Nana Mensah’s directorial debut is full of potential and shines a light on the immigrant experience.
Nashville Film Festival 2021 is finally here! I am so excited to be able to write tons of reviews for you all and tell you all about the films I am watching on my Twitter and Letterboxd. As you can see, I started my coverage a little early with my review of the music documentary, The Fable of a Song. Before the festival started I looked through the guide and pinned down which films would interest me to write a review on because I doubt I can write one for every single film that premieres here plus I need to share this space with Brad and Luis. Queen of Glory caught my attention instantly because of its beautiful poster, but as I read the synopsis I was intrigued. Let me tell you that this movie did not disappoint at all.
Queen of Glory focuses on Sarah, played by Nana Mensah (The King of Staten Island, Bonding, 13 Reasons Why) a Ghanaian American woman who is planning to move to Ohio with her secret lover. Life seems to be moving quickly and all of a sudden Sarah’s life is struck with a family tragedy. This tragedy leads to Sarah exploring her options and what she really wants out of her life. Along with having to confront her relationship with her estranged father. Through its runtime we are dissecting this character study and a portrayal of the immigrant experience.
Nana Mensah who serves as our writer, director, and main actress crafts a beautiful film about loss, identity, and the immigrant experience. Right off the bat, this film is beautifully crafted with its cinematography by Cybel Martin. There are some very pleasing lighting setups and the color palette is enticingly rich. The score and production design are impeccable as it really creates the atmosphere of Sarah’s culture. The film also includes some wonderful performances from actors like Meeko who portrays Pitt. Meeko and Mensah’s chemistry is wonderful and every time they both share the screen it is delightful. The story feels a bit rushed and leaves the viewer wanting a bit more time with some of our characters especially Sarah’s father. This could have used another extra 30 minutes to flesh out some more and I would not have mind at all. The strength of this film are there and its commentary and message about the immigrant experience joined by a struggle to know what Sarah wants make this film worth it. Nana Mensah’s directing career will be filled with better work as she continues and I am very excited for what is to come from her.
Queen of Glory will have its premiere at the Nashville Film Festival on October 4th, to purchase tickets to attend the event visit here.
We are continuing on with our coverage of the 52nd Nashville Film Festival. Today, one of our writers Luis had the chance to sit down and talk with Serhat Karaaslan, the director of the short film, The Criminals. Serhat and Luis discuss the film and how Serhat approached directing on this film. The Criminals will make its premiere at Nashville Film Festival on October 4th and the Belcourt Theater, and you can purchase tickets here. It is available to watch through Nashville Film Festival’s virtual cinema right now.
The English language debut film of French director Leos Carax is ambitious but it just does too much to work that falls unbelievably flat.
It’s finally here after premiering at this year’s Cannes Film Festival where it received a standing ovation (even though that seems to be tradition at this point for most movies at Cannes). French director Leos Carax creates his first English language film with the help of Sparks duo Ron and Russel Mael. The film is shot by Caroline Champetier along with music created by Sparks themselves. The film received raving reviews at Cannes especially many praising the performances by our leads. One can definitely agree that there was some anticipation for this film especially for fans of Carax and his last film Holy Motors.
Annette stars Adam Driver as, Henry McHenry, a comedian on a steady downfall in his career and life and Marion Cotillard as Catherine Defrasnoux a successful and beautiful opera singer who fall in love, get married, and have their first child. It is after they have their child that they face a slew of problems ranging from bad communication to jealousy. The film also stars Simon Helberg and Devyn McDowell who show off an incredible range of performances in the film. The film is definitely heightened by the performances included along with their singing abilities.
Now, let’s get one thing covered before we get into what this movie is doing. Annette is bizarre, ambitious and at times both of these characteristics are what helps the film stand out, but it is also what makes the film stay convoluted. The film succeeds in getting its message across about power hungry jealous men who are not content with their life and career, so they must manipulate those around them to help keep their career alive. It is exactly who Henry is and who he realizes he became by the end of the film. The film also has some stunning cinematography that is elevated by some genius production design. Everything from the lighting setups to the set pieces really help create the atmosphere of the film.
After all that well you are probably asking, “well what did not work for you then?” Everything else basically from story to music to pacing just did not work. I am a firm believer that a musical should at least be good in the music department, and even though I am sure that the Sparks have made some good music the music in Annette was just uninteresting. It helped create its atmosphere but at times it felt very out of place within its story where it should be helping service the story. As mentioned before, Driver and Cotillard are magnificent performers but the music just does not work for the film to execute itself.
The story of Annette is interesting but because of its off pacing it just does not seem to ever capture more than it is grasping. The themes are far more interesting to digest than this convoluted story that just does not find its footing. A lot of that is to blame for a very dragged out second and third act that just keep going and going. If the film could have been shaved down 30 minutes I think it could have worked better but who knows when the pacing is only one part of multiple problems this film finds itself in. Now, you’re probably thinking that I just did not like this film at all? Well, I found it to be just fine because its ambition even though it is what limited it at times is what I think pushes it to be a good film. There is a lot of love and care within the film that just helps create this bizarre flick and because of that it is worthy of that praise. Even though there is a lot ground that can be improved Leos Carax does a good job of creating a very stylized film that only he can make.
Annette is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters (2018) is a perfectly crafted film that plays a tune with your heartstrings that you never want to end.
So if you were betting that I wouldn’t give out a five star in the first five movies I review for this challenge, then sadly today you lost, my friends. I don’t think I could even prepare myself for this movie. I wanted to watch this one not just because it won the Palme d’Or, but I’ve been recommended to watch Kore-eda’s work multiple times. I have to say that this did not disappoint in the slightest.
Shoplifters (2018) features a group of outsiders all banded together by their misfit qualities take into their home a little girl, which sets off a wide array of events and secrets surrounding the “family.” The film has its various twists and turns, which makes you learn to love this obscure family. You spend so much time with each character that makes it hard to say goodbye to some of them. Kor-eda does such a great job of making you care for these characters that when you find out the reason why they are together, it is hard to hold onto your prior feelings about them.
Kor-eda also includes necessary conversations in social class structures and classism. Why is it that the family has to shoplift to survive? Why do some of the family members have to resort to sex work as a means of making money? Overall, do any of these things make these strangers any less of a family than those of us bound by blood? The analysis included in this film is powerful and one that I will keep in mind when discussing some of the best movies from this challenge.
Shoplifters (2018) is available to watch on Hulu. Catch up on the rest of this challenge by visiting my Letterboxd or the google doc that includes all the films that I am covering. I implore every single person reading this review to watch this film, you will absolutely not regret it.
Wong Kar-wai crafts an incredibly intimate film that depicts accurately what loneliness and heartbreak feels like.
We have reached Hong Kong, and when I began drafting the films for this challenge I was excited to watch some work from a specific director from Hong Kong. I was told this director was incredibly important in not just Hong Kong Cinema but cinema in general. I knew I had to watch something from the legendary Wong Kar-wai soon. Now, I will not lie and say this was my first film from Kar-wai, because I watched Chungking Express (1994) for a class project beforehand. Even though I had watched one piece from his work before absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the glorious film that is In The Mood For Love (2000).
Filled with rich stylized sets and profound dialogue, In The Mood For Love (2000) is a carefully sensual forbidden love story that refuses to let go until the credits roll. The story follows two people who develop feelings for each other after they discover that their spouses are having a love affair. What comes after in this masterpiece is beautiful, saddening, but so exquisite to consume. Loneliness and heartbreak are depicted carefully inside of a world that cannot allow these two to properly fall in love with each other. Wong Kar-wai is a director who approaches his work with such tender care but is still able to bring in his style to the forefront. Every single minute of this movie was eye-opening and I never wanted to stop watching it. I am so excited to watch more of his work throughout this challenge and fall in love with it as I fell in love with this picture.
As always feel free to follow along with the challenge on my Letterboxd list for mini-reviews, this column for more in-depth reviews, or find the rest of the films that I am going to watch on this google doc.