Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

The worst thing we can say about Oxygen is that it is a very gimmicky thriller based on an overfamiliar gimmick, but done by a director with a skill set extremely well-positioned to make the most of that gimmick, and starring an actor who wrings everything she possibly out of basically only three elements (her […]

Movies about the life of Joan of Arc, the visionary teenager who rallied the French army to victories against the English during the Hundred Years’ War and was executed after a politically-motivated show trial for heresy in 1431, are hardly rare. And they are hardly obscure, including this writer’s pick for the best movie ever […]

If somebody tells you you’re about to watch a French film about retirement-age lesbians, it would be foolhardy to assume you’re in for a rollicking good time. Hell, French films about young lesbians are dour enough. When I sat down to screen Two of Us (much more elegantly titled Deux in the original French), I […]

Director Olivier Assayas has made world-class masterpieces, like Irma Vep (1996); he has made solidly routine arthouse fodder, like Something in the Air (2012); he has made films that I think simply do not work, like Clouds of Sils Maria (2014). But one thing he had not made prior to Wasp Network in 2019, or […]

Diary of a Country Priest, from 1951, was the third feature film directed by French director Robert Bresson, and it is the hinge on which his entire career pivots. Prior to this point, he made the kind of films people were making in France in the ’40s: solemn melodramas for respectable middle class audiences who […]

What is cinema? We can speak of its technical aspects: cinema is a medium in which still images (often, but not always photographic in nature) are shown at a fast enough rate to create the illusion of movement. Cinema is a medium of montage, in which the creator shows the viewer a single image followed […]

I have seen only very little of  the work of French writer-director Bertrand Bonello, but my sense is that – like so many other French directors – one of his favorite things to do is to provoke the audience more or less for the sake of provocation, upsetting our expectations and tweaking our noses as […]

Let us start with the title. The new film titled Les Misérables is not an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, already one of the most commonly-adapted books in cinema history. It is, rather, a story that takes up the same concerns as Hugo, approaching them in their 21st Century embodiment. So this tale of […]

It’s all right there in the title, a simple little thing that sounds as sensible as a well-fitting pair of shoes: Varda by Agnès. As in “Varda”, the filmmaking career of one of the all-time greats, a master director if ever a director was a master, someone who has more than earned the right to […]

It is occasionally the case that a film has such a perfect first shot that, the moment it appears before your eyes, you already know that you’re about to see a masterpiece. Atlantics has such a first shot: a sleek new skyscraper rising in the background above a street in Dakar, capitol city of Senegal. […]

Before I saw Portrait of a Lady on Fire, I was thinking I’d maybe start this review by point out how the 2010s weirdly became the decade of the lesbian romantic drama, and how the three best love stories of the decade to this point, 2014’s The Duke of Burgundy, 2015’s Carol, and 2016’s The […]

Synonyms is French as hell, which is a bit ironic in and of itself. This is the fourth film made by Israeli director Nadav Lapid, and it’s about an Israeli man named Yoav (Tom Mercier); but it’s also Lapid’s first movie made outside of Israel, and it’s specifically about how Yoav attempts to bury his […]