Filmmaker Everson catches the lost moments film often ignores. He insists on the primacy of crucial but unglamorous labor, on the validity of actions both repetitive and mundane. Everson has a keen awareness of duration, especially of the callousing effects of shift work. Although he sometimes documents an actual event, none of his films are purely documentary, nor do they rely on exposition. These are moving pictures in every sense of the word.
Despite plenty of rehearsal, Maren Ade’s films feel natural, even improvised, the camera less chronicler than eavesdropper. In the semi-autobiographical Toni Erdmann, Ade makes a virtue of ambiguity. Alternately mordant, despairing, and absurd, the film establishes the writer-director as a voice both darkly funny and vitally serious.
Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park is a strikingly beautiful film, but its beauty is all about numbing, about shutting out what doesn’t jibe with the smooth ride (or skate) American life is meant to be.
Barbara, set in 1980 in the German Democratic Republic, subverts the traditional woman’s picture to pose questions about freedom, work and love. Christian Petzold’s delicately shaded view of the Cold War neither scolds nor instructs.
Roy Andersson’s Living Trilogy takes stock of what it means to be a human being. Sharply lampooning society’s rules, expectations, and institutions, Andersson reserves his benevolence for flops and lost causes.
Set in 1962 Poland, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida focuses on two very different women, aunt and niece, as they navigate the cramped possibilities for private thought and private life under indirect Soviet rule.
Like the contemporaneous photographs of Shomei Tomatsu, Nagisa Oshima’s Boy offers a glimpse of a society fast-forwarded from tradition to defeat to consumption. Yet for all its cultural specificity, Boy is also universal, a stark portrayal of insidious familial corruption that leaves a 10-year-old boy (Tatsuo Abe) emotionally maimed for life, with too little grounding and too much experience.
Among the best collaborations between Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, The Small Back Room presents a complicated study of self-destructiveness and defeatism. Its mix of seriousness and wit transforms a somewhat unlikeable protagonist into an utterly sympathetic human being.
Discussion of Holland’s Burning Bush, set in 1969 Prague, a few months after the Soviet occupation. Agnieszka Holland maintains that the past is “…part of our present. The past happens now, even if it’s reconstructed.”