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  • Ad Astra

    Ad Astra

    ★★★

    There was a cricket in the theater I was watching this in that did not do any favors for the more tense and dramatic moments toward the end. Putting that aside, as someone who hates voice-overs 99% of the time -- as they rarely add any complexity, or are just poorly written -- this proved no exception. It's especially frustrating because Gray has the visual brio -- and clarity of expression! -- to abjure that technique, yet there it is, dragging down the film like lead.

  • Night Nurse

    Night Nurse

    ★★★★

    The search for moral vigor in the face of ethical systems that seem better purposed to constrain action than to enable it. The film opens up with images of birth, yet the central struggle in the story is with a family who is constitutionally incapable of caregiving, either because they've bleared themselves with drink or are conniving to exploit that bleariness. A stark, no-nonsense directorial style consisting of bare sets and frames dominated by whites and grays. Wellman lets us…

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  • Ugetsu

    Ugetsu

    ★★★★★

    I could gush all day about this film. I could talk of the aerial shots of Kutsuki manor, the gnarled branches in the foreground reflecting the ensnaring presence that haunts the castle. I could talk of the lakeside fog, at once eerie, at once evocative of its travelers' myopia and misgivings. I could talk of the fluidity with which Mizoguchi inserts the preternatural into his world, done so adeptly that even the viewer is uncertain of what is real and…

  • Nostos: The Return

    Nostos: The Return

    ★★★★★

    Erich Auerbach conceived of The Odyssey's (and Homer's epics in general) mimetic configuration as a "procession of phenomena," i.e., every object that captures the focus of the narrative is foregrounded and then explicated before being superseded by the next. Piavoli captures this approach visually, lingering over the the physical material -- the moon, the sun, the shadows and sea and the forests and metal -- that constitute and direct Odysseus' journey -- made more relevant in their preponderance as it…