Four new March reviews on Film Pulse from Blake Crane

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THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC

It’s that face. Maria Falconetti’s visage in Carl Th. Dreyer’s silent classic La Passion de Jeanne d’Arcproduces some of the most indelible images in film history. Her mesmerizing performance is beautiful and heartbreaking without her uttering a single audible word. That face, and the whole of Dreyer’s masterpiece, are beautifully presented in Criterion’s Blu-ray package of the film, which includes a stunning new 2K digital restoration.

There’s little that can be said about The Passion of Joan of Arc, the subject of countless essays, analyses and cinephile conversations, that hasn’t been broken down or obsessed over in the 90 years since its release. The trial and torment of Joan of Arc and the events surrounding them have an immediacy and intensity, brilliantly captured by Dreyer and cinematographer Rudolph Maté.

THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT

The Strangers: Prey at Night would be a much better title without the colon, but I suppose there’s branding that must be considered, even for a 10-years-later sequel. The same consideration wasn’t given to the actual film, which ditches most of what made the 2008 original work. Tension and atmosphere are replaced with bland stalk-and-slash bromides.

MIDNIGHTERS

Our knowledge of thrillers tells us that an unhappily married couple driving down a country road at night is in for trouble, and indeed, Midnighters places its twosome in a dire situation. Following an inciting event, the economical, engaging neo-noir unfolds like an even simpler version of A Simple Plan or Blood Simple.

The efficiency of the pulpy suspense story is impressive, with director Julius Ramsay and his screenwriter brother Alston wasting nary a frame or line of dialogue, all while weaving in several twists that deepen the torment without feeling too big. This is a remarkable feature debut for both.

THE LULLABY

Despite intriguingly combining elements of early Polanski with current James Wan, The Lullaby doesn’t add up to much. Seeds of psychological horror are planted but not effectively reaped, while troubling ghostly imagery grows repetitive without offering circumstance. The film’s disappointing final act is more concerned with gore and tragedy than paying off the paranoia.

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