Maladies (USA 2012)
3.5 out of 5
James, (James Franco) a retired soap opera star and current writer, is quite the oddball. He refrains from physical contact and an unidentified voice keeps confronting him with his own neuroses. Living with his loopy sister and loyal best friend Catherine (Catherine Keener), the threesome try and make sense of their lives in spite of, or due to, their different maladies. Maladies features Franco in a leading role he is actually invested in, unlike many of his films in which he relies on his charms alone. Maladies is quirky in the positive sense of the word and shows a great awareness for how language and thought patterns work, the first third of the film being especially gratifying. It loses steam and wears out its welcome towards the end, but its artistic value is plain to see. It is not surprising that the artwork featured in the film was made by director Carter; as it is obvious that an original mind is behind this film.
Kashi-ggot (aka Fatal South Korea 2012)
1 out of 5
A young man has a dark secret that comes back to haunt him 10 years later: he was involved in a gang rape of a young woman who he accidentally bumps into after all this time. The storyline alone is so appalling and tasteless that it is almost mesmerizing. All aspects of the film are off-putting; from the relativization of the perpetrator’s actions to the offensive and odd humor that abounds. The only scene with some redeemable value also happens to be the only scene focusing on the victim, to no surprise. (Full disclosure: I did not see the last 15 minutes of the film due to scheduling issues.)
Upstream Color (USA 2013)
4.5 out of 5
Kris (Amy Seimatz) goes through a traumatic experience that alters her life forever. She proceeds to live like a ghost until something inside her drives her to uncover exactly what happened to her. If this description sounds vague it is only because I want it to be. Upstream Color is a revelatory film, a film that seems to become more inventive with each new frame. Such a furiously inquisitive film with masterful editing is a rare find. It reels you in and does not let go; no wonder there was almost complete silence in the theater throughout the entire film. Director Shane Carruth (who is also a mathematician) arrived to Berlin right before the screening I went to and was completely jet-lagged, yet he still managed to partake in a wonderfully thoughtful Q&A session; his dedication to the craft is clear to see in person as well as in his films.