05/18/15 12:40pm
05/18/2015 12:40 PM |


  Piotr Szulkin’s Apocalypse Quartet
Showtimes throughout May at the Spectacle Theater

Polish filmmaker Piotr Szulkin, currently the subject of a four-film retrospective at the Spectacle Theater in Williamsburg, is sometimes labeled as an Eastern European Ridley Scott. The parallels between Szulkin’s films and Scott’s, particularly Scott’s 1982 classic Blade Runner, abound. Both filmmakers elevate the sci-fi genre, and both, watched some twenty years later, are an uncanny mix of futurism and gothic retrograde (old-fashioned fans whirring in Blade Runner, grainy television sets in Szulkin). There are key differences, however. Scott’s film, swathed in purported darkness, still conveys how precious it is to be human. No matter into what ecological or geopolitical decadence our world descends, our memories and innate capacity for love redeem us, enough for the powerful Replicants to want to imitate us. Szulkin’s world, by contrast, contains no mutants aching to rise to our psychological apex. It is the humans, rather, who invent escape routes—distant planets, which promise cleaner air and freedom from corrupt politics, but which, inevitably, are shams, i.e. propaganda invented by governments to control us. In this sense, the Szulkian world is a ruthless matrix, a prefabricated brain-in-a-vat experiment, with no promise of moral vindication.


12/12/14 11:30am
12/12/2014 11:30 AM |

inherent vice-phoenix

When I saw Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice at the New York Film Festival a couple of months ago, I stumbled out in an appropriate but not entirely enjoyable haze. I liked so much of what I just watched, but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it as a whole—and this coming from someone who loves movies about unlicensed private detectives and had no real trouble with PTA’s more superficially mysterious The Master the first time around. I almost always see Anderson’s movies a second time theatrically, and then a third or fourth or fifth time on DVD, but while I wanted another hit of Vice for the sheer enjoyment of its celluloid cinematography, Joaquin Phoenix slapstick, and Anderson eccentricity, I also felt like I needed another go-round, just to try to wave through the fog it left in my brain (and I saw it stone-cold sober)—that the movie demanded another viewing.

It’s a demand I tend to resist, at least on principle.


12/03/14 4:00am
12/03/2014 4:00 AM |

Photo courtesy of FOX


Exodus: Gods and Kings
Directed by Ridley Scott
Opens December 12

Who knew Sir Ridley had a goofy biblical spectacular in him? The mega-budgeted Exodus: Gods and Kings elicits plenty of (unintentional?) giggles at the start with the casting of John Turturro as a Hebrew-killing pharaoh. But this is actually the rather dynamic and very handsomely mounted tale of the rivalry between the despotic ruler’s son Rhamses (guylined and bronzed-all-over Joel Edgerton) and Moses (charismatic Christian Bale), an adopted child of Egyptian royalty with a most prophetic destiny. Moses supposes (erroneously) that his loyalties lie with the sovereignty. In truth, he is the divinity-dictated leader of the many Judaic slaves (a squandered Aaron Paul and Ben Kingsley among them) longing to resettle in Canaan across the Red Sea.