Ash Mayfair’s The Third Wife opens with 14-year-old May (Nguyen Phuong Tra My) in a red canoe, traveling to meet her future husband, Hung (Le Vu Long), an older, richer landowner. Their arranged marriage is a source of uneasiness for this young Vietnamese girl living in the 19th century, unmistakable in the opening close-ups of her face, whose solemnness points to a heroic struggle to be compliant with the patriarchal demands placed on the girls and women of this society. She puts a hand in the surrounding water, almost as if she were trying to calm her nerves. And upon arriving at Hung’s abode, a wide shot Hung’s gathered family gives us a hint of the tough road ahead of her.
In Rukus, people detach. They place layers of abstraction between what they feel and how they would like to be seen. It’s a necessary mechanism that’s inherent to all communication. As with the thick, matted, colorful hair that covers the faces of the furries at the heart of Rukus, distortion and obfuscation can sometimes be what helps us speak at all.
Rainer Kohlberger’s latest film, It has to be lived once and dreamed twice, is a kind of science fiction. Though it continues to develop a number of his longtime preoccupations—particularly with algorithmically generated art, and with visuals that strain the limits of our perception—the film has an unprecedented dramatic cohesion that makes it his most satisfying work to date. Visually, it is almost wholly comprised of waves of visual noise. Over this, a female narrator offers a winding, philosophical monologue for the film’s half-hour duration. I’m guessing these images were generated by machine learning reconstruction of clips from classic films, mixed perhaps with footage that’s been worked over with some good old-fashioned After Effects. Sometimes, relatively stable patches of color emerge out of the visual cacophony, suggesting a natural or artificial landscape. Other times, the shapes seem to writhe across the screen like elongated amoeba. Occasionally, they even coalesce into identifiable human forms—barely discernible, and only for a moment—before they are obliterated once more by tides of pulsating, striated noise.
War is a favorite subject for the movies. The reasons are as obvious as they are abundant: any battle will provide enough spectacle, drama, and conflict to provide material for a thousand films, from The Red & The White to Saving Private Ryan. What separates Loznitsa from other directors is his obsessive focus on how war affects the psychology of a populace, generations after the fighting is done.
The first thing to say about Lav Diaz’s latest film, Season of the Devil, is that there’s a lot of singing. For many of his fans, this comes as a surprise. Across his nearly hundred-hour filmography, Diaz never incorporates a traditional musical score, and seldom makes use of diegetic song or performance. Given their similarly sparse dialogue, his films are generally steeped in near or total silence.
A narrative film has to convey a lot of context very quickly. When we watch a well-made film, we usually gather within about a hundred seconds what the tone, pace and atmosphere is going to be. We might also glean something of the time, the politics. We don’t necessarily need to meet the main characters, or see the main location, in this time. Whether a film opens with desert- or streetscapes, an empty road, garbled speech, rapid-fire closeups, drone shots, or bright, shapeless bursts of colour…—what we as viewers seek is to place ourselves in a coherent milieu, within which the events to come will cohere.
Chingiz Aytmatov’s Jamila is a novel that finds the titular character falling in love with a man named Daniyar as her husband Sadyk is away at war. In reading Sadyk's letters, we come to understand that he views his wife as lesser than her, as a piece of property that he owns. For Jamila, she understands that loving someone other than her husband would be deemed immoral by the village, so she initially asks to avoid working on the same threshing floor as Daniyar. But by the end of the story, Jamila commits to her love for Daniyar and runs away with him. Director Aminatou Echard utilizes this famous book as a starting point for interviews with numerous women living in Kyrgyzstan. In allowing such honest discussion to take place, Echard presents an honest depiction of what it's like to be a woman living in Kyrgyzstan.
Helena Wittmann's debut film Drift features a loose narrative: two women (Theresa George, Josefina Gill) convene at a beach house in Sylt, converse throughout their stay, and eventually depart. During the first third of the film, the ocean is initially perceived as something important, but perhaps secondary to the leads. Images of water are to be expected for a film taking place on the German island, but they slowly inform how the remainder of the film is experienced. In viewing these bodies of water, one continuously finds analogues in shots that don't prioritize water. For one, observations of their movement become mirrored in travels by land: a gentle rivulet finds itself in the tracking shot of a bicycle ride, while the gentle ebb and flow of the ocean bears resemblance to a car driving down a bumpy street. The sensuous shapes of these bodies also manifest in a flapping sail, the curvature of leaves, and the duvet that lay atop the women's bed. The women even share myths related to water; that Wittmann presents an anthropological component to water reveals her desire for us to comprehend it as something far more multifaceted than we may think.