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April 2022

L'état d'urgence

Carole Bethuel

The Divide (2021)

The English title implies something that’s grown apart, while the original French title means something which has broken, which is more appropriate. This slice-of-life story, set in a Parisian emergency room on a day of the Yellow Vests protests, manages to excoriate French society at all levels while also being a kind, clear-eyed metaphor of how a nation handles its suffering.

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Small Town Mentality

BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival

Wet Sand (2021)

The arrival of a city mouse into a country village is a tale as old as time, but the city mouse doesn’t usually wear a cigarette lighter on a cord down her cleavage. The village itself, on the edge of the Black Sea in Georgia, is not an easy place – the doctors and the police don’t always do their jobs properly; the men don’t always keep their fists to themselves; and the neighbors’ mouths don’t always stay shut. On the news it’s announced the national day against homophobia is now a day for families. But in the village the big news is that the elderly Eliko (Tengo Javakhadze) has killed himself, and the bigger question is what his granddaughter Moe (Bebe Sesitashvili) will do with his house after the funeral. But director Elene Naveriani, who cowrote the script with Sandro Naveriani, isn’t interested in how the dead bury the dead. This is an excellent movie about the tremendous difficulty of finding joy in a spiteful world and on how little an entire lifetime can be built.

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Gone but Not Forgotten

BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival

Jimmy in Saigon (2022)

Why would someone choose to make a documentary without being capable of facing the issues the documentary is about? This is the only question for Peter McDowell’s “Jimmy in Saigon” – Jimmy being the director’s two-decades-older brother, who died in Vietnam when Peter McDowell was five. The movie took over a decade to make and, despite the amount of time and work that went into it, utterly fails to address its own topic. This is due to the Peter McDowell’s failures as a documentarian, but also to his personal refusal to own up to his own behavior.

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Doing It


Charli XCX: Alone Together (2022)

This short (67 minutes) documentary about underappreciated pop star Charli XCX owes a great deal to “Madonna: Truth or Dare” (aka “In Bed With Madonna”). Well, most every music documentary is in the shadow of “Truth or Dare” but here the parallels are explicit. Alek Keshishian’s revolutionary documentary focused on the closed world of Madonna and her dancers on tour; here co-directors Bradley Bell and Pablo Jones-Soler focus on the closed world of a singer and her fans (many of whom are gay, hence the movie being shown as part of BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival) in private online spaces during the 2020 lockdown. And while Warren Beatty famously whined that Madonna didn’t want to live off-camera, there seems to be no moment of Charli’s life where she’s not performing for a camera. The key difference, of course, is that Madonna’s dancers were professionals, paid to be there, while Charli’s fans – Angels, of course – are teenagers and young adults from around the world, desperate for attention from a singer who puts that desperation to work for her.

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Steppin' Out

Courtesy photo

Walk With Me (2021)

“Walk With Me” is the New York version of “Am I OK?” which couldn’t have been more California. Both stories are about comfortable white women in their 30s who discover they are gay and collapse with anxiety as a result. And while coming-out stories never do get old, old coming-out stories don’t get any fresher in the telling.

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Heading South

Morrisa Maltz

The Unknown Country (2022)

In “Certain Women” Lily Gladstone made a colossal impression in a mostly wordless part as a lonely rancher hungering after Kristen Stewart. She’s going to hit the big time with the upcoming “Killers of the Flower Moon,” but “The Unknown Country” as shown at SXSW Film Festival is a movie she made for herself. She cowrote the story with writer-director Morrisa Maltz, editor Vanara Taing and Lainey Bearkiller Shangreaux, who is one of the producers and also plays a version of herself. This group of women have created a fascinating story about how one Indigenous woman must figure out how to rebuild her life with very little to go on. And it’s not that you can’t go home again, but you might not necessarily want to.

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A Laughing Stock

Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets

Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets (2022)

The documentary “Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets” recounts how, for one brief moment, unsophisticated investors posting on Reddit beat Wall Street at its own game only to find out that game is indeed rigged in Wall Street’s favor. The entire saga prompted House Financial Services Committee hearings in Washington.

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Game Boy

Paramount Pictures and Sega of America

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022)

It’s easy to get cynical about “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” sequel to a live-action movie based on a Sega video game character (voiced by Ben Schwartz) that travels at supersonic speeds. You may recall the original’s disastrous, universally loathed first trailer, which prompted the studio to postpone the release many months to overhaul the CGI, finally delivering it just before the global pandemic hit in 2020. Yet it’s already getting the sequel treatment, and ahead of 2019’s “Detective Pikachu,” the live-action movie based on a more contemporary Nintendo video game character.

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Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own


It Is in Us All (2022)

Hamish (Cosmo Jarvis) is in Donegal on the west coast of Ireland for reasons unclear to himself. An aunt he never knew, the sister of his late mother, recently died; and she left him her house. He did not attend her funeral, so this trip to see the house is a mysterious compulsion, one that no one in his life, not himself and certainly not his jackass of a father, Jack (Claes Bang, who’s having a moment), quite understands. En route Hamish is involved in a nasty night-time car accident in which a teenager in the other car is killed. After being interviewed by the gardai and leaving the hospital he goes to the teenager’s sparsely attended funeral, where he is noticed by grieving mother Cara (writer-director Antonia Campbell-Hughes) and peculiar best friend Evan (Rhys Mannion), who survived the accident. And then things get really weird.

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Better Than Sex


Stay the Night (2022)

It’s a very specific category of romantic movie: A cute couple spend a night walking around a city, talking and having random encounters, instead of in bed together. The alpha and omega of this category is obviously “Before Sunrise,” which “Stay the Night” acknowledges in a wordless sequence toward the end, but other movies have worked different angles to keep the couples apart: In “Before We Go” one of them was married, and in “Medicine for Melancholy” the time together follows the one-night stand. In this new Canadian entrant for this category, as shown at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, writer-director Renuka Jeyapalan drops the cute couple in bed almost immediately, before immediately vaulting them right back out the door. It’s a bold choice but with this cast it works perfectly.

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