2017 Viewing Log

January
Dog Day Afternoon (1975, Sidney Lumet) 35mm – 5.6
Always Shine (2016, Sophia Takal) – 6.1
The Other Side (2015, Roberto Minervini) – 6.7
Silence (2016, Martin Scorsese) DP – 8.6
Hidden Figures (2016, Theodore Melfi) DP – 3.9
+Café Society (2016, Woody Allen) – 6.2 [up from 5.7]
Valley of Love (2015, Guillaume Nicloux) – 6.0
Happy Hour (2015, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi) – 7.6
+Moonlight (2016, Barry Jenkins) DP – 6.8 [up from 6.4]
Red Sorghum (1987, Zhang Yimou) – 6.7
Live by Night (2016, Ben Affleck) DP – 4.4
Paterson (2016, Jim Jarmusch) DP – 7.2
Don’t Think Twice (2016, Mike Birbiglia) – 3.6
A Monster Calls (2016, J.A. Bayona) DP – 4.9
+Silence (2016, Martin Scorsese) DP – 8.7 [up from 8.6]
Indignation (2016, James Schamus) – 5.9
+Elle (2016, Paul Verhoeven) DP – 7.3 [same]
Split (2016, M. Night Shyamalan) DP – 5.8
Ju Dou (1990, Zhang Yimou) – 7.0
Chronicle of a Summer (1961, Jean Rouch & Edgar Morin) – 6.9
+The Nice Guys (2016, Shane Black) – 5.8 [down from 5.9]
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016, Taika Waititi) – 5.2
+Cemetery of Splendour (2015, Apichatpong Weerasethakul) – 7.4 [up from 7.2]
Throne of Blood (1957, Akira Kurosawa) 35mm – 7.0
20th Century Women (2016, Mike Mills) DP – 6.9
Tampopo (1985, Juzo Itami) DP – 6.2
Swiss Army Man (2016, Daniel Scheinert & Daniel Kwan) – 3.1
The Bad Sleep Well (1960, Akira Kurosawa) 35mm – 7.0
The Mermaid (2016, Stephen Chow) – 6.0
Black Girl (1966, Ousmane Sembène) – 7.0
Christine (2016, Antonio Campos) – 4.4
Resident Evil (2002, Paul W.S. Anderson) – 6.3
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004, Alexander Witt) – 5.4
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007, Russell Mulcahy) – 6.6
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010, Paul W.S. Anderson) – 6.9
Resident Evil: Retribution (2012, Paul W.S. Anderson) – 7.3
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016, Paul W.S. Anderson) 3D – 7.2
Raise the Red Lantern (1991, Zhang Yimou) – 7.2
Julieta (2016, Pedro Almodóvar) DP – 6.5

February
Xala (1975, Ousmane Sembène) – 5.9
Toni Erdmann (2016, Maren Ade) DP – 8.0
+Groundhog Day (1993, Harold Ramis) – 5.7 [up from 4.8]
+20th Century Women (2016, Mike Mills) DP – 7.0 [up from 6.9]
Kaili Blues (2015, Bi Gan) – 6.9
I Am Not Your Negro (2016, Raoul Peck) DP – 7.1
Lumumba (2000, Raoul Peck) – 6.3
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017, Chad Stahelski) DP – 7.0
The Story of Qiu Ju (1992, Zhang Yimou) – 5.4
+Moonrise Kingdom (2012, Wes Anderson) – 7.8 [up from 7.0]
Elegy to the Visitor from the Revolution (2011, Lav Diaz) – 5.3
Hill of Freedom (2014, Hong Sang-soo) – 7.4
+Toni Erdmann (2016, Maren Ade) DP – 8.0 [same]
The Lego Batman Movie (2017, Chris McKay) DP – 5.9
Chocolat (1988, Claire Denis) – 6.2
To Live (1994, Zhang Yimou) – 7.3
Daughters of the Dust (1991, Julie Dash) DP – 6.2
+Inside Llewyn Davis (2013, Joel & Ethan Coen) – 7.4 [same]
The Mission (1999, Johnnie To) – 7.1
The Terrorizers (1986, Edward Yang) – 9.0
The Unspeakable Act (2012, Dan Sallitt) – 6.8
The Mend (2014, John Magary) – 6.8
The Son of Joseph (2016, Eugène Green) DP – 5.8
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974, Joseph Sargent) 35mm – 6.3
Charley Varrick (1973, Don Siegel) 35mm – 6.5
Une femme coquette (1955, Jean-Luc Godard)
Léolo (1992, Jean-Claude Lauzon) – 3.0
Sexy Beast (2000, Jonathan Glazer) 35mm – 6.2
Backyard Theatre (1973, no director credited)
As You Are (2016, Miles Joris-Peyrafitte) – 4.6
+Annie Hall (1977, Woody Allen) – 7.9 [down from 8.2]
Get Out (2017, Jordan Peele) DP – 6.3

Top 23 of 2016

2016 definitely wasn’t my first year of cinephilia, but it feels in many ways like the first concrete step towards it becoming my all-consuming passion. From joining and becoming immersed in Twitter to watching more and more to writing on here, Seattle Screen Scene, and Brooklyn Magazine, it’s been rather extraordinary.

The following list is formed from the reds, oranges, greens, and blues that I have seen at time of writing that were commercially released in New York City in 2016. It is woefully inadequate and incomplete, but nothing ever is in cinephilia.

1. Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)

2. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)

3. Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson)

4. My Golden Days (Arnaud Desplechin)

5. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook)

6. Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sang-soo)

7. Kate Plays Christine (Robert Greene)

8. Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (Stephen Cone)

9. O.J.: Made in America (Ezra Edelman)

10. Elle (Paul Verhoeven)

11. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt)

12. Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve)

13. SPL II: A Time for Consequences (Soi Cheang)

14. Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

15. The Edge of Seventeen (Kelly Fremon Craig)

16. Creepy (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

17. Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho)

18. Sunset Song (Terence Davies)

19. The Shallows (Jaume Collet-Serra)

20. Sully (Clint Eastwood)

21. Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno)

22. Everybody Wants Some!! (Richard Linklater)

23. Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman)

My Top 10 Discoveries During 2016 (for first-time viewings of films made before 2000)

  1. A Brighter Summer Day (1991, Edward Yang)
  2. Chungking Express (1994, Wong Kar-wai)
  3. Trust (1990, Hal Hartley)
  4. Wavelength (1967, Michael Snow)
  5. Manhunter (1986, Michael Mann)
  6. The Devils (1971, Ken Russell)
  7. Carlito’s Way (1993, Brian De Palma)
  8. Out 1 (1971, Jacques Rivette)
  9. Ran (1985, Akira Kurosawa)
  10. Days of Being Wild (1990, Wong Kar-wai)

In conclusion:

2016 Film Poll #2: Senses of Cinema

Ryan Swen
Freelance film critic, Seattle.

Based on 2016 New York City commercial releases.

1. Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson, 2016)
O.J.: Made in America (Ezra Edelman, 2016)
Kate Plays Christine (Robert Greene, 2016)
If there was one genre of film that felt truly innovative this year, it was documentary, and these three films stood out as revolutionary in their own way; even more importantly, all are intensely passionate and emotional.

2. Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan, 2016)
The most achingly moving film of the year, but also delightful, shocking, and sensitively interior.

3. Shānhé gùrén (Mountains May Depart, Jia Zhangke, 2015)
Both a grandiose affair and a slow-burn melodrama, this film is multi-faceted and heartbreaking in a way that grows in the mind with each passing day.

4. Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse (My Golden Days, Arnaud Desplechin, 2015)
A wonderfully nostalgic film as beguiling as the subject’s undying love.

5. Agassi (The Handmaiden, Park Chan-wook, 2016)
While most of the other films on this list aim for subdued minimalism, this film sounds the call for maximalism loud and clear, marrying a delightfully twisted narrative with the most pleasurable romance of the year.

6. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt, 2016)
L’Avenir (Things to Come, Mia Hansen-Løve, 2016)
Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho, 2016)
A triple bill of women living their quotidian lives, impeccably and empathetically looked upon by masterful, quietly audacious directors.

7. Jigeumeun-matgo-geuttaeneun-tteullida (Right Now, Wrong Then, Hong Sang-soo, 2015)
The most conversational and confessional film of the year, twice.

8. Rak Ti Khon Kaen (Cemetery of Splendour, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015)
Appropriately mesmerizing filmmaking on every level, woven in with a history that always seems just out of reach.

9. Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (Stephen Cone, 2015)
The Edge of Seventeen (Kelly Fremon Craig, 2016)
Two films about teens that feel wholly, agonizingly authentic.

10. Shā Pò Láng Èr (SPL II: A Time for Consequences, Soi Cheang, 2015)
Kurîpî (Creepy, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2016)
The Shallows (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2016)
Shin Gojira (Shin Godzilla, Hideaki Anno, 2016)
Four great arguments for genre filmmaking, all executed with brutal precision and their share of thrilling highs and only slightly less amazing lows.

2016 Film Poll #1: Seattle

1. Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)
2. Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson)
3. My Golden Days (Arnaud Desplechin)
4. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook)
5. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke)
6. Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
7. Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sang-soo)
8. Kate Plays Christine (Robert Greene)
9. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt)
10. Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve)

Honorable Mentions: Sunset Song (Terence Davies), Sully (Clint Eastwood), SPL II: A Time for Consequences (Soi Cheang), Creepy (Kiyoshi Kurosawa), Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho), The Edge of Seventeen (Kelly Fremon Craig), The Shallows (Jaume Collet-Serra), Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno)

Films That Didn’t Receive a Seattle Release: O.J.: Made in America (Ezra Edelman), Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (Stephen Cone)

O.J.: Made in America

****1/2 (Tour-de-force)

O.J.: Made in America is not a call to revolution. It is not a smear campaign or an overt attack on the LAPD or any other group; instead it is a deeply analytical, deeply felt portrait of one man in the United States, but that is all that Ezra Edelman needs to create this Rorschach test of a film. It is a tragedy, an elegy, and a document of the most exacting and inclusive scope. Perhaps it is unwise to define a film in such lofty terms, but O.J.: Made in America demands it by virtue of its vital length and its monumental subject matter.

The documentary’s success is all the more surprising because it arises from the ESPN 30 for 30 unit, which exclusively deals in sports documentaries. This is not to denigrate the series as a whole (I’ve seen few, if any of the other documentaries) but to illustrate the improbability of the film’s scope. O.J. Simpson, crucially, isn’t treated as a simple entry point for the movie’s larger observations on L.A. or even the entire nation; he is given equal weight as a larger-than-life figure, and Edelman presents the sometimes unbelievable events of his improbable life with the same soberness as the boiling racial tensions of the “real world”.

This dichotomy between Simpson’s life, as his football stardom propelled him to nationwide fame and his private life spiraled, and the continual struggle of the black community in Los Angeles is perhaps the true subject of the documentary. Edelman balances the two narratives with a keen sense of balance in both runtime and content. Moving back and forth just before the viewer registers just how much time has been spent on each part, the documentary fits an almost equivalent amount of information—and, even more importantly, context—in each corresponding section. In the first three parts, where the divide is much clearer, the intersection of O.J. and L.A. is rare (most notably in the bravura 1968 section, which juxtaposes the glory of O.J.’s Heisman year and corresponding media appearances with the anger and numerous assassinations outside the USC bubble), but by the time of his trial in the closing minutes of the third part, the line is erased.

The trial is undoubtedly the most publicized and exciting part of the documentary, and the documentary delves deeply into the multiple corrosive influences and mistakes that led to the infamous verdict. But O.J.: Made in America‘s status as a look into the two subjects is made even more clear in the surrounding timespans. From the impossibly important events, such as the Watts or Rodney King riots, to the almost irrelevant, like O.J.’s movie career or his wildly successful (and illuminating) representation of Hertz car rentals, Edelman incorporates them all, teasing out the inherent racial tensions and compromises that seemed to engulf practically everything that O.J. and L.A. did over nearly half a century. The documentary never feels static or removed from the present day for many reasons, but one less evident one is the use of new non-interview footage. Often taking the form of gliding helicopter shots over the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum or of L.A. in general, they are used to link the stories of Simpson and Los Angeles together with no small amount of fluidity.

Without a narrator, the meat of O.J.: Made in America is the archival footage and interview that give the documentary life, and an overwhelming amount has assembled in service of a very clear thesis: to show how O.J., in some ways, is Los Angeles, embodying all of its contradictions and tensions between while covering it with a smiling facade. No aspect of O.J.’s life, and probably few of the most important events in Los Angeles, are left out, and it seems as if almost every key player (and many people on the periphery) have been convinced into appearing on camera. Footage from O.J.’s football career all the way to his current incarceration in Nevada—audaciously placed at the very beginning to throw away any illusions about his ultimate fate—is included, and not dissimilar to other narrative films it lends an added sense of poignancy to see Simpson age over the years as he walked further and further away from the light. Edelman follows him everywhere, even going down the rabbit hole of his wild living in Miami after the trial, and creates a truly human portrait of this at times mythical man, capturing his genuinely good qualities and laying them beside his irredeemable flaws, especially the extensive abuse that would lead up to the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown. The lively talking heads aid this sense of humanity, giving multiple perspectives on both O.J. and Los Angeles, and Edelman purposefully chooses not to censor any of them, leading to often conflicting and even outright racist remarks (on occasion, the editing almost creates a verbal sparring match between two interviewees).

All of this is to say that O.J.: Made in America is not a revolution in terms of its craft, a quality almost undeniably for the better. By adopting this sober, straightforward approach, Edelman focuses on the most important aspect, the information, and uses it to highlight the flaws of American society as a whole. Only O.J., who was able to effectively move between black and white culture and won his trial in large part because of his exclusive status, could work as such a galvanizing conduit. And in this method of exposé, O.J.: Made in America is its own sort of revolution, incisive but never dogmatic.

Thoughts on an Aborted Viewing of Evolution of a Filipino Family

A large part of what made Out 1 such a compelling, mesmerizing experience was the fact that I saw it in a theater and with other people. Watching such a film of notorious duration in a place where I couldn’t just get up or pull up another screen helps, certainly for every film but especially one of this kind. Leaving aside the fact that the two and a half hours of Evolution of a Filipino Family didn’t impress me nearly as much as the first episode of Out 1, I feel that the meditative pace of Evolution would have played significantly better in a theater where the rewind button was not an option.

The rewind button, however, helped little when it came to the surprisingly convoluted plot. Neither the Boyhood-esque portrait from Robert Koehler’s review at TIFF nor the non-linear style I had read from someone online, it is instead two parallel storylines, roughly speaking, a fact gleaned later on after I had taken numerous breaks and rewinds in an attempt to figure out the plot. Out 1 offers numerous pleasures aside from its relatively inconsequential plot, but the contours that I found most informed Evolution seemed fragmented. If I had gotten further, and been more in tune with Lav Diaz’s elongated rhythm, then things could have been different, but as is…

It must also be mentioned that Diaz’s style seemed rather different from expected. Though in the first half hour there are some long takes of landscape and people moving through it similar to that of Weerasethakul (in my limited experience) much of the film proceeds in a rather uninhibited vein: the shooting style is the same but the comment is filled with violence and intimations of the surrounding world, along with those rather odd radio stories; whether they are meant to echo the narrative or not seemed inconclusive.

Moonlight

***1/2 (Excellent)

The only true constant in Moonlight is its look. It is an odd sort of luminescence, bringing out the vibrancy of the subject while turning everything not in the immediate foreground into a impressionistic haze of blurred colors. The effect is definitely one of immediacy, but crucially, it is immediacy that belongs to all time periods: apart from some signposts in the form of cars, cell phones, and music, the setting of the film, Miami, doesn’t seem to change all that much. The background of run-down homes, barred windows, and an moonlit beach stay the same, while the people and their changes are highlighted in stunning detail.

The movie’s visual style mirrors Barry Jenkins’ approach towards his main character, Chiron. The story of Chiron’s growth during three decades in Miami, Moonlight functions less like a biography and more like a series of snapshots. Each section, denoted by the name Chiron goes by in each section (Little, Chiron, and Black, respectively), is set over a few consecutive days, and the events are at once the most consequential and yet seem like transitions to different stages of Chiron’s life. They are formative moments, in a sense, and they come together over the course of the film to gather a quiet, cumulative force that dazes the viewer, making them feel as lost yet as at home as Chiron does.

For the most part, Moonlight follows the two influences that come to define Chiron: his parent figures, particularly his junkie mother Paula (a by turns manipulative and broken Naomie Harris) and drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali, overwhelmingly compassionate), and his burgeoning identity as a gay black man. More than often, these are inextricably entwined. In the first scene, young Chiron, called Little in this segment (an almost mute yet expressive Alex Hibbert), runs past Juan while being chased by bullies. After this initial coincidence, the film’s moments arise out of unexpected developments in relationships already well established, as Chiron grows and learns more about the people around him.

But through other people, he learns about himself too. Though the moments that ultimately have the most impact on Chiron’s existence come invariably at the end of each chapter, the ones that affect him more on an emotional level come more towards the middle. For Little, there are many but none more inexplicably serene as when Juan teaches him to swim, holding him in an almost baptismal pose in the ocean. For Chiron as a teenager (a belligerent and remarkably self-contained Ashton Sanders) it is an encounter on the beach with Kevin, his lifelong friend, the sexual nature of which plays out entirely through hands moving through the sand. For Black (Trevante Rhodes, hulking but astonishingly sensitive), it is an extended conversation at the diner where Kevin (André Holland, immensely caring) now cooks, the two not having seen each other since the previous chapter. These moments are never announced, never spotlighted. But it is precisely because of this that they have such power; in contrast to other scenes (mostly involving Paula and a gang of bullies) that seem at times a bit overdetermined, harrowing as they are in the moment, these moments of serenity are as unadorned as they would be in life.

And it is this sense of life that makes Moonlight so dazzling. Though it has as much to say about masculinity as it does gay identity—Black, a drug dealer in Atlanta (before he goes back to visit Kevin in Miami) is almost a mirror image of his father figure Juan, complete with a grill—it is at heart the story of a boy who learns to become a man. But Jenkins never lets it fall into clichés, with his sketch-like approach, his luminous depiction of Miami, and most importantly of all, his grounding in Chiron. Despite, or perhaps because of, his representation of Chiron in three actors and three time periods, Moonlight is truly emotional and universal while remaining profoundly coded in the black experience. The final two shots both provide a conclusion and a continuation; at heart, we are all children in the waves of time.

The Heart of the World

****1/2 (Tour-de-force)

“The Heart of the World” is at once quite simple and inordinately complex, stymieing most sensible attempts to dissect it. A story laid out in broad terms but filled with the grand tradition that proceeds it, it is a behemoth of small stature. Guy Maddin dares to use just six minutes to not only lay out the cinematic condition, but to wrap it in a tale of love, revenge, and sacrifice that becomes universal.

At its core, “The Heart of the World” is fashioned after propaganda films, and thus its most important goal is to induce feeling. In the traditional propaganda films it is most inspired by, these are patriotic feelings, but Maddin manages to enlarge and deepen them, retaining the pride while adding a clear emotional core in the three individuals that never distracts from the world-altering consequences. The narrative is both simple and ludicrous enough to work—a love triangle that reaches its fever pitch just as the end of the world (via a literal heart attack) arrives, only to be interrupted by a capitalist—and Maddin recognizes and adapts to how narratively restricting six minutes is. But he also finds time to insert the beautifully bizarre: a phallic embalming machine, strange laboratories, an actor who tries to become Christ.

Of course, “The Heart of the World”‘s most stellar aspect is Maddin’s crazed visual sense, unleashing a barrage of close-ups that collapses cross-cutting in on itself. It is never incoherent, which only adds to the disorientation of the already strange images. And yet, this effect causes the viewer to have the most curious emotion: pride. Whether it be caused primarily by the formal mastery, the soaring and hyperkinetic score, or just the Soviet-inspired images, this sense of pride is among the most awe-inspiring feelings I’ve had watching a film; it appeals to the cinephile with its final exultation of “Kino”, but it also appeals to a primal thrill, an elemental fascination with the kind of purity of expression that Maddin uses here. “The Heart of the World” is a short for all humanity, beautiful, crazed, and breathless.

The Shallows

**** (Great)

Jaume Collet-Serra operates in an entirely different style in his latest triumph, The Shallows. While his past movies largely worked either in horror or action, and situated themselves to either confined locations or maze-like cities, this film is in a sort of middle-ground, a thriller taking place entirely on a secret beach in Mexico. The setting does a significant amount to illustrate the underlying qualities that distinguish the movie so much: just big enough to allow for the Macgyver-esque tricks that Nancy must pull to survive the ordeal she faces, but secluded enough to ensure she is almost solely on her own, all mixed in with the at turns gorgeous and menacing ocean waves that her foe swims through.

More than a little bit of the genius that propels The Shallows must be accredited to Anthony Jaswinski’s screenplay, which is thoroughly and fully no-frills and constructs the simple premise with care. After an partially extraneous in medias res prologue, the first act is almost fully idyllic, slowly putting the pieces into place while indulging in genuine pleasure. Some time is spent on the journey to the beach, and Collet-Serra expends equal focus on backstory—with some wonderful digital projections of iPhone pictures—and simple banter between Nancy and her driver Carlos, while the forest glides by the windows. And even more time is spent on Nancy after she arrives and surfs, including a scenic three-screen video-chat that furnishes the rest of the backstory in an economical, if not necessarily vital, manner. It is inaccurate to say that Collet-Serra is trying to lull the viewer into a false sense of security, as there are more than a few fake-outs; moreso that he establishes an almost dreamlike mood that extends to much of the movie after the attack. Even the surfing montage set to an electronic song is cut-up and eventually abandoned, favoring the moments when Nancy goes beneath the water, treating them as near ethereal.

Of course, it is in the water, where Nancy feels at home, that she is attacked, though only after she approaches a rotting whale carcass. The scene’s progression is presented in the terms that define the rest of the film. The whale is a roiling mass of blood and blubber that sends Nancy into a panic as she tries to get away, only to be pulled beneath the waves. No part of the actual attack is shown onscreen, instead presented in one prolonged shot of Nancy underwater as blood slowly tinges the water.

The rest of The Shallows is pure thriller, as Collet-Serra finally slips into his most comfortable mode. Despite the open water, and in some ways because of it, Nancy is confined to a rock that becomes an island during low tide, adding an additional time constraint to her already despairing situation. Blake Lively also seems to become even stronger in this spare setting; she delivers the exposition in an easy-going manner, which only makes her urgency even more striking. Whether it be improvising stitches with earrings or judging the amount of time she has while the shark is circling, Lively captures even the moments when she is laying on the rock in despair seem of utmost importance.

And it is these moments that Collet-Serra is interested in the most as well. Much of the film is spent in what could be considered a sort of downtime, the inevitable space between the thrilling moments when Lively must venture into the more open water and face the shark, stinging coral, and in one entirely unexpected, luminous scene, a mass of jellyfish. There are no shortage of close-ups, especially on Nancy’s face that registers weariness, fear, and pain in unmistakable detail, but there are also startling overhead shots and wide-spanning vistas that never fail to capture the looming presence just below the surface. The economical nature of the players and things involved is of utmost importance, as the various human presences (including surfers she had met before and a distant ship) all make little difference until the end, and a seagull (hiliariously named Steven Seagull) provides for a consistent companion and a silent source of strength for Nancy.

Everything ultimately serves a purpose in this airtight film, but it never feels preordained, flowing as smoothly as the waves, and Collet-Serra rarely lets the film get out of hand as Nancy moves to the buoy that serves as the venue for the final encounter. It feels earned, not just because of the ideas introduced in the exposition or the astonishing Go-Pro message Nancy recorded before she moves, but because of the physicality of the film, how visceral each attack feels (regardless of whether it lands or not). And the final scene, another surfing scene set to Sia, is earned as well, for both Nancy and the viewer, who have both gone through a truly awe-inspiring thrill ride through life and death.

Kwaku Ananse

“Kwaku Ananse” perhaps demands to be seen in its specific cultural context. Its narrative is rather opaque, following a young woman (that the notes say is American, though this isn’t mentioned in the short proper) as she journeys into a rural area of Ghana for some sort of funeral. This is intertwined with the myth—explained by the woman—of a spider that gathered all of the world’s knowledge into a gourd, and at a funeral for what appears to be the spider the short collapses into itself, putting in almost surreal touches as the woman ventures further into the jungle. “Kwaku Ananse”‘s pleasures lie mostly in its cinematography, which is almost unnaturally vibrant. The way it weaves in and out of the funeral and brings out the liveliness of the jungle and natural organisms seems nothing less than hypnotic.