Films released in the first quarter of the year are known for ranging from passable to dreadful. With these low expectations in mind, Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane (2018) still manages to disappoint with its predictable story, messy structure, and generally unimpressive cinematic style.
As the forty minute mark approached during my screening of Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time (2018), I struggled with a simple question: Is it possible to review a film you walked out on? When I write about a film, I try to deliver more than a recommendation or a warning. A review should cast a spotlight on an aspect of filmmaking or storytelling that audiences and creators alike should treasure – unless the product is so bad, it should be obliterated for the cathartic entertainment of others. However, there’s a rare exception to my line of thought, where a product becomes a vehicle for a valuable lesson in the creative process. In the case of A Wrinkle in Time, while the fact that I walked out of the theater should be an indication of the film’s quality, it should mostly be a display of the importance of keeping your audience invested through compelling story elements.
As one of this year’s nominees for Best Foreign Film, Sebastián Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman covers a sensitive issue well, delivering a powerful film worthy of its Oscar nod. A Fantastic Woman follows aspiring singer Marina Vidal (Daniela Vega) through her experiences as a transgender woman who wants nothing more than to fulfill her life goals. Unfortunately, when her boyfriend Orlando (Francisco Reyes) suddenly dies, Marina finds herself unable to properly mourn, as Orlando’s family are quick to throw suspicion and scorn towards our protagonist when they discover her gender identity.
On a rare occasion, the passage of time helps a film age like a fine wine. Such a rare example of this phenomenon is best observed in the case of Georges Franju’s French horror film, Eyes Without a Face (1960). Released the same year that Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) was criticized for its “vulgar” shot of a flushing toilet, Eyes Without a Face is a movie that phenomenally blends emotional turmoil with the grotesque into a simple story whose unnerving aura transcends time and language. With four screenings of the film scheduled for this week thanks to the Secret Celluloid Society, now is an opportune time to sit back and re-examine a classic that deserves more mainstream attention than it currently has.
To believers of the supernatural, the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California is the remnant of an unfortunately haunted widow, while skeptics see the mansion as a monument to the power of inherited guilt. After consulting with a medium who foretold that the spirits killed by Winchester branded rifles would haunt her until her death, Sarah Winchester’s mansion became legendary for having been under construction every day of her life. The end result was a beautifully ornate mansion that once stood seven stories tall, and was filled with over a hundred and fifty rooms, stairwells and doors that lead to nowhere, and had the chaotic floor-plan of a labyrinth. Knowing this, when I heard there were plans to make a film about Sarah Winchester and her interactions with a psychiatrist, I was genuinely excited by the prospect of a horror film that blurred the line between a genuine haunting and tragic psychological turmoil.
How foolish of me to anticipate a horror film released in February.
One of the greatest tragedies that can fall on a film is being forgotten in the shadow of a remake or a reinterpretation with a greater relevance in popular culture. Such a phenomenon happens equally with both great films and terrible films, such as John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) or Rupert Wainwright’s The Fog (2005) – both of which are remakes which have overshadowed their predecessors in mainstream consciousness. Such a fate may soon fall on Dario Argento’s unnerving and influential horror film, Suspiria (1977). With a remake slated for release this year, and a screening of the recently discovered uncut version of the film coming to the Coral Gables Art Cinema, now’s a better time than ever to examine why this film from the creator of 1978’s Dawn of the Dead has developed its persistent cult following.