Reviews - Page 63

Giving you our points of view on the latest docs in release and on the circuit.

Review: ‘The King’

The King (USA, 107 min.) Dir. Eugene Jarecki Is there a better metaphor for the United States of America than the career trajectory of Elvis Presley? Eugene Jarecki makes a bold claim that the life of the King is inextricably linked with the American ethos. For him, charting the rise and fall of Presley’s tumultuous career offers the perfect analogy for how much the U.S. empire of the West missed the mark in its quest for greatness. The King shows that, like Elvis, the States exploded with electrifying promise after the Second World War with the advent of rock ‘n’ roll and

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Review: ‘Whitney’

Whitney (USA/UK, 120 min.) Dir. Kevin Macdonald Whitney might be the first documentary made about Whitney Houston with the full authorization of her family but don’t let that much trucked-about showbiz line fool you. This documentary isn’t a completely sanitized account of the great singer. Houston’s story gets the full warts-and-all treatment from Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald (Marley). While the documentary inevitably bears evidence of well-calculated efforts by the Houston dynasty to overlook the darker aspects of the star’s tragically short-lived career, Whitney pushes hard enough to give audiences a deeper appreciation of the late pop icon. The film is as sad as

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Review: ‘Filmworker’

Filmworker (USA, 94 min.) Dir. Tony Zierra The mad artistry of Stanley Kubrick gets the doc treatment in Filmworker. This documentary is supposed to be a film about Kubrick’s devoted assistant Leon Vitali, but, by the midpoint, it becomes apparent that Vitali isn’t as interesting a subject as Kubrick is, so director Tony Zierra inevitably shifts his gaze towards the bigger prize. Vitali remains the Igor to Kubrick’s Dr. Victor Frankenstein years after the filmmaker’s death in 1999. Vitali continue to work on Kubrick’s films, having just overseen a new restoration of 2001: A Space Odyssey, so he’s devoted as many years

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Review: ‘The Oslo Diaries’

The Oslo Diaries (Canada/Israel, 97 min.) Dir. Mor Loushy, Daniel Sivan The late Shimon Peres gives his final interview in The Oslo Diaries. Appropriately enough, directors Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan afford the former President and Prime Minister of Israel the last word in the documentary. As the credits begin to roll, they ask Peres if Israel and Palestine will ever see peace. Still an optimist over two decades after the peace talks and negotiations that nearly ended violence between Israel and Palestine were broken off, Peres hopes for a resolution. “The only alternative is a long-going war, but contrary to

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Review: ‘Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist’

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist (UK, 80 min.) Dir. Lorna Tucker Vivienne Westwood seems like a real pain in the ass. It would be an understatement to call her a difficult subject. She doesn’t want to talk about America. She doesn’t want to talk about the Sex Pistols. When director Lorna Tucker interviews Westwood in a set-up that could be the backdrop for a Vanity Fair spread, she amplifies her squirmy restlessness by preceding each response with a fatigued whine. “It’s all so boring,” Westwood quips, insisting that there are better things to talk about than her, although she’ll gab endlessly about herself

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Review: ‘The Cleaners’

The Cleaners (Germany/Brazil, 88 min.) Dir. Dir. Hans Block, Moritz Riesewieck A tough investigative doc that slowly, inexorably, turns into a cinematic essay about contemporary anger and hatred, The Cleaners reveals how Facebook censors images and texts worldwide. German directors Hans Block and Moritz Riesewick track down a group of “content moderators” in Manila who decide what material stays up on Facebook and what gets taken down. These young Filipinos aren’t schooled in art or communications or ethics. They’re simply doing their jobs and with little training, the decisions they make are problematic, to say the least. One operator proudly reveals that

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Review: ‘Design Canada’

Design Canada (Canada, 74 min.) Dir. Greg Durrell The question of a “brand identity” is difficult to tackle. Corporate values, principles, history, and mandates combine with consumer-friendly concision. Now imagine this entity has thirteen unique departments, one of which considers itself a distinct brand-within-a-brand, two official languages and countless unofficial ones, a sprawling geographical range, and a rocky history of cultural genocide. The long road to Canada’s brand is a tricky one. However, this productive conversation ensures the collective identity undergoes constant reappraisal. The question of the national brand identity fuels an engaging discussion in Design Canada. This upbeat and patriotic

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Review: ‘American Animals’

American Animals (USA, 100 min.) Dir. Bart Layton American Animals spins the phrase “based on a true story” on its head. This innovative and exhilarating docu-drama hybrid from Bart Layton (The Imposter) masterfully straddles genres and art forms while examining a crime gone wrong. As with The Imposter, American Animals is a fast-paced and electrifyingly stylish film that puts the art of storytelling at its core as multiple speakers and perspectives create a kaleidoscopic portrait of a bizarre tale of true crime. The film dramatizes a 2004 incident in which four college students botched a heist in the special collections room at Kentucky’s Transylvania

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Review: ‘Pressing On: The Letterpress Film’

Pressing On: The Letterpress Film (USA, 99 min.) Dir. Erin Beckloff and Andrew P. Quinn One of the heartening trends in the past decade has been the revival of appreciation for the products and producers of the analogue age. Whether it’s the return of vinyl discs as commercial properties or the increased interest in local beers and wines, it’s clear that a stunning number of younger people are embracing older technologies. Pressing On: The Letterpress Film is a doc that will appeal to those who understand the artistry of making books or prints or single-sheet manifestos. Erin Beckloff and Andrew P. Quinn’s

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