In the film Cry Macho, nonagenarian Clint Eastwood (who directs as well) plays a septuagenarian, a worn-out old cowboy who’s sent to retrieve his benefactor’s estranged (and apparently abused) adolescent son from the clutches of his ex-wife in Mexico. It proves a journey to rough-edged renewal for both the old man and the kid (Eduardo Minett), with thoughtful variations on the latter-day Eastwood-isms of Gran Torino and The Mule. Minett shows a certain star power as young Rafo, and Natalia Traven is startlingly angelic as the too-good-to-be-true cafe owner who gives the travelers some much needed succor and protection during a detour on their return journey to El Norte. In a way, the best performance in the film comes from Dwight Yoakam, who plays the benefactor/father as an apt mixture of stand-up guy and human weasel.
In mythology, Undine is a water nymph destined to kill the lover who rejects her. In the German film Undine, by Christian Petzold, she is a modern day lecturer/guide for a government office in Berlin. Paula Beer plays her as deadpan smart and feisty right from the early moment when her faintly feckless boyfriend (Jacob Matschenz) first declares he’s breaking up with her. But Petzold delays the fulfillment of myth long enough for his Undine to fall in love with Christoph (Franz Rogowski), an “industrial diver” whose profession makes him akin to the tales of water sprites; and also long enough for another woman (Maryam Zaree) to emerge within the story’s fluid love triangles. The full magic of Petzold’s version comes from a surprisingly seamless blend of surface realism and underwater fantasy.
Annette, the extravagant meta-musical from French auteur Leos Carax, is both off-putting and fascinating—much more fascinating than not, I’d say, but with the sour notes still being a crucial ingredient. It has a ferociously contrarian superstar of stand-up comedy (Adam Driver) and an ethereal singer (Marion Cotillard) who fall in love and have a child, the eponymous Annette, who in early infancy shows “miraculous” musical gifts of her own and, with her parents’ management, soon attains superstar status of her own. For much of the film, however, Annette is played by what appears to be an animatronic doll, and her father’s dark side steadily expands toward something truly murderous. Much of the film, as a result, plays rather like some Las Vegas-style wedding of modernist opera and film noir. And it’s topped off by the last-minute arrival of a real-life child superstar (Devyn McDowell, age 5 during filming) in the role of Annette.
With Non Fiction, another esteemed French auteur, Olivier Assayas, gives us a calmly scintillating mixture of bedroom farce and deep-dish cultural debate. The mild-mannered publisher (Guillaume Canet) is backing away from publishing the latest book of a previously favored novelist (Vincent Macaigne), which might or might not have something to do with the fact that the publisher is having an affair with the firm’s expert in digital matters (Christa Théret) while the publisher’s wife (Juliette Binoche) is having an affair with the novelist and nursing doubts about her future as a TV star. The novelist’s significant other (Nora Hamzawi) is unruffled by the infidelities but very upset about the public misbehavior of the political candidate she’s working for.
Meanwhile, everyone involved has astute things to say about the effects of digital media on literature, publishing, politics and culture in general. Assayas and company never get too serious about any of it, but when all is said and done, this sprightly roundelay of several kinds of serious fun may be its own real point anyhow.
Only Murders in the Building, the comic murder mystery unfolding weekly on Hulu, is a witty delight, with true crime buffs played by Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez trying to investigate the sudden death of a tenant in their apartment building while also converting the whole process into their very own true crime podcast. With its sardonic running commentary on show biz, the internet, fame, media fads, loneliness, aging and self-absorption, Only Murders shines as a bristling comedy of digital-age manners. The funny-smart script is credited to the lead players, but a great deal of it has the feel and sound of an exceptionally witty Steve Martin production. Nevertheless, it’s Short who gets most of the knock-out moments, with Martin slightly off to the side, playing the less-manic foil.
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