Auto Focus (Paul Schrader – 2002) B+

Another Paul Schrader film thanks to Criterion Channel’s collection. This one is much better than the other one I saw. Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear) hit it big in the 60’s with the TV show “Hogan’s Heroes”. He apparently was also a shallow and uninteresting man. Yet, Schrader makes a very compelling film about him focusing on his odd friendship -if we can call it that- with an electronics expert called John Henry Carpenter played by Willem Dafoe. Both actors do an excellent job here. This is in the early days of video recorders. Bob is famous and finds out that he can use his celebrity to pick up women. Soon they are partying together, having threesomes foursomes and orgies and recording everything to watch later. John is a slime ball and Bob is a weak empty shell of a man. This cannot end well and it does not.

Burning (Chang-Dong Lee – 2018) B+

It’s an odd one this one. The slow burn of this threesome of friends is very engaging but ultimately I am not sure it was worth the wait. On the other hand I was fascinated by the slow unfolding of events that happen after Jong-su bumps into a girl, Hae-mei, who used to be his neighbor in the country and now she is working for a department store in Seoul. She asks him to take care of her cat and she leaves for Africa. She comes back with a new guy she met there. That new guy (nicely surprised to see Steven Yeun here) is odd, rich, he likes starting fires too. Hae-mei might be into him too and when she disappears, Jong-su suspects foul play. It’s like a Haruki Murakami plot in its subtly weirdness and stilted conversations. So, maybe I liked it much more than I thought I did. It sure stuck with me for a long time after seeing it.

I lost My Body (Jeremy Calpin – 2019) A

so strange to describe what this film is about yet it is so seriously good. Beautifully animated, scored and with an engaging sweet story the film takes us on a journey where a severed hand is “walking” all around Paris looking for its owner! Along the way we get flashbacks of said owner, Hakim, from his childhood in Morocco to his move to Paris. He falls in love with Gabrielle as he is delivering her pizza and is propelled to work for her uncle to stay close to her…I rarely watch animation but I am so glad I gave this a shot.

Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi – 2019) B+

It’s a great success that Waititi achieves with Jojo. He manages to make a funny, tragic, serious film about the dangers of fanaticism. Johaness (aka Jojo) is 10, lives in Berlin towards the end of the second world war. He is in the Hitler youth and he is thoroughly brainwashed. Adolf Hitler is his imaginary friend! This is initially uncomfortable, yet it is from the perspective of a 10 year old, it is funny but also it tackles the serious topics head on. The tone strikes the right balance and that makes the movie work. Jojo’s world comes crashing when he discovers his mom (played so well by Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl in their home. The performances by the young actors are key here and they do a great job. Roman Griffin Davies as Jojo is excellent as is Thomasin McKenzie who plays Elsa and I really loved Jojoj’s friend, Yorki, played by Archie Yates.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Chad Stahelski – 2019) B+

Picks up right where the previous chapter dropped off. Everyone is after our Mr. Wick. More insanely choreographed murder and mayhem. Some new characters are introduced and more information we learn about the organization of assassins. Looking forward to Chapter 4.

In the Mood for Love (Kar-Wai Wong – 2000) A+

It’s the 1960’s Hong Kong. Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) and her husband, Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) and his wife rent adjacent apartments in a building. We never meet the spouses of Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow. They are always off camera, we hear them talk. They are at once at the core of the movie, the catalysts, but also not important. Both of these off-camera spouses take long business trips abroad. Soon it becomes apparent that they are on trips together, having an affair. Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow become aware of this and develop a friendship. I expected them to start having their own affair, but they have other plans. They obviously develop feelings for each other as they share meals in restaurants, walk home together and play-act how they will confront their spouses. However, to sleep together, in their opinion would make them no better than their cheating spouses….

It’s a really beautiful film with deep reds and long shots of narrow hallways. Mrs. Chan is ever so elegant in her dresses even if she is going down to the store to get noodles. Their conversations in the rain as they are avoiding the nosy neighbors and their gossip are wonderful. Every shot is so beautifully composed (I’ve never seen cigarette smoke look so pretty before) that I can just watch this film again with no dialogue as long as I can have the awesome score playing in the background.

Did they make the right decision not to pursue their relationship? I don’t think so. Still that was their choice and the film does reflect on it in several “post script” scenes. Kar-Wai made a unique great movie that is at once familiar but so different.