If Hong is indeed the best that we have got, there is something troubling about this fact. For it should detract nothing from the integrity of his body of work to say that, when taken altogether, it is a quintessential expression of a cinema of disappointment and diminished expectations.
What has not changed, despite the shift into genre, is the commitment to helping us sympathize with damaged, alienating (and alienated) people. In his films we might feel the discomfort of self-recognition from these characters, while in all but the finest horror films, their predicament is usually reduced to a motive for a reign of bloody terror.
An occasional tin ear for old-guy dialogue suggests Linklater might still be more comfortable with the casual-philosophical badinage of those a decade or more his junior, but the 12-year gestation gives the film the distance crucial to its angry, sad, but, in hindsight, wise perspective on the early Iraq War years.
Gerwig evokes that specifically senior-year feeling of the rapid approach of adulthood through a swift editing style, offering a dynamic rhythm that conjures the sense of finite time she has with family and friends, a patchwork of energetic montages propelling Christine and the story forward.
In a film like The Work, with its multiple layers of privileged access and precariously obtained permissions from an array of potentially volatile participants, you are not just being allowed to see. Your sight is essential. Seeing and being seen is the point.
There is a nervous breakdown at its center, not necessarily by its protagonist but by the norms and institutions that sustain him. A lacerating critique of liberal cosmopolitanism, The Square is at once an art-house provocation of supreme calculation and a guttural sob for an unhappy West.
A Gentle Creature is more of a destabilizing shock to the system than a call to arms, a confrontation with a broken state rather than a blueprint to rebuild it. It confirms Loznitsa as a master craftsman of the impeccably designed and crafted hellscape, politically charged and all-consuming.
“It is a time when this country is under a lot of criticism, rightly so, and I have found my place in portraying certain things, but showing them to you in a way that you get to make your own judgment. And so far, I have been very moved that people want to see the good of this country.”
Meyerowitz splits the tonal difference between his kinder Greta Gerwig collaborations (Frances Ha, Mistress America) and the more acerbic works surrounding those, dealing with the previously unlikely possibility of forgiveness and healing.
That Denis can produce a work that, without a trace of preciousness, is equal parts indebted to Barthes and Chicago blues, connected as arm is to shoulder to the film-historical legacy of post-New Wave French filmmaking, is only further justification for claim that the 71-year-old is the greatest working director over the last two decades.