David Fincher is a director I know I am supposed to admire — his fans will be happy to make this crystal clear for you, if you have anything approaching a misgiving — but whose films frequently leave me cold. Zodiac is the exception that proves the rule.
In Casting JonBenet, we revisit a true-crime mystery that captivated the U.S. But we do so obliquely: director Kitty Green is as interested, more interested, in the stories we tell about the stories we tell than anything so mundane as solving a case.
The three-part Netflix documentary Five Came Back, scripted by Mark Harris (on whose book it is based) and directed by Laurent Bouzereau, is a substantial achievement of narrative compression and historical context.
Focused on the wartime cinematic contributions of five acclaimed directors — Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens, and William Wyler — Harris and Bouzereau examine the nature of filmic propaganda through the lens of individual personalities and creative pressures, seeking to balance a huge amount of information with the needs of the documentary form.
The Coen Brothers’ filmography tends to swing wildly from lighthearted, goofball larks to existential nightmare tours of wounded psyches and uneasy human relations in a fallen world. (A good argument can, and has, been made that the two modes are in direct conversation.) 2007’s acclaimed No Country For Old Men, new to Netflix in August, is firmly in the second category.
Laura Bispuri’s Sworn Virgin is, in her own a words, “a whole discourse on the body.” It’s an exploration of gender fluidity butting up against social norms as rigid as the mountains that surround its central Albanian village. In lyrical flourishes and with quiet, moving grace, Bispuri presents an unusually fraught journey to an authentic self.
The title of this post is a lie in at least two ways: Girl Walk // All Day is neither new nor on Netflix.
But I only just came across Girl Walk (so it’s new to me). It’s readily available for your viewing pleasure (free on Vimeo and YouTube, so that’s even better than a paid streaming service for our purposes here).
Welcome to the first installment of a new end-of-week series, in which we profile something new to streaming, and round-up a few other recommendations for your weekend. I’ve opted to go with Netflix, since that seems to be the most common platform right now, and so hopefully relevant to your house.
Beasts of No Nation is a strange film. It’s anchored by two powerful performances, deals with timely and horrific subject matter, and is ably directed and photographed, but leaves almost no impression. If anything, it actually manages to make its cavalcade of horrors … kind of boring and distancing.