Photo Credit: ©François Reumont
Philip Roth: Unmasked
RELEASE: March 13 DIRECTORS: Livia Manera and William Karel CAST: Documentary
Directors Manera and Karel aren’t out to reinvent the wheel with this bio-documentary, which is running for a week at New York’s Film Forum (free of charge, thanks to a grant) before debuting on American Masters on March 29. It’s almost exclusively talking heads, with a few photos, but one of the talking heads is the film’s subject — so they don’t have to get elaborate. Starting with his first publication in 1958 (seems appropriate; that’s his “birth”), back-tracking briefly into childhood, but mostly focusing on the discovery of his voice and evolution of his style, Unmasked is primarily noteworthy for its access to Roth — seen at work and in conversation as a warm, thoughtful, and friendly guy. The filmmakers struggle with the unenviable task of conveying a writer’s greatness cinematically, but this is a fine and engrossing profile.
RELEASE: March 15 DIRECTOR: Matteo Garrone CAST: Aniello Arena, Loredana Simioli, Nando Paone
Matteo Garrone made his name among American art house audiences with the grim 2008 crime drama Gommorah, but his follow-up is a much gentler effort; it is to Gomorroah as, say, Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire was to his Trainspotting. A good-natured fish seller (Aniello Arena) auditions on a lark — or what he pretends is one — for the cast of Big Brother, and is driven more than a little mad not even by fame, but by the mere promise of it. Garrone shoots in an intimate, personal style (up close, in the midst of things), which pushes the story past broad comedy and into something both more biting and poignant; up to its final moments, you’re never quite sure where it’s going to go, which is a refreshing feeling to get in a movie theater these days.
RELEASE: March 20 DIRECTOR: Megan Griffiths CAST: Jamie Chung, Beau Bridges, Scott Mechlowicz, Matt O’Leary
Harrowing, heartbreaking, and hard-to-watch, this true account of a young Korean girl’s kidnapping and life as a sex slave is honest but not exploitative. Chong Kim (Jamie Chung, very good at showing nothing but telling everything) tries to escape her captors, but quickly learns that her chances at getting away are exponentially better if she makes her way inside the organization. It’s a totally convincing procedural — her training in the workings of the business becomes, by proxy, ours — and director/co-writer Megan Griffiths finds real suspense in the tension between her survival instinct inside the organization and her desire to get out of it. How do you do the “right thing” when you’ve been so wronged?
RELEASE: March 29 DIRECTOR: Rodney Ascher CAST: Documentary
The best movie-lover’s movie in years, this sometimes uproarious, sometimes ridiculous, entirely fascinating documentary examines the subtext of Kubrick’s The Shining, with various theorists, critics, and enthusiasts claiming the horror picture to be everything from an apologia to the American Indian to a confession of Kubrick’s involvement in the fakery of the moon landing. But it’s not just about King and Kubrick. In its home stretch, director Rodney Ascher shifts into a sly commentary on the entire act of criticism and analysis — of the line between the insightful and the insane. The result is a brainy blast, a witty and funny doc that’s a cinephile’s dream.
RELEASE: March 29 DIRECTOR: Quentin Dupieux CAST: Jack Plotnick, Eric Judor, Alexis Dziena, Steve Little, William Fichtner
The latest from writer/director/editor/cinematographer Quentin Dupieux is seriously strange (no surprise there; his previous film, Rubber, was about a killer tire), but in an absurd and enjoyable way; it’s loaded with surrealistic imagery and oddball dialogue, all played in admirably deadpan key. The schizo climax threatens to get out of Dupieux’s control (even compared to the rest of the picture), but the conclusion is surprisingly warm and successful. Dry, weird, and frequently funny.
Those are our recommendations for March; what are you looking forward to?