+ "Crazy Love": Everyone we spoke to at Sundance, where "Crazy Love" had its premiere, was of the opinion that Dan Klores and Fisher Stevens too-good-not-to-be-true doc told a great story not particularly well, a complaint that could be applied to many a contemporary documentary. This thought is expressed in some of the film’s reviews, though they’re overall pretty positive. Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir, fresh out of Cannes, notes that the "film is a standard-issue documentary, combining period footage with talking-head interviews." Still, he loves those talking heads, and writes that "Klores renders them as recognizable human beings, more like the rest of us than like incomprehensible monsters. Amid the horror and contempt, we also feel pity." At New York, David Edelstein salutes Klores’ "sly deadpan" and the way the movie "distills every functionally dysfunctional relationship youâ€™ve ever had into one horrific case study." Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly is rapturous: "It’s a freak show of a fairy tale, rendered by a filmmaker who knows how to pierce tabloid reality right in its anguished, bloody heart."
"Extra! Extra! Violence against women has its upside!" proclaims a not-won-over Rob Nelson at the Village Voice. "To be blunt, Crazy Love is a snappy, upbeat movie about sexual violence." Nick Schager at Slant shrugs that the film "has a tabloid story to kill for, and a basic nonfiction form to snooze over… Crazy Love dampens much of its bizarre particulars with blandly functional talking-head interviews and archival photos and newspaper front pages." Manohla Dargis at the New York Times finds the film "somewhat sickening, mildly gonzo" and sometimes just worthy of a few "ew"s. She muses:
In some respects â€œCrazy Loveâ€ belongs to that class of documentaries that might be called the family freak show. (Think of â€œCapturing the Friedmans.â€) But it also belongs to the more familiar category of the misery documentary, those nonfiction works that poke into the ghastliness of other peopleâ€™s lives like a finger rummaging inside a wound. Misery documentaries exist because sometimes other peopleâ€™s pain is deemed newsworthy and because sometimes the people who make them sincerely want to inspire change. Mostly, though, they exist because watching other people suffer has always been a favorite human pastime. In ancient Rome spectators flocked to the Colosseum to watch the bloodletting; now we watch it on screen.
+ "Ten Canoes": Rolf de Heer‘s film, which won the special jury prize in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes last year, is also the first feature to be shot entirely in an Aboriginal language. Inherent anthropological interest inside, the film is generated near universal acclaim. At indieWIRE, Jeff Reichert writes that "Instead of the worst cliches about noble natives invested with quasi-mystical powers, a deep relationship with the land, and the tendency to speak in Yoda-worthy riddles, De Heer’s Yolngu are conflicted, jealous, earnest, horny, and often terribly funny (especially around scatological themes) – in short, all too perfectly human." Stephen Holden at the New York Times and Andrew O’Hehir at Salon both compare the film to "The Fast Runner." Holden raises a few questions:
Contemplating a film like â€œTen Canoesâ€ or â€œAtanarjuat,â€ you confront inevitable questions about the depiction of primitive peoples in feature films and documentaries. Where does detached observation end and emotional identification begin? At what point does admiration for the noble savage become condescending and sentimental? If the humor of â€œTen Canoesâ€ largely liberates it from ethnographic solemnity, it feels suspiciously contemporary.
O’Hehir is not sure that "Ten Canoes" succeeds in blending aboriginal storytelling tradition with a tradition film structure, but still finds "it’s a fascinating immersion within a highly ritualized Stone Age oral culture that, at least according to tradition, existed almost unchanged for thousands of years before the European arrival." At the Onion AV Club, Noel Murray agrees that "mostly, it’s a feat of immersive ethnography, explaining the dynamics
of hunter-gatherers by letting us share their dirty jokes and marital
spats. Like a lot of folk tales, Ten Canoes peters out into something
more prosaic than profound, but it flows like water, and has a
deceptively gentle pull that proves hard to escape."
Scott Foundas at the Village Voice writes that "Ten Canoes is a celebration of the art of storytelling, and of the power of stories to transcend all barriers of space, time, and language." Ed Gonzalez at Slant disagrees: "Ten Canoes is more homily than film, an educational exaltation of Australia’s Aboriginal past."