Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Senegalese Magic Cops, Sumerian Ghosts, an Indonesian Heist, and a Classic POW Escape

January 17th, 2023 | 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

A Man Escaped (Film, France, Robert Bresson, 1956) Imprisoned by the Nazis, Resistance fighter Lt. Fontaine (Francois Leterrier) resolves to escape. Bresson strips everything out of his film except the pure gaze of the camera (with an assist from Mozart) and the pitiless tension of story to create a timeless and universal paean to liberty that doubles as a crackling suspense picture. –KH


Confess, Fletch (Film, US, Greg Mottola, 2022) Framed for murder in relation to an art theft he’s looking into for his glamorous new Italian girlfriend,  a sardonic former investigative reporter (Jon Hamm) confounds Boston cops and navigates a maze of kooky suspects. A refreshing revival of the loose, shaggy spirit of late 70s and early 80s screen comedy, where the main special effect is Hamm’s array of bemused reaction shots.—RDL

The First Ghosts: Most Ancient of Legacies (Nonfiction, Irving Finkel, 2021) Survey of ancient Mesopotamian ghost beliefs and necromantic summoning techniques takes a slight diversion in the middle to review underworld descent myths. Presents a world of ubiquitous revenants, hitting the sweet spot between scholarship and accessibility. Finkel might, based on the assumption that myths contain practical, external or internal logic, assert an overly certain conclusion or three along the way. But what am I, a cuneiformist?—RDL

Nope (Film, US, Jordan Peele, 2022) Laconic movie horse wrangler (Daniel Kaluuya) and his extroverted sister (Keke Palmer) seek a payday by trying to record conclusive evidence of the strange force hiding in the clouds above the failing family ranch. Cryptic imagery and visual treats both spectacular and subliminal put a fresh spin on a beloved horror sub-genre.—RDL

Queens of the Wild: Pagan Goddesses in Christian Europe: An Investigation (Nonfiction, Ronald Hutton, 2022) Hutton explores four intermediate beings (Mother Nature, the Fairy Queen, the Queen of the Night, and the Cailleach) from their pagan roots to their modern mythopoesis and deepens our knowledge of all four while dismantling any “Great Goddess” hangovers. An epilogue on the (entirely modern) Green Man makes a superb counterpoint. –KH

Sakho & Mangane Season 1 (Television, Senegal, Canal+ Afrique, Jean Luc Herbulot, 2019) On the mean streets of Dakar, a by-the-book police commander (Issaka Sawadogo) and his maverick new partner (Yann Gael) investigate a series of cases with increasingly overt supernatural elements. This would merit attention simply as a port of police procedural tropes to a West African setting. And then the zombies show up. Now on Netflix in many territories.—RDL


Stealing Raden Saleh (Film, Indonesia, Angga Dwimas Sasongko, 2023) Hoping to spring his father from jail, an earnest college-age art forger (Iqbaal Dhiafakhri Ramadhan) and his fixer buddy (Angga Yunanda) agree to assemble a team of novice heisters to steal Indonesia’s most iconic painting. Ingratiating tribute to the heist tradition, with a bit of martial arts thrown in, is less than economical in setting up its characters and situation.—RDL


The Pale Blue Eye (Film, US, Scott Cooper, 2022) Summoned to investigate a case of murder and mutilation at West Point in 1830, former cop Augustus Landor (a lugubrious Christian Bale) recruits as his inside man the cadet Edgar Allan Poe (a squeaky super-camp Henry Melling). Squelches the pleasures of both detection and gothic horror in favor of bad lighting, plodding story, and stultifying self-seriousness, wasting a packed supporting cast (Gillian Anderson, Toby Jones, Robert Duvall, Charlotte Gainsbourg) in the process. –KH

The Pale Blue Eye (Film, US, Scott Cooper, 2022) Traumatized ex-cop (Christian Bale) investigates a hanging at West Point with the aid of one of its cadets, a young Edgar Allan Poe (Henry Melling.) Treats lurid material with a whispery solemnity, when it could use a dash of camp and some rhythmic variation.—RDL

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