Movies of the Week #21 (2023)

Kedi (2016): When I first saw Kedi, I was not a cat person. I went so far in my review as to say “it didn’t impress itself upon me”. Now I could watch an hour long video of a cat grooming itself and find it riveting. I definitely think Kedi does justice to this feeling, it’s a beautifully shot tale of Istanbul that encapsulates the fascinating otherworldliness of cats in succinct, yet poetic snapshots. They are demiurgic beings, creating a world that we are allowed to partake in, and this is a feeling that’s completely engrossing and liberating. 8

Iztochni piesi (2009): Eastern Plays is a referential Bulgarian movie of the late 00s, directed by Kamen Kalev, who also did the recently reviewed Fevrier. This is a very different film, capturing the transitional period so typical of Eastern European countries that used to make up the Socialist Bloc, and focuses on two young(ish) characters who can’t quite find their place in the chaotic new world that surrounds them. For whatever reason, I kept thinking of American History X – perhaps because of the extremist turmoil and the generational connection between the lead characters. Overall, an interesting exploration of a moment in time, of Sofia, even if the movie is not as focused as I’d have liked. The heavy cloud of tragedy also hangs over it, as Christo Christov, who played one of the leads, died following an overdose after the movie finished shooting. Whatever else might be said, Eastern Plays is unlikely to leave you indifferent. 7

Evil Dead Rise (2023): I was never a big fan of the original Evil Dead movies, which is why I can probably enjoy these newer iterations without stressing too much about “legacy”. EDR is not groundbreaking, but rather a style over substance kind of experience, perhaps lacking in the humorous bite department that the series is known for. I still had fun at the over the top dismemberments and demonic maulings, with Alyssa Sutherland an excellent choice for the lead demon. I’d say this one delivers on its promise and, on top of that, it has one of the coolest title sequences in recent memory. 7

Polite Society (2023): It’s strange that I didn’t like Polite Society more. On paper, it should be exactly my type of movie – irreverent action-romcom, inspired both stylistically and thematically from movies I like, absurdly over the top and never very serious, taking on the “polite society” of arranged marriages. And yet, even in spite of energetic performances from its leads, I never got into it. Perhaps it’s because it felt too studied in its approach and Ria and Lena aren’t particularly likable characters. Hard for me to pinpoint this one. 6

Boss (2023): After Câini, which was an inspired, if not always exciting Romanian version of No Country for Old Men, Bogdan Mirică follows up with a neo-noir about a bank heist. It proved…a painful experience, I’m sorry to say. There’s style and flair in the composition and the shots and I thought the plot structure was clever for the most part, but the movie is too often a prosaic homage that falls very flat when it comes down to the characters and dialogue. Laurențiu Bănescu plays an inanely dry lead, dealing with a ludicrous relationship involving a capricious character done justice by Ioana Bugarin, that moves our man to risk life and freedom. There is, of course, no chemistry between them (funny how this made me think of R.M.N., which also featured a relationship between a clearly more successful female character and a mute-like, uncharismatic protector-type). And if that wasn’t enough, their exchanges (and many other as well) are so heavy-handed it made me roll my eyes so hard they almost fell out of their sockets. Add to this a finale that’s twisty in unsatisfying ways, with more ostentatiously pretentious dialogue (yeah, I guess the genre does sometimes call for it) and I was left with a sad aftertaste. 5

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