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Florida Film Festival 2014 movie reviews

Not sure what flicks to catch at this year’s fest? Use our reviews as your guide

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'American Jesus'

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'The Babadook'

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“We’re living in a world that’s technological and primordial simultaneously,” says Heizer, who came of artistic age in 1960s New York. “I guess the idea is to make art that reflects this premise.”

Pray’s film, though not as weighty or groundbreaking – no pun intended – as its subject, nevertheless does a good job of presenting both art and artist, a man for whom “the studio, the city, the museum was too small.” – CM

★★★★ (out of 5 stars)

Program: Narrative features
Writer-director Andrea Pallaoro set out to make an honest, observational film about universal family struggles and the choices attached to them, and to do so without judgment. The resulting film – her directorial debut – moves with the fluidity of impressionistic portraiture, weaving from reflections in mirrors and ripples of water a sometimes horrifying (though always engaging) patchwork of subtle innuendo.

Deceptively picturesque in its framing, the story of the down-on-his-luck cattle farmer Ennis (Brian F. O’Byrne), his deaf wife Christina (Catalina Sandino Marino), and their growing brood of five – each with their own side-eyed coming-of-age conflicts (exempting the baby) – starts out with the twinkle of loyal familial love as seen through the pocket-camera film-winding of the middle child, Jacob (Maxim Knight).

But, obviously, that’s not the whole picture. As focus shifts from storyline to storyline at an almost dreamlike poetic pace – sexuality, poverty, trust, infidelity, escape, hope and failure are all at play here, as seen largely through the parental characters, but also in the faces of children staring at life through a black-and-white rabbit-eared television like it’s their only window – Pallaoro’s poem too becomes unraveled and uncomfortably tragic. Medeas is a windswept tale of mid-1980s (we guess) Midwest Americana while also playing out as the Greek tragedy it namechecks, and as such, it largely succeeds in its mission. Though it will be up to the audience to decide whether such extremes as those that the film goes to are worthy of judgment or are just general signifiers of the human condition. In other words, it depends on what you’ve been through. – BM

★★ (out of 5 stars)

Program: Midnight features
One evening, a housewife bears witness to her husband having an affair. She then walks into his room while he’s sleeping and tries to cut his dick off with a knife – he quickly catches on and throws her out of the room. Why wouldn’t he call the cops? Screw it; she’s learned her lesson. Or something.

Soon enough, the mother (clearly not crazy) walks into her son’s room and successfully cuts his dick off. Wifey then thinks it would be a good idea to hide the evidence and eats said wang. Protein.

Eighty more minutes to go in this film best subtitled “a field guide to coping with not having man-parts.” By now, you’ve probably already deduced whether this film, directed by South Korean filmmaker Ki-duk Kim, is for you or not. Stick with it, though, and you may find an infectious artsiness in its decision to not have any spoken dialogue. It even has a hidden heart and motivation that occasionally shines through all the gritty strangeness of this odd, over-sexualized world Kim has crafted – unfortunately it’s just buried deep beneath piles and piles of “what the fuck, South Korea?!” – AM

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