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Pick of the Week
The Turin Horse (Cinema Guild) — Béla Tarr, always leaving you wanting less. Less pain, less muck, less time to do less work, less life. Sharing the top line with longtime editor Ágnes Hranitzky, world cinema’s reigning blue whale takes a famous footnote to Nietzsche’s life—the philosopher’s spiral into dumb silence upon witnessing a carriage horse’s brutal beating—and constructs a footnote to the footnote, wherein we follow the horse home. Routine follows routine, as the carriage driver and his daughter wake, dress, drink a shot, work, check on the horse, eat a couple hot potatoes, sleep, repeat. From the first frames of a technically masterful opening shot of the titular horse chomping bit against a howling wind, the film’s astounding, moving-daguerreotype aesthetics rest on an even, dusty plain with the scenario. Here, light and shadow don’t reveal character; they are character. Tarr’s world, a carousel of grime and heavy doorways and ceaseless gales, is free of psychology yet feels entirely interior. Little is said and little is developed, as days end and begin, end and begin—until they don’t. A distillation of Beckettian liminal anxiety Beckett himself would’ve had trouble committing so fully to the screen, The Turin Horse stays in your brain like tar in your lungs. Available on DVD and Blu-ray. (John Magary)
Here (Strand Releasing) — Ten years in the making, Braden King’s HERE project did double duty when it world premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, as an installation at the new New Frontier building on Park, and as a feature film contender for the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. HERE is all over the map—pun intended—opening as an experimental tone poem, and gradually revealing itself to be an insightful character study of an American traveling in a foreign land. Some of the scenes of mapmaker Ben Foster mingling with locals are as honest a depiction of language-constricted bonding as I have seen; these were easily my favorite moments in the film. Foster and Lubna Azabal’s commitment to their roles helps to keep King’s at times overly ambitious vision grounded. Available on DVD.
4:44 Last Day on Earth (MPI Home Video) — A number of recent films have collectively suggested that the more global, or even cosmic, the crisis, the more intimate the response. This was done most recently in Perfect Sense but also last summer’s Another Earth and, to a lesser extent, The Tree of Life, about which it might be more accurate to say that the cosmic is crafted from the intimate. (Melancholia breaks from this trend somewhat, and its cold remove is part of what makes it so disconcerting a film.) This art-house apocalypse continues in Abel Ferrara’s 4:44 Last Day on Earth, one of whose touchstones is a close-up on two lovers’ bodies as they sleep together: this, the longtime writer-director says repeatedly, is how we console ourselves in times of crisis. And yet, as a viewing experience, what comfort this lavishly titled, austerely shot film brings is mostly cold. Its largely confined setting of a single New York City apartment restricts our knowledge to that of the characters; there’s no omniscience to be found from either within or without. Read the full HTN review. Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and at Amazon Instant. (Michael Nordine)
New/Old to DVD/Blu-ray
Have Not Seen Yet But Really/Kinda/Sorta/Maybe Wanna
Documenting the Grey Man (Camp Motion Pictures) — Available on DVD.