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Ken and Robin Consume Media: New Coens, New Suspiria

November 20th, 2018 | Robin

 

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Film, US, Ethan and Joel Coen, 2018) In a series of mordant vignettes, doom and sudden reversals of fortune stalk the old West. Anthology film finds the Coens entering a sagebrush version of Bunuel territory, a Discreet Charm of the Cowbourgeoisie if you will “Well, I’m not an enemy of betterment.”.—RDL

Chimes at Midnight (Film, Spain/Switzerland, Orson Welles, 1965) A condensed version of Henry IV Parts 1 & II focuses on just the material you need to follow the Falstaff/Prince Hal arc. You know, the good bits. Welles composes every frame as a perfect shot, with choreographed movement within the frame and a fast, ragged editing style two to three decades ahead of its time.—RDL

Recommended

Breaking News (Film, Hong Kong, Johnnie To, 2004) Canny thief Yuen (Richie Jen) and ambitious police superintendent Rebecca Fong (Kelly Chen) compete to manipulate the media while the latter hunts and traps the former, complicated by maverick cop Cheung (Nick Cheung). To really unveils his command of space in this multi-layered policier, beginning with a bravura six-plus-minute single-take establishing shot-turned-gunfight. –KH

The Deuce Season 2 (Television, US, David Simon, HBO, 2018) Fortunes in New York’s red light district rise and fall as Eileen (Maggie Gyllenhaal) plans an ambitious XXX feature and the Martino brothers (James Franco) are drawn deeper into mob activity. With the socioeconomic tapestry established in the previous season, this outing packs in a ton of storytelling as it shifts decisively into crime drama.—RDL

Face to Face (Film, Italy, Sergio Sollima, 1967) History professor (Gian Maria Volonte) goes from feckless to ruthless after throwing in with noble bandido (Tomas Milian.) Political allegory in Spaghetti western form tackles the corrupting influence of the intellectual class on peoples’ movements.—RDL

Good

The Match King (Film, US, William Keighley & Howard Bretherton, 1932) Chicago con man (Warren William) returns to his native Sweden to leverage a match factory into a world-spanning, fraudulent empire. White collar companion piece to Warner’s pre-Code gangster films, based on real-life figure Ivar Kreuger, driven by the suave charisma of now-forgotten star William.—RDL

Suspiria (Film, US/Italy, Luca Guadagnino, 2018) In 1977, dancer Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) leaves her dying mother behind to join a Berlin modern dance troupe headed by Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) but secretly run by witches. Each element in this thoroughly unnecessary remake of Dario Argento’s Pinnacle that works — the looming suspense, the modern-dance-as-witchcraft conceit and choreography, Tilda Swinton as artiste and witch — grinds against one that doesn’t — the lengthy detours, the tacked-on history and politics, Tilda Swinton as elderly male psychiatrist — to produce unease and final relief, which I suppose was the point, such as there was. –KH

Okay

Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Proxy War (Film, Japan, Kinji Fukasaku, 1973) In the fourth of a five-part series of hard-hitting crime docudramas, a paroled Hiroshima gangster (Bunta Sugawara) finds himself stuck between two equally feckless, narcissistic bosses. That yakuza life as Japan’s corporate era dawns has become an interminable chain of mind-numbing meetings in which the smart person fruitlessly tries to talk his idiot superiors out of their dumb ideas is both the point, and something of a slog. I strongly recommend the series in general even if this installment is basically the unrewarding, deck-clearing penultimate episode of a premium cable season.—RDL

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