Thursday, February 25, 2021


With some Prince "The Beautiful Ones"-vibes, here is the dreampop single "Castaway" from LA-based group Tashaki Miyaki

Preorder their new album on vinyl here.

The music video was directed by Paige Stark.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

retro movie love podcast: jan + feb films of '91

I had so much fun recording this podcast with Meep (Michael Ferrari of the Retro Movie Love Podcast) of films released between January and February 1991, 30 years ago. Stalwarts like The Silence of the Lambs and Sleeping with the Enemy figure but also some hidden gems like Queens Logic and Men of Respect. Loved hearing Meep's recollections of seeing many of these films for the first time in the theater!

Links below!

Friday, February 19, 2021

all again

Austrian group Wallners delivers with this dreamy EP Prolog I. Song "All Again" is a highlight in particular. 

The music video was directed by Rupert Höller.

Wallners on Instagram

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

two of us

Italian Director Filippo Meneghetti's intricate, involving chamber piece love story Two of Us, is harbored in unease and the immediate stirrings of a secret, long-rooted relationship in the wake of unexpected trauma. It is quite exceptional for a debut feature length. With effective editing (by Ronan Tronchot and Julia Maby) and an uneasy soundscape, the film mixes dream imagery with realism, studded with sequences of suspense, such as hiding in rooms one isn't "supposed" to be in. The title Two of Us is literal in many ways: it describes the decades-old, affectionate relationship between Nina (Barbara Sukowa) and Madeline (Martine Chevallier); it details the seamless switching points-of-view we see in the first and second halves of the film; it also describes the duality between Madeline's hidden relationship with Nina and her "other" life with her family; moreover, it refers to Madeline's life that we see in the beginning, on the precipice of coming out to her family, and her life after when she is rendered speechless and physically confined.


Set within a small, non-glamorous French city, the film, often taking place in rooms, has a cloistered feel. It's no wonder Madeline and Nina have grander plans of escape. Madeline is fearful of coming out to her immediate family: a no-nonsense, chilly frost-blond daughter Anne (Léa Drucker) and her aloof husband Frédéric (Jérôme Varanfrain). Many notable LGBTQ films of today have moved past the coming out stage, but Two of Us portrays a modern story of an older woman who hasn't made that step quite yet--and perhaps there are many out there who can relate to her trepidation. It helps that Chevallier's performance is so warm and complex. She's aided by the showier Sukowa, a piercing-eyed, quietly intense actress, whose Nina can be unbridled in her ferocious protection of Madeline and her condition and yet at the same time, who never seems to be able to overstep the line Madeline hasn't been able to cross herself.

While the story has its own sense of complexity, visually the movie creates subtle tensions. Perhaps intentional, or more an emotional response upon myself as a viewer, I felt that the film was lessened in color and struck a colder visual tone in the scenes between Madeline and her family; in the scenes with Madeline and Nina: much warmer, earthy.  In moments where Madeline and Nina are apart from one another, there's immediate dissonance, anxiety: an eerie, empty public laundry where a washer spins in a noisy clang; a clinical, drab, dim-lit hospital waiting room. Meneghetti, with the guiding of cinematographer Aurélien Marra, strike tones in ways that aren't too obvious. The story doesn't always click fully--such some off-tones and the subplot of a bumbling caregiver (Muriel Bénazéraf), but the acting and chemistry between the two leads is so strong, I felt fully engaged nevertheless. Is there a dissatisfaction that lingers in Anne where she feels there is something "missing" in her communications with her mother? Anne is definitely a character to ponder over, as she is sketched somewhat thinly here. The little pieces the film gives us from our two perspectives is what we are left with, and the movie ultimately emerges as a compelling, moving, and satisfying twinning of narrative. ***

-Jeffery Berg

Monday, February 15, 2021

a sun

Director Chung Mong-hong's (who also shot and co-wrote) Taiwanese drama A Sun is a sprawling portrait of a family in turmoil. The father, A-Wen (Chen Yi-wen), is a taciturn, no-nonsense driving instructor. The company he works for and his own personal motto is "Seize the Day. Follow Your Own Path"--a conceit that runs ironically throughout this twisting saga of a family constantly forging new, sometimes unexpected, sometimes tragic, paths for its members based upon their individual acts; these twisty orbits are enacted in symbolism of wooded trails and roads. The mother, Qin (Samantha Ko), is a beautician who seeks to buy a salon on her own. The two sons are wildly different. A-Ho (Wu Chien-Ho) is the trouble-maker, tied up with the wicked antics of wannabe-gangster friend Radish (Liu Kuan-Ting); The pensive, very intelligent, A-Hao (Greg Hsu), is studious but a daydreamer. In the shocker opening, an act of violence committed by Radish and A-Ho, splinters the lives of the family members in different directions. Obviously, A-Wen's mellow, straightforward driving directions aren't as akin to everyday living as much as he hopes for himself and his sons.

A Sun, a heady slow-burn, but absorbing nevertheless, is a film about justice and disorder with monumental consequences. The acting and characters are well-drawn, and we get to know the interior lives of the family, sometimes in detailed, mesmerizing ways. The story between Radish and A-Ho, in particular, feels Shakespearean, like an ancient morality tale, even as it often takes place within the confines of a car wash garage of prison bar-like fluorescent-glint that houses a gleaming luxury car (overall, the movie is strikingly shot and light is used throughout in symbolic, arresting ways). The film is admittedly overlong (at 156 minutes), with random, overwrought bouts of humor that often don't work nor fit the mood of the picture. In some ways, it reminded me of the shifting tenors in some of Paul Thomas Anderson's rambling epics. However, once the film reached its beautifully simple, somewhat hopeful, sunlit conclusion, I felt and appreciated the wallop of the film's overall power and singularity. ***1/2

-Jeffery Berg

Sunday, February 14, 2021

art by william johnson

 A few pieces from painter William Johnson.


William Henry Johnson (1901-1970), a Black American painter, was born in Florence, South Carolina. He became a student at the National Academy of Design in New York City, working with Charles Webster Hawthorne.

via tumblr

Saturday, February 13, 2021

one day

I just discovered this new single "One Day" from Swedish-based group Vivii & I love it.

The accompanying music video was directed, shot and edited by Rikkard Häggbom.


"This is my story as I remember it..."

So begins Maria Sødahl's sensitive, assiduous film HopeAndrea Bræin Hovig, in a strong, detailed performance, plays Anja, a dance and theatre director who is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Anja has been in a long-term relationship with Tomas (Stellan Skarsgård), with different sets of biological children. The grim diagnosis, given around the wintry, end-of-the-year holidays, and the brief amount of days Anja is told she has left, tests and reshapes the relationships she has between Tomas, her children, and her friends (her closest in the picture is Vera, played by Gjertrud L. Jynge, who gives a lovely turn in a small role). 

Anja and her family live in a tasteful home of high gloss white painted walls with moulding, hardwood floors, antique rugs, abstract paintings and flickering candles (the thoughtful production design is by Jørgen Stangebye Larsen with set decoration by Kaja Raastad). It's a cozy, appealing place to be, and the perfect reflection of Anja's smart, artsy, and unsentimental personality. But Anja's anxiety, sadness, fear, and deteriorating health, including the loss of being able to read, is visibly consuming. Her medicines leave her ravenous--bread and sheets of shaved cheese--the food curbing her nausea; ravenous also in an emotional sense: desperation in the face of finality. As the film counts down the days, Anja declares at one point: "Before... My memories were never in the right order... But now, when I see the end, I see everything laid out in chronological order..." Statements like these feel real and close, perhaps borne from Writer / Director Sødahl's own personal experience with cancer.

The picture could be a sister film to Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland's Still Alice. Both films are somewhat simplistic, straightforward portraits of illness. What complicates both, however, are the modulations within the relationships. Here, Anja and Tomas, is the compelling core. An emotionally-wrought sex scene between the two is wrenchingly executed by the actors. And Hovig continuously conveys her wreck of nerves, including a scene before relaying her diagnosis to her children. Overall, the ensemble plays the flawed naturalism of familial tension and affection well. The film is aided by the careful photography (by Manuel Alberto Claro), with some hand-held shots conveying tension and unease. The lack of a music score, makes the movie a bit sluggish but also gives it an appropriately disquieting feel. While the film runs a bit long and never quite hits the emotional punches and heights it seems to be aiming for, the distinctive performances and atmosphere help carry it along. **1/2

-Jeffery Berg

Thursday, February 11, 2021

the mole agent

Maite Alberdi's Chilean film The Mole Agent is a curious one. It's a movie that feels fuzzy in its delineation between documentary and fiction. It's also a movie that feels fuzzy in its ethics, while completely benign in its intentions. The mild-mannered and debonair 83-year old widower Sergio (Sergio Chamy), gray-haired in sharp, well-tailored clothes and gray canvas slip-ons, is hired by a gruff private investigator Romulo (Romulo Aitken). Sergio's mission: to infiltrate himself into a nursing home to report back and record its supposed poor conditions. 

This stunt-like intrigue set-up is one of the more artificial parts of the doc. There's a lot of easy, jokey play with old people and techs (using iPhones and spy cameras on thick-framed glasses) in the beginning and sprinkled throughout. Predictably (and thankfully), the tech that Sergio is forced to use and aspects of recording "proof" ends up being pretty much useless as the film wears on. 

More vital, and similarly where the film gains its strength and momentum, are the relationships Sergio begins to forge within this new environment. He is seen as a "gentleman," as gracious and a good listener, and attracts some of the women in the home, especially the memorable Berta (Berta Ureta) who fancies him and his company. She asks for him to accompany him on her short walks to the bank, one of her few moments of outside intimacy, with hopes of establishing a deeper bond. She even imagines a wedding at the home--for her, what would be one of the most exciting things to happen there ever. While the most compelling parts of film, Berta's yearning for Sergio can be a bit hard to watch, and it made me question the doc's boundaries between examination and exploitation. Yet, Berta emerges as a figure of strength, humor and independence. Sergio's good-natured attitude and compassion for her, poignant. 

Where The Mole Agent lands isn't too surprising, but in an era of harsh and necessary docs revealing the extremities of human existence and injustice, there's a certain relief in that the worst folly of the home is that un-pinnable, that un-data-specific sense of pervasive loneliness. Overall, through parties, the individual quirks and mishaps of the elders, and the banal everyday (the film was whittled down by Alberdi and editor Carolina Siraqyan from hours and hours of footage to a tight 84 minutes), The Mole Agent ultimately eschews its initial cutesiness and makes a strong case for relationships and listening to and caring for an age group left to the margins of society.  ***

-Jeffery Berg