Author: Jonathan Kiefer

  • See the Urban Alienation of 1992’s Rebels of the Neon God, Now in HD

    At the end of Tsai Ming-liang’s modestly confident 1992 debut, seen from arm’s length and from above, a clutch of sad little phone-dating cubicles looks like something out of Jacques Tati. Except instead of a mod Parisian arena for coy clowning, this is the dead end of pre-millennial Taipei malaise. Tsai isn’t without mischief — […]

  • Drama Still Life at Least Captures the Misery of Funerals, Bureaucracy, and Loneliness

    The sad irony of Still Life, with the great English character actor Eddie Marsan as a quiet crusader on behalf of those who die alone, isn’t the movie’s title; it’s the abiding indignity of its stress on dignity. It’s hard to affirm life by leaving out so much of what it really feels like. But […]

  • A Summer’s Tale Feels Like a Great Beach Read of a Movie

    The late New Wave auteur Eric Rohmer equated his films to novels — that’s what auteur means, after all — and A Summer’s Tale feels like a great beach read of a movie, that deceptively slender paperback you tuck into your luggage because it’s substantial without weighing much. The plot of this 1996 film, newly […]

  • The Warmhearted Supermensch Explores How One Manager Made People Famous

    Legend has it that after not cutting it as a probation officer, Shep Gordon dropped some acid and stumbled into Hollywood, whereupon Janis Joplin punched him in the face and Jimi Hendrix said to him, “Are you Jewish? You should be a manager,” and then Gordon showed them a drawer full of weed and then […]

  • The M Word, an Unstructured Gabfest Makes a Mess of Midlife Upheaval

    A pluralistic personal account of menopause seems like a fine idea for a movie, but was Henry Jaglom the right person to make it? In The M Word, Jaglom smartly sees a parallel between midlife hormone upheaval and sudden workplace superfluousness, but his unstructured-gabfest approach makes rather a mess of it. Somewhere in L.A., a […]

  • The Unknown Known: Errol Morris Can’t Penetrate the Man Behind Iraq

    As its subtitle suggests, one reason Errol Morris’s 2003 documentary The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara proved so resonant is that its subject was partly a proxy for his most notorious professional successor, the decidedly less available Donald Rumsfeld. “I don’t do quagmires,” Rumsfeld said in a news […]

  • In Hide Your Smiling Faces, a Dreamlike Drift Over Narrative

    Solemnity and restrained naturalism seem like indie-movie affectations now, so the challenge for writer-director Daniel Patrick Carbone’s feature debut is to transcend a certain festival-ready familiarity and simply seem true to itself. Obviously a personal project, Hide Your Smiling Faces concerns a young teenager (Nathan Varnson) and his little brother (Ryan Jones) whose lazy woodsy […]

  • Paris Proves It’s Good for a Rom-Com or Tragedy in Le Week-End

    The great insight in director Roger Michell’s fourth collaboration with writer Hanif Kureishi is its vision of Paris as an arena equally amenable to romantic comedy and sulking tragedy. Thus the City of Lights becomes a proving ground in Le Week-End, where Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan play an aging middle-class British couple quarreling away […]

  • Georges Simenon’s Crimes, at the Anthology

    What will people think when they see you reading the New York Review Books reprint of Georges Simenon’s novel The Engagement on the subway? That cover photo, a voyeuristic glimpse of a woman in her underwear, in grainy black-and-white, has a way of saying: Property of Loner Creep. At the same time, could there be […]

  • Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios at MOMA

    It’s been more than half a century since he last made a movie, and still we keep coming back to Allan Dwan. Fifty years was also the span of his working life, from 1911–1961, and it’s in Dwan’s epochal directing career that we find a unlikely connecting hub for Douglas Fairbanks, Gloria Swanson, Shirley Temple, […]