By Noel Vera Video Review The Breadwinner Amazon NORA TWOMEY’s animated film The Breadwinner (adapted from the children’s novel by Deborah Ellis) is a gorgeous tapestry of a...

Comin’ around again

By Noel Vera Video Review A Ghost Story Written and directed by David Lowery I’M NOT a fan of David Lowery’s Pete’s Dragon -- in retrospect the picture...

Long live the…

Video Review The Death of Louis XIV Directed by Albert Serra By Noel Vera ALBERT SERRA’S The Death of Louis XIV shares at first glance the same status...

The premature burial

By Noel Vera Video Review A Quiet Passion Directed by Terence Davies IF YOU ATTEMPT something often enough once in a while you’ll get it right. The biopic...

Misbegotten

By Noel Vera Video Review Begotten Directed by E. Elias Merhige E. ELIAS MERHIGE’s Begotten has sprouted a few legends since it emerged in the 1990s -- how...

Martyred

By Noel Vera Video Review Martyrs Directed by Pascal Laugier (Warning: plot and narrative twists discussed in explicit detail) PASCAL LAUGIER’s 2008 horror film Martyrs deserves respect for taking...