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September 21, 2022 / barton smock

( words toward films, Christian Tafdrup’s ‘Speak No Evil’, & some others recently

An arrival numb to departure, Christian Tafdrup's Speak No Evil is an out-of-body duet unsung by people too close to partnership and camaraderie to see a single evil let alone name any tune not already on another's tongue. It is important that a film this alone remain within itself at length, or forever, and with performances and visuals that achieve both the hermetic and wild, it painfully and almost perfectly leaves itself an inheritance of inaction and etiquette enough to afford its callous but necessary payoff.


Noah Buschel's The Man in the Woods is alive and at rest, and is not sure its past life will see us in ours. Off kilter but never out of focus, it manages homage in mood while also rejecting it, kindly, with a creatural pulse. The performances are all ace...not the least of which are found in the quiet and decisive hurt of Jack Kilmer, the comically shy sadness of the trinity of Odessa Young, Gus Birney, and Jessica Carlson, the dual mirror in the broken partnership of Marin Ireland and Jane Alexander, William Jackson Harper's steering of the man alone with inner wilderness, and Kevin Corrigan's deft conducting of a music abandoned by chorus. This movie tricks magic.


What an elegant and rhythmic note to the gospel of the inner outsider Sparrows Dance is. Director Noah Buschel writes for the body and directs from the heart of the criminally underseen. Marin Ireland blues all flame and sighs invisibly through an invisible mask, while Paul Sparks convinces light it has a shadow and tells it to keep looking. Rarely has watching and breathing been so lovely to do at the same time.


Creatively and gloriously unreliable, Vincent Grashaw's difficult and restoring What Josiah Saw chooses how it begs and gets two-headed performances from all involved. Nick Stahl gives his ghost a ghost, Scott Haze retraces steps that didn't touch the earth, Robert Patrick closes every space in which he appears, and Jake Weber gets the story wrong with a menace that kills the right. But, damn, this is really Kelli Garner's movie. From the moment Garner's Mary puts the path in her path with the body language of anti-destination, the movie makes a scenic witness of its periphery and goes about vicariously burning itself beside the salvage of Garner's nervously resigned vision.


Talking itself into and out of the unanswered blue, All My Puny Sorrows guts both the nearby and the distant using the same hunger for recovery as bellied by any lost sister of loss. Alison Pill and Sarah Gadon glow wounded in performances that separately heal, and Mare Winningham keeps detail as something some god has locally misplaced. I was glad for all of its conversations and for its half open way of unburning books, for how Pill baptized the submerged, for how Gadon let others believe they’d invented the headlight, and also for how director Michael McGowan left often the camera alone to become its own silent letter.


We’re All Going To The World’s Fair has to it an unworried precision that had me thinking I might have forgotten to shut down, in another life, an electric toothbrush. If any pulse is taken, it’s the pulse of separation and director Jane Schoenbrun is songbook tender and secretly protective enough to hum the art of this film into the disconnected wrists of those whose online has no off. Schoenbrun and lead Anna Cobb make of knowing a current terror and no sky here falls that hasn’t been dropped. Cobb, with deadpan abstraction, gives a performance worth of sleep’s eternal jump-scare and works with the film outside of the film to put an end to vice-versa that we might more blankly keep those who are constantly notified away from those who appear by looking at the vanished.   

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