MIKEY AND NICKY is Elaine May’s unequalable uber-text in her too-brief cinematic study of broken men and their slugtrail of betrayals, betrayers, and betrayed. Revealing itself slowly, in layer after caustic, brutal layer, it is a scab-torn and pus-flooded journey to the end of the night for its titular best friends, as well as to the furthest reaches of the fungal ugliness eating them both to their hypersensitive cores.
"A lewd and hipgripped celebration/study of cinematic artifice studded with popcult references and visual quotes, BREATHLESS is at once a ferociously horny and formally audacious remake of Godard’s hyper-referential film, as well as an all-or-nothing, frenetically American and self-aware meditation on desperately empty people lost in the thrall of the pop culture that gives form to their wants and needs."
In a filmography of death-kissing car chases and demonic horrors and the mysteries of faith, fate, and existence, no other film more ably fuses William Friedkin’s audacity, skill, and thematic preoccupations into one thrilling, engine-roared howl of cinematic perfection than SORCERER, his brutalist action-adventure portraying existence as a purgatory between an unasked-for birth and a meaningless death dictated by fates of our own inadvertent making, wherein the only way to survive as long as possible is to work together.
Does This Look Like a Sick Man to You?: The Horror of Identity and the Identity of Horror in David Cronenberg’s THE FLY
If the thing we think of as identity is simply an unprotected cell clump sheathed within a thinboned skull, what definitions do we have aside from those we desperately scramble together as a bulwark against the animal-or insect-instincts that lurk within?
It’s a question couched in romantic metaphor in THE FLY, a love triangle between a woman and two toxically-insecure men who cannot assimilate the complexities of adult love, whose weaknesses drive them both to 'fuse' with this woman and thus be finally defined.
INHERENT VICE is a film that tricks us into settling in for a noir about a man solving a mystery, and instead presents us with a man confronting a melancholy truth: everything—lives, eras, and loves—comes to an end. Everyone in the film, having lost a love, is adrift in the riptides of memory, carried out to sea by mirages of a better place, to drown in a fata morgana of a better time."
A neo-noir, a cop movie, a Western, a fable—in all, there is the mythic image of a hero who walks down the center line of main street to confront and embrace his best destiny, and when Freddy does the same, the straight reality of COP LAND fogs into something grander, more elemental, and the world around him heightens into that of the pure Western.
Year of the Buffalo Girl: The Softcore Anxieties of DISCLOSURE, COLOR OF NIGHT, and THE LAST SEDUCTION
The softcore noirs of 1994 used the cinematic vocabulary of BASIC INSTINCT—a language slurred with stylized sex and heavily accented with film noir—to tap into the dread of marginalization that the Year of the Woman midwifed into the lives of insecure men, and gave that dread a shape and a voice. The shape was an hourglass figure. The voice was the erotic thriller.
As it flows from eerie sumptuousness to annihilative nightmare, MANDY’s story—and Mandy’s story—is one of irrevocable, irretrievable loss, and the grief that loss begets. How grief consumes the world of the griever. How it eats. How it can swallow all until nothing is left but a void reshaped into grief’s own image, and one is left facing a reality in which the entire planet feels like a living, breathing reminder of that which no longer lives or breathes.
BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA is a skin-flayed, nerve-burst confession, a self-loathing crucifixion of the toxically hyper-masculine pathology that poisoned Sam Peckinpah's personal life, but inspired his deliriously compelling art. Beneath its miasma of rot and decay is an undeniably aware self-inquisition in which Peckinpah not only cross-examines his code of manhood, but goes so far as to proclaim it a spiritual dead-end resulting in personal destruction.
Ingmar Bergman's second film is a tonally-daring Expressionist chiaroscuro of broken lives attempting to escape a rain-soaked nightworld of broken dreams...However, the most striking element may not be how deeply noir bled into Bergman, but rather how much of young Bergman bled into this noir.
Star Burt Lancaster called it “Death of a Salesman in swim trunks.” John Cheever, forever autopsying the rot growing beneath constructed social identities of New England suburbia, called it a story “about the irreversibility of human conduct.” Ultimately, it may simply be the portrait of a Man, and the story of the desperately small man who hides within that portrait, and the devastation wrought by his attempts to inhabit the myths of manhood needed to sustain that strange simulacra.
I’m Here To Take You Out Of This Place: The Transcendence of Pulp and The Art of Empathy in YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
Haunting and luminously textured, the haptic expressionism of YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE violently disrupts the pulp tropes that underpin the damaged-man-saves-helpless-girl movie. It strips away expected convention and cliché until all that remains is a portrait both dazzling and harrowing, depicting not through dialogue or plot but via overwhelming cinematic sensation the lives of wounded human beings, the cycles of trauma that ensnare them, and the empathy required to set them free.
De Palma Does Hollywood: Fleshing Out the Split-Screened Study of Voyeurism and Illusion in BODY DOUBLE
What happens between the film’s bleached-blonde bookends, even by typical De Palma standards, is an unhinged flood of his megatonic, metafilmic id as his terrors, troubles, and turn-ons are shaped into an oneiric hall of mirrors, one that works just fine as a surface-level bizarro whodunit, but beneath its uncanny valley of Hitchcockian anti-reality rests a work of surprising depth and intricacy.
Let’s Go Straight to the Happily Ever After Part: Burning Through American Dreams in the Day-Glo Noir of MIAMI BLUES
MIAMI BLUES is Alec Baldwin’s film. He and it vibrate at the same off-kilter atomic frequency, and its whiplashed gearshifts from dark comedy to relationship drama to hyper-violent crime thriller match his own mercurial shifts in mood and tone as he constructs a ferociously charming/charmingly ferocious character almost wholly without insight into the human condition beyond his own.
Hello Loneliness, I Think I’m Gonna Die: Bob Fosse’s Dance with the Five Stages of Grief in ALL THAT JAZZ
In crafting a frenzied love letter to life and death, in fusing his own confrontation with mortality into a hallucinatory epic of showbiz razzle-dazzle, Bob Fosse denied death its finality by embracing it with a film so extraordinary that he achieved cinematic immortality.