Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: The Zone of Interest, Anatomy of a Fall, Saltburn

February 20th, 2024 | 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.


Anatomy of a Fall (Film, France, Justine Triet, 2023) Novelist Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller) goes on trial for murder after her failed-novelist husband falls to his death from the attic (or balcony) of their isolated fixer-upper chalet while her sight-impaired son Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner) is out walking his dog. Lapidary script by Triet and Arthur Harari layers revelations and character beats with watchmaker precision, while Hüller and Machado-Graner give those revelations and beats matter and meaning, all within the framework of a classic murder-trial film.—KH

Eight Hours of Terror (Film, Japan, Seijun Suzuki, 1957) Anxious to make a train connection, a group of people from disparate walks of life put aside fears of fugitive bank robbers in the area to board a rickety bus for an emergency trip along treacherous mountain roads. Ensemble suspense drama celebrates altruistic underdogs and sticks it to the selfish creeps.—RDL

Let Joy Reign Supreme (Film, France, Bertrand Tavernier, 1975) When a rustic Breton noble (Jean-Pierre Marielle) launches a conspiracy against the melancholy, libertinish Regent Philippe II d’Orleans (Philippe Noiret), his scheming minister (Jean Rochefort) spots an opportunity for advancement. Satirical period drama presents a jaundiced portrait of 18th aristocratic decadence.—RDL

Miss Shampoo (Film, Taiwan, Giddens Ko, 2023) After she hides him from assassins, a hunky gang boss (Daniel Hong) falls for an adorable hair stylist with a propensity for extreme cuts (Vivian Sung.) If you’ve been wondering where the anarchic tone- and genre-shifting spirit of 80s and 90s Hong Kong cinema went, it has moved to Taiwan, as this outré gangster rom com attests.—RDL

Silent Night (Film, US, John Woo, 2023) After a gang shooting spree leaves his son killed and his vocal cords shot out, Brian Godlock (Joel Kinnaman) resolves to kill those responsible one year later, on Christmas Eve. Woo’s eye for action and perfect camera control pitilessly depict Godlock deliberately stripping out his humanity to become a feral killing machine: this is not 80s “killer cool” Woo but a darker, more desperate version. Without dialogue, Woo creates a pure expression of cinema as light, motion, music, and violence.—KH

A Stranger in Your Own City: Travels in the Middle East’s Long War (Nonfiction, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, 2023) Iraqi journalist ruefully recounts his country’s catastrophic spirals into deadly and destabilizing conflict, from the Iran-Iraq war he witnessed as a child through the US invasion, civil war, the battle with ISIS and beyond. Fleshes out the complexities of events typically given shorthand treatment in the Western press, with a recurring theme being men with guns who are sure they’ve learned from the mistakes of the past and are not going to repeat them this time.—RDL

The Zone of Interest (Film, UK/Poland, Jonathan Glazer, 2023) Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) leads a contented family life in the well-appointed house on the other side of its walls. Aided by masterfully destabilizing sound design, this plotless cinematic study of the banality of evil drops the viewer into an all but unrelieved moral vacuum.—RDL


The Meg (Film, US/China, Jon Turteltaub, 2018) Traumatized deep sea rescuer (Jason Statham) reluctantly returns for a mission to recover his ex-wife from an exploratory sub downed by an old nemesis no one else believes in—a 25 meter long Miocene-era shark. Starts surprisingly smart but doesn’t end up that way, falling prey to the inherent problem of animal-related disaster movies, finding enough different things for the creature to do.—RDL

Saltburn (Film, UK/US, Emerald Fennell, 2023) Scholarship boy Oliver (Barry Keoghan, risibly old for the part) falls for aristo Felix (Jacob Elordi, effortlessly fantastic) at Oxford and gets invited to the family estate for the summer. This Brideshead Revisited-Talented Mr. Ripley mashup never coheres, mostly because Oliver fluctuates between Iago and a kicked puppy throughout. However, I will watch a hundred films featuring Rosamund Pike as a ditzy lady of the manor. Further kudos to cinematographer Linus Sandgren, who shoots Saltburn manor with sunlit love.—KH


The Creator (Film, US, Gareth Edwards, 2023) In a future where America is at war with androids, a former double agent (John David Washington) agrees to seek their human inventor, hoping also to find his wife, presumed dead but apparently alive and working with the enemy. For all of its impressive visual worldbuilding and indelible cinematic imagery, this blend of Blade Runner and the Global War on Terror falters on viewpoint and sympathy. The audience can tell from the outset that the mission is a con job, and for much of the running time can’t tell where our hopes or fears should lie..—RDL

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