Indie Focus: Mysteries abound with ‘Gemini,’ ‘Outside In’ and ‘Claire’s Camera’
Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.
Last week, we mentioned the conversation around representation, appropriation and appreciation in Wes Anderson’s new “Isle of Dogs.” This week Justin Chang, Jen Yamato and I sat down to talk more about the movie for the new L.A. Times entertainment podcast “The Reel.”
For whatever reason, this turned into a big week for new releases, with too many intriguing titles for our usual format. So, besides the films in our main spotlight, there is also Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” and Olivia Newman’s “First Match.” There was this fun interview with Burt Reynolds for “The Last Movie Star.” And the wild one-two punch of Al Pacino and Jessica Chastain in “Wild Salomé” and “Salomé.”
We had a great screening and Q&A this past week with Aaron Katz and “Gemini.” Coming up on April 12 we will have a screening of the Western drama “The Rider,” followed by a Q&A with writer-director Chloé Zhao and lead actor Brady Jandreau. For info and updates on future events, go to events.latimes.com.
A moody, stylish thriller written and directed by Aaron Katz, “Gemini” is set in contemporary Los Angeles, a world of sleek surfaces, confusing feelings of lost identity and slippage between the personal and professional. The movie features Lola Kirke as a young assistant to a movie star (Zoë Kravitz) who finds herself in over her head when a dead body becomes a part of their already complicated dynamic. John Cho also appears as a laconic detective.
Robert Abele reviewed the film for The Times, noting that “in its arresting visual tour of L.A.'s groovy neighborhoods and rich hideaways, ‘Gemini’ captures a secret, abiding and even menacing melancholy behind its oft-regarded surfaces.” He added that the film “may be the ideal Instagram-era genre flick: an identity thriller about advantage and escape that swipes left and right with cool, calculated authority.”
I spoke to Katz, Kirke, Cho and Kravitz about the movie’s depiction of Los Angeles and its relationship to contemporary celebrity. As Katz said, “It feels like thrillers have this great capacity to express something about the city that they are taking place in .… You get to see a lot of the city and immerse the movie in the fabric of what it means to live in the city at a particular time.”
At the New York Times, Manohla Dargis noted, “What really interests Mr. Katz here are movies — the fingerprints of directors like Robert Altman, David Lynch, Michael Mann and Sean Baker are all on ‘Gemini’ — and how they have shaped Los Angeles, or at least our ideas about it.” She added, “He lingers on beauty and catches the light at dusk, searching and sometimes finding an elusive city that has always been there for those who bother to look.”
At Vulture, Emily Yoshida wrote that in the film, “Andrew Reed’s cinematography and [Keegan] DeWitt’s score abstractly communicate something about isolation and the kind of vicarious living that we all do, whether we work for someone or follow them on Instagram .… As a mood alone, big or otherwise, it has more substance than it lets on, and Katz’s L.A. is a worthy addition to the hazy, palm-tree-lined pantheon.”
Directed by Lynn Shelton, who has previously brought an emotional sharpness to movies such as “Humpday,” “You Sister’s Sister” and “Laggies,” the new “Outside In” brings out vivid, genuine feelings from an unusual premise. In the film, Jay Duplass plays Chris, who is just getting out of prison after an extended sentence for a crime he did not commit. Throughout his time in jail, one of his biggest advocates was his former teacher Carol (Edie Falco), and now that he is out they have to figure out what their new relationship is going to be.
Reviewing the film for The Times, Justin Chang wrote, “‘Outside In’ is a love story about two people whose age difference matters less, in the end, than the realization that they may be headed in different directions. By the end you may flash back to that image of Chris on his bicycle, but it’s to the credit of this tender, moving film that he isn’t the only one who’s found a reason to keep going.”
At Indiewire, Eric Kohn added, “Shelton follows these characters through a series of whispered conversations and confrontations about whether or not they stand a chance together. In the process, ‘Outside In’ works through the morality of their bond, and even as it builds its momentum around a fundamental question — will they or won’t they? — it doesn’t arrive at any firm answers, carrying the narrative along with a contemplative air.”
The new film “Claire’s Camera” reunites two powerhouse figures in the arthouse/festival filmmaking world, director Hong Sang-soo and actress Isabelle Huppert. Filmed around the Cannes Film Festival in 2016, in the serio-comic film, Huppert plays a woman visiting the festival for the first time, snapping pictures with a camera that may have magical properties. Also in the cast are actress Kim Min-hee and actor Jung Jin-young.
In his review for The Times, Justin Chang wrote, “For Huppert, most celebrated for her uncompromising severity in films like ‘Elle’ and ‘The Piano Teacher,’ the movie is an opportunity to cut gloriously loose; no less than Claire herself, she seems to be enjoying her holiday .… And it’s a pleasure to watch her simply hang out and connect with Kim, Hong’s most frequent on-screen collaborator of late.”
At the New York Times, Glenn Kenny said, “[T]he movie offers up pertinent and dispiriting observations on gender relations .… Ms. Huppert’s presence — steady, warm, thoughtful but with a casual air — keeps the entire enterprise classically comedic.”
At the New Yorker, Richard Brody added, “Hong Sang-soo condenses a grand melodrama of work, love, and art into a brisk sixty-nine-minute roundelay of chance meetings and intimate confrontations .… Hong distills vast emotional crises and creative self-recognitions into confessional monologues, pugnacious discussions, and luminous aphorisms.”
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