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The Tree of Life (2011)
Nothing stands still.
Filmmaker(s): Terrence Malick

The impressionistic story of a Texas family in the 1950s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father. Jack finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith.

Connected Paths I’ve been studying Chinese calligraphy in the context of the cinematic life. 1300 years ago, Chinese poet-theorists had the notion that layered expression, perhaps with four layers or more, was the purest expression possible. The first of these layers come with the ideograms: you...

Published February 10, 2024
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Three Colors: Blue (1993)
Filmmaker(s): Krzysztof Kieślowski

The wife of a famous composer survives a car accident that kills her husband and daughter. Now alone, she shakes off her old identity and explores her newfound freedom but finds that she is unbreakably bound to other humans, including her husband’s mistress, whose existence she never suspected.

Coloured Noir No people are more culturally distinct from their neighbors than the Polish. They know something of pain, and they have a stronger vision of beauty than anyone — one which extends to even pain having beauty. And not just any notion of beauty, but...

Published January 30, 2024
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Nostalghia (1983)
Filmmaker(s): Andrei Tarkovsky

A Russian poet and his interpreter travel to Italy to research the life of an 18th-century composer.

Architectural Poetry: the Form of Angst Writing film comments is a true pleasure -- there is nothing else like it. We have the freedom to assume that you, dear reader, have already seen plenty of descriptions about the story, the beauty, the meditative nature, the ambiguous...

Published January 23, 2024
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Blood Tea and String (2006)
Filmmaker(s): Christiane Cegavske

The aristocratic White Mice and the rustic Creatures Who Dwell Under the Oak battle over the doll of their heart's desire.

Alice’s Rosencrantz I saw this on Christmas Day and was rather thankful. 2006 has been a bad year for movies and at the end of each year I start to put together my additions to my short list of films everyone should watch before they die...

Published January 21, 2024
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Black Swan (2010)
Perfection is not just about control. It's also about letting go.
Filmmaker(s): Darren Aronofsky

A journey through the psyche of a young ballerina whose starring role as the duplicitous swan queen turns out to be a part for which she becomes frighteningly perfect.

The Math When I encountered “Pi,” I was profoundly upset. It happened again with “Beautiful Mind” and “Good Will,” other films about mathematical imagination. How, I wondered, could something as inherently cinematic as the mathematical imagination be so clumsily handled? How is it that the only...

Published January 19, 2024
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Moana (2016)
The ocean is calling.
Filmmaker(s): Ron Clements, John Musker

In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain's daughter's island, she answers the Ocean's call to seek out the demigod to set things right.

Disney within Disney I was expecting a standard, manufactured Disney Princess item. What I encountered was a powerful embodiment of myth in a young woman, with the notable exceptions of the coconut pirate and glittery crab sequences. These were conceived and directed by others. I suppose...

Published November 19, 2023
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King Lear (1987)
A breathtaking cast for you to discover …
Filmmaker(s): Jean-Luc Godard

A descendant of Shakespeare tries to restore his plays in a world rebuilding itself after the Chernobyl catastrophe obliterates most of human civilization.

English Recursion Meets French Semiotics Lear is about sight and truth, and incidentally about how devilish charms (derived from the audience's participation and perception) bend sight and truth. So it (and the similarly placed ‘The Tempest') are naturals for film, especially self-referential films about films and...

Published August 6, 2023
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Moulin Rouge! (2001)
No laws. No limits. One rule. Never fall in love.
Filmmaker(s): Baz Luhrmann

A celebration of love and creative inspiration takes place in the infamous, gaudy and glamorous Parisian nightclub, at the cusp of the 20th century. A young poet, who is plunged into the heady world of Moulin Rouge, begins a passionate affair with the club's most notorious and beautiful star.

Glorious Absinthe Prostitution This film is crafted of many common narrative elements: The rich cad versus the poor lad for the girl (with the conceit that love is unavailable to the wealthy 'unreal' class) The girl who must renounce her love to save her lover (only to lose...

Published May 21, 2023
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Vanya on 42nd Street (1994)
Filmmaker(s): Louis Malle

An uninterrupted rehearsal of Chekhov's 1899 play "Uncle Vanya" played out by a company of actors. The setting is their run down theater with an unusable stage and crumbling ceiling. The play is shown act by act with the briefest of breaks to move props or for refreshments. The lack of costumes, real props and scenery is soon forgotten.

Four Layers There's no shortage of intelligent work in film. But here we have one of the most complexly referential things I've ever seen. Simple self-reference points to itself. Common self-reference points to the viewer defining the experience. But Mingus used to say why have three threads...

Published March 5, 2023
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Oscar and Lucinda (1995)
They dared to play the game of love, faith, and chance.
Filmmaker(s): Gillian Armstrong

After a childhood of abuse by his evangelistic father, misfit Oscar Hopkins becomes an Anglican minister and develops a divine obsession with gambling. Lucinda Leplastrier is a rich Australian heiress shopping in London for materials for her newly acquired glass factory back home. Deciding to travel to Australia as a missionary, Oscar meets Lucinda aboard ship, and a mutual obsession blossoms. They make a wager that will alter each of their destinies.

Obsession, Compulsion This is one of my favourite movies. Regular readers of my comments will wonder why I elevate it to my "must see" category Part of the reason I want you to see it is because of how well it pairs with Cate's masterpiece, "Heaven." Now,...

Published February 19, 2023
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