Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Tragedy of Macbeth, Scream, Hyper-Local Agitprop, and Ursine Folk Horror

January 18th, 2022 | 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

Spettacolo (Film, US, Chris Shellen & Jeff Malmberg, 2017) Fly-on-the-wall documentary follows a tiny Tuscan village’s amateur theatrical troupe as they mount their annual original agitprop production. Visually and emotionally beautiful portrait of local tradition under siege features the sorts of surprising developments every documentarian dreams of.—RDL

The Tragedy of Macbeth (Film, US, Joel Coen, 2021) Emboldened by a trio of prophesying witches (Kathryn Hunter), an aging thane (Denzel Washington) and his psychopathic wife (Frances McDormand) kill the king and go blood simple. Stark, stripped-down rendition of Shakespeare’s gnarliest major tragedy as stark Symbolist nightmare, closely capturing hushed, intimate performances. Washington plays the text, as opposed to the usual Aristotelian projections onto it, by homing in on Macbeth’s fundamental weakness.—RDL


Lokis: A Manuscript of Professor Wittembach (Film, Poland, Janusz Majewski, 1970) In remote Samogitia to do ethnological research, Professor Wittembach (Edmund Fetting) is the guest of the unstable Count Szemiot (Jozef Duriasz), born nine months after a bear may have raped his now-insane mother. Combining proto-folk-horror atmosphere with wintry bright camera work, this film hits the uncanny sweet spot with increasing accuracy and power while never quite showing its hand. Or paw. –KH

A Taxi Driver (Film, South Korea, Jang Hoon, 2017) During South Korea’s 1980 declaration of martial law, a blustering Seoul cabbie (Song Kang-ho) drives a German reporter (Thomas Kretschmann) to Kwang-ju, into the heart of a military massacre of democracy protesters. Sweeping commercial moviemaking processes a national tragedy with rousing suspense and big emotion.—RDL


Apologies to My Censor: The High and Low Adventures of a Foreigner in China (Nonfiction, Mitch Moxley, 2013) Directionless young Toronto journalist moves to Beijing, working for the state-run China Daily, then as a researcher for the CBC Olympics team, and finally as a freelancer specializing in offbeat angles on Chinese life. Provides engaging texture on an expat scene that is probably already gone or disappearing.—RDL

Scream (Film, US, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, 2022) A new Ghostface stalks Samantha (Melissa Barrera) and a bunch of other Woodsboro teens connected to the first rampage. Unexceptionable slasher whodunit suitably “requel”-izes (in the film’s obsessive even for the franchise metaspeak) the mostly fun series. Few actual scares, but competent run-and-jump direction and a surprisingly affecting turn from the returning David Arquette is worth a Good rating. –KH


The Mad Women’s Ball (Film, France, Mélanie Laurent, 2021) When a young woman (Lou de Laâge) from a aristocratic family in Belle Époque Paris mildly defies her rigid father, he commits her to the harsh confines of the Salpêtrière asylum, where her ability to communicate with the spirit world provides a connection to its stern head nurse (Laurent.) Sets aside the rich and specifically strange history of the Salpêtrière under early neurologist and mesmerism enthusiast Jean-Martin Charcot, portrayed here as a standard villain, for the beats of the imprisonment and escape narrative.—RDL

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