Here's a continuation of the reviews from my previous post. I was saving a lot of the good stuff for last.
Young Torless- This is German director Volker Schlondorff's first movie (his main claim to fame is the oscar winning The Tin Drum). I've seen it credited as helping to start the New German Cinema (it was made in 1966) but it really doesn't seem to have as much recognition as it should. It tells the story of bullying in an Austrian boarding school in the early 20th century; the young Basini is used as a subject by his peers to demonstrate how far a human can be degraded through humiliation and torture. It's all an obvious allegory for Nazi Germany, with our hero, Torless, representing the passive and indifferent intellectual who allows the cruelty to go on. If any of this makes the movie sound dated, forced, or obvious, it's not. The commentary is more nuanced than that of Dogville, to give an example of a movie with a similarly pessimistic view of human nature, and the black and white cinematography is stunning. I'm sure Haneke was influenced by Young Torless for The White Ribbon. 8.6 Also, Schlondorff was at the screening himself, and graciously answered questions for about 20 minutes afterwards. He says the only thing that he truly regrets is not bringing more of the homosexual relationship between Basini and Torless from the novel of the same name.
Woman in the Dunes- Awesome Japanese movie from 1962 that I highly recommend seeing. It's pretty unlikely that I'll remember this, but it's directed by Hiroshi Teshigara, if you wanted to know. Basically, a man is held prisoner by a woman in a house that is surrounded on all sides by gigantic sand dunes. What ensues is 2 hours of claustrophobia, tension, surrealism, and a pervading sense of hopelessness. The Wikipedia page compares it to No Exit and I think that sounds about right. If you think of a combination between that and Hiroshima Mon Amour (there's something of a romance between the man and the dune woman) you get a pretty good idea of what this movie is about. Also, crazy sex scenes. 9.1
Cleo de 5 a 7- Agnes Varda is truly an incredible filmaker; there's so much life in her movies, even while they remain avant-garde and experimental. This one is from 1962 so it's one of the great early films from the Nouvelle Vague. It's the story, told in real time, of our heroine, Cleo, as she awaits the results of a medical exam (she's convinced that she has cancer). Truly a lot happens in those two hours: the movie is filled with joy, sadness, music, conversation, other movies, love (both real and superficial), and the streets of Paris. And the ending is truly great. (I don't spoil anything here but I will say that there is something about the ending in the theater that surely can't be replicated on DVD). 9.3
Crash- This bizarre Cronenberg pic from 1996 is like Antonioni with sex and car crashes. And while it can seem to take itself a little too seriously at times (technology and perversion were better handled in Videodrome), the end result is something that's both disturbing and memorable. It's probably the most shocking thing I've seen in a theater (deserves its NC-17 rating). I also think that quite a bit of dark humor crept through as well, even if I didn't dare laugh out loud at dialogue such as this; "Do you know what semen tastes like? Have you ever tasted semen? Some semen is saltier than others. Vaughan's semen must be very salty." 8.2
The Social Network- David Fincher takes on the creation of Facebook and the result is the best reviewed movie of the year so far. Fincher yet again proves himself a master of his craft, although whether he's an auteur of any sorts is debatable (asides from the obvious fact that he doesn't write anything.) Script honors go to West Wing writer Aaron Sorkin who gives us something that is both witty and exaggerated in a way that Hollywood movies almost always are. Indeed, it's a Hollywood product in many ways, but it's extremely entertaining and well done (2 hours flew by in no time). And Fincher does bring that distinctive mood and gravity that you can count on him for. I didn't realize how much the story needed to be told until I saw the movie; it truly does capture the zeitgeist, and this alone makes the film as important as it is. Great score from Trent Reznor, great performance from Jesse Eisenberg. 8.5