SFIFF 57 Report: Chris Messina’s “Alex of Venice”, Zaza Urushadze’s “Tangerines” and Kelly Reichardt’s “Night Moves”

Alex of Venice


four-stars4Chris Messina‘s directorial debut, and the Closing Night film at the San Francisco International Film Festival, is a very warm, honest portrayal of a… how do you say… late young adulthood-life crisis.  It involves two young parents, one, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, a very busy and career-focused woman; her husband, played by Messina, who is growing tired of an adolescence lost, and her father and sister (Don Johnson and the writer of the film, Katie Nehra).  It is a warm, often funny, but uncompromisingly honest film; often, for instance, when plot offerings appear which most filmmakers would seize and milk every bit of drama out of, this film will brush over them and move on to more truly important elements, though to be fair it can get a bit sentimental.

With fantastic acting, especially by Winstead, who seems to be able to express a full range of emotion and expression almost without moving, and Johnson’s aging thespian father, it is certainly worth a watch.  As a post script, the inclusion of The Cherry Orchard as a contrapuntal underlying element was very poignant.



five-starsTangerines is a unique, important, humanistic look at the war in South Ossetia and Abkhazia (i.e. perhaps Georgia), which may serve as a representative for humanity within the inherently inhumane act of war.  It centers around an old Estonian man, one among apparently many (hence being an Estonian-Georgian film) who lived in the Caucasus until this recent war, and his encounters with his Estonian business partner, a Russo-Chechen mercenary, and a Georgian soldier.  This old man may be a symbol of humanism himself, as he manages to see everyone as a person despite everyone else’s determination to live underneath a flag – Abkhazia, Georgia, Russia, Chechnaya, Estonia, et cetera.  It is a highly moving, effecting film, beautiful and brutal.

Night Moves


four-stars4Kelly Reichardt‘s fourth film, Night Moves, carries on her previous style in this suspenseful foray into eco-terrorism.  We watch three young idealists in their attempt to blow up a dam and the resulting consequences, drifting into their psychological downfalls.

Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning are great, and the film is brilliant in its lack of exposition. Very often it actually feels like a silent film with sound – as though the dialogue is more often a texture than the key point in progressing the film.  Instead we trudge through the well-crafted atmosphere of shot after shot, steadily heading towards our ultimate demise.  In the end there were moments of bits of resolution of which I wondered were completely necessary, but the film continues to build into the beautiful, cryptic and paranoid final shot.  Certainly worth a view.


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Categories: Reviews, San Francisco International Film Festival

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