Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Dead Man Down," "Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters," "War Witch," "Beyond the Hills," and "The Silence"

Dead Man Down
Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters

Beyond the Hills

War Witch
The Silence


I found the redundantly titled “Dead Man Down” a perfectly passable time-killer much of the way, mostly due to Colin Farrell’s dark, brooding presence. His role – a seamlessly assimilated Hungarian immigrant who infiltrates the gang that killed his wife and daughter – suits him nicely, though I didn’t buy Noomi Rapace or Terrence Howard in supporting roles. The ending, though, is a letdown, one of those bring-everybody-together-in-an-abandoned-warehouse jobbies in which the hero and his love interest dodge more bullets than Superman while felling all the trained assassins with seeing-eye shots.

The best of last weekend’s crop was “Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters,” the biodoc of a Massachusetts photographer whose hauntingly beautiful works (Google his images) involve the meticulous planning, production, crew and budget of a good small indie film. Crewdson – who believes an artist must confine himself to one major theme over his lifetime of work – explains why he sets his pictures at twilight, that fleeting and hard-to-capture time when our public personae give way to our private selves. He loves the idea of capturing the present and – unlike a filmmaker – not having to worry about the back story or what happens after the shot. Like him, the film, at a trim 77 minutes, knows just when to exit stage right.

Finally, mild recommendations for a trio of films from the international art house: First, “War Witch,” the Canadian foreign-language Oscar nominee, about a child soldier forced to kill her parents and join the rebel army fighting the government of an unnamed African country (given the references to coltan, I’m presuming it’s the DRC). She sees ghosts – both her parents and the enemy soldiers – and becomes the chief’s “war witch,” entitling her to some privileges but not, she discovers, the right to love the man of her choice. Second, “Beyond the Hills,” Cristian Mungiu’s follow-up to the abortion drama “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days,” set at a nunnery on the outskirts of Bucharest. As with “The Turin Horse,” you can really feel the winter wind, but after 155 long minutes, it occurs to you that the muted lesbian love story ends up not far from where it started. Third, “The Silence,” a compulsively watchable German film about two pedophile acquaintances who, 23 years earlier, followed a young girl on a bicycle into a field, intending to rape her, only for one of them to kill her brutally when she put up a fight. When the same thing happens to another girl in the same spot, the two (who haven’t seen each other since) haltingly insinuate themselves back into each others’ lives. The film doesn’t really work as a police procedural, nor as a suspense thriller – we pretty much know what happened from the get-go – but its atmosphere of agonized tristesse pulled me in.

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