Pictures of Ghosts is as much a meditation on a home, a city, and a stretch of modern history—and how, over time, all three have evolved—as it is a memory-filled tour of a vanished world of movie theaters and other traces of film culture, tinged with a sense of loss.
The busyness and expansiveness and deft choreography of White Noise do not quite camouflage its superficial engagement with played-out themes (consumerism, better living through chemistry, coming to terms with mortality) located in family life and couples, Baumbach’s perennial territory.
The viewer may anticipate a contest between Phil and Rose for the boy’s heart and mind, a kind of moral tug-of-war, and Rose’s physical deterioration as her son’s fortitude develops enhances the misdirection. But in the end, it’s Peter’s conception of masculinity, as encapsulated in the film’s opening voiceover, that prevails.
The challenge facing any critical exegesis of this or any other adaptation of Dune is that the world-building novel by Frank Herbert (elaborated upon in five sequels) drops you into a fictional universe so fully imagined that the uninitiated cannot help but be daunted.
The book recycles the screenplay, but alters the structure, expands on certain scenes, drops others, restores scenes that did not make the final cut, and introduces a wealth of material that would not have belonged in the film. It is as much a willfully digressive collection of opinions as it is a work of fiction.
Shot in fall 2019 and originally set for 2020 release, The Forever Purge can’t be taken as a comment on the events of January 6, 2021. All the same, it is a legitimate (and/or opportunistic) ne plus ultra take on the political and social polarization and paranoid atmosphere of the Trump era.