December 1, 2022
WRITTEN BY: JACOB
The mission of Bitesize Breakdown is to address a variety of perspectives for every movie we cover, hence the notion that no singular film will ever be covered by fewer than two writers (we, of course, have alternate rules for television). With that in mind, there are some instances – such as in our coverage of film festivals like TIFF and NYFF – wherein our viewing experiences do not overlap.
While several of our writers may attend higher profile showings, such as those for Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery or Noah Baumbach’s White Noise, we also strive to break off during these events to discover more obscure works individually. Reviews for the aforementioned larger titles (and many others) are forthcoming as their official release dates move closer, but since some release dates have not yet been set or made known, we offer a singular perspective on the following films.
Starring: Vicky Krieps, Colin Morgan, Finnegan Oldfield, Jeanne Werner, Alma Hasun, Katharina Lorenz, and Ivana Stojkovic
Director: Marie Kreutzer
An unexpectedly funny opener to the NYFF press week, Corsage is a well-helmed film with another magnetic performance by the great Vicky Krieps, even if the film itself doesn’t fully live up to its potential. It certainly looks beautiful, but not everything in the frame seems to land as it was likely intended to. Some of its more dramatic moments ring more hollow than they should, while the occasional joke fails to land properly (although most of them work overall). As Austria’s official submission to the Best International Feature race, it’s got a pretty damn good shot at landing a nomination.
ONE FINE MORNING
Starring: Léa Seydoux, Pascal Greggory, Melvil Poupaud, Nicole Garcia, Camille Leban Martins, Sarah Le Picard, Pierre Meunier, and Fejria Deliba
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
One Fine Morning finds itself split between two main narratives: one being an extramarital affair of its lead character, and the other a slow decay of her renowned father as he succumbs to Parkinson’s. The latter of the two is definitely the stronger one, carrying most of the film’s emotional heft and offering Léa Seydoux her best moments in a stellar lead performance; however, it doesn’t quite tie together with the other storyline. Neither feels truly whole, rendering their mutual inclusions unjustifiable. That said, if you enjoy international cinema of the slice-of-life variety, this one works well enough in other ways.
Starring: Kayije Kagame, Guslagie Malanga, Valérie Dréville, Ege Güner, Atillahan Karagedik, Mustili, Aurélia Petit, Faith Sahin, Salih Sigirci, and Lionel Top
Director: Alice Diop
Alice Diop’s fiction debut, Saint Omer, is a difficult film to unpack right from the outset. Both structurally and thematically, it is decidedly non-traditional. How does one tell the story of an infanticide in a nuanced fashion, and is it even ethical or responsible to do so? Diop’s film grapples with these questions as much as it wrestles with all the socio-economic circumstances that influenced its origin, for good or ill. Whether or not the mostly conversational courtroom settings will resonate with audiences or drive them away is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure: they will not soon forget it.
Starring: Honggui Yao
Directors: Ji Huang and Ryûji Otsuka
Stonewalling means well, but stumbles right out of the gate and never quite recovers. The drama from directors Ji Huang and Ryûji Otsuka is clearly meant to be a high-stakes venture, but given how long things take to happen, the film feels about as low-stakes as it can be. Its protagonist is thinly-drawn, and the surrounding characters don’t really seem to have been drawn at all, acting more as placeholders for plot developments than people. At two-and-a-half hours, the film is far too long, and by the film’s end, whatever point it is trying to make is lost amongst the wasted time.
Starring: Valentin Merz, Alexei Evstratov, Clara Gostynski, Li Tavor, Monika Stalder, Laurent Ferrero, Laurence Bretignier, Mayo Irion, Nikolai Bosshardt, Hélio Thiémard, and Daniel Stähli
Director: Cyril Schäublin
It takes a little while into Unrest to click into what it’s doing in terms of time and spatial geography, but this tale of anarchism slowly enveloping a small European town until it has taken over does eventually come together. Its most interesting element is the cinematography, which can feel odd, but soon reveals itself to be telling its own story through the way things are carefully placed. Even without a singular protagonist to follow, and being driven by theme rather than story, Cyril Schäublin’s NYFF entry is likely to be one of the most underrated films at the festival.
Starring: Raphaël Thiéry, Juliette Jouan, Noémie Lvovsky, Louis Garrel, Yolande Moreau, François Négret, Ernst Umhauer, Inès Es Sarhir, Antonin Stahly, Athénaïs Sifaoui-Blanc, and Bernard Blancan
Director: Pietro Marcello
While Pietro Marcello’s Martin Eden may be his better work, Scarlet is a more-than-worthy follow-up effort. Raphaël Thiéry’s performance is one of the year’s best, a softly rendered gentleness hiding behind his giant eyes, while Juliette Jouan (the spitting image of Alicia Vikander and Natalia Dyer) leads the second half with poise. Noémie Lvovsky charms in a supporting role, while the film’s music and sound back them all up by being excellent as they can be. The film’s halfway point does throw the viewer off as it shifts perspectives, but not so far that one can’t appreciate the ride.
Starring: Naser Hashemi, Reza Heydari, Mina Kavani, Bülent Keser, Mina Khosrovani, Vahid Mobasheri, Jafar Pahani, Bakhtiyar Panjeei, and Sinan Yusufoglu
Director: Jafar Panahi
No Bears has one of the most impressive beginnings of any movie released in 2022, but following act one, it devolves into something decidedly more average than what those opening minutes promised. The film isn’t exactly bad as is, but its repetitive storytelling and largely ambiguous ending drag down some of its better moments, including a few top-notch jokes and solid performances. To be fair, it does feel somewhat incomplete, and knowing the director is currently in prison does shed a different light on proceedings, but even then, it’s not quite as strong of a film as it could be.
Starring: Jordi Pujol Dolcet, Ainet Jounou, Xènia Roset, Anna Otin, Albert Bosch, Josep Abad, Montse Oró, Carles Cabós, Joel Rovira, Isaac Rovira, Carles Cabós, Antonia Castells, Djibril Casse, and Jacob Diarte
Director: Carla Simón
Alcarràs runs about 30 minutes too long, but gorgeous photography and excellent color grading does put it a cut above most other international films of its kind. A terrific ensemble cast buoys Carla Simón’s tale of industrialization closing in around small businesses, even as the story itself becomes somewhat repetitive. It’s a shame the actual story of the film doesn’t seem to know what point it’s trying to make narratively as much as thematically, but the film’s final image remains a real knock-out. It’s far from astounding, but this movie will likely work for most world cinema fans.
Starring: Mary Woodvine, John Woodvine, Edward Rowe, Callum Mitchell, and Joe Gray
Director: Mark Jenkin
Echoing films such as The Lighthouse via David Lynch-like directorial sensibilities, Enys Men’s abstractness is the thing that both helps and hurts it the most. In one sense, that abstractness detracts from clarity for the audience, making its 90-minute runtime a test of patience as much as interpretation. On the other hand, Mary Woodvine’s internal performance and the film’s overall look and sound are tremendously well-rounded; aesthetically, the film emulates 1970s expressionism almost perfectly. Unfortunately, it’s not quite enough to keep the film on the minds of viewers, and it certainly isn’t likely to produce any return customers once completed.
Starring: Sandra Drzymalska, Isabelle Huppert, Lorenzo Zurzolo, Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, Thomasz Organek, Lolita Chammah, Agata Sasinowska, Anna Rokita, Michal Przybyslawski, and Gloria Iradukunda
Director: Jerzy Skolimowski
Although imperfect, one would be hard-pressed to not find something to like in Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO. An often gorgeous film with a few indiscernible style choices and a second half that fails to stick the landing, at least its first half is pure visual storytelling. It’s tough not to care about animals in movies, but the way Skolimowski invites us into EO the Donkey's perspective with little more than some well-placed cuts and a few different camera angles is a remarkable feat for any film to pull off. It’s a shame the film doesn’t otherwise work.
RETURN TO SEOUL
Starring: Park Ji-Min, Oh Kwang-rok, Guka Han, Kim Sun-young, Yoann Zimmer, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, and Hur Ouk-Sook
Director: Davy Chou
Park Ji-Min’s stellar, multi-layered performance as Freddie is the centerpiece holding director Davy Chou’s Return to Seoul to the fulfillment of its own promise. Without her, the film doesn’t feel as authentic or as affecting. Luckily, she’s good enough to carry it because the story itself – while interesting and poignant – doesn’t quite come together around her as well as it hopes to. As Freddie moves through no less than three time jumps, the audience must forego connection in favor of scope. That trade doesn’t entirely sink the film itself, but it does prove difficult, especially with supporting character attachments.
Starring: Benoît Magimel, Sergi López, Lluís Serrat, Pahoa Mahagafanau, Montse Triola, Marc Susini, Baptiste Pinteaux, Cécile Guilbert, Mike Landscape, Mareva Wong, Matahi Pambrun, Alexandre Mello, Michael Vautor, Laurent Brissonnaud, and Cyrus Arai
Director: Albert Serra
The ambition of Pacifiction cannot be understated as it attempts to thread a spy thriller through its largely lackluster narrative, which sacrifices audience interest for sounding smarter than it is. Perhaps it is better than I’ve insinuated, but its gorgeous looks can’t substitute for the confusion and exhaustion it offers. Like a mid-game chess board to a novice player, the film is so ahead of itself by the time the plot gets going that audiences aren’t likely to catch up to what’s happening before it moves on yet again. Structurally and narratively, it’s moderately messy.
Starring: Marin Grigore, Judith State, Macrina Barladeanu, Orsolya Moldován, Rácz Endre, József Bíró, Ovidiu Crisan, Zoltán Deák, Cerasela Iosifescu, and Andrei Finti
Director: Cristian Mungiu
The way in which R.M.N. attempts to juggle two separate narratives at once does leave it a little distracted, forcing it to commit to neither story as much as it should to either. That said, it does have a decent bit to recommend, namely solid performances, great photography, and one of the year’s better movie endings. Unfortunately, all that good will can’t keep it afloat amongst its themes of sheep-like racism and bigotry, which may be as realistic as they can be given the film’s setting, but still feel a bit too bluntly handled for a movie format.
Starring: Elisa Carricajo, Verónica Llinás, Juliana Muras, Laura Paredes, Ezequiel Pierri, Cecilia Rainero, and Rafael Spregelburd
Director: Laura Citarella
There are few examples of films more exhausting to watch than Trenque Lauquen. Three hours and twenty minutes is far too long to tell a story that is only half essential after both parts are combined. That said, the essential half is pretty good, and a committed performance from Elisa Carricajo, as well as the intriguing mystery surrounding her whereabouts, is what makes most of it bearable. To direct something of this scope takes enormous skill, even if that scope is far too wide-ranging for the story being told. I admire Laura Citarella’s gumption, but I can’t call it inspired.
ALL THAT BREATHES
Starring: Salik Rehman, Mohammed Saud, and Nadeem Shehzad
Director: Shaunak Sen
All That Breathes is one of the finest shot movies of 2022, and one of its most rewarding documentaries. At first, it seems as though it’s simply an impressively done bird rescue doc, but it soon morphs into something on a larger scale with a more intimate story. Truthfully, it’s not so much about the bird rescue op as it is about the three brothers running it and how they manage to stick by each other in the face of the conflicts threatening their livelihoods. Director Shaunak Sen’s gamble in the structure of it pays off, and documentary fans will love it.
DE HUMANI CORPORIS FABRICA
Directors: Verena Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor
The human body is fascinating, and to that end, De Humani Corporis Fabrica certainly exhibits educational value. To witness in real-time the stresses that medical professionals deal with day to day on little-to-no sleep for long stretches of time is in itself a miracle, bound to enhance respect for those in the field. That said, the film’s unflinching showcase of reality may be its ultimate shortcoming. The ultra-graphic nature of watching full c-sections and genital surgeries may prove to be too much even for interested parties, and it seems as though that rawness is the film’s entire (and only) point.
IS THAT BLACK ENOUGH FOR YOU?!?
Starring: Margaret Avery, Harry Belafonte, Charles Burnett, Suzanne De Passe, Laurence Fishburne, Whoopi Goldberg, Samuel L. Jackson, Glynn Turman, Billy Dee Williams, and Zendaya
Director: Elvis Mitchell
Netflix’s Is That Black Enough for You?!? is by no means a waste of time, but it lacks the necessary structural tools to assert itself as essential documentary filmmaking. Apart from educating people about the history of Black cinema, especially in the 1970s, the film doesn’t do much to keep the audience engaged, nor does it say much of anything the audience doesn’t already know. The editing is fairly choppy as well, while the narration is too overbearing, occasionally challenging the viewer’s engagement. It’s not a condemnation, but this probably would have worked better for a network like the History Channel.
Director: Margaret Brown
Perhaps Netflix’s strongest documentary feature yet, Descendant is an inspiring look into not only the search for the slave ship Clotilda (the last to dock in the U.S.), but the communities to which its discovery is most precious. Expertly directed by Margaret Brown, the film’s examination of generational recovery and communal reclamation across Black America is one of its many rich offerings, and every minute spent within this community offers new layers to unfurl. This is a surefire contender in the Best Documentary Feature Oscar race, and – if campaigned right – could yield Netflix their fourth win in just six years.
Photo Credits: NYFF