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CIFF 2014: Foreign Body

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on October 20, 2014 at 10:35 AM Comments comments (0)


Krzysztof Zanussi


BLURB:  The Italian Angelo loves the novice Polish nun Kasia, but when he is hired by a successful new company, he becomes dangerously caught up in the corporate capitalistic mind games of his ruthless boss, Kris.

IDEA:  When confronted with a film as stilted and ham-handed as Foreign Body, there are two options to consider. 1. Its director is a total novice, accounting for the amateurish acting, flat staging, and clumsy handling of narrative or, 2. The director is actually a veteran in his twilight years, who has amassed a prolific body of work but whose sharpness and dexterity have considerably dulled with age. Though it’s generally not wise to make assumptions pertaining to seniority and adeptness (or lack thereof), it’s hard to imagine this isn’t a case of the latter. For whatever insight or keenness of vision Zanussi may have once had, none of it is in evidence in this inane soap opera masquerading as social critique. From the blunt, schematic binaries of the script (past versus present, religion versus capitalism) to the canned music cues, tin-eared dialogue, and distinct lack of visual identity, the film is a slipshod affair only occasionally sparked to life by the stray incisive moment. To be fair, there are nuances to some of Zanussi’s ideas: spirituality isn’t simply painted as the halcyon antidote to the ills of modern capitalism, and while his vision of corporate vice is often laughably simple-minded, he still makes allowances for human gradation within it. But the ideas deserve better than being trapped in this soapy mess.

CIFF 2014: Speed Walking

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on October 18, 2014 at 10:00 PM Comments comments (0)


Niels Arden Oplev


IDEA:  After the sudden death of his mother, 14-year-old Martin must fend for himself when he is thrust out into the wild, unpredictable world of sex and attraction.

BLURB:  Speed Walking is an odd bird, a potpourri of moods and ideas jostling uncertainly for the same space. There are ebullient, “My Sharona”-scored late night motorcycle rides, and then there is mournful family drama; there are moments seemingly befitting a sex romp, and then there are ones that prompt Freudian analysis; jocularity sits uncomfortably atop melancholy, while warm, dulcet appeals to the emotions are disrupted by streaks of caustic weirdness. If Oplev’s film wasn’t about a boy’s chaotic, cockeyed coming of age, the wonky plotting and bizarrely inconsistent patchwork of tones might seem haphazard. But it is about that, so its discursiveness, if not by design, at least seems somewhat fitting. At its best, it turns that quality into an astute correlative to its young protagonist’s whirlwind existence. At other times, it’s just frustrating. Thankfully, Villads Bøye, with his angelic gold locks and soft blue eyes, anchors the film in nearly every frame, ensuring that its most digressive moments never wander too far out of his tenderly curious purview. In a movie with more threads than it knows what to do with, it is the relationship between him and his best friend – a sensitive and beautiful depiction of early adolescent sexual exploration and possibly burgeoning gay love – that proves its reliable bedrock.

CIFF 2014: Something Must Break

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on October 15, 2014 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (0)


Ester Martin Bergsmark


IDEA:  The gender ambiguous Sebastian falls head-over-heels for Andreas. A relationship begins. But Andreas identifies as straight, and as Sebastian increasingly embraces his female identity, a rift is created that forces both individuals on their own paths of self-discovery.

BLURB:  Occasionally spotty direction and gauche metaphors can’t suppress the infectious spirit of Something Must Break, an absorbing and energetic love story and a deeply compassionate portrait of young people coming to terms with their ambiguous sexual and gender identities. With its unpolished, handheld camerawork and low-key lighting, one might be tempted at first to dismiss the film as just another gritty and overly affected slice of modern day realism, but before long it reveals its blazing heart, bringing together its two fervent protagonists and igniting a cathartic and candid dialogue. The chemistry between actors Saga Becker and Iggy Malmborg is phenomenal: their characters’ romance can melt a room, and so can the tensions that arise, inevitably, when their uncertain self-concepts begin chafing. Directed by Ester Martin Bergsmark, a transgendered woman herself, the film feels intimately and sensitively attuned to the struggles of trying to love when you’re not even sure of who you are or who you should be loving. Still evidently finding her own way as a director, Something Must Break is rough around the edges, but it’s also a vital representation of queer identity, and a refreshingly hopeful one.

CIFF 2014: Refugiado

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on October 14, 2014 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)


Diego Lerman




IDEA:  A woman flees her abusive husband with her young son in tow. Never far from his psychological grip, they travel perilously through the Buenos Aires nights seeking refuge - and a new life.

BLURB:  Making up in emotional texture and visual acuity what it lacks in scope or complexity, Refugiado is slender but hugely affecting, a story of abuse and domestic upheaval that deftly avoids crassness at every turn. This is in large part due to director Diego Lerman and his savvy crafts team, who elegantly conjure feverish immediacy without making it feel false or exploitative, and who display both sensitivity and sharp visual logic when limning the dual emotional and geographical journeys of our mother and son protagonists. It is a keen representation of a child’s burgeoning awareness of his unstable domestic circumstances that, finally, gives the film its plangent power. Credit here goes to both Sebastián Molinaro, who, with his round, unassuming face and mop of brown curls, moves and behaves like a real seven-year-old boy, and to DP Wojciech Staron, who subtly and beautifully shoots large portions of the film from his eye level, aligning us equally well with his childish diversions and his simmering unrest. Small and assured, Lerman’s film may be a tad attenuated, but it’s also unusually, even evocatively, artful.

CIFF 2014: The Way He Looks

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on October 12, 2014 at 9:15 PM Comments comments (0)


Daniel Ribeiro


IDEA:  Leonardo, a blind teenager yearning for independence and love, becomes smitten with the new kid in his class, Gabriel - upsetting his close relationship with best friend Giovana.

BLURB:  The Way He Looks is so big-hearted, so irresistible in its queer coming-of-age charms, it’s often easy to overlook just how familiar much of it is. Certainly the film stands out for its depiction of teenage sexual discovery: empathic and gentle to the touch, director Daniel Ribeiro has a particular knack for understanding the hesitancy and uncertainty in recognizing one’s own desires, as well as the confusion, both sweet and sour, born from attraction. He’s also well attuned to the jealousies and petty relational entanglements of youth, and does a fine job at portraying insecurity without straining for poignancy; the emotions come rather naturally here. Still, it’s difficult to escape the general predictability of the story, or the occasional contrived moment that seems just a mite too tidy for such inherently messy material. If we don’t terribly mind in the end it’s only because Ribeiro and his talented young actors have captured our hearts, made a simple tale of blossoming gay love into an affectionate, necessary ode to acceptance and understanding.

CIFF 2014: Nabat

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on October 11, 2014 at 9:05 PM Comments comments (0)

NABAT  ****

Elchin Musaoglu




IDEA:  Nabat, an elderly woman, refuses to leave her village when war has forced everyone to evacuate. As she continues to labor on, looking after her ailing husband and tending to her daily routines, circumstances grow increasingly dire.

BLURB:  Nabat announces with its opening shot – an astonishing crane-and-pan along the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region in Azerbaijan – both its preoccupation with environment and its formal mastery. From this point on the film will be in complete, almost uncanny control of the elements, organically incorporating weather and landscape in its rigorous mise-en-scène. Musaoglu’s film is utterly transfixing, and even better, visually and aurally accomplished to such a degree that every mellifluous pan and track, every methodical composition, carries with it a weight and purpose that speaks volumes. Without much dialogue, image and sound must communicate everything, and thankfully Musaoglu has both covered and then some. DP Abdulrahim Besharat’s visuals emphasize the yawning majesty of mist-shrouded mountains and sepulchral weather, while his often elaborate camerawork – replete with slow dollies and traveling shots – manages to capture every nook of rooms and foothills with tremendous tactility. The sound design is equally as immersive, making startling use of off-screen space while building imposing atmosphere. Musaoglu’s aesthetic proficiency is entirely in service of his profoundly moving story, a portrait of a woman and a land braving the spiritual ravages of war; an intertwined suffering here rendered with grace and grave beauty.

2014 Chicago International Film Festival

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on October 10, 2014 at 11:50 PM Comments comments (0)

The 50th Annual Chicago International Film Festival is underway, and with it comes an invigorating plethora of films from all around the world. If you're in the Chicago area, strongly consider going: this year's schedule is particularly rich and satisfying, a wonderfully diverse selection that taps into the exciting multitude of visions finding purchase in our current global film landscape. I'll be posting review blurbs of select Festival films in the next couple of weeks, so make sure to watch this space for those. Enjoy the films!

The 2014 Chicago International Film Festival runs from Oct. 9 - Oct. 23.

Gone Girl

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on October 9, 2014 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

GONE GIRL  ***1/2

David Fincher




IDEA:  Nick Dunne returns home on his anniversary to find his wife mysteriously missing, commencing a police investigation and a media circus that implicate him in her murder.

BLURB:  Gone Girl is a deliriously trashy psychological thriller with lacerating sociological implications, a funhouse mirror whose distortions endeavor to cut right through reality. In other words, it’s satire, but a particularly smart and deceptive one: Fincher and Flynn have effectively turned the framework for a B-grade pulp story into the fulcrum upon which layers of irony and social commentary pivot. Their often abrasive employment of tropes, their alternate reveling in and upending of gender stereotypes, and their increasing unraveling of narrative logic, in which credulity is forcefully and unapologetically strained, serve the dual purposes of galvanizing audiences’ attentions and making them vividly cognizant of the representations – in the media or otherwise – they are so ready to accept and reinforce. Despite its slight bloat and disappointing lack of visual ideas, Gone Girl is absolutely ripe with subtext, a sneakily self-aware examination of false appearances and culturally perpetuated representations that is constantly presenting itself one way and then defying itself the next. How we react to it corresponds with what it says about us, as a society seemingly always posing questions and absorbing images, but rarely actually seeing.

Best of the Decade (40s)

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on August 31, 2014 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

The best films of the 1940s. This was a decade in cinema defined by one massive, incontrovertible event: World War II. There was simply no denying it. The latter years of the war sent shockwaves through cinema all around the world, from Golden Age Hollywood to decimated Italy and Japan. The US responded by turning out some of its most astonishingly dark, socially trenchant films, finding notes of despair and yearning in genres as disparate as the musical and the war film, while establishing perhaps the decade’s defining epoch, adopted and adapted from the Germans and the French: film noir. Europe, meanwhile, saw the beginnings of some of its all-time most influential movements, namely Italian neorealism, which has ever since impressed its indelible mark on world cinema. It was a tough decade, one scarred by unfathomable political, social, and economic upheaval. And as always, the movies were there to reflect it.

And the best of the best are:

01. Bicycle Thieves 1948

02. Citizen Kane 1941

03. Late Spring 1949

04. Oliver Twist 1948

05. To Be or Not to Be 1942

06. Double Indemnity 1944

07. Casablanca 1943

08. Shoeshine 1947

09. The Third Man 1949

10. It's a Wonderful Life 1946

These are just as good:

The Letter, 1940

The Philadelphia Story, 1940

The Lady Eve, 1941

Sullivan's Travels, 1941

Yankee Doodle Dandy, 1942

Day of Wrath, 1943

Meet Me in St. Louis, 1944

Cover Girl, 1944

The Children Are Watching Us, 1944

Scarlet Street, 1945

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1945

Paisan, 1946

Notorious, 1946

Record of a Tenement Gentleman, 1947

The Lady from Shanghai, 1948

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948

Adam's Rib, 1949

White Heat, 1949

A Picture's Worth One Thousand Words 44

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on August 13, 2014 at 9:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Theodoros Angelopoulos's Landscape in the Mist, 1988


About the Author

Jonathan Leithold-Patt is a 23-year-old film student at Columbia College Chicago. Besides watching lots and lots of films and writing about them, he is an avid painter.

Contact at

Devoted to the Movies

Selected Reviews

A Prophet

A Separation

An Education

The American Soldier


The Apu Trilogy


The Battle of Algiers

Beasts of the Southern Wild


Black Swan


Broadway Danny Rose

Broken Flowers

Les Carabiniers


Certified Copy

The Children Are Watching Us

Chungking Express

Claire's Knee

The Class


Cloud Atlas


The Cremator

Deconstructing Harry

Dersu Uzala

The Descendants

Django Unchained


The Earrings of Madame de...

Exit Through the Gift Shop

The Exterminating Angel

Fata Morgana

The Fighter

Frances Ha


The General

Holy Motors


The Hurt Locker

I Was Born, But...

The Ides of March

In a Year with 13 Moons

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

La Jetée

Juliet of the Spirits


The Kids Are All Right

The Lady Eve

Late Spring

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Little Fugitive

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

The Long Day Closes

Louisiana Story

Mamma Roma

Man with a Movie Camera

Martha Marcy May Marlene

McCabe & Mrs. Miller


Miller's Crossing

Mon Oncle

Mon Oncle d'Amérique

My Life as a Dog



The Night of the Hunter


Oliver Twist

Once Upon a Time in the West



Picnic at Hanging Rock

Il Posto

The Purple Rose of Cairo


The Red Balloon

The Right Stuff


Seven Chances



The Social Network


Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring

The Straight Story

Take Shelter


Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

El Topo

Toy Story 3

The Tree of Life

Tropical Malady

Trouble in Paradise


Under the Skin



What Did the Lady Forget?

Where is the Friend's Home?

The White Ribbon

Zazie dans le Métro