Lana Del Rey’s new album Lust For Life finally has an arrival date. “July 21 fam,” she wrote in the tweet below. A representative has confirmed to Pitchfork that it’s the official date of release. The album is set to feature her collaboration with the Weeknd, “Lust for Life,” which just received a brand new music video (below). In addition to the title track and its video, Lana has shared “Love” and its video. She also confirmed that it will feature tracks with Stevie Nicks and Sean Ono Lennon. The album was announced with an obscure black and white trailer. Read Pitchfork’s interview with the director of Lana’s Lust for Life trailer.
Claude Lanzmann is best known for turning the camera on Holocaust criminals and survivors in his landmark documentary Shoah and its feature film offshoots like 2013’s tremendously powerful The Last of the Unjust, but in his new documentary Napalm this master of recording human memory turns the camera on himself.
Based a story in the French director’s book The Patagonian Hare, Napalm’s centerpiece is a long recounting to the camera by the 91-year-old Lanzmann of his trip to North Korea as part of an international delegation in 1958. During this long visit, he met a beautiful nurse that didn’t speak his language, yet with whom Lanzmann nevertheless embarked upon an almost unbelievably remarkable day of courtship, political fear, exotic fascination and personal desire. It is no wonder this experience so stuck to his mind. Lanzmann returned to North Korea nearly 50 years later first in 2004 and then in 2015, and in this most recent journey snuck footage out of the country, footage shot by Caroline Champetier, assistant to Shoah’s cinematographer William Lubtchansky and herself one of the best and most adaptable of camerapersons.
This footage is, to begin, of monuments, statues and streets in Pyongyang, but also includes three unexpected encounters with women, one with an actress on the set of an action movie—“she is so supple,” ogles Lanzmann—another at a Taekwondo practice, and the third an impressive tour guide on the DMZ. Visiting immense statues of the country’s beloved leaders allows Lanzmann to reflect in voiceover on North Korea in a general and poetic sense. He observes that the country is uniquely frozen in time since the Korean War, and it emerges that this is also how he sees his memory of this brief, remarkable romance: as something similarly unchanged and locked in time. The Korean women of today that Lanzmann admires lasciviously become estranged echoes of the young Korean in his memory. Yet they are also part and parcel with the director’s startling chauvinism and egotistic false-modesty on display in his oral history of his affair, a deeply uncomfortable part of the film’s intense encounter with Lanzmann’s storytelling, face to face.
Yet this discomfort is transformed as the movie draws to a close around Lanzmann’s visit to the sites in Pyongyang of his long-ago illicit rendezvous: a bridge that served as the couple’s meeting point and a boat dock they used, still there after all this time. This meeting between Lanzmann’s deep personal memory from 60 years ago and its real world location today is where, finally, Napalm’s meaning, force and emotion emerges. The vast gulf of what might have been between these two unlikely people is bracing to realize. As the visibly infirmed director rekindles sensations at the site of his mad fling—he quotes a Shoah interviewee, “‘Das ist der Platz’—this is the place!”—the film’s prelude is recalled, where Lanzmann says that man wants to “abolish and mask the inevitable end.”
Taking this further, Lanzmann sees in his lost lover an explicit political factor which gives their relationship an obvious but powerful symbolism. A fierce, complicated human connection there was halted and severed due to national political interests at a major site—graveyard, even—of Cold War ideological conflict. Within this moment, this story, is the tangible sense of a lost hope and the impossible possibility of union in the shadow of 60 years of North Korean isolation and misery. “Once world peace has been established,” Lanzmann’s memory-woman says, “all those who love peace will meet each other.” Napalm mines Lanzmann’s own prejudices and past to reveal that a mere passing anecdote in the 20th century’s political and human history is fact holds at its core the wisdom of the tragedy of the battle of communism and capitalism.
When a major artist finally makes it into the Cannes competition slate, despite consistently producing excellent work, the question becomes: what changed? Is it simply belated recognition? Or is the artist somehow pushing themselves in unprecedented ways, creating work deserving of a larger spotlight? Those are questions that one could ask regarding Noah Baumbach, who makes his first appearance at the Cannes Film Festival with The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), despite a filmography that goes back to 1995 with Kicking and Screaming. Oddly enough, the new film—a quiet New York-set drama on various members of the Meyerowitz clan—finds the Manhattan-based director in perfectly comfortable territory, far closer in spirit to his older work than his recent, more adventurous projects with Greta Gerwig. But familiar need not necessarily mean bad. And although it lacks the ambition that one typically associates with a Cannes Competition title (however much or little that’s ultimately worth), there’s an underlying melancholy imbued in every frame. It’s a “small” film—perhaps even a “minor work,” to borrow one character’s offhand assessment—but worth something all the same.
“I’d like to think that my later work is richer, more interesting,” says Harold (Dustin Hoffman), the patriarch of the Meyerowitz family, a once-celebrated sculptor who’s since lapsed into irrelevance. Given Baumbach’s previous work, it’s not difficult to intuit who’s affected most. There’s Danny (Adam Sandler) and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), his largely neglected children from his first marriage, and Matthew (Ben Stiller), his favorite, though unartistic, son by his second wife, who works in wealth management. Divided into discrete sections (per the title), The Meyerowitz Stories plays like an anthology, a collection of amusing vignettes that vary in tone and mood, often shifting from broad, zany comedy to sharp one-liners to heftier emotional beats. Eliza (Grace Van Patten), Danny’s daughter, goes off to college to study film, and ends up producing and starring in the R-rated adventures of "Pagina Man" (a character with both a penis and a vagina); Danny and Harold attend a show of L.J. Shapiro (Judd Hirsch), a longtime friend and artistic contemporary of Harold’s whom he describes as “an untalented pretentious enigma”; Harold and Matthew attempt to grab a nice lunch one day, with fairly disastrous results. (There’s also a surprising amount of comedy mined just from the way characters limp and shuffle through the streets of New York.)
Parental angst, clashing artistic sensibilities, hyper-intellectual conversations in which characters talk past, rather than to each other—in these respects, it’s very much in keeping with something like the director’s Squid and the Whale or even Margot at the Wedding. But Baumbach here forgoes a more acerbic approach for an altogether gentler tone, similar to the shift Alex Ross Perry made with Golden Exits earlier this year. There’s ample bitterness beneath the surface and damaged relationships that may never be repaired, but The Meyerowitz Stories shows each member of the family actually trying to be “decent human beings,” which is more than can be said for some Baumbach characters. Matthew tries to get Harold’s finances in order by arranging the sale of the apartment (Matthew’s childhood home) that he now shares with his third wife Maureen (Emma Thompson), along with the bulk of his artistic work. Danny and Jean set up a group faculty art show for Harold at Bard, where he taught sculpture for decades; and although he’s initially insulted at the idea of a group show, he becomes excited at the prospects it may bring to his work. Both developments are complicated when Harold is hospitalized after a head injury that he got while walking his poodle (“You should see the other dog,” he jokes repeatedly), which also provides a pretext for the family to gather for a sustained period of time. Family, after all, is a subject Baumbach has returned to time and time again—understandable, given that, few things in life are as certain (either in presence or absence or neglect) and equally as certain to mark you. At once entertaining, messy, occasionally horrifying, and unbearably sad, The Meyerowitz Stories demonstrates that you don’t have to go too far to find artistic inspiration. Family—it’s more than enough, and often more than any of us could’ve bargained for.
A review of tonight’s Fargo coming up just as soon as the first world war is started by a sandwich…
“Things of consequence rarely happen by accident.” –Varga
“The Lord of Mercy” is an unusual episode of Fargo in a few ways. First, it kills off Ray Stussy — ostensibly one of our two main characters — just over halfway into the season. Second, it features the “This is a true story” line twice: first as the usual written disclaimer (with “true” always fading out before the other words, to make clear what is really being said), then uttered by Varga when he runs Sy through a historical triptych involving the fall of Lehman Brothers, the inciting incident of World War I, and the faking of the moon landing.
The last is, of course, nonsense, as Sy tries to argue before being verbally steamrollered yet again, but fits the series’, and season’s, larger interest in stories and the way fiction can overtake fact. And some interesting things are happening in the realm of what is real and what is not. Varga at one point attempts to Google Gloria Burgle after she proves a more troubling adversary than others he’s encountered in Minnesota, and his search comes up empty. This is perhaps part of the season’s ongoing commentary about the evils of social media — here presented less as, “People stare at their phones too much, amiright?” than a more pointed lesson about the value of not oversharing online — but there is having a small digital footprint and there is having no digital footprint while holding a public office. Other people see her and talk to her, yet watching Varga at his computer struggling to find anything about this meddlesome sheriff, I couldn’t help but think of Gloria’s lament in episode 2 when the library doors wouldn’t open for her: “I’m here, right? You can see me?” Near the end of this episode, when Emmit is expressing concern that Varga — who himself is nearly impossible to Google (at least not unless you want your computer fried right before you’re thrown off a parking deck) — has been seen entering Ray’s apartment, Varga smiles and says, “I’m so rarely seen, maybe I don’t exist.”
Is this story less a clash between Peter and the Wolf than between two phantoms who stubbornly cling to our reality? Or are these just literary flourishes meant to emphasize the not-really-true story of it all?
Hawley likes to talk about Mike Yanagita from the movie as a character/scene that is there to help maintain the illusion of a true story, because what screenwriter would devote so much time to Mike’s desperate pass at Marge in what’s otherwise a pretty lean crime narrative? Ray dying 3/5 of the way through the season — and stupidly at that, from a shard of broken glass to the carotid after he and Emmit have been shoving the framed stamp at each other for too long — similarly feels like it’s there to bolster the illusion, because who would build a season around a biblical story of two brothers feuding over an allegedly stolen birthright, then kill off one of the brothers well before the conclusion? If we didn’t already know by now that none of these are true stories, it might make it all feel more true, because it’s so messy and clumsy.
But if it’s surprising, it’s also necessary, and suggests a more exciting conclusion to the season than prior episodes might have suggested.
Though the story revolves around the Stussy feud, the brothers have never been the season’s most compelling characters, not by a long shot. Ray was basically a Nikki Swango delivery system, Emmit in turn gives us the excuse to watch Sy and the Varga crew, and the shenanigans of both parties have brought in Gloria and now Winnie. All of those pieces are still on the board, and Ray’s death — not to mention Varga’s plan to frame Nikki for it — should only accelerate the clashes between them. Ray’s murder could easily accelerate Gloria and Winnie’s investigation — or it could just give stupid Moe another patsy to blame it on while he’s yelling at the two women (I can easily picture Moe blaming Nikki for Ennis’s death, too) — and Nikki is now an extreme wild card who has nothing to lose by trying to tear apart Varga’s operation however she can. And while Sy will surely be glad to be rid of Emmit’s mooching brother, the bodies that keep dropping can’t be sitting well with him at all.
The Stussys never quite came to life like so many of this season’s other figures, despite the presence of Ewan McGregor, but Ray literally dying because of the stamp felt like an appropriately tragic ending to his part of the story. His attempt to steal the thing set so much of this violence in motion, and here he finally decides he doesn’t want it anymore — at least not unless Emmit comes out and admits that it should have been Ray’s all along — and is inadvertently killed while trying to give it back to Emmit.
That’s not a true story, but it’s a sad one, and it situates everyone else nicely for the season’s home stretch.
Some other thoughts:
* It’s a very good episode for Mary Elizabeth Winstead, here playing Nikki not as the flirt who’s much sharper than expected, but as a wounded animal just trying to survive, and more aware of the danger than her ex-law-enforcement officer fiance.
* As soon as Varga asked if Emmit knew what Lenin said about Beethoven, my first thought was, “Does he mean Lennon or Lenin,” and then my second was Walter Sobchak yelling at Donny about his confusion between John and Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. And, sure enough, Varga not only clarifies which man, but recites all of Vladimir’s middle names, in one of the show’s most overt Big Lebowski references yet.
* The motel where Nikki hides out closely resembles the one where season two’s Sioux Falls Massacre (and UFO visitation) took place, but it’s not the same place either in the context of the story (St. Cloud is a long drive from Sioux Falls, and Ray heads back to the apartment like it’ll be a quick trip) or real-world production (the greater Calgary area apparently has multiple motels in that basic configuration).
* Meemo has been featured less prominently than Yuri so far, and here we begin to get a sense of the division of labor: Yuri (who turns out to be the owner of the wolf mask) is Varga’s blunt instrument, while Meemo is the subtler and more versatile weapon, who can slip into Nikki’s motel room quietly (then slip out again once Varga changes the plan from murder to framing), and who can turn himself into a perfect mirror of Larue Dollard as he pretends to be a lawyer chasing the IRS man out of Emmit’s offices.
* This week’s music included “Cossack’s Song” by The Red Army Choir (Meemo and Yuri drive), “John the Revelator” by Son House (Ray and Nikki go to the motel), and Plamena Mangova’s performance of Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op.57, ‘Appassionata’: III. Allegro Ma Non Troppo” over the end credits.
Randy Newman has announced his first album since 2008’s Harps and Angels. It’s called Dark Matter, and it’s out August 4 via Nonesuch. The album will be release on vinyl on August 18. Recorded in Los Angeles, Dark Matter was produced by long-time Newman collaborators Mitchell Froom, Lenny Waronker, and David Boucher. Find the full tracklisting below. The album’s nine songs include the previously released “Putin,” which was inspired by a photograph Newman saw of the eponymous Russian leader with his shirt off. Revisit our interview with Newman from 2008 here.
Earlier this year, SZA announced her highly anticipated follow-up to 2014’s Z, titled CTRL. Now, she has shared its release date thanks to a RZA-narrated video. It’s out June 9 via Top Dawg Entertainment. “I’m zoning in with my homegirl, SZA—Self Savior, Zig-Zag-Zig Allah,” RZA says in the brief clip before releasing a light verse. “Yeah, I think you can take that far, Mama. Ya know what I mean? Cut loose the drama, no melodrama. Rise to the top, claim ya karma. And it’s my honor to drop this lesson, it’s my honor to give this blessing.” Watch it below.
Netflix has cancelled its Baz Lurhman-produced hip-hop and disco drama “The Get Down” after one season, Variety reports. The cancellation comes amid production troubles and low ratings. “The Get Down” part one drew 3.2 million viewers in its first 31 days, a fraction of the views the streaming service’s more popular original shows pulled in during the same time frame. Last year, reports detailed a chaotic production marred by frequent script rewrites and stalling. The series was also reportedly the most expensive production in Netflix history, costing over $120 million to make.
“The Get Down” followed a group of teenagers in the Bronx in the late ’70s. The show starred Shameik Moore, Justice Smith, Jaden Smith, Herizen Guardiola, and others. It was executive produced by Nas, and Grandmaster Flash served as the show’s associate producer. The official soundtrack featured contributions from the cast, Nas, Miguel, Christina Aguilera, Zayn, Michael Kiwanuka, Leon Bridges, Jaden Smith, Raury, Grandmaster Flash, Malay, Nile Rodgers, and more.
The Kills’ Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince released their first EP, Black Rooster, 15 years ago. To celebrate that anniversary, they have announced a special acoustic EP, Echo Home – Non-Electric EP.It includes Black Rooster’s "Wait," two Ash & Icetracks (“Echo Home” and “That Love”), and a cover of Rihanna’s “Desperado,” which they first performed last year. Watch their new rendition below. It’s out digitally and on 10" vinyl June 2 via Domino. The Kills launch their European tour at the end of May, supporting Guns N’ Roses, Foo Fighters, and Bon Jovi on select dates. See their full EP tracklist and tour itinerary below.
Echo Home – Non-Electric:
01 Echo Home (album version) 02 Echo Home (acoustic) 03 Desperado (acoustic) 04 Wait (acoustic) 05 That Love (acoustic)
05-27 Liverpool, England – Liverpool Sound City 05-28 Margate, England – Margate Wonderland 05-30 London, England – Shepherds Bush Empire 06-02 Saint-Brieuc, France – Art Rock Festival 06-03 Saint-Laurent-De-Cuves, France – Papillons De Nuit Festival 06-06 Prague, Czech Republic – Roxy 06-07 Liepzig, Germany – Taubchenthal 06-09 Copenhagen, Denmark – Vega 06-10 Aarhus, Denmark – Northside Festival 06-13 Munich, Germany – Olympic Stadium 06-16 London, England – London Stadium * 06-17 London, England – London Stadium * 06-24 Athens, Greece – Ejekt Festival 06-19 Helsinki, Finland – Rock The Beach # 06-21 Riga, Latvia – Lucavsala Island # 06-29 Gydnia, Poland – Open’er 07-02 Werchter, Belgium – Rock Werchter 07-07 Lisbon, Portugal – Nos Alive 07-10 Montreaux, Switzerland – Montreaux Jazz Festival 07-12 Dour, Belgium – Dour Festival 07-16 Berlin, Germany – Melt Festival 08-12 Bucharest, Romania – Summer Well Festival 08-15 Budapest, Hungary – Sziget Festival 08-17 Gampel, Switzerland – Open Air Gampel 08-19 Zagreb, Croatia – Tvornica Kulture 08-25 Charleville Mezières, France – Cabaret Vert 08-26 Paris, France – Rock En Seine 09-19 Porto Alegre, Brazil – Anfiteatro Parque (Outdoor) % 09-21 Rio, Brazil – Rock In Rio 09-23 Sao Paulo, Brazil – Allianz Parque %
* with Guns ‘N’ Roses # with Foo Fighters % with Bon Jovi
This June, A&E will air two new documentaries about the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, Rolling Stone reports. The two-part Biggie: The Life of Notorious B.I.G, which is the second documentary authorized by the rapper’s estate, includes interviews with his mother Voletta Wallace and his widow Faith Evans, associates Diddy, Jay Z, and Nas, along with Lil Cease and members of the Junior M.A.F.I.A. The doc also shares previously unseen archive footage of Biggie. It will air June 28.
On June 29, A&E will begin airing the limited series Who Killed Tupac? in six parts. It follows civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump as he attempts to investigate the circumstances surrounding the 1996 shooting that killed the rapper. The documentaries are part of a larger A&E initiative to bring rappers to its Biography series, with future shows on Kanye West, Grandmaster Flash, and Chance the Rapper also planned.
These are just a few of several recent and future remembrances of the iconic rappers. Last year, USA Network picked up the pilot for a show called “Unsolved,” which will cover the police investigations into the shootings of both rappers. Faith Evans recently released a tribute duet album with Biggie called The King & I. Earlier this month, an authorized, Steve McQueen-directed documentary was announced. Another Biggie documentary called One More Chance, produced by Voletta Wallace, is also in the works. A new biopic about Tupac, All Eyez On Me, will hit theaters next month.
“The Beguiled” by Sofia Coppola (the Oscar-winning “Lost in Translation“) kicks off today’s competition screenings in Cannes with a film that is not a remake of the 1971 Clint Eastwood vehicle directed by Don Siegel, but a reinterpretation of Thomas Cullinan’s Civil War-era novel from a female perspective. Nicole Kidman stars as Miss Martha Farnsworth, the head mistress of a very proper Southern finishing school for young ladies. Kirsten Dunst is Miss Edwina Morrow, French teacher to the clutch of five girls stranded at the Virginia school by the war.
Where Siegel’s “The Beguiled” was a manly man’s action film rife with female hysteria, and notable for the subjugation of lonely, sex-crazed women by a macho hero, followed by one frustrated woman’s revenge, Coppola’s “The Beguiled” is a thoughtfully unfolding drama that brings the vulnerability of women alone into conflict with the helplessness of a dying deserter found in the woods with a leg full of shrapnel. Union soldier Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell), is technically the enemy, a feared and hated “blue-belly.”
As Coppola develops the opposing forces, McBurney is an unthreatening convalescent, grateful, mild-mannered and gentle in the presence of his unwilling hosts. He’s more victim of circumstance than aggressor, an Irish immigrant who was paid $300 to take another man’s place in the army. The girls are giggly and curious, befitting their ages, and, in the case of slightly older Alicia (Elle Fanning), lit up by a sheltered adolescent’s desire to get closer. Martha is stern and proper, torn between Southern loyalty and her faith’s challenge to render Christian charity.
The somewhat mysterious Edwina is the focus of McBurney’s special attention. Her jaw is permanently locked in unhappy resolve, and her mouth set in a thin line, but an understanding develops between the two. As McBurney heals and shows hearty good will in helping with the heavy outdoor work. The girls compete to help him, and Martha enjoys interludes of stilted conversation with him over an evening glass of wine. The novelty of a formal dinner with the prisoner as guest is the occasion for the women and girls to dress as if they were going to a ball.
Rivalry for this lone man will put an end to the delicately balanced idyll that has grown from tentative mutual respect. It all goes wrong in a tragic melee that starts with sex, and breaks unspoken promises. Coppola doesn’t create any monsters in “The Beguiled,” nor does she present women as hormonal crazies. McBurney becomes the enemy that he was assumed to be at the start, the women his resourceful adversaries, not helpless victims.
“The Beguiled” features exquisite photography, and its authentic 1860s setting is a history buff’s delight. The smoke of the nearby battlefields drifts among moss-draped trees like the more benign smoke of autumn leaf fires. Tension is low-key and builds slowly in a treatment that avoids gratuitous flourishes, and yet there is little organic flow to the drama and little sense of cohesion among the characters.
Dramatic proximity of the right ingredients is often standing in for chemistry in “The Beguiled,” a drawback also evident in Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” and “The Bling Ring.” A welcome woman’s point of view is evident in the way she sees normalcy in the girls’ childish rivalries, or in the affectionate warmth of scenes like one in which they sing for McBurney, their girlish voices high and unpracticed. Yet, she is not a great director of women. Kidman especially never seems to fully inhabit her character. Her by-the-numbers performance substitutes an exaggerated physical rigidity for a more convincing evocation of Miss Farnsworth’s moral uprightness.
Today’s competition presented the Russian film “A Gentle Creature” by Sergei Loznitsa (“In the Fog,” “My Joy”). This is one of the festival’s most mind-boggling selections, rowdy, sprawling, bitter, and with a black-humorous fantasy sequence followed by an extended rape. Loznitsa takes the title from a Dostoevsky story, although the actual content of his story is quite different.
“A Gentle Creature” follows a determined woman from a remote rural area in her odyssey to a prison town in a futile attempt to visit her husband, serving a sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. The trip becomes increasingly surreal, as she appears to be the only normal person in a rogues’ gallery of grotesque faces and even more grotesque bodies and absurd actions. A train passenger belts out operatic folksongs. In a search for contraband, a gleeful prison guard rips to shreds a pair of shoes meant for a prisoner, renders food items inedible, and snaps each cigarette in half. Overheard snatches of conversations detail suicides, drug deals, sex, and a broad spectrum of complaints against the system.
Loznitsa invents new circles of hell for his naïve heroine, who ignores every clue where danger lurks. Outside the prison, a local woman offers her a place to stay, where it turns out an all-night bacchanal is in progress, involving very fat, very drunk guests playing spin-the-bottle and singing lustily. Meanwhile, the helpful hostess has sold her new guest to a pimp, and advised her to trust him. She does. He takes her for an audience with a gangster, who relates an unfinished story about a soldier who recognizes his sweetheart’s severed hand in a crematorium.
After several attempts, it seems that this unfortunate woman will succeed in getting to the train station safely for a return home. A fearsome hag, like a witch out of Macbeth, warns her not to fall asleep or she’ll be taken away. The ensuing dream sequence begins as the film’s magic-realist relief and a touch of almost Kaurismaki-like humor. Like almost everything else in this film, the trip to a fairytale cottage in a horse-drawn carriage goes from dream to bureaucratic nonsense to true nightmare.
This monumental epic of despair has no true resolution. It’s two hours and 23 minutes long, with the sense that the torture of its heroine, and by implication the Russian people, will go on forever.
The A Certain Regard sidebar also premiered a Russian film, “Closeness” by Kantemir Balagov, a film eligible for the Camera d’Or, a prize awarded for first or second feature. Set in the director’s hometown of Nalchik in the North Caucasus in 1998, the story deals with ethnic and religious rivalries as a brother and sister come of age in the town’s small Jewish community.
Director Balagov makes a promising start, introducing his wild-child protagonist Ilana (Darya Zhovner), a tomboyish young adult who defies convention by working as a mechanic in her father’s garage, and worries her parents by having midnight trysts with a non-Jewish guy who pumps gas for a living. Ila and her brother David (Veniamin Kats) have an easy relationship so physically intimate as to suggest incest.
Friends and neighbors gather for a dinner to announce David’s engagement to his girlfriend, but the couple is kidnapped later that night and a ransom demand is sent to his parents. The Jewish community rallies briefly at the tiny synagogue, but resentments surface, excuses and financial problems are aired, and the full amount of cash cannot be raised.
So far so good, in a film that evokes the backwater culture of a town far from any urban center, where anti-Semitism is an understood norm. When Ila’s mother suggests that they (the Jews) have to watch their step because they are guests in the town, Ila responds bitterly, “Aren’t we guests everywhere?” When she speaks up to defend her family in a private meeting about the money with a community elder, her mother slaps face and drags her out, surfacing yet another layer in the film’s portrayal of oppression.
Balagov sets “Closeness” going in many directions to the point that the thrust of the story becomes muddled. The love that Ila’s parents initially showed her dissolves when the overwhelming primacy of the son comes to the fore. Ila’s love for her brother begins to seem a sham following actions in the wake of her own slight. Ila’s boyfriend and his buddies watch anti-Semitic Islamist videos on late-night TV, opening yet another line of possibilities. The director ultimately undercuts his own work by concluding with a text on the screen that essentially tosses away these characters and their story.