Staff Picks: Buñuel in France, ‘Other People,’ ‘The Settlers’


Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Scroll through for our picks below.

Other People

Damn this movie was lovely, and unafraid to mix poignancy with deeply morbid, uncomfortable humor — something it makes explicit it’ll be doing right from its opening scene. The film begins with the death of Molly Shannon’s matriarch character, with her husband and three children sobbing in bed next to her body. The camera lingers on each of their own bodies’ relationships to the sudden alienness of the familiar body next to them — and then we hear the answering machine in the next room, and hear Shannon’s voice on it, and it gets even sadder…and then the caller leaves one of the clumsiest and most clueless messages, saying things like “I heard you were sick!” while simultaneously ordering takeout drinks; all of a sudden, it’s kind of hilarious, while never surrendering its tragedy.

Written and directed by comedian/SNL co-head writer Chris Kelly, loosely about his own experiences, the movie is beautifully sweet, but diligent in its attempts at cutting tender humor with existential questions, and vice versa. What was perhaps most remarkable to me was its highly specific vision of a recognizable closeness between certain (accepting) mothers and gay sons. Molly Shannon plays such a vibrant, funny character here (most of the film takes place before the first scene), and her warmth immediately draws you into Other People.

But the film’s arc belongs to Jesse Plemons, who can convincingly play both the most huggable character…or, as in Breaking Bad, an infanticidal meth monger. The film mostly follows his character, who’s grappling both with returning to a half-conservative home after having started to settle into a comfortable life as an openly gay artist in a liberal enclave; Plemons deftly depicts the subtleties of his character’s fluctuating, identity-oriented senses of alienation and belonging as he travels between Sacramento and New York — pondering whether he belongs to both or neither. Stream Other People on Netflix. — Moze Halperin, Senior Editor

The Museum of the Moving Image’s Martin Scorsese Exhibition

I finally made it out to the MoMI in Astoria to check out their expansive tribute to Mr. Scorsese, and holy cow was it worth the trip. I’m basically the target audience for this one – Scorsese’s been my favorite living filmmaker for pretty much the entire time I’ve been aware of what a film director does – but even I was shocked by the volume of the material here, and how much of it was unfamiliar to me. Spanning several rooms of the museum’s gallery space, the exhibition collects props, original storyboards, notated scripts, design sketches, and photos from his own films, with clips on multiple video screens (including some showing his very rare, early works). But it also spotlights his work toward film history and preservation, including movie posters from his collection and correspondence with other masters. I had just shy of an hour to take it all in (didn’t want to be late for that evening’s screening – they’re also running a retrospective of his films), and wish I’d had longer; if you’re a serious film fan in the tri-state area, get thee to Queens before it closes April 23. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

The Settlers

This documentary by Israeli filmmaker Shimon Dotan premiered to packed houses in Israel last year and has just been released in the U.S. (In New York, it’s currently playing at Film Forum.) The Settlers is an unrestrained critique of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank that are technically illegal but functionally supported by the government. This is not a “both sides” kind of film — if you don’t believe the settler movement is an impediment to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, you will not enjoy this documentary. And if you’re not too familiar with the debate, or with the situation in the country, the film doesn’t give a ton of background in terms of the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Still, it’s a powerful and beautifully shot film that captures the intractability of the conflict, and there’s plenty here for American audiences to take heed of — particularly the ever-growing divisions between not just Israelis and Palestinians but left-wing and right-wing Israelis, and the catastrophic dangers of mixing religion and politics. — Lara Zarum, TV Editor

Buñuel in France

The Metrograph will be screening five films from surrealist master Luis Buñuel. “After being exiled from his native Spain, a foray to Hollywood and New York, and proving himself within the confines of the Mexican film industry, cinema’s arch-dissident, Buñuel at last found full creative freedom in the country where he had had his first succès de scandale 35 years earlier: France. Abetted by producer Serge Silberman, screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, and a stable of actors led by Fernando Rey, Buñuel unleashed a string of masterpieces that wed the smash-and-grab surrealism of his early work to taboo-testing critiques of church, state, and society.” The series runs March 31-April 3 and includes Diary of a Chambermaid, The Milky Way, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Phantom of Liberty, and That Obscure Object of Desire (the director’s final film). — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor