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Cinematheque

In "The Student," The Russian Film Industry Admits What It Fears Most

I want to like the Russian film industry, I really do. Often they have the goods: talented direction, great cinematography, and music, even decent acting. But the "artsy Russian film" has one key problem: over there, the good guys are winning the culture war. That means the only way to be counter-cultural and edgy in Russia is to join the Pussy Riot faction and make movies that critique tradition, religion, and morals. The Student (2016), a recent prizewinning art-house film directed by Kirill

Unsubtle Propaganda: Reviewing "Mother!" and "The Shape of Water"

While Hollywood has fed America a steady diet of liberal and anti-Christian messages for many decades now, as its stranglehold on the popular imagination lessens, and as the nation becomes more polarized—with half of it becoming more self-consciously anti-Hollywood and seeking out niche alternatives for entertainment—its propaganda has in turn become more aggressive and explicit. Two almost comically incandescent examples came this past year in the form of Darren Aronofsky's Mother! and Guillerm

California Dreaming: Light and Dark

“And if all else failed you could get a sense of patriotism from the popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special”: President Reagan’s Farewell Address (1989) “Do you know the world is a foul sty? Do you know if you rip the fronts off houses you'd find swine? The world's a hell. What does it matter what happens in it?”: Joseph Cotton, Shadow of a Doubt, Universal (1943) Few countries have identified themselves so thoroughly

The Narrative of Heartbreak and “Big” (1988)

In a flash Amy was able to transform our hetero-normative experience back into something she was more comfortable with, her own safe space of gender neutrality, with the magic words: "get this shit off me." Tossing her the tissue box, I chastised her for breaking the narrative, something usually reserved for slightly longer than fifteen seconds after sex. Amy may have rolled her eyes, but the fact of the matter remains: sex is the narrative of attraction. For the red-hot 20 minutes I spent with

Authenticity and “The Cable Guy”

There was a gleam in her eye when “Ghostbusters” (2016) came up in the group’s discussion. She corrected the speaker, a male, who didn’t make an elaborate point to reference the movie’s notorious gender component- “the new Ghostbusters” he offhandedly called it, but this was “girl Ghostbusters,” she said with pride. After all, she was a high school Science teacher and this was a victory with which she could attach herself. This attachment was the point, existing independently of the movie. She m

Dunkirk: Can the English Get Home?

The Enemy has the English and French armies surrounded at Dunkirk. We never see the faces of the Enemy. The score of Dunkirk is incessant and driving. The film is a masterpiece. I was skeptical that this military disaster could be rendered as something heroic. Christopher Nolan has captured a change in the zeitgeist. This may be first patriotic movie of the 21st Century. “When 400,000 men couldn’t get home, home came for them.” The Enemy had bombed the British fleet and the main port facilities

Inherent Vice and Virtue

Against the backdrop of sun-drenched coastal California landscapes and the seedy dregs of underworld intrigue, what emerges into the fore of Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice is a familiar opposition. Driving the action is the dialectic between the Squares and the Subversives, the Straights and the Slackers, the powers-that-be and the refuse on the fringes of society. As a hippy-doper P.I., Doc Sportello (played by Joaquin Phoenix, though Robert Downey Jr. was originally slated for the role)

Leviathans: Russian and American

There Will be Spoilers The 2014 Russian film Leviathan opens with a series of gray, foreboding landscape shots along the ocean, culminating in a wide angle shot of a house near a bridge on the edge of a body of water. This is the family home of Dima, who has a teenage son and young wife. At the climax of the film, the camera retreats to this identical angle showing the same landscape, except replacing that house in the foreground is a new Orthodox church—its bells ringing out—and parking lot. Th