Alejandro Jodorowsky sometimes describes himself as a man without a country. Born in Chile to Ukrainian parents, he was pale and with curly hair while everyone around was darker with straight hair. In his hand-written autobiography, he once observed he, “[has] not been accepted anywhere.” This sense of alienation pervades The Dance of Reality, a film about Jodorowsky’s time in Tocopilla, a small coastal town. Sublime and surreal, Jodorowsky’s latest unfolds like a cross between a memoir and a fairy tale. Parts of the film are shocking, even grotesque, and yet somehow there’s an overall feeling of warm nostalgia.
It’s been over a decade since Bryan Singer directed an X-Men film, which is about as long as it’s been since Spider-Man revolutionized the comic book summer blockbuster. Since then, Marvel films have grown in scope and ambition, while the X-Men franchise languished with Brett Ratner’s mediocre sequel and a couple ill-advised Wolverine films. X-Men: Days of Future Past is more than just a return to form: with an economical screenplay and character-driven action, it’s easily the bestX-Men film to date. The plot withers under close scrutiny, as do all time travel films, but picking it apart is half the fun.
The German Doctor is a period film that uses body horror to help us understand the darkest, most disturbing ideas of the twentieth century. Writer/director Lucía Puenzo does not require a deep understanding of World War 2’s aftermath, nor does she expect the audience to be familiar with how Nazis fled to South America. Her film instead centers on an ordinary family, the strange man who ingratiates himself into it, and how inhuman ideas can infect otherwise decent people. There is little violence or gore in The German Doctor, yet large sections are unsettling simply because they seem so plausible and immediate.
There are many movies that are critic-proof, and the Adam Sandler comedy Blended is the most recent example. No matter what the Rotten Tomato score or how vicious it’s ripped apart, Sandler and his producers can be reasonably certain that their latest will have modest-to-good box office returns. What’s more rare, and what should be celebrated accordingly, are movies that are the opposite of critic proof: movies that need champions so that they find the audience they deserve. Jim Mickle’s Cold in July is like that. It’s a superbly-directed thriller, one with rich performances, black comedy, and flashes of brutal violence. It deliberately apes John Carpenter-thrillers, including a score full of moody synthesizers. Cold in July is brimming with confidence, not ambition, so it’s unseemly fun from the get-go.
There is a trend in modern theater, particularly dark comedies, where playwrights overuse nudity as a means for shock. I’ve seen several plays in DC without strong endings, so the main character strips while the action transitions from the realistic toward the ethereal. It’s a lazy trick, and it’s what I thought of when I found out The Studio’s newest production is called Cock. Thankfully English playwright Mike Bartlett subverts this trend: his title might be racy, but his characters do not shed their clothes (exactly). In fact, the minimalist drama strips away typical stage movement to the point where there the audience fills the missing gaps. There is no choice but to listen to the sharp dialogue, which veers from wit to heartbreak, sometimes in the same moment.
She is shy when she enters her John’s hotel room, and he remarks about how young she looks. She tells him she’s twenty, even though she and the John both know she’s lying. It’s immaterial to them because the transgression is over, and the transaction is the only thing left. This delicate back and forth is essential to Young & Beautiful, the new erotic drama from French filmmaker François Ozon. He sexualizes his vulnerable female hero, but not to the point of exploitation. Ozon is an observant filmmaker, who’s sensitive to manners and class, and a specific byproduct of adolescence interests him. Owning one’s sexuality is an important part of coming of age, and Young & Beautiful is about what can happen when objectification forces that ownership to occur too quickly.