Producers’ Film Picks for April 2018
The theme for this month – Divided We Fall
Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev (The Return, Leviathan)
Written by Oleg Negin and Andrey Zvyagintsev
Starring: Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, and Matvey Novikov
“If you’re looking to put the greeting-card sentimentality of that (totally manufactured) holiday behind you, may I suggest a visit to your local art house cinema? In Zvyagintsev’s devastating vision of a fallen Russia, love has no place, love has been swept clean off the planet. All that’s left is sex, cruelty, boredom, and smartphones.” Taylor Antrim, Vogue
“Set in a colorless Moscow suburb in 2012, semi-separated couple Zhenya (Spivak) and Boris (Rozin) kill time before a presumed divorce by bickering and taking other lovers to salve their mutual woundings. She runs a salon, he’s a corporate drone of some insubstantial kind, and their 12-year-old son Alyosha (Novikov) is beloved by neither even as the pair attempt to sell off their longtime apartment. Certainly the occasional visit by the realtor is more important than Alyosha’s fate to these two selfish individuals, but Zvyagintsev parlays this miserable family into a granularly realistic depiction of three lives completely out of balance with one another.
“When the child goes missing, there’s a patently depressing muddle of non-options available to Zhenya and Boris.” Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle
“His unexplained disappearance is first noted by his school authorities and not by his mother, who spent the previous day with her lover. The crisis brings together Zhenya and Boris, but only in more rancor and recrimination. They are enraged by their own feelings of blame and guilt and, perhaps, also by the dawning realization that, on a deeper level, the loss of Alyosha absolves them from caring for him.
“This is Zvyagintsev’s fifth feature. Like his most celebrated earlier movies, The Return (2003), which was about a father who returns to his wife and two sons after a mysterious 12-year absence, and Leviathan (2014), about a corrupt rural mayor who forces a family from their home, it can be approached as both domestic drama and allegory.” Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor
“Despite the strong camerawork from Mikhail Krichman and the film’s impressively maintained mood, it remains hard to fully recommend. This is partially because Zyvaginstsev lays his Russian metaphors on too thick but also because of its unremitting bleakness – so little warmth gets in that it becomes hard to believe in places. There’s also a strong suspicion that the director wants to punish his protagonists and us, the viewers, rather than sway us with an argument.” Alissa Wilkinson, Eye for Film
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Katzelmacher)
Written by Pea Fröhlich and Peter Märthesheimer
Starring: Hanna Schygulla, Klaus Löwitsch, and Ivan Desny
“Whatever it is, it’s splendid and mysterious.
“Something of the same can be said for the film, which, though it often proceeds as if it were a slapstick comedy, is frequently touching in a way that isn’t a Fassbinder characteristic. One reason, I suspect, is that there isn’t a single, easily defined villain in the entire film. Maria, Hermann and Oswald (Desny), the rich textile manufacturer who becomes Maria’s lover and her introduction to the world of Big Business, are, each one, coping as well as they can with absolutely terrible fates. It’s not as if they were sentimental optimists.” Vincent Canby, New York Times
“Maria has a childhood friend named Betti (Trissenaar) who marries another friend, Willi (John). With both of them, she sometimes returns to bombed-out buildings, where she climbs up rubble-blocked staircases in her high heels, peering down through twisted beams and remembering that this room was their classroom, and that one was — but why is she doing this? I think because she gains a savage energy from these reminders of how her world was blown to pieces. When a black marketeer (Fassbinder) offers her a rare edition of books, she says ‘Books burn too fast, and they don’t give any heat.’
“Maria is always honest, uses no deception, admits she is toying with Oswald, is coldly amused at his weakness. It is the sentimental accountant Senkenberg who loves Oswald best, but he loves the company, too, and sees that Maria is good for it.” Roger Ebert
“Through Oswald’s connections, an early parole release is gotten. But Hermann’s seemingly too proud to take the money she offers him and flees to Canada, as he writes telling her that he’ll return when he becomes human again. Their marriage seems to grow only stronger by separation and by practically being unconsummated. Hermann returns just when Maria bought a big house to live alone in.” Dennis Schwartz
The Squid and the Whale (2005)
Written and directed by Noah Baumbach (Margot at the Wedding, Frances Ha)
Starring: Owen Kline, Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney
“The Squid and the Whale, Baumbach’s semi-autobiographical tale of a disintegrating Park Slope family unit in the ’80s, is one of those rare films in which everything feels right, from period detail, to sympathetic yet unsentimental characterizations, to the way that family conversations can shift from funny to sad to terrifying. He’s fully backed by his cast, including Linney’s free-spirited mom, Eisenberg’s endearingly tight-assed poseur of an eldest son, and, especially, Daniels’s defanged literary lion, one of the most complex—and pitiably self-aware—monsters in memory. Throughout, Baumbach’s unfussy, free-floating style echoes the personality-driven films of the ’70s, yet with a uniquely personal bite.” Andrew Wright, The Stranger
“Life lesson: Okay to steal from your father to impress people, not okay to steal from Pink Floyd.
“‘The Squid and the Whale is essentially about how we grow up by absorbing what is useful in our parents and forgiving what is not. Joan may cheat on her husband, but he deserves to be cheated on, and she demonstrates a faith in romance that is, after all, a lesson in optimism. Bernard may be a gold mine of shorthand literary opinions, but in his case he has actually read the books, and sooner or later his son Walt will probably feel compelled to read minor Dickens for himself — and major Dickens, which is so good all you can do is just helplessly stare at the book and turn the pages. These kids will be okay.” Roger Ebert
“It’s a peculiar hook that finds most explanations of the title trying to establish one of the parents of the piece as the mammal and the other as the mollusk when the better truth is that both within the context of the film and without, the tableaux serves as a commentary on the frightening amount of repression and misinformation that provides the gist of any of our childhood memories (and all of our conclusions about the same). I don’t believe that we ever really remember what we think we remember (just biologically-speaking, we’re not doing any of the remembering with the same equipment) in all its nuances, contexts, and subtleties–that, like our memories of film, we bring to the past a new case of filters and lenses each time we revisit it. When The Squid and the Whale comes at last to a scene of a child regarding an object of repressed fear with frank wonder, rather than taking the easy analytical road by speaking of the phallic whale vs. the devouring squid, I think it’s closer to the mark to see Baumbach himself gazing up at his film and wondering how it is that parts of his childhood could look so mundane freed from his skull.” Walter Chaw, Film Freak Central
“Writer-director Baumbach’s squiggly semiautobiographical comedy has the freshness of firsthand observation. It’s about the break-up of a marriage between a self-infatuated novelist (a bearded Daniels) and his headstrong wife (Linney) as seen through the eyes of their two sons, 16-year-old Walt (Eisenberg, the nephew from Roger Dodger) and his younger brother Frank (the precociously gifted Kline).” Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor
Loveless is at The Grand Cinema. (Ends April 5th, playing @ 2:30, 5:15 & 8:00 pm daily)
The Marriage of Maria Braun will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, April 6 in the Center for Spiritual Living (206 N. J St).
The Squid and the Whale will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, April 13 in the CSL.
The TFC Discussion Night for these three films is Wednesday, April 18 in the CSL.