Also opening this week: The awesomely ridiculous-looking "Crank," Neil LaBute‘s enigmatic "The Wicker Man" remake, and Mike Judge‘s "Idiocracy." But no reviews for you (or us)! "Crank"’s press screening, at least here in New York, is today at 11am. "The Wicker Man" is infamously (well, infamously in our tiny entertainment news bubble) not being screened for critics. And "Idiocracy"? Is opening unheralded in a few cities today â€” New York is not one of them â€” sans even a website.
Also, some documentary we may have mentioned before opens today.
+ "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles": Mostly kind, if not glowing, words for Zhang Zimou‘s latest. Everyone’s quick to point out the film’s sentimentality â€” as Nathan Lee writes in the New York Times:
Vulnerable, corny and disarmingly frank, a film in which people donâ€™t just weep but slobber and moan, â€œRiding Alone for Thousands of Milesâ€ drives melodrama right off the map. Cynics are in for a very long haul.
But he admits that "for all its schematic hyperbole, the film is warm and affecting." At Salon, Andrew O’Hehir groups the film stylistically with "Not One Less" and "The Road Home," and declares that "once you get used to the apparent flatness and emotional reserve of
this picture, it’s a sad, slyly comic tale of family trauma and
reconciliation that packs a wallop."
At the LA Weekly, Ella Taylor is more dismissive, and in a nicely incisive review writes that the film is a "fatally reverential vehicle for veteran Japanese actor Ken Takakura and the greater glory of the post-Mao proletariat":
Far from paying tribute to the rural poor, Riding Alone patronizes them by conflating simplicity with simple-mindedness and reducing them to binary oppositions.
Armond White at the New York Press likes the film, calling it "a cerebral tear-jerker."
+ "Mutual Appreciation": It’s been ages since we’re seen Andrew Bujalski‘s latest interpretation of our fumbling generation’s poignant cri de coeur, too long ago to write a proper review, and our roommate absconded to California with our DVD copy. Still, we wanted to say that we like it an awful lot, partially because it manages to transcend the self-consciousness and reflexive irony that have crippled the work of most young filmmakers. Its characters are themselves crippled by self-consciousness and reflexive irony (and perhaps too much aimless niceness); the film, on the other hand, is sharply observed without ever being snide or too easy.
The men and women in â€œMutual Appreciationâ€ often come across as being as inwardly directed as those in the Eustache; the crucial difference is that the shadow of 1968 that hangs over the French characters invests their self-absorption with an intimation of tragedy. Mr. Bujalskiâ€™s characters, by contrast, donâ€™t even have generational failure on their side, an absence of history, of myth, alluded to by Alanâ€™s drunken confession that all he wants out of life is â€œa good story.â€
J. Hoberman at the Voice pens a positive review that’s still packed with backhanded complements â€” in the absence of Armond White on this one, we have Hoberman to thank for breaking out the "s" word: "Funny Ha Ha managed to be both charmingly lackadaisical and annoyingly smug; Mutual Appreciation, which Bujalski shot in grainy black-and-white in hipster Brooklyn (and is self-distributing), is even more so." David Edelstein at New York writes that "With its halfhearted breakups of halfhearted relationships and fumbling declarations of attraction, Mutual Appreciation is a tapestry of indecision. Itâ€™s full of ‘random’ encounters that resonate like crazy, like the one in a bar with an acquaintance of Ellieâ€™s who says, ‘Iâ€™m finding all this plant stuff, so I think it means I should start a garden.’ "
Heh. Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly also makes the Eustache comparison; he does think the film is a "wee-bit-too-wee." And this week’s Reverse Shot three, Jeff Reichert, Nick Pinkerton and Michael Koresky, are prompted to engage in an interesting discussion on the topic: "Is Andrew Bujalski the cinematic voice of a mumbling, inarticulate, moderately employable generation, or a talentless student filmmaker who’s managed to spin a single badly done trick into an honest-to-goodness moviemaking career?"
And now we’re blowing town for the long weekend. Back Tuesday.