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Reviews for August 4th, 2017

4 Days in France

Directed by Jérôme Reybaud

      Pierre (Pascal Cervo) lives with his boyfriend, Paul (Arthur Igual), in Paris. One night, he decides to embark on a road trip through the French countryside without letting Paul know. He meets up with strangers through Grindr and has sex with them. Meanwhile, Paul desperately searches for Pierre.

      On the surface, 4 Days in France seemingly doesn't have much going on it terms of plot as Pierre wanders around, hooks up with strangers, sleeps in his car or in a spare room at a motel, and walks around. If you look beneath the surface, a lot goes on. Paul, unlike Pierre, does not turn to infidelity even though he uses Grindr as well; he uses it in hopes of finding Pierre. It's not quite clear what Pierre is really searching for that might be missing from his relationship with Paul, but perhaps he's not even sure what he's searching for nor does he have to be. He seems to be going through a sort of crisis which makes him all them more interesting and even relatable as a character. Doesn't everyone wish to just get up and leave to somewhere distant sometimes to get away from everything? As the saying goes, getting lost is the best way to find yourself.

      The landscape, in a sense, becomes a character in itself and provides for much of the film's atmosphere. Writer/director Jérôme Reybaud does include some picturesque scenery, but not too much; this isn't an upbeat travelogue after all. He clearly trusts the audience's patience because the pace moves leisurely and, in the second act, very slowly. It's during that lengthy, meandering second act where the dramatic momentum begins to dissipate as tedium slightly sets in.

      As Truffaut once observed, a truly great film has a perfect balance of Truth and Spectacle. The Spectacle of 4 Days in France can be found in the humanism beneath its Truth. There are no car chases or killings; just innate human struggle. The second act, though, has too much Truth and not enough Spectacle within it. Fortunately, small characters, like an elderly man whom Pierre tries to hook up with, but fails to because he didn't shower in days, or a librarian whom Paul bumps into, are just complex, interesting, and lived-in characters, so when they show up, they add some of that Spectacle with their humanism, a truly special effect. No one onscreen comes across as over-the-top or as a caricature, and every moment feels true-to-life with natural performances.

      Kudos to Reybaud for not shying away from showing nudity during the sex scenes and for briefly adding some much-needed levity in the form of comic relief. At a running time of 2 hours and 21 minutes, 4 Days in France is quietly moving albeit slightly meandering with rich, complex characters, and exquisite cinematography. It does demand a lot of your patience, but patience, after all, can be rewarding.

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by Cinema Guild.
Opens at Quad Cinema.


Directed by Kogonada

      Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), works at the library and has a passion for architecture. She still lives with her single mother (Michelle Forbes), in Columbus, Indiana (not Ohio), but grapples with the decision of whether or not to finally leave her hometown. Jin (John Cho), the son of an architecture professor, meets Casey and the two of them gradually form a friendship with one another as they converse. He also has a potential love interest in an older woman (Parkey Posey), his father's colleague, while Gabriel (Rory Culkin) flirts with Casey.

      Columbus is a complex, wise, and profoundly human drama with a deceptively lean premise. Writer/director Kogonada, unlike many modern directors, trusts the audience's intelligence, imagination, and patience concurrently. He understands the power of quiet moments and how slow, but not sluggish, pacing can allow patient audience members to fully absorb the poetic images and thought-provoking dialogue. Fortunately, the dialogue itself feels organic without any stiltedness or pretensiousness; there's one conversation about attention span that veers into pretension as the film becomes self-aware, but that moment is ephemeral. Columbus' emotional hook, though, is Casey and Jinn. Casey finds herself at a major turning point in her life as she toys with the possibility of unchaining herself to her mother, so-to-speak. Their relationship may not seem toxic at first, but its dysfunction and toxicity gradually rise to the surface. As the saying goes, the bird has to leave the nest at some point if it wants to learn how to survive autonomously.

      Casey's relationship with Jin also can be found in the gray area: are they merely friends or more than just friends? Jin, just like Casey, goes through a turning point in his life as well: his estranged, gravely ill father might pass away soon, and he's unsure of whether or not to romance his father's colleague whom he always had a crush on. By the end of the film, both Casey and Jin make crucial decisions as they've each undergo an epiphany with the help of each other. Kogonada doesn't tie every subplot neatly with a bow, so you'll find a few unanswered questions lingering after the end credits role, but that's alright because this isn't the kind of film that spoon-feeds its audience as it were a baby. In other words, it's a movie for adults. Do you remember the days when films for adults used to rule the marketplace? Sadly, those days are long-gone, so it's refreshing when a film like Columbus comes along to remind you of the good 'ole days of American cinema.

      Perhaps not surprisingly, architecture plays a big role in Columbus, so perceptive audiences members will have a lot to feast their eyes on as the camera lingers on an interesting-looking building with an equally interesting interior design. Can the architecture be seen as a metaphor for something? If so, then for what? Kogonada leaves those answers up to you. It would probably make a difference if you see the film on the big screen to fully immerse yourself in the set design and cinematography; unlike some dramas, it would lose some of its visual power on the small screen. At a running time of 1 hour and 44 minutes, Columbus is quietly moving, provocative, and refreshingly understated. It's the most wise and visually striking film since La Sapienza which also used architecture in a compelling way.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at IFC Center.

The Dark Tower

Directed by Nikolaj Arcel


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Columbia Pictures.
Opens nationwide.

Wind River

Directed by Taylor Sheridan


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by The Weinstein Company.
Opens AMC/Loews Lincoln Square and Regal Union Square.
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