Depardon is not out to expose naked cruelty, neglect, and dereliction of duty, as Wiseman and Wang do in their films, but something much more subtly invidious: the revolving-door efficiency of the state apparatus, mechanized service behind a blandly humane smile.
The film thrives on translation, communication, and perception. Like the screwball comedies of yore, it revolves around a romantic conflict that its protagonist does not fully comprehend, though here this situation is reduced from the fanciful to the quotidian.
Berlin 2018: Loznitsa is an assiduous practitioner of observational cinema. One may even argue that his nonfiction filmmaking is to the study of spaces charged with political memory what Frederick Wiseman is to the exploration of institutions.
The first thing you should know is that Western is not really a western. Valeska Grisebach draws upon genre iconography and mythos, but to take the comparison further requires wishful, willful thinking, an act of projection that the filmmaker cannily encourages and exploits.
There is a formal adventurousness here typical of Kurosawa, who has seesawed between genres both throughout his career (horror, sci-fi, and dramas like Tokyo Sonata) and within individual films (Doppelganger transitions from a loss-of-identity thriller to a sort of satirical romance). The constant element is a sure-footed aesthetic precision.
In 24 Frames, the boundary that separates still photograph from motion picture proves to be beside the point, much as it is immaterial to the impact of the heady Kiarostami romance Certified Copy whether the central couple are long-term partners or total strangers.