Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Possum: The Puppet Pulls the Strings

Puppets are always bad news in horror movies—really bad. Not quite as sinister as ventriloquist dummies, but just as creepy as dolls. This titular character is one of the worst. One profoundly damaged puppeteer is forced to lug him around, even though he is terrified of what the spider-like thing might do in Matthew Holness’s Possum (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Philip is coming home to rural Norfolk, but he does not look to happy about it. He does not have happy memories of his childhood in this standoffish village, but the shy, hulking brute really does not have any happy memories, from anywhere. The details are mysterious, but viewers quickly deduce Philip has returned under a vague cloud of disgrace. His dingy boyhood home will not exactly cheer him up, especially since he must still share it with his casually cruel step-father, Morris—and that whatever-it-is in his leather satchel.

It is hard to say whether Possum is an arachnid version of Chucky or some kind of psychological projection. Either way, Philip just can’t ditch it/him, not matter how hard he tries. Regardless of its true nature, Morris takes sadistic glee in needling Philip over his deference to it. Alas, Possum may have implicated Philip in the presumed abduction of a local teen while he was in a dissociative state—as he has perhaps done before, which might partially explain the puppeteer’s pariah status.

The look and vibe of Possum are absolutely overpowering. Frankly, there are not a lot of jump scares or even discrete precipitating moments in the film. It is more like a prolonged feeling of dread. Rather than Friday the 13th and Halloween, Possum shares a kinship with Lynch’s Eraserhead and Beckett’s Film. It is impressive filmmaking, but maybe not so wildly fun to be immersed in.

Regardless, Sean Harris and Alun Armstrong are remarkably good together in this near two-hander. It is downright painful watching Harris, because he makes it so vividly and viscerally clear what an open wound Philip’s psyche truly is. In contrast, Armstrong’s sly Maurice could be a Dickensian villain, if he were not so tacky and gross.

This is one grim, messed up film, but you have to give Holness credit for so thoroughly realizing his vision. There is no question he takes us all the way down the rabbit hole. Recommended for adventurous viewers who appreciate high-end horror, Possum opens this Friday (11/2) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

3rd i ’18: Tumbbad

The Rao family lives in Western India, but H.P. Lovecraft would probably feel comfortable in their hardscrabble village. It constantly rains there and ancient gods torment mortals nearly as often. Vinayak Rao really can’t complain, because he basically asked for it. In order to discover the fabled family treasure, he must also take on the dreaded family curse in Rahi Anil Barve & Adesh Prasad’s Tumbbad (trailer here), which screens during this year’s 3rd i International South Asian Film Festival in San Francisco.

 For complicated reasons, Rao’s mother cares for the monstrous grandmother of her lover, his illegitimate father. Granny cannot die, because she has been cursed by an ancient god. The old dear is always ravenous, but she will conk out like Pavlov’s dog if you tell her: “go to sleep or Hastar will get you.” However, Rao does not want her to sleep. He wants her to tell him where the treasure is, but he will have to wait until he can return to his father’s abandoned castle as a grown man to renew their conversation.

The good news is the treasure really is there. The bad news is Rao will have to perform a complicated ritual to keep Hastar at bay every time he wants to “withdraw” some gold coins. Of course, a greedy cad like Rao is always willing to risk his life and soul for financial gain.

It is hard to pigeon-hole Tumbbad in a genre box, because it incorporates elements of horror, dark fantasy, and moral fables. Regardless, Barve, Prasad, and co-screenwriters Mitesh Shah and Anand Gandhi create one heck of an ominous world. It is also pretty ambitious filmmaking, encompassing nearly thirty years of Indian history, with each of the three chapters vividly reflecting the tenor of its respective era.

The genre elements are also exceedingly weird. It probably will not scare horror fans, like Halloween or The Exorcist did the first (or maybe fiftieth) time you saw them, but it is all just very strange and disconcerting. There is also an element of EC Comics morality at play, because the filmmakers clearly beg to differ with Gordon Gekko. They do not think greed is good at all, but rather the seed of everyone’s downfall instead.

Producer Sohum Shah is sufficiently intense and mercurial to hold his own against an evil elder god like Hastar. Deepak Damle is also spectacularly sleazy as Rao’s loan shark-gold-dealer-opium-broker Raghav. Watching him scheme and kvetch is quite amusing, even though we immediately assume he will come to a bad end, because obviously.

Tumbbad is just soaked in malevolent moodiness and ancient evil, which is why it is so cool. It is a very distinctive macabre fable, but anyone from any cultural background can appreciate its grim logic and massively heavy karma. Recommended for fans of the dark fantastical, Tumbbad screens this Saturday (11/3) as part of the 2018 3rd i in San Francisco.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Prospect: Claim-Jumpers in Space

Eventually, everything in space will be just as shabby as most of the Earth. It really will not take long, due to the cramped spaces and closed systems. Such is the case with the patched together space vessel piloted by Cee and her father Damon. When it breaks down, they find themselves literally in a world of hurt. The claim-jumping bad guys will also be a problem in Christopher Caldwell & Zeek Earl’s space western Prospect (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Cee would really prefer to put down roots and lead a normal life, but her father, an itinerant space miner and trader insists on pursuing one dubious claim after another. He might actually have a line on something big this time, but they will be cutting it close. They will only have a limited time to harvest a fabled gem deposit before rendezvousing with the final interstellar transit servicing these parts. Unfortunately, their crash-landing sets them behind schedule. A fatal encounter with a couple of outlaws will be even costlier.

Despite her reluctance, Cee must work together with the surviving outlaw Ezra, if she wants to get back to human civilization. He is no boy scout that’s for sure—talkative too—but there are even more dangerous people at large on the planet.

Prospect is definitely playing with the archetypes of two beloved genres. Think of it as the Heinlein juvenile version of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but in space, there are no stinking badges. Yet, it never feels like a gimmick. Instead, there is a tragic inevitability to Caldwell & Earl’s narrative, which pays off in a major way.

Somehow, as Cee, Sophie Thatcher seems to mature before our eyes over the course of the film. Pedro Pascal does some of his best work ever as the morally ambiguous Ezra. They are both terrific together, totally selling the subtle evolution of their shotgun partnership. Unfortunately, we can hardly see the space-helmeted Sheila Vand portraying one of the third act mercs, but she still definitely came to play. Andre Royo is also all kinds of creepy as a survivor who has gone slightly nuts, in a Heart of Darkness kind of way.

This is also a great looking film, from the ominously pollen-heavy atmosphere to the scruffy space ship decor, which brings to mind John Carpenter’s Dark Star, Roger Corman’s enjoyable rip-off Space Raiders, and even classic, un-digitally-enhanced Star Wars interiors. Earl’s cinematography and the craftsmanship of the design team are all wonderfully evocative. Frustratingly, the science fiction press tends to ignore indie upstarts like this, but in a few years, this will a favorite of nearly every fan at Comic-Con. Very highly recommended for genre enthusiasts and mainstream audiences alike, Prospect opens this Friday (11/2) in New York, at the Regal Union Square.

Searching for Ingmar Bergman: Von Trotta Remembers the Great Auteur

The hard truth is there simply are no filmmakers still around of the same generation and stature as Ingmar Bergman. Magarethe von Trotta might be as close as we can get. He helmed his first film nearly thirty years before von Trotta’s directorial debut, but he offered her considerable personal and professional encouragement over the years. Von Trotta takes stock of Bergman’s Bergmanesque life and his remarkable body of work, giving special attention to his Munich years in Searching for Ingmar Bergman (trailer here), “co-directed” by Felix Moeller (her son) & Bettina Böhler, which opens this Friday in New York.

Any mention of Bergman is likely to mind his muse and lover, Liv Ulmann, who soon appears for a sit-down with von Trotta (they rather appear to be old friends). Although none of Bergman’s contemporaries are left, von Trotta talks with several of the accomplished actresses, who graced his films, including Julia Dufvenius, who starred in his final film, Saraband, from 2003.

Bergman’s sensitive handing of his ensembles, particularly actresses becomes one of von Trotta’s primary themes, along with his neurotic insecurity and anxiety that bordered on depression. However, that was all part of his artistic temperament, which Bergman chose to embrace. Von Trotta also gleans some insights from younger filmmakers, such as Ruben Östland, Mia Hansen-Løve, and Olivier Assayas (who probably has the most thoughtful perspective to offer).

Of course, there are generous clips from Bergman’s films as well. We see quite a bit of The Seventh Seal and The Hour of the Wolf, which makes sense, since they boast some of the starkest, most iconic imagery of his entire oeuvre. Not surprisingly, This Can’t Happen Here, his disowned spy thriller, is sadly overlooked again, but so is Smiles of a Summer Night. Alas, that is the problem with having so many masterworks to your credit.

In many ways, Searching is a safe and conventional docu-tribute, but von Trotta’s credibility and relationship with Bergman clearly opened a lot of doors, literally. Many of her interview segments consist of relaxed chats over coffee at her colleagues’ flats. That lowkey, amiable vibe serves the film quite well. She does not duck awkward subjects, including Bergman’s extensive and complicated family, but she does not dwell on them either. Nicely balanced and arguably more engaging than Dheeraj Akolkar’s Liv& Ingmar, Searching for Ingmar Bergman is recommended for cineastes and Bergman admirers when it opens this Friday (11/2) in New York, at the Quad Cinema.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Rampant: Joseon Zombies

Zombies have gone global. There are examples of the shuffling hordes in films from dozens of countries, but none has had the ravenous impact of Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan. It might just be the best zombie movie since the original Night of the Living Dead, but his film is not radically dissimilar to Romero’s world or that of the Walking Dead. However, Kim Sang-hoon puts a distinctly Korean-spin on the genre, by turning fleshing eating zombies loose in a Joseon-era tale of courtly intrigue. The kingdom faces foreign, domestic, and undead peril in Kim’s Rampant (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Technically, Prince Ganglim has been a hostage of the Qing emperor, but the wastrel playboy loved every minute of it. Much to his regret, he has returned to Joseon to protect the late crown prince’s wife and unborn son. Alas, the heir apparent martyred himself in front of the oppressive King Lee Jo (their father) to protect his rebellious followers. Logically, Ganglim must now be the crown prince, but nobody is happy about that prospect—least of all him.

Naturally, Prince Ganglim is rather put out when he is not met by a welcoming party that befits his stature. He is even more annoyed when a gang of assassins arranges a tardy reception. Arguably, the zombie attack is somewhat fortuitous, even though Ganglim probably could have handled them on his own. He might be a profligate hedonist, but the prince is also a skilled warrior. Regardless, the incident forces the Prince to get real, acknowledge the rampaging “demons,” and forge a reluctant alliance with the local rebel underground, including the attractive but contemptuous Deok-hee and the badass Buddhist Monk Daegil. Frustratingly, the king and his treasonous ministers are difficult to convince. Mostly, they prefer to keep their heads buried in the sand, but Minister of War Kim Ja-joon fully understands the demon apocalypse, which he intends to exploit for his own political gain, sort of like FDR deliberately allowing the Japanese sneak attack on Pearly Harbor—allegedly.

Hardcore zombie fans should understand there is not a lot of undead action in the first half of the film, but in this case that is a good thing, because it means Kim and screenwriter Hwang Jo-yoon invest the time to fully establish the political intrigue and royal family dysfunction. The Joseon court is not merely a colorful backdrop. The conspiratorial skullduggery and the zombie uprising are thoroughly intertwined, which is a major reason why Rampant is so satisfyingly cool.

Hyun Bin cuts the right figure for Prince Ganglim. There is no question he has the leading man look and the action chops, but he nicely brings out the Prince’s humanity over time. Jeong Man-sik shows a hitherto unseen shtickiness as Ganglim’s man-servant Hak-su, but he still manages to redeem himself at crunch time. In contrast, Jang Dong-gun is cold, clammy, and ruthless as Kim Ja-joon, but he never seems to enjoy being evil.

When the zombies attack in earnest, Kim Sang-hoon goes big, creating huge, inspired centerpiece sequences that combine zombie horror with martial arts sword play. This is movie magic at its finest. Yet, the awakening of the Prince’s sense of responsibility and idealism is also pretty stirring stuff. Comparisons with Yeon Sang-ho’s smash hit will be inevitable (especially since the publicity materials herald it as the new zombie film from the production company that brought you Busan), but Rampant really is its own film. Highly recommended for fans of zombie movies and action-historicals, Rampant opens this Friday (11/2) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

Welcome to Mercy: Nunsploitation and Head Trips, Latvian-Style

Usually in horror movies, the Catholic Church is our last, best refuge from demonic evil. However, nuns and their convents are a glaring exception. From Mother Joan of the Angels to The Devil’s Doorway, bad things always seem to happen in nunneries. Perhaps this Latvian convent is the exception. Maybe it really can help an American woman displaying signs of the stigmata or perhaps the sisters will lead her further astray. There is a good chance it is too late for her regardless in Tommy Bertelsen’s Welcome to Mercy (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Madeline has returned to her parents’ rustic Latvian home, because she learned her ailing father could slip away at any second. However, her estranged mother is less than thrilled she made the effort. Reluctantly, she lets Madeline and her granddaughter Willow in out of the blustery Baltic cold. Rather embarrassingly, her standoffishness is vindicated when Madeline starts having violent fits.

To protect Willow, whom Madeline nearly throttled, Father Joseph recommends she remand herself over to the Sisters of Merciful Mercy. Evidently. They are experts when it comes to authenticating stigmata phenomenon. Unfortunately, the Mother Superior quickly concludes Madeline is not experiencing stigmata. Instead, it is a manifestation of her own trauma, which Madeline will have to face, whether she likes it or not.

Despite all the trappings of religious horror, Mercy segues into a mind-tripping movie when Madeline tumbles down the rabbit hole of her own subconscious. Soon, she is flashing forwards and backwards. Her perception is decidedly unreliable, but most of the nuns behave in a glaringly suspicious manner, so it is tricky to form any hard and fast judgements.

Bertelsen and screenwriter Kristen Ruhlin upend reality so many times, viewers will completely lose their bearings. For a while, it is cool to watch a film go for broke over and over again, but eventually Mercy reaches a point where it becomes clear they did not have enough bread crumbs to lead them out of the forest and had no idea how to end it all.

Still, there is no denying the film’s sinister atmosphere or the darkly surreal imagery summoned up during Madeline’s bad trips. Mercy is totally intense throughout the second act and most of the third, but there is no punctuation mark to go at the end. Nevertheless, Ruhlin is totally convincing as the freaked out and profoundly alienated Madeline. Watching her get dragged through one Hell after another is absolutely harrowing.

As Father Joseph, Latvian theater legend Juris Strenga is also all kinds of weird, but in a way that is hard to pin down (besides his crazy hair). However, Lily Newmark (from Pin Cushion) eventually steals the film as August, the friendly young novice nun—with a secret.

This is a well-crafted film that is admittedly quite effective in the moment, but the abrupt and untidy conclusion does not pay-off on viewers’ considerable investment in the preceding madness. It is better than most lazy exercises in low budget horror, but Don’t Go with Stephen Dorff is much more successful at blowing apart and then magically re-assembling reality. Basically, Mercy is a lot like Sister Act, but it is less blatantly the instrument of Satan’s will.  Recommended for hardcore fans of psychological and nunsploitation horror, Welcome to Mercy opens this Friday (11/2) in New York, at the IFC Center.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Asian World ’18: The Road Not Taken

Road trip movies are typically comedies, but the Gobi Desert in northwestern China is not conducive to light-hearted romps. That suits the hard luck of Yong, a bumbling ostrich farmer. The climate should be hospitable for his flock, but he still managed to default on a local gangster’s loan. To stave off the foreclosure of his ex-wife’s flat, Yong agrees to do him a favor by babysitting a rather sullen young boy in Tang Gaopeng’s The Road Not Taken (trailer here), which screens during the 2018 Asian World Film Festival.

It is blatantly obvious to the audience “the kid,” as he is simply referred to throughout the film, has been kidnapped from his father, a powerful local official, but Yong is painfully slow on the uptake. Brother Five needs to stash their hostage someplace, while he does the bidding of his bigger boss, Mr. Lee, so he leaves him in the not-so-safe safekeeping of “Uncle” Yong.

Yong would have been happy to let the kid mope, until he called his ex and heard a man in the background. Naturally, he precipitously storms off to Taibailiang to have it out with her, with the kid hiding in the back of his truck. One accident and an awkward confrontation later, Yong and the kid are hitching their way to Taibailiang with Mei, a tough trucker, who still pines for her absconded husband. Even though she can tell Yong is a schemer, the three start to grudgingly enjoy their time together—while it lasts.

Road is a rather unlikely fusion of a sentimental comedy with a rigorously naturalistic, regionally-based Chinese indie drama. Somehow, it mostly works, thanks to Wang Xuebing’s fearlessly flexible performance as Yong. At first, his shtick makes us groan, but then we start to see his desperation and sadness, at which point it becomes quite poignant. As Mei, the boldly glammed down but still striking Ma Yili also shows why she is such a fast-rising star. She gives a wonderfully sly and subtle performance that will win over more hearts than a rom-com like When Larry Meets Marry ever could. Although Zhu Gengyou certainly looks like a cute kid, his constant sulking grows tiresome (but that is not necessarily his fault).

Tang deserves credit for constantly upending expectations, especially for western viewers raised on Hollywood beat-sheet formulas. Every time the film reaches a crossroads, it turns away from the safe and predictable. Cinematographer Guo Daming also vividly captures the unforgiving ruggedness of the Gobi landscape. Tang’s execution is inconsistent in some respects, but the resulting film is far better than a capsule synopsis might suggest. Recommended with a good deal of enthusiasm, The Road Not Taken screens this afternoon (10/28) and Tuesday night (10/30), as part of this year’s Asian World Film Festival.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

NewFest ’18: Making Montgomery Clift

Montgomery Clift maintained his independence during the height of the Hollywood studio system, but he still worked with legendary directors like Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, Howard Hawks, William Wyler, and Elia Kazan. Unfortunately, he has been poorly served by his biographers. Hillary Demmon and Robert Anderson Clift, the nephew who never had the chance to meet his Academy Award-nominated uncle, dispel much of the misinformation found throughout those scandal-mongering biographies in their compelling documentary, Making Montgomery Clift (trailer here), which screens as the closing night film at this year’s NewFest in New York.

Clift was good-looking and talented. Studios wanted to sign him, but he refused. He stayed independent and he was good enough to still get hired for some of the highest-profile pictures of his day. Although often lumped-in with Marlon Brando and James Dean, he was not the big method-acting proponent media accounts made him out to be. Popular misperceptions abound when it comes to Clift, but at least that one is relatively benign.

You would think that would be more than enough for an interesting book, but Clift’s two best known biographers preferred to traffic in ersatz Freudian analysis, focusing on his homosexuality, his allegedly unhealthy relationship with his mother, and the resulting guilt and shame that supposedly plagued him. The truth was rather more complicated, starting with the fact Clift was bi-sexual and had healthy, committed relationships with women, as well as men. Based on the Clift presented here, his allegedly all-consuming guilt looks decidedly exaggerated—and we often hear directly from the actor himself, who, like Robert Clifton’s father Brooks, had a habit of recording his telephone conversations. The nephew readily admits that was a weird family thing, but it left him a bonanza of primary source materials.

Watching Making will instill fresh contempt for the media in viewers, but in this case the focus will be book publishing, which usually gets off easy during media-bashing sessions (you have to wonder how depraved people have to be to work in that industry). Even though Robert LaGuardia is considered the less responsible of the lift two major life-chroniclers, he arguably comes off better in Robert Clift’s film, because he is seen in an archival television interview correcting the notion Clift went out cruising for “boys,” whereas Patricia Bosworth let that misinformation stand in her bio.

Frankly, classic Hollywood buffs will probably be disappointed movies like I Confess, the Canadian Hitchcock film, are only mentioned in passing. In a way, Robert Clift falls into the trap of covering the same junk found in the problematic biographies, for the sake of debunking them—but he really doesn’t have a choice in the matter.

Fortunately, the nephew still conveys a strong sense of his “Uncle Monty” to viewers, particularly his goofy sense of humor. It is also endearing to hear about his lifelong friendship with actor-producer Jack Larson, best known for playing Jimmy Olsen in the 1950s Superman TV Show. Demmon and Clift definitely prove there is plenty to “Monty’s” story after scraping off the angst and scandal, which is a genuine public service. Apparently, Bosworth’s “bio” has been optioned by film producers many times, but it is hard to see anyone letting their names be attached to it now that Making Montgomery Clift is in the public sphere. It is a decisive rebuke of media sensationalism, yet it is still an acutely personal film. Very highly recommended, Making Montgomery Clift screens this Tuesday (10/30) as part of the 2018 NewFest.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Criminal Element: Burning

It is an auteurist Cannes favorite chosen by South Korea as their official foreign language Oscar submission, but it is still tense and mysterious. Lee Chang-dong’s Burning is also based on a Haruki Murakami short story, which (hopefully) interests Criminal Element readers, as well. Executive summary: it is definitely Lee’s best film yet, even if it is not as accessible as Poetry. Exclusive review from J.B. now live here.

Silencio: It Came from the Zone of Silence

How is it possible the original In Search of overlooked Mexico’s Mapimí Silent Zone (a.k.a. “The Zone of Silence”)—and yet it did. However, that left the door wide open for others to exploit the bizarre real-world phenomenon in conspiracy-driven science fiction. Director-screenwriter Lorena Villarreal takes us into the Zone and back in Silencio (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

This much is true: The Zone lies roughly on the same latitude as the Bermuda Triangle and has been a magnet for meteors. In the 1970s, a US Air Force test missile landed there after veering wildly astray. That is the jumping off point for Villarreal’s fantastical fiction. Ana’s grandfather James was one of the scientists working on the recovery mission. He and his protégé Peter chanced upon a cobalt Macguffin that whisks them back to the accident site where James’ daughter and granddaughters were killed several days earlier. Thanks to his inexplicable presence, James manages to save Ana, but at a considerable price.

Back in the present day, Ana’s grandfather is mostly lost inside his dementia-plagued head. However, he suddenly snaps out of it at 3:33 AM, for complicated reasons involving the stone, a conspiracy to recover it, and the visions of Ana’s patient Daniel, who claims (evidently with justification) that he can talk to the dead. Unfortunately, Grandpa James starts to slip back into his shell before he can remove the stone from its hiding place, which will put Ana in an awkward position.

In terms of its internal logic, Villarreal’s narrative does not hold enough water to nourish the smallest cactus in the Zone of Silence. On the other hand, she has a nice touch with characterization. The relationship between Ana and her grandfather is well-drawn and endearing. Unfortunately, the revelation of the secret bad guy comes as absolutely no surprise, given the limited cast of characters. Yet, she still maintains everyone’s humanity across the board, in intriguing ways, even after the big reveal.

John Noble and Rupert Graves (Lestrade in the Cumberbatch Sherlock) are both terrific as Grandfather James and modern-day Peter. Likewise, Melina Matthews and Michel Chauvet develop a strong rapport as Ana and Daniel, which even evolves into romantic interest, because at a certain point, the doctor-patient relationship is the least of everyone’s concern.

Villarreal helms with a sensitive touch, getting some nicely turned performances from her small ensemble and mostly (but not entirely) powering through viewer disbelief. However, further revisions and polishing of the script would have led to a much smoother ride for the audience. It is admittedly flawed, but there is some good work in there that deserves acknowledgment. It is far from a slam dunk, but it shows tons of promise for Villarreal and company. Recommended for supporters of Mexican indie cinema (particularly in genre varieties), Silencio opens today (10/26) in New York, at AMC Loews 34th Street.

London Fields Finally Opens

After the success of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, the unreliable narrator became all the rage in popular fiction, but Martin Amis had already been there and done that. Admittedly, his untrustworthy story-teller was a bloke rather than a “girl,” but the principal is the same. In this case, he also happened to be a failed novelist—an Amisian trope if ever there was one (see The Information). Long mired in legal and financial wrangling, Amis’s celebrated deceptive narrator finally gets a theatrical release, but he is not fooling anyone in Matthew Cullen’s London Fields (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

Thus far, Samson Young’s literary career has been a miserable failure, but he picked the perfect time to visit London. Apocalyptic riots break out nightly across the city, but the lack of tourism meant the terminally ill writer could swing a flat exchange with pompous bestselling novelist Mark Asprey, swapping his crummy Hell’s Kitchen apartment for the tony London pad. As a further fringe benefit, Young discovers Asprey also has quite a beautiful neighbor in Nicola Six, who might just provide the inspiration for the page-turner he never had in him.

Young quickly learns Six has foretold the exact time of her death, which is fast approaching. However, she only knows she will be murdered—not by whom. For impishly perverse reasons, Six seems determined to help fate along, by stoking the lust and jealousy of the two leading suspects: flamboyant small-time hoodlum Keith Talent and petulantly entitled gentry-lad Guy Clinch. Young is convinced he can just record this real-life “novel” unfolding around him to finally score his bestseller.

The biggest problem with Roberta Hanley’s adapted screenplay is that we can immediately guess the big twist as soon as the film establishes all the main characters. Maybe it is all Gillian Flynn’s fault, but even if the troubled film had been released before Fincher’s Gone Girl, Cullen and Hanley simply do not incorporate enough misdirection to carry off the surprise. That is especially problematic, since they have stripped away most of the idiosyncrasy of Amis’s novel, opting to focus on the D.O.A.-ish noir plot-strand.

To give you an idea how long Fields has been held up, way back when it went into production, it was still considered a good idea to have Amber Heard and Johnny Depp in the same film. Depp is strangely uncredited, but that is probably for the best, considering his recent career setbacks. Frankly, he and Jim Sturgess are cringe-inducingly embarrassing as Talent and Chick Purchase, his pimped-out loan shark and professional darts nemesis. Admittedly, Heard is stuck with an underwritten character in Six, but at least she makes a credibly smoldering femme fatale. Theo James fares somewhat better than Sturgess as the shallow and easily manipulated Clinch, even though he is rather bland and forgettable.

In contrast, Billy Bob Thornton is unusually restrained as Young, but he still manages to chew a good bit of scenery. Frankly, Jason Isaacs largely steals the show, which is kind of sad, because most of his work as Asprey comes via voice messages to Young, sort of like the opening answering machine gag that always launched the Rockford Files credits.

To give credit where it is due, cinematographer Guillermo Navarro makes all look fabulously noir and stylish. The electronic score credited to Toydrum, Benson Taylor, and Adam Barber is also percussively propulsive, sounding quite appealingly influenced by Birdman and earlier crime jazz. Unfortunately, any viewer with any pop culture savvy will be way ahead of this film, which gives them plenty of time to lose patience with the shtickiness of Depp and Sturgess. It is not nearly as hideous as it is cracked up to be, but London Fields still isn’t recommended when it opens today (10/26) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Guadagnino’s Suspiria

Yes, the dance school is indeed a coven of witches, but they are not the blood-thirstiest killers spreading terror over the divided city of Berlin. Key members have been captured, but the Baader-Meinhof Gang remains a potent criminal and dysfunctional social force during the so-called “German Autumn.” The chaos outside provides a backdrop for the lunacy taking place inside the Markos Dance Academy in Luca Guadagnino’s remake of/homage to/riff on Suspiria (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York (11/2 nationwide).

Initially, psychiatrist Dr. Jozef Klemperer assumes his patient Patricia Hingle is delusional when she claims the Markos Academy is dominated by witches, but when she disappears, leaving behind her alarming journal filled with occult scribblings, he starts to wonder. Unfortunately, she was rather prone to unstable behavior and left-wing politics, so most of the school accepts the claim she left to join the Red Army Faction, but not Olga. When she challenges the cover story offered by Madame Blanc, the Pina Bausch-like artistic director, the witches turn their wrath on her on.

Susie Bannion, the new arrival from America, will unwittingly do their dirty work, thanks to an enchantment Madame Blanc puts on her hands and feet. The violent dance she improvises will literally beat-up, unnaturally twist, and rip apart the helpless Russian, in the film’s already celebrated and infamous show-stopping sure-to-be-iconic centerpiece scene. However, it comes squarely in the first act of the 152-minute film.

Frankly, it often feels like Guadagnino is channeling Andrzej Zuławski’s Possession more than Dario Argento’s original Suspiria. You have the washed-out color palettes, the grim Berlin setting, and episodes of jaw-dropping contortionist freak-outs. Instead of hair-raising scares, the response Guadagnino seems to be going for is: “dude that was totally bat-scat crazy.” Regardless, whatever he set out to do, he must have accomplished, because there is no holding back in this film.

In between big nutty set pieces, there is an attempt to stitch together a bit of plot, in which Mother Susperiorum will indeed eventually play a role. Speaking of playing roles, Tilda Swinton’s work here is the stuff of legend. She is wonderfully regal as Madame Blanc, gliding through the film like a cross between Martha Graham and Cruella De Ville. As you have probably heard, Swinton has finally copped to also portraying Dr. Klemperer, under heavy prosthetic makeup and the pseudonym Lutz Ebersdorf. It is pretty amazing how seamlessly she slips into character as the seventy-something man. Her voice and body language are spot-on. Arguably, it is a tribute to her skills that the is-it-her-or-not guessing game went on so long.

Dakota Johnson is also perfect for Bannion, in a glassy-eyed, vacant-staring, loose-limbed marionette (whose strings need to be pulled) kind of way. Chloe Grace Moretz is quite the hot mess as Hingle, whereas Elena Fokina gives one of the most impressive physical performances perhaps ever, as Olga (undoubtedly, she was helped by digital effects and camera tricks, but still, just check it out and try to argue). It is also a pleasure to watch all the sinister scenery chewing from the accomplished continental supporting cast, including Ingrid Caven, Angela Winkler, Silvie Testud, and Renee Soutedijk, as various coven/faculty members.

You have to give Guadagnino credit, because he successfully decouples his reinvented Suspiria form Argento’s original. Even the most ardent Argento will leave the theater saying: “okay, so that was something.”  Despite and/or because of his idiosyncratic decisions, his film is definitely its own animal—and it is a wild beast. The sum of its parts is definitely greater than its whole, but some of those parts horror fans just need to see for themselves. We’re still conflicted on it, but we wouldn’t want to sit out the debates and the second-guessing. Recommended as a horror movie event more than a discrete, formalistic viewing experience, Suspiria opens tomorrow (10/26) in New York, at the Regal Union Square and the IFC Center.

Kids Euro ’18: The Shamer’s Daughter

Before Game of Thrones, snobby critics used to just lump fantasy in with kids’ books and movies, like it was all cut from the same Lloyd Alexander cloth. That changed when “Grim Dark” became the hottest thing going. As the GRRM clones proliferate, it is rather refreshing to see a fantasy film that does not have any scenes in brothels. There are some “intense action scenes,” as the disclaimers say, but families should mostly feel comfortable in Kenneth Kainz's Danish fantasy feature, The Shamer’s Daughter (trailer here), which screens for free during the Kids Euro Festival in Metro DC.

Dina is the “lucky” sister. She is a shamer, just like her mother, Melussina. That means they have the power to look into men’s eyes and force them to confront their deepest, most shameful secrets. They also seem to have limited powers of suggestion, sort of like Jedi. As a young shamer, Dina does not have full control of her powers yet, which has led to fear and resentment among her peers.

When Nicodemus Ravens, the heir to the principality, stands accused of killing his father his half-brother Drakans summons Melussina to divine the truth. When she does not produce the answer he is looking for, he calls in Dina as a second opinion. She also finds the somewhat neurotic prince not guilty, so Drakans opts to kill them both. Somehow, Nicodemus manages to escape with Dina, but Drakans is hot on their heels. He will be a formidable foe, thanks to the dragon blood he ingests. It gives him accelerated healing powers and renders him nearly invulnerable to the shaming process. Plus, he has the additional advantage of being a sociopath who does not feel shame.

The Macguffin of weaponized guilt that originated in Lene Kaaberbøl’s novels is rather clever. Screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen maintains a consistent system of magic, but the sequel-setting conclusion almost laughable snatched a to-be-continue ending out of the jaws of closure.

Regardless, it is jolly fun to soak up all the surviving medieval European locations. Plus, there are rather realistic dragons. The effects exceed expectations and the production values are definitely on the high side.

Rebecca Emilie Sattrup is an appealingly scrappy as Dina, holding up quite resiliently throughout the course of the film. Jakob Oftebro certainly looks the part of the heroic prince, but as a character, Ravens is annoyingly petulant and pliable. Yet, he is also bizarrely hard to kill, escaping absolutely, metaphysically certain death several times over through dubious contrivances (none of which is Oftebro’s fault). However, Søren Malling will be the one who wins over genre fans with his hardnosed portrayal of the castle’s weaponsmaster, the film’s Gurney Halleck figure. Seriously, if there is anyone who looks like he was born to a steely fantasy warrior, it would be Malling.

It is encouraging to see sword & sorcery fantasy rendered with first-rate production values, while maintaining a family-friendly vibe. There is plenty of intrigue and rummaging through guilty subconscious minds, but it is still pretty safe for all-ages viewing. Granted, the bad guys knock around the kids a little, but they can take it and hardly feel a thing at that age. Recommended for older kids and fans of old school fantasy movies, like The NeverEnding Story and The Dragonslayer, The Shamer’s Daughter screens this Saturday (10/27), at the AFI Silver Theatre, as part of the Kids Euro Festival.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Submitted by Sweden: Border

You would think permissive, immigrant-welcoming Sweden wouldn’t need a customs service, but they rather quaintly insist on upholding their own duty and controlled substance laws. Nobody is better at detecting contraband than Tina, a not particularly photogenic customs agent. She can literally sniff it out. To put it more accurately, she can smell the guilt and shame that comes with law-breaking. That is just something she has always been able to do, but a stranger will finally explain to her why in Ali Abbasi’s Border (trailer here), Sweden’s official foreign language Oscar submission, which opens this Friday in New York and San Francisco.

Tina leads a quiet, semi-desperate life. When not busting small time smugglers, she visits her dementia-addled father and half-heartedly hangs with her roommate and not-really-boyfriend, Roland, a sleazy dog-trainer. However, things are about to get more interesting—on two fronts. When Tina busts a scummy jerk carrying a flash-drive loaded with child pornography, she is welcomed into a national level investigation, whose director finds her unique skill set quite useful.

Much to her surprise, Tina also comes face-to-face with a similarly unattractive man, who shares her abilities. Vore is a frequent traveler, who has had more contact with their kind. What kind would that be? That would be telling, but considering Border is based on a short story written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, the author of Let the Right One In, who also collaborated on the screenplay, it is probably safe to expect something fantastical—yet presented in a scrupulously grounded kind of way.

Tina’s relationship with Vore is indeed strange and intense, especially when he starts to reveal his secrets. Border throws a bunch of myths and lore into the blender, including the Changeling legend. Frankly, the title is a bit misleading (at least in this day and age), because this is really not an immigration advocacy film. Of course, there is an unambiguous message regarding tolerance, but it is almost sabotaged by the shocking third act revelations.

Despite the heavy makeup and facial prosthetics, Eva Melander and Eero Milonoff are both terrific as Tina and Vore, respectively. They really dive deeply into their characters social alienation, simmering resentment, and existential fatalism. These are some pretty dramatic character development arcs, but they cover them quite nimbly and convincingly. Jörgen Thorsson just oozes slime as Roland, whereas Ann Petrén is quite the commanding and reassuring presence as the criminal task force commander, Agneta.

This is a quiet film, but it is still a technically impressive genre movie, starting first and foremost with the incredible makeup designed for Tina and Vore. Somehow Abbasi manages to fuse elements of gritty social realism with the look and vibe of a fable-like contemporary fantasy, but some of the tougher subject matter will make it off-limits for certain viewers. Regardless, it would pair up quite nicely with Ivan Tverdovsky’s Zoology. Highly recommended, Border opens this Friday (10/26) in New York, at the IFC Center and in San Francisco, at the Alamo Mission and the Smith San Rafael Film Center.

Don’t Go: Reality Collapses on Stephen Dorff

Have you ever had the sensation after an accident or an embarrassing foot-in-mouth gaffe that you could almost take it back by reversing time, if only you could get the right leverage? Ben Slater is convinced he is tantalizing close, but that means he is still agonizingly far in David Gleeson’s Don’t Go (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Tragically, Ben and Hazel Slater’s daughter died in a household accident. That would be painful enough, but the exact details (that will be revealed over time) are almost unbearable for the grieving father. Somehow, the couple muddles along, hoping a fresh start managing Hazel’s late father’s small Fawlty Towers-looking inn on the Irish seacoast will give them a new lease on life. She will handle most of the innkeeping, while he will teach English at the local Catholic school.

That is the plan, but it quickly becomes apparent Slater is not yet ready to move on. Weirdly, he keeps seeing the presumably misspelled words “Seas the Day” everywhere. He also starts having a recurring dream of the day he and Hazel built an elaborate sand castle with their daughter while vacationing at the family property. When Slater discovers he can carry items from that day back into the present, he becomes obsessed with the notion he can also save their little girl too. Meanwhile, Hazel’s Ab Fab-esque girlfriend Serena makes everything more awkward with her unstable presence.

Eventually, Gleeson and co-screenwriter Ronan Blaney dive head-first into Jacob’s Ladder territory, but the first two acts are quite mysterious, with a hint of the mystical, yet still mostly rather grounded. Stephen Dorff continues to be one of the best genre-specialists, who can seemingly turn up the intensity with the flick of a switch. He is reliable as ever portraying Slater, especially in his scenes with Melissa George, who is quite terrific as Ms. Slater. Their pain feels real and raw. Simon Delaney provides a nice counterpart, as well as a positive Catholic figure playing the good natured but perceptive Father Sean, while Aoibhinn McGinnity is all kinds of sultry and self-destructive as the disruptive Serena.

Don’t Go is one of two films opening this Friday (both from IFC Midnight) that throw ostensive reality into a state utter and complete chaos. However, Don’t Go works better than its brethren, because of its strong character development and the sign-posts it drops early on, for future reference later on. Recommended for genre fans who enjoy head-tripping films, Don’t Go opens this Friday (10/26) in New York, at the IFC Center.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Shirkers: The Iconic Indie That Never Was

This is probably the most celebrated “lost” film after Jodorowsky’s Dune, at least if you live in Singapore. Many local cineastes were expecting Shirkers to jump-start the nation’s indie film scene, even though it was produced by a small group of teenagers and their 30-something film-making teacher, Georges Cardona. Things did not pan out as they hoped when Cardona disappeared with all their footage. Twenty-five years later, Sandi Tan was reunited with the original 16mm footage, sans audio. We will probably never be able to see the film as Tan and her friends intended, but she subsequently repurposed the once missing video into Shirkers (trailer here), one of the most poignant documentaries of the year, which premieres this Friday on Netflix and also opens theatrically in New York.

The earnest nineteen-year-old Tan wore her early 1990s indie influences on her sleeve: Jarmusch, Tarantino, etc. She would be the first to admit her quirky and increasingly surreal serial killer road-trip movie was highly derivative of her heroes’ work. However, it was undeniably a Singaporean production. That alone made it special at the time. Looking back on the 1992 footage, it also would have been and sort of still is a time capsule document of a more traditional Singapore that no longer exists.

Somehow, Tan’s friends Jasmine Ng and Sophia Siddique allowed themselves to get caught up in her enthusiasm. Cardona served as director, while they filled just about every other role, including Tan playing the evil Amelie-like protagonist, “S,” which Ng and Siddique concede was probably a mistake in retrospect. Nevertheless, Tan and Ng willing sunk their personal savings into the production to cover a sudden financing gap. Naturally, they were all devastated when Cardona disappeared with their film, but it also forged an unusual bond between them.

Alas, Cardona is no longer with us (in the land of the living). In fact, his death was the catalyst for the partial rediscovery of Shirkers. Nevertheless, the film manages to partly explain what the heck was the deal with Cardona (but not entirely). Yet, despite the significant role he plays, the film is not about him. It is about Tan and Siddique and Ng. It is about Singapore at a time when you could still find old school colonial-era buildings and mom-and-pop establishments. It is about youthful idealism and an enduring love of cinema. Most of all it is about the special relationship shared by three friends who can truly drive each other to distraction.

As a documentary, Shirkers has mystery and cultural history elements, but it is also a long-deferred coming of age story. Tan digs pretty deeply into Cardona’s murky past, but she is even less sparing when examining her own life. She keeps peeling back the onion, producing a third act chocked full of epiphanies. Ultimately, it is shockingly poignant to fully understand how much the unfinished has meant to her, Ng and Siddique—and maybe even Cardona.

Tan and her co-editors, Lucas Celler and Kimberley Hassett also deserve credit for the terrific way the shaped the film’s narrative and incorporated eerily tantalizingly silent clips from the 1992 Shirkers. This is a deeply moving film that somehow also manages to be rejuvenating and restorative. Watching it will make you believe in redemptive third acts. Very highly recommended, Shirkers opens this Friday (10/26) in New York, at the Metrograph, simultaneous with its release on Netflix.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story

Baseball fans insist the National League rules are better than the American League’s, but the experience of Yankee ace Chien-Ming Wang ought to make them reconsider. While running the bases during an interleague game, Wang suffered an injury that short-circuited his career for years. He was the fastest pitcher to reach 50 wins since Dwight Gooden, but during his post-injury years, Wang suffers the indignity of getting cut by triple-A and double-A teams. That is where documentarian Frank W. Chen caught-up with the former Yankee in Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Wang was the first Taiwanese player signed by the Yankees and by far the highest profile Taiwanese player in the Major Leagues. As a result, he became (and to a large extent remains) the focus of intense media attention and national pride in the Republic of China. For Wang, it has been an honor and a burden, especially following his injury.

After the Yankees cut Wang, he kept plugging, first in the Majors and then the minors, hoping to prove he could still compete on a professional level. Unfortunately, his body often refused to cooperate. It is downright depressing to see the man chosen to start the first home game at the new Yankee Stadium reduced to accepting a contract in the independent baseball league, but it happened. Yet, even though Wang’s story is all about sinkers, it is not a downer. There will be a third act. It is not exactly the Hollywood-style triumph we might chose to script for him, but Wang definitely proves his grit.

The truth is, it is the imperfection and struggle that makes his story engaging. Frankly, Wang is so reserved by nature, he never really reveals much to the audience. However, the emotions expressed by his wife, coaches, and trainers is quite moving—and more than sufficient to keep viewers invested.

You can tell what the loss of Wang’s potential (a 19-game winner two seasons in a row) meant to the Yankees when former GM Brian Cashman sits down for an interview. It is also quite poignant to watch Wang’s visit with the now deceased Billy Connors (former Yankees VP of player development and supplemental pitching coach), because they are both trying to raise the spirits of the other.

It is impossible to watch Late Life and not wonder what might have been if Wang were not running the bases during a non-rivalry, regular season interleague game. Sure, purists argue pitchers are less likely to bean players when they also have to stand in the batter’s box, but by the same logic, should we bring back leather helmets so football players will avoid knocking heads? Regardless, Late Life is a compelling real-life sports story, particularly since it involves the New York Yankees. Highly recommended, Late Life opens this Friday (10/26) in New York, at the AMC Empire (and it is currently playing at the Regal Rockville Center 13, for fans who remember Wang’s stint with the Nationals).

John Carpenter’s The Fog

It is odd John Carpenter’s immediate follow-up to Halloween does not hold higher esteem in horror fans’ hearts, because it co-stars Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Janet Leigh. They all have their share of screaming to do, yet their respective characters are pretty proactive, especially by the standards of early 1980s horror. This is indeed the perfect time to reconsider Carpenter’s The Fog (trailer here) when it opens in its 4K restored glory this Friday at the Metrograph.

One hundred years ago, the seaside Northern California town of Antonio Bay was founded. Not so coincidentally, there was also a notorious shipwreck just off the coast around that time. Mr. Machen, the town’s story-teller relates the sad tale of how the Elizabeth Dane was lured into the rocky shoals during an unusually foggy night, but the truth is even worse.

Through some sort of supernatural fluke, Father Malone discovers his great grandfather, who was also the town minister, played a role in those events one hundred years ago. It so shakes him, he refuses to give the benediction at the town’s centennial celebration, organized by busybody Kathy Williams. She is usually best when in full multi-tasking mode, but Williams is concerned her fisherman husband has not returned to port. Of course, he is one of the first victims of the fog—and the angry spirits from the Elizabeth Dane that travel within it.

Radio DJ Stevie Wayne spends most of her time in her lighthouse broadcasting studio, but she is one of the first townsfolk to figure out the fog for what it is. Fisherman Nick Castle and Elizabeth Solley the pretty hitchhiker he recently picked up also realize something sinister is afoot when they discover the missing trawler and the grizzly remains of one of the crew. Alas, poor Castle lost a brother, but Solley should more than make up for it.

It is amazing how lean and effective The Fog is at a whisker under 90 minutes, yet Carpenter and his co-screenwriter producer Debra Hill still invest in considerable character development early on. That effort pays dividends later, because we come to care about Wayne, Solley, and Castle. In fact, to a large extent, the film is shaped by the relationship brewing between Solley and Castle, as well as Wayne’s telephone flirtation with weather service meteorologist Dan O’Bannon (one of several in-joke references to former Carpenter collaborators, in this case his co-screenwriter and effects designer on Dark Star).

The Fog is wonderfully atmospheric (and notably bloodless). It totally feels like a John Carpenter film, thanks to the director’s characteristically eerie score and the reliably evocative lensing of his longtime cinematographer, Dean Cundey (unfortunately both were missing from the disappointing The Ward). Frankly, the notion of giving it the crisp 4K treatment is somewhat debatable—after all, it’s called The Fog.

Barbeau is absolutely terrific as Wayne. She constantly kicks up the film’s energy level, even though most of her scenes were filmed alone. Curtis is in her scream queen prime, which means Solley is extremely likable and attractive. Leigh is also quite a force of nature playing Williams, who is a real character with important plot point business (rather than an excuse to get mother and daughter in the same film). It is a delight to see John Houseman chew the scenery as old Machen, but the real surprise is how good Tom Atkins is as Castle. He would become a regular supporting player in the films of Carpenter and George Romero, but his humorous light banter with Curtis suggests he really should have had more leading man opportunities.

Say what you will about Antonio Bay, but Wayne’s KAB-FM was one hip radio station. Primarily, she spun jazz, because it was cheaper to license. As a result, there are a lot of groovy sound library cuts to be heard in the background, including tracks composed by David Lindup and Robert Cornford (both of whom were known for working with Johnny Dankworth). The basic premise is pretty ridiculous, but Carpenter’s tight execution and his totally committed, first-class cast convincingly sells it every step of the way. Very highly recommended for horror fans, The Fog opens this Friday (10/26) in New York, at the Metrograph.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Margaret Mead ’18: Tibetan Nomads in Exile (short)

The notion of “nomads in exile” sounds almost contradictory. They lead migratory, impermanent lives by choice—or at least they did before the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Many now live in India, still very much tending their herds just as their ancestors did before them. However, it is a struggle to preserve their Tibetan language and customs. Tsering Wangmo introduces viewers one nomadic Tibetan family and their reluctant encounters with globalization in the short documentary Tibetans Nomads in Exile Resistance (trailer here), which screens during the 2018 Margaret Mead Film Festival.

It is hard enough to maintain a traditional nomadic lifestyle in the post-modern world (just look at the Mongolian nomads in the narrative-docu-hybrid Zud), but adding on the oppression of an outside invader is just not fair. Nevertheless, the Jigdol Wangmo follows tries to do their best (but they yearn for the lush grazing that was once found in Tibet). The eldest brother is already an adult, who is respected by his seniors for his skill with horses and knack for fixing mechanical devices. However, it is the middle daughter Karma, who has a potential future in the modern world.

Like many nomadic children, she attends one of the Tibetan schools founded and funded by the government in exile. The majority of her peers are day students, but there are still a number of boarders from nomadic families. They educate their students so they can engage with the world, but schools also keep the Tibetan language alive.

Wangmo’s film is a straight forward work of reportage, but it still captures some pretty stunning images of Ladakh and the surrounding Himalayas. It also clearly establishes the exiled Tibetan government’s greater claim to legitimacy than the Chinese puppet regime, whether or not that was the filmmaker’s intention. The evidence is there to see of the efforts of the exiled Lamas and officials to provide for their people. In contrast, even native Beijingers should not any kind of constructive help from the ruling Communist Party.

It is a shame that families like the Karma’s are separated from their homeland. This is undeniably a human tragedy, but also represents an ecological catastrophe. Whereas the nomadic herders were wise custodians of Tibet’s once pristine lands, the Mainland occupiers have been rapacious in their exploitation and despoilment (a fact alluded to, but not explored in depth late in the film). Recommended for anyone interested in Tibetan culture and the diasporic experience, Tibetan Nomads in Exile screens this morning (10/21), with Rituals ofResistance, as part of this year’s Margaret Mead Film Festival, at the American Museum of Natural History.