Reviews: True crime, Richard Nixon, Chelsea Hotel and more
‘Girl in the picture’
In one of the strangest criminal cases of the 1990s, a man named Franklin Floyd went to a primary school in Oklahoma with a gun, forcing the principal to pick up a 6-year-old boy named Michael. Floyd claimed that Michael was the son he had with a woman named Tonya, recently killed in a collision. But as the story unfolded more than two decades later, investigators determined that the relationship between Floyd, Tonya and Michael – and in some cases even their names – was not exactly what was assumed.
Director Skye Borgman transforms this fascinating and frightening saga into the refreshingly nonsensical true-crime documentary “Girl in the Picture”, which covers all the surprising twists and turns of the case, while always bringing the focus back to what really matters: Who was this « Tonya ”and how did she get involved with a man who abducted her son after she died? It’s a story involving genetic testing, a sisterhood of strippers and people across the country whose lives were touched by this mysterious woman – even though she herself lived in almost constant danger.
Borgman does not make a hard-hitting point with “Girl in the picture”, except to let the basic facts reveal how a confident man can bend social institutions to his will – while a marginalized woman can fall completely off the radar. Although “Girl in the Picture” does not skip over any nasty details, it also does not let the villain define what the story is about. Instead, Borgman awakens Floyd’s victims back to life, by giving a voice to those who miss them.
‘Girl in the picture.’ TV-MA for language, child abuse, sexual violence and smoking. 1 hour, 42 minutes. Available on Netflix
’18 1/2 ‘
The infamous “gap” in President Nixon’s White House cassettes acts as a McGuffin in the imaginative indie drama “18 1/2”, which plays Willa Fitzgerald as Connie, an official who stumbles upon a second recording that contains the missing sound. . John Magaro plays Paul, a New York Times reporter who sees a chance to get the Washington Post’s Watergate team by listening to the tape – if only he and Connie can find a working reel-to-reel player at the funky motel there. they are hiding together.
Directed by Dan Mirvish – who also co-wrote the story with producer / screenwriter Daniel Moya – “18 1/2” is not so concerned with Watergate or Nixon. Occasionally we hear bits of the tape (with Bruce Campbell as the voice of the president), and what is written there is largely banal, with only sporadic parallels to some recent political scandals. Instead, this film is about creating the hazy feeling of early ’70s American cinema, filled with crazy and paranoid characters who talk non-stop.
The centerpiece of the film is a dinner party Connie and Paul are invited to by an eccentric older couple, played by Vondie Curtis-Hall and Catherine Curtin. Because no one in the room is completely sure of what other people’s agenda is, they cover for their mutual distrust with chatter. Mirvish’s excellent cast approaches this sequence as a one-act play, and turns on every curve ball the co-actors throw. Nothing they say means so much, but they say it with such eagerness and passion that they draw the audience straight into the free-flowing anxiety of a hectic time in American history half a century ago.
’18 1/2. ‘ PG-13, for some strong violence, language and suggestive material. 1 hour, 28 minutes. Available on VOD
‘Moon, 66 questions’
Greek filmmakers Yorgos Lanthimos and Athina Rachel Tsangari made a major contribution to world cinema in the 2010s with quirky and artful films such as “Dogtooth” and “Attenberg”, which use off-kilter framing and harrowing situations to rattle audiences – and get them to think about how disturbingly easy it is for humans to adapt to hostile environments. Greek screenwriter and director Jacqueline Lentzou’s debut film “Moon, 66 Questions” has a similar aesthetic, but her film is more rooted in everyday life, and tells the story of a young woman named Artemis (Sofia Kokkali) who returns to Athens to take care of her alienated, weak father Paris (Lazaros Georgakopoulos).
Lentzou lets the audience in Artemis’ head through long images that show her insecurity and embarrassment, while she tackles the physical and emotional needs of a man she barely knows. The film’s icy style provides a surprising emotional return towards the end, with the heroine’s silent meditations about who she is and whether she owes something to her family that culminates in moments of real tenderness. “Moon, 66 Questions” can be unsettling and depressing, but it’s never alienating. It’s about moving beyond alienation and understanding what connects us.
‘Moon, 66 questions.’ In Greek with English subtitles. Not rated. 1 hour, 48 minutes. Available on VOD
In the supernatural mystery thriller “The Summoned”, four not so random people receive an invitation to an ultra-exclusive self-help facility. The self-absorbed celebrity actress Tara (Angela Gulner), her jerky ex-husband Joe (Salvador Chacon), the popular folk-pop singer-songwriter Lyn (Emma Fitzpatrick) and her aspiring musician girlfriend Elijah (J. Quinton Johnson)) are all called to the middle of nowhere by the scary Dr. Frost (Frederick Stuart), who has more in mind for their little company than trust trips and group therapy. Before the retreat is over, someone will be hunted.
Director Mark Meir and screenwriter Yuri Baranovsky take too long to get to the film’s biggest twist; and in general “The Summoned” is too light on action and suspense. Still, this mix of Willy Wonka, “Get Out” and “The Most Dangerous Game” has some striking moments – especially when these characters drop the rehearsed facades and become honest about what they really want. At its core, this is a film about the thick lines that separate those who have and those who do not, and the extremes some people will go to break that barrier.
“The summoned.” Not rated. 1 hour, 26 minutes. Available on VOD
“Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel”
Every time a restaurant, nightclub or hotel becomes known for its unpretentious simplicity, they risk losing the qualities that make it special – since it is difficult to be both humble and famous. It is the crisis that the New York Hotel Chelsea has long faced, which once allowed some of the 20th century’s greatest artists, musicians and writers to live cheaply for a few nights or a few years, but which has been under renovation for a decade. intended to turn this first-class cultural property into an exclusive tourist hotspot.
Amélie van Elmbt and Maya Duverdier’s documentary “Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel” is not a comprehensive look back at the history of the former home of Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, Dylan Thomas, Patti Smith and other legends. Instead, the unremarkable old footage from Chelsea’s more shocking days combines with new vignettes, after long-term residents who are unsure if they will be allowed to stay when the upgrades are finally completed. The result is a brilliant new way of looking at this old building – not just as a historic landmark where amazing things happened a long time ago, but as a place where people have actually lived full lives, found shelter and inspiration in the haunted halls.
‘Dream Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 20 minutes. Available in selected cinemas and on VOD
“Dangerous compounds” is the latest adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ novel from 1782, social rivals manipulate young lovers and ruin their reputation as part of a decadent game. This new version returns the plot to France, where two self-absorbed influencers at a private private school play with the sweet Célène (Paola Locatelli). Available on Netflix
Now available on DVD and Blu-ray
“Everything everywhere at once” is one of this year’s most unlikely hits: an unclassifiable science-fiction drama with Michelle Yeoh as a weary launderer who collaborates with alternative versions of herself to try to prevent a multifaceted apocalypse. Writer-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert throw dozens of strange ideas on screen while their heroine jumps across realities, always basing their story on the idea that even the most hopeless people and situations can improve. Lionsgate