Author: Serena Donadoni

  • This Live-Action “Little Mermaid” Makes Disney Movies Seem Realistic by Comparison

    This live-action reworking of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is devoid of social or political undercurrents and untethered from recognizable reality — precisely the kind of fantasy film that should appease moviegoers critical of how the Marvel universe or the Star Wars series get too close to reality. Co-directors Blake Harris and Chris Bouchard […]

  • In “Memoir of War,” Marguerite Duras Suffers Through the Nazi Occupation

    In adapting the wartime diaries of Marguerite Duras, Emmanuel Finkiel captures the author’s oblique style, which filters events though a thick layer of ennui, and centers on women who deal with inflicted trauma by torturing themselves. When Duras’s episodic memoir was released in 1985, her U.S. publisher changed the French title La Douleur (a/k/a Pain) […]

  • In “The Swan,” a Nine-Year-Old Meets the World

    Anchored by a remarkable child’s performance, The Swan is a sensitive example of an overlooked element in coming-of-age films: awakening to the outside world. Nine-year-old Sól (Gríma Valsdóttir) is an insular girl, her imagination fueled by the craggy shoreline and unceasing sea that surround her small Icelandic coastal community. She’s angry and resentful at being sent […]

  • “Good Manners” Is a Colorful, Singular Modern Fairy Tale

    Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra’s contemporary fairy tale is a heady blend of heightened reality and grounded fantasy set in a São Paulo envisioned as an orderly steel-and-glass fortress surrounded by the colorful chaos of improvised neighborhoods. High and low are clearly delineated, and when Clara (Isabél Zuaa) arrives at the condo tower where a […]

  • The Piercing “Pin Cushion” Looks Like Comedy but Stings Like Tragedy

    Deborah Haywood’s formidable first feature is at once a ruthless dissection of cruelty, capturing the relentless torment of outcasts for the pleasure of self-styled superiors, and a warm evocation of an interdependent mother-daughter bond. Pin Cushion has the visual cues of comedy, with its candy-colored kitsch and exaggerated signifiers of eccentricity and snobbery, but at […]

  • A Mother and Son Battle Grief in the Chilly but Beautiful “Never Steady, Never Still”

    The austere beauty of Never Steady, Never Still reflects the stripped-down lives of Kathleen Hepburn’s self-contained characters, who require little and ask for less. Judy (Shirley Henderson) has early-onset Parkinson’s disease, and only allows herself to express regret and disappointment at a mobility support group (where everyone else is elderly). Living in peaceful isolation on Stuart […]

  • “Beach House” Is a Spare Little Chiller

    The atmosphere of Jason Saltiel’s debut feature is decidedly chilly despite the summer heat. With icy precision reminiscent of Claude Chabrol, Saltiel captures the social intricacies of affluent leisure. Frustrated college student Emma (Willa Fitzgerald) feels confined at her family’s Amagansett summer home, only using the vacation to convince her wary parents to bankroll a […]

  • “Half the Picture” Turns the Camera on Women Directors

    Many of the directors featured in Half the Picture (including Gina Prince-Bythewood, Karyn Kusama, Patricia Riggen, and Jamie Babbit) reinvigorated stale genres with their debut films, and Amy Adrion follows suit in her first documentary. Employing a simple talking-head format, Adrion and editor Kate Hackett weave women’s voices into a flowing conversation that needs no […]

  • “The Quest of Alain Ducasse” Insists Haute Cuisine Isn’t Just for the Wealthy

    The feverish pace of Gilles de Maistre’s The Quest of Alain Ducasse reflects its indefatigable subject, the French chef with a global presence. For eighteen months, de Maistre followed Ducasse to the outposts of his food empire (currently 28 restaurants), bookending this observational documentary with visits to Versailles during the creation of both a classic bistro […]

  • Biopic “Yadvi” Fails to Illuminate Its Subject’s Inner Life

    There’s more enthusiasm than skill on display in Yadvi, a leaden biopic made by sisters Jyoti and Gauri Singh to honor their grandmother Rajmata Yadhuvansh Kumari. They use family history to illustrate the decline of Indian royalty during the twentieth century, when princely states that had been internally autonomous during the British Raj were absorbed into […]

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