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  • Winter Sleep

    Winter Sleep

    ★★★

    Winter Sleep is often beautiful, but I admit the overall film seemed far more conventional than its long runtime and festival accolades suggest. The film’s aesthetic is largely classical and occasionally melodramatic, but the epic length, slowed pacing, self-important dialogue, muted colors and relatively long takes cloak its classicism in purported artfulness.

    Today, it somehow seems rare to employ such a clear command of classical film language – and by avoiding coverage, lingering on the beautiful locations of Anatolia, and…

  • Death by Hanging

    Death by Hanging

    ★★★★½

    Death by Hanging’s documentary-esque opening, including statistics about citizens' support for the death penalty, becomes an ironic framing device for the film’s theatrical aesthetic that follows. Oshima has produced an unsettling blend of austere compositions, smooth tracking shots, theatrical staging and absurdist performances to explore the hypocrisy of state-sponsored murder. This exploration is often didactic, but the film’s deeply-engaged anger underscores the purposefulness of such earnest pleas for an end to institutionalized violence.

    In the opening scene’s execution attempt, the…

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  • Early Summer

    Early Summer

    ★★★★★

    Few (read: no) filmmakers have ever matched Yasujiro Ozu's ability to portray the multiple stages of familial struggles, and Early Summer is one of the most successful explorations of what it means to relate to family members across generational lines.

    Tokyo Twilight is the most immediate entry in his filmography for me today, because its probing of the difficult balance of 20-something life with familial expectations is unparalleled. Now that I'm a dad to a little boy, the male childhood…

  • Quintet

    Quintet

    ★★★★½

    "Has it occurred to you that what you are doing is disruptive? You will never understand the scheme until you're part of the scheme."

    From its opening shot, hypnotically and slowly tracking across a desolate landscape of snow, Quintet commits to its much-maligned style.

    As our culture becomes more eager to speak about movies as "so bad they're good," ambitious films like Quintet are lost in the shuffle. Those who do take the time to watch this universally panned film…