John Ewing's Cinema Talk | May - June, 2014

The following article was written by John Ewing, the director of The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. It appeared in their May / June 2014 calendar.

We're fast approaching the end of another fiscal year, so I'd like to get some things off my chest. This way maybe I can start the new fiscal year on July 1 with a more positive attitude.

Press coverage for smaller new independent and foreign films has really gone away. The limited space available for movies in print publications is no longer being distributed equally among the new films opening any given week. Instead, big movies – and by that I mean the highest profile, most heavily promoted and advertised Hollywood movies (GravityDivergent, et al.) – are given the bulk of the space (and large photos). Most films opening against blockbusters (including many movies that end up getting higher letter grades from reviewers) are forced to scramble for real estate in a back-of-the-movie-section "land rush." This is happening more and more in Entertainment Weekly, which now relegates many of the new releases that will show locally at the Cinematheque, the Cedar Lee, or the Capitol (EnemyLe Week-EndThe Missing Picture, et al.) to three or four sentences in their "Also Playing" dumping ground.

As for The Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com, they stopped reviewing most of the major new films that premiere exclusively at the Cinematheque a long time ago. But now even films that play for at least a week at the Cedar Lee are being neglected – not only in the print edition, but also online. In the April 4 PD Friday magazine, for instance, five new films were relegated, unreviewed, to an "Also Opening" sidebar. Included were to highly acclaimed indie movies (The LunchboxParticle Fever) that were guaranteed at least a weeklong run at the Cedar Lee. The Lunchbox did get a wire review from The Newark Star-Ledger on Cleveland.com, but as I write this on 4/5, there is still nothing on Particle Fever. Wasn't the online newspaper, with its infinite space, supposed to allow all kinds of news and coverage that couldn't be squeezed into the print edition? Apparently not.

Oh and, by the way, the new Romanian film Child's Pose, which the Cinematheque premiered in Cleveland on April 4 & 5, was not one of the five movies "Also Opening" on April 4. But if this movie – which was one of the most acclaimed films of 2013, and which won the top prize at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival, and which was Romania's official submission for this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film – didn't open in Cleveland on 4/4/14, what did it do?

Broken records. During the record-setting 38th Cleveland International Film Festival (97,804 attendees in 12 days!), the Cinematheque set a record of its own: the worst Saturday night in our 28-year history. On Saturday March 29, a total of 12 people came to see the two movies we presented that evening (The Good, the Bad, the Weird and Stanley Kubrick's Fear and Desire). Total ticket sales were less than $100! It's always hard for us to compete against the film festival, but we had always done much better than this. I blame that night's late-season snowstorm, coupled with the film festival, for pushing us into the record books, making 3/29/14 a night to remember (or, rather, to forget).

Big screen/small screen. I've noticed that most people are content with watching films on DVD or Blu-ray at home unless the movie in question happens to be one of their all-time favorites. That movie, of course, has to be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated. Well, guess what? Most people don't share the same favorite movies, so I guess almost all movies really should be viewed on the big screen.

People in glass movie houses. In my 28 years of running the Cinematheque, I've met lots of foreign-born moviegoers. They are among our most ardent supporters. Many of them have complimented us on our wide-ranging, eclectic, international offerings, at the same time criticizing the monolithic movie culture that pervades so much of America. However, I've also observed that a few of these "foreign-film buffs" seem to attend only films made in their own native country or language. So are they any different from "provincial" Americans who see just English-language movies?

What a difference a word makes. I cringe when people use the term "depressing" to describe a film that deals honestly – and usually compassionately – with a harsh aspect of life on earth (e.g., Amour, about old age and death). In most cases these same films could be described as "moving" or "eye-opening" or "unforgettable" – non buzz-killing adjectives that might actually encourage people to see tough, important films instead of avoiding them.

Pasolini post mortem. I'll end this cranky column on an upbeat note. I'm happy to report that a combination of good press coverage in the PD, higher ticket prices, and decent attendance allowed us to cover the lofty cost of film rentals for our January-February Pier Paolo Pasolini retrospective. A heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you who helped to make this happen! By the way, Willem Dafoe, who appears in person on June 7, will be playing Pasolini in a new film directed by Abel Ferrara.

Panh - 20 March 2014 - "The Missing Picture"

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THE MISSING PICTURE
Cambodia, France 2013
Directed by Rithy Panh
Running time: 92 minutes

There is a certain widely held misconception about the nature and usefulness of poetry: that it belongs primarily to the overrefined, the froufrou, and that trivial lot whose cotton candied hands haven’t seen a hard day’s work. The lie is a convenient one; it excuses its perpetrators from engaging with the modes of representation that chisel their very reality – as if there were only one true social order: the one that exists right now, and, as they might tell you, has always existed. If the lie were localized, locked up in the recesses of some poor psyche, perhaps it would be an excusable one. But to underrate the role of poetic representation is always to ensconce the status-quo. The lie preserves those articles that are convenient to the efficient functioning of our social edifice and elides those which are not. It both creates the conditions for and exists because of missing images. It’s a conspicuous absence, like the topside of Bernoulli’s wing, keeping this insidious glider aloft.

Rithy Panh’s Best Foreign Language Film contender, The Missing Picture illuminates the potent nature of poetic images in structuring society, subjectivity, and ostensible revolution. Panh’s handcarved dioramas constitute an attempt to evacuate the horrifying images of life under the Khmer Rouge from his mind. Panh’s tableaux are peopled by bespoke clay figures – rough-hewn, fired, and enameled. Their forms cycle from vivacious to cadaverous with a caprice that escorts the selective memory, frothing in trauma’s wake. The narrator reveals the way his memories have bracketed his self-image into place. “I wish to be rid of this picture,” he says, “so I show this to you.”

If memory is bound to be selective, then Panh’s narrator has taken it upon himself to do the selecting. The filmmakers hands enter the frame and we see them etching, shaving, and painting these hunks of clay – the stuff of figment and flesh. When face and form have been carved away and acrylic clothing has been applied, only the finishing touch of life remains: a fountain pen, the blackest of ink droplets leaking from its nib, colors the left eye, then the right. Do these figurines see what’s around them? Will they be haunted by the same memories as their creator, or will the murky solution that coats their eyes be their salvation?

Perhaps injustice needs a missing image to proceed. During times of revolution, it’s the images of the revolution’s failure to deliver on its promises that go missing. During times when the market is predominant, the missing image is the hard-suffering of the overlooked proletariat. What is constant, though, is the power of the image to remind us of what is and what can be. If we share these images with each other, perhaps only then will they cease to haunt our reality.

KURTISS HARE
20 March 2014
Twitter: @akronfilm/@kurtiss

“Your film is not just any documentary, but a special kind that is my favorite: an essay film. As an essay filmmaker, you don’t just tell us a story by showing us images. You also make us reflect on the way you are telling and showing. This is important because the only surviving images of your past are the propaganda movies made by the Khmer Rouge, which only tell their version of what happened. Your images challenge their images, but they also question the power of any image to tell the truth.”

~~ Kevin B. Lee, Keyframe

“Panh’s burnt clay theatre meshes perfectly with the justified pathos distinguishing the narration, while—intensified by complex negotiations with the historical film material—he proposes a miraculous method to represent the unrepresentable.”

~~ Christoph Huber, Cinema Scope

“A profoundly personal meditation on a culture devastated and terminally affected by near-unimaginable cruelty and violence, the film confronts both the absence of official historical images and the inevitable subjectivity of remembered experience by deploying a mix of narration, archive footage, music, photos and recreation using tiny carved models. The result is moving and remarkably resonant.”

~~ Geoff Andrew, Sight & Sound

“Panh is not just telling his story and making a picture to go along with it. He has found a way to channel affect, to make his tale of history-gone-wrong resonate for a viewer who, we can assume, is all too familiar with conventional cinematic reenactment. Instead, we observe a filmmaker employing the most primitive of means to achieve a higher level of empathy, as well as an ethics of singularity. We are all unique, after all, which is what the Khmer Rouge chose not to see.”

~~ Michael Sicinski, The Academic Hack

“[Panh’s] latest, an unshakable testament to the power of memory, re-creates the period in the unsettling form of kid-friendly dioramas, peopled with clay figures of black-shirted prisoners and sad farm animals. The conceit is tremendously daring, but one with a huge payoff, suggesting an evil that can’t be fully processed by young eyes.”

~~ Joshua Rothlopf, Time Out New York

“This absence of visual documentation [of the Khmer Rouge killings] is the “missing picture” of the title—a void Panh seeks to fill with his carefully, skillfully framed tableaux. Far from a distancing device, these snapshots of suffering somehow feel more vivid, more real, than the grainy celluloid material. They suggest raw memories molded into physical form, history brought alive one evocative still image at a time.”

~~ A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club

“This kind of restaging of the past is in many ways antithetical to the reenacted scenes of murder as directed by the executioners in Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, and not only for the differences in the historical specificities of Cambodia from 1975–79, and Indonesia from 1965–66. Where Oppenheimer, in his concern for the psychological justifications for murder enabled by power, dwells on the horrifying creativity of the perpetrators, Panh addresses the annihilating force of genocide.”

~~ Genevieve Yue, The Brooklyn Rail

Claude Lanzmann's The Last of the Unjust

Hell’s harrower bore a cross. Orpheus brought a lyre. Christ’s solution was more final than Orpheus’s, if less diplomatic. After despoiling Sheol of its righteous, so the story goes, Christ escorted those upright to Heaven’s banquets, leaving the tarnal to their tarnation. While Orpheus’ dulcet bargain moved Hades’ hand to relinquish his bride, the couple didn’t make it very far before the underworld swallowed her up again. Eurydice’s absence swelled as result of this second catastrophe; Aether condensed into perfume, that pungence of loss, and Orpheus carried the scent of the underworld with him.

Based on his interviews with Claude Lanzmann, Rabbi Benjamin Murmelstein was acutely aware of these stories. Over the course of one blustery week in 1975, Lanzmann filmed an extensive verbal autobiography of Rabbi Murmelstein, who was the final appointed leader of the Judenrat at Theresienstadt, a council of Jewish elders elected to ease relations between the Nazi rank and the Jews of Adolf Eichmann’s “model ghetto.” From classical antiquity to those of the Islamic Golden Age, Murmelstein adorns his speech with the ideas from human civilization’s great myths; in doing so, he reveals himself to be a facile raconteur and mythologian, unfurling a history that saw the Jews persecuted on Kristallnacht and transported to Auschwitz for extermination.

Thankfully, Lanzmann hasn’t fully bridled his intellectual wanderlust since Shoah. In its most exquisite lines of texture and argumentation, The Last of the Unjust intercuts between phantom rides down the European streets, railways and memorials that have grown up around the Holocaust. We see rows of phaneritic slate, saturated by name after name and made illegible by the sheer density of their contents. We’re shown the gruesome sketches of confined Theresienstadt artists Ferdinand Bloch, Bedrich Lederer, Otto Ungar and Bedrich Fritta. When Lanzmann finally introduces Murmelstein, it’s from behind, his thinned hair slicked back and buzzed on the sides. As the film continues, Lanzmann presents his conversations with the controversial figure in a simple extreme close-up, directing our attention to his words and gestures. The final shot of Murmelstein is also from behind, but this time Lanzmann chooses a wide shot that reveals his feeble gait and forward-flexed posture, his septuagenarian hands trembling behind his back.

Lanzmann manifests a visual attraction to corners and intersections. In particular, he employs a camera move that carves an elliptical path around a fixed center. When that center is aligned with a corner adjoining perpendicular spaces, we experience those spaces as they are projected onto a two-dimensional image, resulting in the diminishment of one space and the burgeoning of another. It’s a kind of shift in the visible presence of competing perspectives and a visual metaphor for the contingencies that determine the stories we tell about power. Finally, it recalls Murmelstein’s own understanding of his privileged position as a go-between oppressor and oppressed, located “between the hammer and the anvil.”

Murmelstein now considers himself to have played a tragicomic role in the Holocaust: a Jew who, to his people, appeared authoritative and advantaged but who was, in fact, powerless. From its inception, the term tragicomoedia was reserved for stories in which the fates of the high and low-born were intermingled. In 1608, the English playwright John Fletcher offered a definition of tragicomedy that reveals the link between power and death. Paraphrased, it is: For the tragicomic, it’s not enough to simply combine mirth and death; the tragicomic must stop just short of the fatal, barring the work’s status as pure tragedy, but it must come so near it as to prevent it also from being pure comedy.

If the tragic nature of Murmelstein’s role at Theresienstadt is self-evident, the comic is a bit more elusive. He describes himself as a marionette, secretly pulling his own strings. His actions can’t be called into question, because he appeared as an unthinking tool of power; in preserving himself, he was preserving the ruse that softened every blow of the Nazi hammer. During trying times, preservation under power always means austerity (for Theresienstadt, this meant Murmelstein’s self-imposed 70-hour work weeks, limited food rations, etc.). In the end, one wonders whether his Scheherazadian persona isn’t just the rattletrap scaffold of a timid, talented survivor.

The Last of the Unjust offers a steadfast alternative to the disturbingly postmodern treatment we’re inclined to imagine for those involved in the high crimes of our age. Take, for example, the Indonesian mass-murderers of The Act of Killing or even Jordan Belfort of The Wolf of Wall Street. In these films, we’re simultaneously entertained and appalled by acts which from one perspective seem like atrocities and from another, like antics. Such formal absurdity allows us to keep a safe distance from it all, thus excusing our indifference. The Last of the Unjust refuses to let us off the hook in that same way, instead offering a complex and dialectical portrait of a man whose ascent from the abyss wasn’t as clean or heroic as he had hoped.

Barnard - 23 January 2014 - THE SELFISH GIANT

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THE SELFISH GIANT
United Kingdom 2013
Directed by Clio Barnard
Running time: 91 minutes

A few signature touches have morphed since THE ARBOR in 2010, Clio Barnard’s impressive work of demiurgic non-fiction. For one, she’s modulated bold formalism into affective melodrama. In that film, the real citizens of an impoverished West Yorkshire neighborhood act out a play by author Andrea Dunbar set in their own neighborhood. The citizens’ voices were then overdubbed by professional voice actors. This resulted in a tiered artifice whose representations grasped at truth by appealing to the possibilities of fiction and nonfiction alike. THE ARBOR’s pleasures were cerebral constructions that demarcated an alternative geography — a platonic vantage point from which to consider the socio-existential antinomies of the terrain. With THE SELFISH GIANT, Barnard has given us a more classical work that’s no less brilliant than its predecessor, even if not so sui-generis. If THE ARBOR’s carefully fabricated polemic summoned something like Shirley Clarke’s PORTRAIT OF JASON, then THE SELFISH GIANT invokes the straightforward, heart-tugging social realist work of Ken Loach and Aki Kaurismäki’s proletariat picaresques.

As the 2014 Oscars approach, the flood of nods, snubs, shortlists and surprises instantiate that cramped cinematic tradition substituted for the boundaries of honorable within the art of the moving image. In this sense, the very institution of the Academy is a nefarious aesthetic snub. Still, a dismissal of the tradition is a dismissal of the art it has come to circumscribe, that is, a rich corpus flush with virtuosities and exquisite contrivances of its own. With THE SELFISH GIANT, Clio Barnard has exhibited a stylistic dexterity both inside and outside of that tradition.

From its very first cut, Barnard evokes a kind of cosmic desperation in the trials of Arbor, the young protagonist of the film. From an extreme wide shot of horses grazing in a twilit field, Barnard goes to a close-up of a half-woken boy pounding his fists on the bunk rails inches above his head. The superimposed effect is that of an angry bedlamite, lamenting his lot in life, slobbering and shaking his fists at the sky. At the end of the film, Barnard gives us an extreme close-up on the eyes of one of those grazing horses and it’s a demanding, insistent gaze; it’s neither benevolent nor pitiless; it operates violently on the conscience. The viewer, naked and immodest before that very horse, pours her own interests and concerns into the animal’s empty ethical inquisition. At this final juncture, the attentive viewer’s concerns have been shaped by a careful series of cinematic metaphors that qualify the human value of a behaviorally disturbed boy growing up in structurally sustained destitution.

KURTISS HARE
23 January 2014
Twitter: @akronfilm/@kurtiss

“While the British media have understandably drawn a comparison to Loach’s groundbreaking 1969 British film “Kes,” Barnard is just as much following in the footsteps of François Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows,” [and] Vittorio De Sica’s “Bicycle Thieves”… I advise you to brace yourself; like those films, “The Selfish Giant” may tear your heart out. But the passion and possibility Barnard shows us among forgotten people in a forgotten place are fully worth it.”

~~ Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

“Barnard brought a surreal magic to the squalor of The Arbor, blending documentary interview with uncanny lip-sync performance, and while she reins in the formal friskiness here, she retains her feel for perverse splendour.”

~~ Charlie Lyne, Little White Lies

“The subject matter sounds hardscrabble, but The Selfish Giantis deeply tender, one of the most touching movies about friendship between men — or boys — I’ve ever seen. This is also the most delicate kind of social realism; it never feels like a screed. Barnard films the landscape matter-of-factly, and she’s open to all its rough, rusty beauty.”

~~ Stephanie Zacharek, The Village Voice

“Barnard realizes the settings in immersive detail, and she elicits some strikingly convincing performances from her cast; Conner Chapman, playing a boy with an untreated behavioral disorder, delivers one of the scariest performances I’ve seen from a child actor. The movie takes its title and narrative structure from a children’s story by Oscar Wilde; as in the Dardenne brothers’ The Kid With a Bike, the fairy-tale elements bolster the contemporary story with a sense of timelessness.”

~~ Ben Sachs, The Chicago Reader

“For all its relentless horrors (and dear Lord does this movie go to some terrible places),The Selfish Giant never feels predictable. Credit the remarkable young actors, as well as Barnard’s observant style: Every moment in this film is alive with possibility, with the chance that everything will go haywire in a new way.”

~~ Bilge Ebiri, Vulture

“[Chapman and Thomas] deliver surprisingly powerful performances, driving the film forward with a palpable—and at times heart-wrenching—energy that overrides the screenplay’s minor flaws. The physicality of the overgrown Swifty and exceptionally runty Arbor make them a particularly endearing odd couple to watch, and their friendship feels real, from start to tragic finish… The film’s final image completes a full visual circle that is sure to make even the stiffest upper lip quiver with emotion.”

~~ Emma Meyers, Film Comment

“Having chosen to pitch her stall this time directly on the royal road of British art cinema, Barnard nevertheless brings a distinctive poetic spin to her material, making the film as much a study of the porous boundary between town and country as Kes was. There’s a strikingly eerie ruralist magic to the repeated shots of horses standing on horizons at night – Barnard and DP Mike Eley make strong, often stylised use of horizontals…”

~~ Jonathan Romney, Sight & Sound

“[Chapman] has a camera-controlling physical swagger, with a dry, peppery wit to his line delivery that draws him instantly level with any adult performer in a scene… There’s nothing scrappy about the filmmaking on display here. Where “The Arbor,” for all its innovation in other departments, retained a certain televisual quality to its construction, “The Selfish Giant” is boldly, broodingly cinematic.”

~~ Guy Lodge, Variety

Zürcher - 26 December 2013 - THE STRANGE LITTLE CAT

THE STRANGE LITTLE CAT
Germany 2013
Directed by Ramon Zürcher
Running time: 72 minutes

Here we have a grimy ballet. Tennis shoes adhere to a crummy floor. A leg is lifted and foot hesitates, settling over a tender spot with Dionysean caprice. An arm lunges forward in search of a dish. A switch is flipped and a burr grinder roars. One head plunges while another surges. The cat darts and a glass rolls off the table’s edge – no Sterling Hayden to catch it. The space hemmed in by table and counter balloons with flesh. The cupboard door hatches a plan: Bend, grab, slip, lift, brush. That no dancer has yet to take a spill is a minor miracle. It’s that sloppy clockwork we call organic. It’s Jacques Tati’s casual comedic precision. It’s Edward Yang’s morbid chaos of kith and kin. It’s a static lens focused on domestic detritus, stationed somewhere between Chantal Akerman and Yasujirō Ozu.

THE STRANGE LITTLE CAT is the debut feature of Ramon Zürcher, and what an ingenious, rewarding feature it is. For the continental philosopher Alain Badiou, “cinema is a thinking whose products are the Real.” This means that movies are capable of sparking, considering and speaking ideas into the realm of discourses that shape our lives. But what thought is tonight’s film thinking? On the one hand, it takes the question of “what is the other thinking?” as its subject. Zürcher’s characters prod, ruffle and provoke each other as if to chart the psychic contours that delineate personhood. Our cartographers show a particular preference for scrutinizing structural weakness: vulnerabilities, sensitivities and breaking points. The housecat’s underbelly, in one of many instances of petty sadism, is threatened underfoot an ultimately merciful shoe. Touch, in this film, is at once threatening and affectionate. Its primary effect is to petrify the beings in its hold.

But this film’s thinking resounds in its formal composition. CinemaScope critic Michael Sicinski likened it to a work of chamber music. There are image cycles that mimic rondo forms, cramped movement allegros and digressive-anecdotal adaggios. I’m reminded again of Ozu, for whom these forms also played a prominent role. His rondos consisted of “pillow shots,” in which the camera cuts away from the dramatic action to focus on a wider scene (usually free from human activity). They typically imbue an august serenity, positioning the troubles of some wayward family in the context of a larger whole. It’s that transcendent, Pale Blue Dot feeling. And if transcendence is a pillow, then (and please forgive the wordplay) Zürcher’s rondos employ something more like “brillo shots.” He gives us perspective on the action not by rising above it, but by diving into it, examining its byproduct. Glasses, bottles, orange peels and crumbs. Each voiced some tertiary role in the play and was discarded. This is not the impermanence of all things, this is the persistence of forgotten things. People come and go and our symptoms remain. With these moves, Zürcher offers us an epistemological model of reality that is disharmonious and estranged. Perhaps this is the breaking point, a worldview from which change becomes possible again. If we touch the cosmic dance with our minds, let us not be petrified by its magnificence.

KURTISS HARE
26 December 2013
Twitter: @akronfilm / @kurtiss

The Strange Little Cat has done a tour of more than two dozen of the world’s most prestigious fests, including Cannes, Toronto, Vienna and now AFI FEST. It’s rare to find a young filmmaker with such a distinct, mature voice, and even rarer to stumble upon a film that so generously rewards post-screening discussions and multiple viewings. It’s a small gem, a film that tells a familiar story in a genuinely new way.”

~~ Darren Hughes, Long Pauses

The Strange Little Cat develops its own means of bending perceptions of time and space. The title offers a clue as to why the actions of this apartment’s residents can seem disjointed or contradictory: This may very well be how the daily rituals of humans seem from a feline perspective. Zürcher’s ingenious debut feature suggests what Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) might’ve been like if Jacques Tati had got around to making it first.”

~~ Jason Anderson, ArtForum

“Ramon Zürcher’s The Strange Little Cat is another small miracle, a compressed, oblique, peculiarly funny and beguiling exploration of shared space. …In his feature debut, Zürcher displays a limpid sensory approach (the rattle of appliances is as much a compositional element as the sun emanating from a window) that’s been justly compared to Jacques Tati’s, though the tight planar arrangements often seem closer to mid-1970s Chantal Akerman. People come and go within these fixed, slightly off-center frames, bits of eccentricity become running gags, and every cut is a droll new visual opening. The Strange Little Cat can feel like a whirring toy, a screen brimming with pointillist delights, and then one look at the subtle yet lingering grief on the mother’s drawn face and the playful surfaces suddenly pulse with melancholy, even ominous undercurrents. It’s a miniature that grows larger and more secretive, tenser and more flowing the more you gaze into it.”

~~ Fernando F. Croce, MUBI

“If we were to return to the metaphor of considering Zürcher’s film as a work of chamber music, these image-cycles are rondo forms, in contrast to the cramped-movement allegros and the digressive-anecdotal adagios. And as the film evolves, we begin to see that Clara may be something very close to Cat’s governing consciousness, a girl who sees much more than she is seen. (One of the most striking of the non-narrative passages is the one comprised of Clara’s crayon drawings, which show that the girl, too, finds this home odd.) But unlike her older relatives, she possesses no wry detachment; like a little phenomenologist (or a cat), Clara investigates by moving ‘to the things themselves.’”

~~ Michael Sicinsky, CinemaScope

“The movie could just as easily be stripped of all concern for ideas and taken for what it also is: A pure, visceral ballet of life as a futile attempt to establish order. In fact, a filmmaker that often comes to mind while watching Zürcher’s film (other than Jacques Tati) is Lucrecia Martel, whose own debut, La Ciénaga is a spiritual cousin to the one in this film, both expertly depicting families in a simultaneous mode of repellence and love toward one another.”

~~ Blake Williams, IONCINEMA

“It’s perhaps the most purely beguiling movie at this year’s festival—the rare film that offers a new way of looking at the everyday world. Zürcher’s sensibility has been compared to that of Jacques Tati, with whom he shares a puckish sense of humor predicated on small bits of business that expand into running gags. But his asymmetrical compositions and discordant juxtapositions, which employ visual and aural misdirection to make the familiar seem fresh and wondrous, are entirely his own.”

~~ Mike D’Angelo, The Dissolve