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Michael Atkinson

Possessed by Unreason (photo)

Possessed by Unreason

By far the biggest brat to sneak his way through Eastern Bloc culture during the New Wave era, Yugoslav bomb-thrower Dušan Makavejev wasn’t someone who took on his vocation with a somber air; I don’t know for sure how much fun he had making movies, but he seems to have been locked into a constant […]

Misspent Youth (photo)

Misspent Youth

The most remarkable thing about Sacha Gervasi’s “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” may be that it is unarguably one of the most heart-swelling and moving films ever made about rock ‘n’ roll, and at the same time, it is very unlikely to convert any viewers into passionate Anvil fans. In fact, the movie barely bothers […]

Brute Launch from Nowhere (photo)

Brute Launch from Nowhere

Last year, American critics pretty fairly stood aghast and in awe of Ronald Bronstein’s “Frownland” (2007), conjuring up some of the most intense superlatives ever thrown at a cheap New York indie (the New Yorker‘s Richard Brody called it “one of the most unusual and audacious American independent films ever made”), while still sweating bullets […]

All the Rage (photo)

All the Rage

Sally Potter’s “Rage” (2009) has made itself noteworthy as the latest effort of a name filmmaker to address — or experiment with, or mambo around — the fact that cinema, as it’s traditionally made and consumed, is being starved by digital culture. Everyone knows the drill — movies, TV, music, newspapers, publishing, etc. are all […]

The Secret History (photo)

The Secret History

It’s been hard to forgive Peter Greenaway, above all, for the howling miscreant-ism of “8 1/2 Women” (1999). His particularized brand of hyper-structural art cinema — and Greenaway’s movies have always been stylistically distinctly his, which is no mean achievement — had already been in self-involved decline (“The Pillow Book,” etc.), but “8 1/2 Women” […]

To Be Human (photo)

To Be Human

Unarguably one of the world’s most demanding “ascetist” auteurs, and certainly North America’s most dedicated “art film” provocateur, Carlos Reygadas makes movies that slow your heart rate and raise your anxiety levels at the same time. His observational gaze isn’t just patient rigor, but a brand of glacial, creepy stillness, chilled further by occasional moments […]

Home Movies (photo)

Home Movies

The decades-old cliché goes, watching other people’s home movies is hell frozen over. Strangely, this is true only if you know the people, and it’s their vacation in Tahoe that you’re forced to sit through after a few cocktails and a bellyful of spinach lasagna, as they narrate the landscapes and sigh at their own […]

Peace and War (photo)

Peace and War

How do you write about Chantal Akerman’s brutally demanding, three-and-a-quarter-hour “Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” (1975) without making it sound like a Gitmo stress position? It’s a film about a widowed Belgian housewife (Delphine Seyrig) who meticulously attends to housework all day, which we watch in real time, except when she’s making […]

Husbands and Wives (photo)

Husbands and Wives

The mistake that people have made about John Cassavetes, both those who fall swooning at the altar of his films and those who find them overwrought, irritating and indulgent, is in considering him as a realist. A mere realist. Cassavetes’ work may look realistic, spontaneous and controlled in the moment by emotional typhoons, but this […]

The Résumé Indie (photo)

The Résumé Indie

Mostly, what Paul Andrew Williams’ “London to Brighton” (2006) has in its threadbare arsenal, shy of budget and time and scale, is a small propane tank of hot nerve. This is the kind of indie that opens in mid-adrenaline-spike (two women, bloody and beaten, burst into a public restroom, running for their lives) and proceeds […]