It is hard not to perceive something darkly subversive in the making of a film in which a beloved cinematic icon sits in bed, made up like a poodle and festooned in wig, frills, feathers, and fabrics, rotting away from gangrene while a whirlwind of bland and ill-equipped hangers-on try vainly to keep him preserved.
What happens when audiences have come to expect long-simmering, historically engaged Gesamtkunstwerks from a filmmaker and then are treated rapid-fire to a series of increasingly ungraspable present-day love stories? What is Malick doing in To the Wonder, Knight of Cups, and Song to Song, and why now?
Kore-eda has explained that his latest film, After the Storm, is an unofficial sequel to his 2008 drama Still Walking. Both films contemplate the fresh wounds left by a deceased family member on the living; the former takes place over the course of a single day, the new film over several weeks.
Assayas seems to have conceived this film as several genre pieces in one (a pseudo horror, a psychological thriller, a melancholy drama about grief), but each of these strands, incomplete in its way, serves a grander and fully realized purpose in the larger ontological excavation of Maureen.
The premise serves as a malleable metaphor: the white coopting of black cool, cited as one of the reasons for the selection of exclusively black targets; the ongoing use of unwilling black bodies to perform white labor from plantation to penitentiary; and the pressures of conformity borne by the blacks living among white affluence.
There are pretty pictures, some interesting in broad-stroke conception, that are nonetheless leeched of those intangible qualities that would lend them genuine grandeur and thematic heft. As a result, they just sit there, heavy on the eyes, light on the heart and mind.
There is high public interest in stand-up comedy, evidenced by the popularity of Louie, The Aristocrats . . . the ability of comics like Hannibal Buress and Amy Schumer to make headlines and the preponderance of specials on streaming services like Netflix. But the subject has been a hard nut for narrative features to crack.