Wednesday, October 18, 2023


Unlike the other films I saw at this year’s New York Film Festival (click here & here to read), I actually sat with this one for a few days before sharing my thoughts. I waited seven years to see this and I want to chose my words carefully. I have mixed feelings about Michael Mann’s latest Enzo Ferrari biopic. It disappointed and exceed expectation at the same time. Anything involving a car is an A+ as far as I’m concerned. The sound design, the cinematography, etc – it’s all great. Even the couple of surprise car wrecks, reminiscent of Tarantino’s Death Proof, were incredibly visceral and got a reaction out of me that no movie has in quite some time (I haven’t really spoiled anything. These scenes come out of nowhere and you wont be expecting them). 
Now…anything that had to do with the actual story felt like a C-. I know some folks may think it’s silly to take a piece of art and use school grades to judge – but some of the accents in the film are pretty silly. Too silly for a film like this in my opinion. I appreciate Adam Driver’s dedication to his semi-subdued yet sill forced Italian accent but Shailene Woodley’s portrayal of Lina Lardi (Enzo’s mistress and mother of his son) was a bit frustrating. Her accent was a mix of American, Eastern European & Italian, and the performance was pretty forgettable (the chemistry between Driver and Woodley wasn’t really there either). Watching Ferrari made me wish there was a bigger pool of diverse actors to pull from in terms of age & nationality. Adam Driver was “fine” as Enzo Ferrari but are there no prolific older actors in their very late 50s/early 60s that could have pulled this role off? Is there no young up & coming Italian actress that could have portrayed Ferrari’s mistress? This is Michael Mann’s first feature film in almost a decade so that’s really the draw. It’s not like Woodley’s presence was going to make any difference. I know you need a "big name" or a recognizable actor to "sell" a movie but this is about the return of Michael Mann at the end of day.

With the exception of a few flashbacks, Ferrari focuses primarily on the 1957 Mille Miglia race along with Ferrari’s failing marriage & business. The issue here is even though the movie takes place over the course of one summer, there’s still the equivalent of three movies in this one biopic (a potential Right Stuff-style story about the team of racers hired by Ferrari, the horrific tragedy that came out of the 1957 Mille Miglia race, and Ferrari’s personal life at the time). This isn’t a quick 100 minute film but it’s still ten pounds of substance in a five pound bag. The movie ends at a weird place leaving me wanting another hour. But at a certain point I guess we do have to wrap things up. Perhaps this would have worked better as a mini-series? 

I’m giving Ferrari a hard time but there are some positives. I sensed pinches of modern-day Terrence Malick's style in some select isolated moments. I know that might turn some folks off but that's a good thing as far as I' concerned...

A Hidden Life / Ferrari

Knight Of Cups / Ferrari

Knight Of Cups / Ferrari

I’m not even that caught up in the visual accuracy or how much the actors look like the real life people they’re portraying. If anything we need to stray further away from that. The more obsessed some actors & filmmakers become with the look and mannerisms of their real life subjects - the more things turns in to a feature length SNL sketch (Viola Davis’ recent portrayal of Michelle Obama should have made folks do a universal reset on how biopics are approached). Mann doesn’t get caught up in any of that with Ferrari but there’s still a lack of chemistry between a lot of the actors and just an overall layer of flatness outside of Penelope Cruz’s portrayal as Laura Ferrari (I assure the accents are not the only problem with this movie).  
There are certainly a nice amount of signature Mann-style shots in Ferrari but he doesn't go full-on "Michael Mann" from start to finish (the trailer does a good job of capturing the best shots but those moments are stretched out inside of a 140+ minute film). If I'm being honest, even Public Enemies has more style than Ferrari which is a problem because, in my opinion, an Italian film full of sexy cars should be oozing with style from start to finish and that's just not the case here.


No matter how many mixed feelings I have, I still loved watching Ferrari on the big screen. That’s the only way to watch it. This movie falls short in a few places but I still encourage everyone to see it big. I suppose this is the best thing Mann has done since Miami Vice? But is that really saying much? 



I joined the guys over at Popcorn Eschaton to chat about the Frantz Fanon-based films; Luce and Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask.

Click here or the image above to go to the episode. 



James, Rob and myself continue our yearly tradition of New York Film Festival talk.

Click here or the image above to go to the episode.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023


Do not enter Lisandro Alonso’s Eureka with any expectations. If you’ve watched a trailer or read a review – forget anything you think you’re about to see. Don’t even watch the trailer or the handful of clips that are available online. It’s best to go in to Eureka with a clean slate. As a matter of fact – don’t even read this review any further until you’ve seen it. This is an intentionally deceptive movie that starts out as a playful mockery of Alonso’s last feature (Jauja) then quickly morphs in to a story about a modern-day Native American community in South Dakota.

Eureka isn’t exactly a movie you can spoil (outside of the first 15-20 minutes), but it’s best to compare it to other films within the same lane rather than “review” it. Imagine a spiritual sequel to Jauja (right down to Viggo Mortensen playing another father character looking for his missing daughter) that quickly switches over to an Uncle Boonmee/Tropical Malady/Blissfully Yours-like spiritual tale with pinches of Jarmusch’s Dead Man. I’m sure folks might even be reminded of Carlos Reygadas and/or Amat Escalante.

Eureka was shot by Aki Kaurismaki cinematographer Timo Salminen (the second collaboration between Alonso & Salminen) who's visual style can be seen all over the film...

Timo is one of the best, and he had championed my work, so I asked to collaborate with him. His visual style is another form of narration, if you want to call it that - Lisando Alonso, Film Comment
Ariel / Eureka

Lisandro Alonso has been an unofficial student/admirer of James Benning for quite some time and his latest effort is just proof of this on a visual level...
Used Innocence/ Eureka

Eureka also has some strong visual similarities to filmmakers that Alonso has name-dropped over the years as influences or sources of inspiration...

Similar opening scenes: 
Dead Man /

Blissfully Yours / Eureka

Blissfully Yours / 

Eureka is best enjoyed if you’ve seen Alonso’s previous feature; Jauja. I’m not usually a fan of director’s using their art to take shots at critics or to look directly in to the camera to wink at their fans, but this is an exception because it’s done so masterfully (I’m not sure when this will be released so you have time to check out Jauja before Eureka comes out if you haven’t yet in order to get the full experience).

Now…this movie is almost 2-1/2 hours long. Lisandro Alonso doesn’t use the entire feature to troll critics and wink at his fans. After getting all the naughty prankster stuff out of his system in the first section, the remainder of the film is as genuine as possible thanks to the dry comedic delivery of the wonderful non-professional cast (using non-professional actors can feel exploitive sometimes but that isn't the case here).

If it isn’t clear – I love this movie very much but I wouldn’t blindly recommend it to anyone unless you’re a fan of the director’s previous work and all the other cinematic reference points I namedropped earlier. I’m sure Lisandro Alonso wants as many people as possible to watch Eureka (this would be a hell of a movie to go in to blindly), but there is a core audience this was intended for. As an unofficial spokesperson for said audience – I can say this delivers and then some.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023


Okay. I'm going to say something a little schematic about French cinema. But if we imagine two lines, we can say there is [Jean] Renoir and [Robert] Bresson that gave us [Francois] Truffaut and [Jean-Luc] Godard, that gave us [Maurice] Pialat and [Jean] Eustache, that gave us [Arnaud] Desplechin and [Leos] Carax. I fall more on the Bresson/Godard/Eustache/Carax side than the other one - Bertrand Bonello,

That quote above is an important passage to remember before going in to Bertrand Bonello’s latest sci-fi tale because there are a lot of Leos Carax-isms throughout (beautiful-looking comedic absurdity masked underneath a layer of arthouse cinema). The Beast comes off like a cross between Holy Motors and Highlander with a pinch of Maya Deren’s Meshes Of The Afternoon told from the perspective of an incel. I can namedrop folks like Deren & Carax without giving any background because chances are anyone looking forward to The Beast will already be familiar with Bonello's work and his influences. This is not the kind of movie that you just blindly watch. Now...I know my description of this movie sounds like a fun little “gumbo” of influences & ideas, but at the end of the day it doesn’t work. That’s what’s so frustrating. To have so much in common with so many fun cinematic reference-points to be a big nothing almost takes extra effort to accomplish. I’m a Bertrand Bonello fan/occasional defender but I can’t defend this one. The Beast is very much a mixture of all the things I just mentioned but it’s kind of a mess as opposed to a well-crafted collage of ideas. I really don’t know who this was made for outside of bored disingenuous letterboxed "critics" that love to go against the grain and claim that bad movies are really misunderstood masterpieces. 

The Beast felt like two feature lengths films and a short mushed together in to one movie (in a way, this was Bonello’s She Hate Me). The film follows two lovers that cross paths with one another through different time periods. Bertrand Bonello takes the audience back & forth between the early 1900s and a post-Covid mask-wearing dystopian future with a pitstop in to modern day California.

The California section of the film, which owes a lot to Maya Deren’s Meshes and David Lynch’s Lost Highway, is the only interesting part of the movie but still not enough to stop me from checking my watch every 10-15 minutes (it should also be noted that this is Bertrand’s second feature in a row to borrow heavily from Maya Deren. Read my thoughts on Zombi Child here).

Meshes Of The Afternoon / The Beast

Meshes Of The Afternoon / The Beast

The Beast vision board: 

Earlier this year there was some press about The Beast being rejected from the Cannes film festival and now that I’ve seen it I kind of understand why. Movies don’t need to have a complete thought, a "satisfying" ending, or a set of rules to follow but I think The Beast would have benefited from a bit more structure. Somewhere within the 140+ minutes that is The Beast is a 72 minute feature that could have possibly worked. I’ve made this criticism before and I’ll do it again here - this movie is the equivalent of “showing your work” on a math test without getting to an actual answer.


Sunday, October 1, 2023


Scorpio Rising / Barbie

Now that some of the hype has died down I wanted to highlight some slightly left field comparisons I found between Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and a handful of films that were not name-dropped by Gerwig during her press run. I have nothing to add to the actual discourse of the film. I enjoyed it but there are already tons of essays & reviews regarding gender roles, the patriarchy, misogyny, “film bros”, etc. I have nothing unique to add to that conversation.

Now…for context, Gerwig sat down with letterboxd and highlighted a long list of movies that influenced the visual style of Barbie (Jacques Demy, Jacques Tati, Victor Fleming, Kubrick, etc etc). Click here to check out the video.

I don’t feel the need to highlight these comparisons because they’ve been run in to the ground. 

What I’m presenting are coincidental visual similarities to movies that haven’t really been mentioned that may or may not have made some kind of subconscious impact…

Barbie / The Unbelievable Truth

I realize that I’m opening up the door for comparisons to any movie with a splash of pink in it but that’s not what I’m trying to do here. I guess I’m just trying to throw out the possibility that so-called “arthouse” or underrated/under appreciated films may have left a sliver of lasting DNA on pop culture…

Georges Melies is kind of a default influence on pretty much all of cinema considering he was one of the earlier filmmakers. A lot of that default influence is all over Barbie...

Voyage To The Moon / Barbie

The Eclipse, The Courtship of the Sun and Moon / Barbie

The Mermaid / Barbie

The Mermaid / Barbie

Same applies to folks that came after Melies like Ernst Lubitch...

The Doll / Barbie

The Doll / Barbie

A possible Matrix reference?

The Matrix / Barbie

Which could also be a Total Recall reference...
Total Recall / Barbie

Gerwig is a major fan of Chantal Akerman, so Akerman's most colorful & playful film rubbing off on her isn't too farfetched...

Golden Eighties / 

Douglas Sirk wasn’t a name I remember Gerwig namedropping but her use of pink is quite reminiscent of Sirk’s…

Written On The Wind / Barbie

Written On The Wind / Barbie

And, naturally, other filmmakers who borrowed from Sirk (Todd Haynes, Fassbinder, etc) came to mind when thinking of Barbie

Barbie / Vlevet Goldmine

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story / Barbie

Lola / Barbie

Lola /

Lola /

The Wizard Of Oz is one of the biggest influences on Barbie (I don’t think this is any revelation). So naturally other Oz-influenced movies are going share visual similarities with Barbie…

Wild At Heart / Barbie

I’m not a film analyst but most of the things we do nowadays, also in advertising, lead back to Kenneth Anger’s work - Nicolas Winding Refn, Indiewire

This quote also kind of applies to Barbie

Fireworks / Barbie

Kustom Kar Kommandos / Barbie

Elvis’s music (and rumors about his sexuality) are associated with Kenneth Anger’s film so I don’t think it’s a reach to compare some of the dance numbers in Barbie involving the Kens with Elvis (naturally the dance sequence on the right brings Grease to mind but a lot of music and dance sequences in Grease can be traced back to Elvis)

Jailhouse Rock / Barbie

This is also interesting because Refn, who was synonymous with Ryan Gosling for a couple of years also borrowed heavily from Kenneth Anger (click here to read more).


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...