Haunted by loss and regret, MS. PURPLE—the third feature directed by Justin Chon—is a brief, spellbinding take on loss and disfunction between a pair of siblings barely hanging on in a gig-economy Koreatown.
That the film—written by Chon and Chris Dinh—lands with such devastating impact despite the burden of an over-emphatic soundtrack is a testament to the powerful central performance of Tiffany Chu as Kasie.
This weekend, Chon and Chuwill join actor Teddy Lee (as Carey) at the Nuart for several post-screening Q & A’s. And for Film Independent members, there’s a Case Study presentation on Tuesday night.
After a recent Film Independent Presents screening of AFTER THE WEDDING, Julianne Moore said something that revealed a uniquely generous approach to acting:
What I love about what we do is, regardless of age or experience, we all meet as peers. It doesn’t happen in a lot of professions, but it happens with acting.
In her new drama, the great accomplishment of Moore and two of her remarkable peers—MichelleWilliams and Abby Quinn—is delivering memorable performances in the service of a schematic script about privilege and legacy among the one-percenters.
Moore plays Theresa, a nouveau-riche start-up billionaire ready to cash out. One of the loose ends that needs tying up is Isabel (Williams), an American-in-India who helps run an underserved aid facility for thousands of Calcutta street kids. Theresa would like to donate a very large sum to the program and—just before the Hamptons wedding of her daughter (Quinn)—Theresa summons Isabel to Manhattan for a meeting. Since she’s in town, Isabel also attends the wedding, where she meets Oscar (Billy Crudup), Theresa’s husband.
This comes as a shock to Isabel, since the last time she saw Oscar was twenty years ago, when they were both in their late teens…
AFTER THE WEDDING is Moore’s fourth feature collaboration with her husband, writer and director Bart Freundlich.
After the Wedding, from top: Michelle Williams (left), Billy Crudup, and Julianne Moore; VirPachisia and Williams; Film Independent Artistic Director Jacqueline Lyanga (left), Moore, Abby Quinn, and Bart Freundlich, July 30, 2019, The Landmark cinema, photograph by Araya Diaz, courtesy of Getty Images and Film Independent; Williams and Moore; Quinn and Williams; Williams. Film images courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
In the 1960s, Hydra was a seemingly magical refuge from the world, a bubble that kept you safe as long as you stayed inside it. But for many who left the Grecian island and returned to what was then referred to as the “rat race,” life away from their sanctuary proved dangerous, and there were many casualties along the way.
Leonard Cohen met an early, essential inspiration for his life’s work on Hydra—Marianne Ihlen, a Norwegian woman who was visiting Greece with her husband and son. This is where MARIANNE & LEONARD—WORDS OF LOVE—the fascinating new documentary by NickBroomfield—begins. Cohen’s obsessive self-involvement provided its own buttress against straight society:
“A large part of my life was escaping, whatever it was… It was a selfish life, but at the time it felt like survival.”
It was left to Marianne to take what Broomfield—during his Film IndependentPresents post-screening interview with artistic director Jacqueline Lyanga—called the “oddly unflattering” role of muse. MARIANNE & LEONARD brings us the lifelong entanglements, the separations and reunions, the breakdowns and break-ups, the round-the-clock use of speed, wine, LSD, and other substances (“They used to call me Captain Mandrax,” explains Cohen in the film, citing the Quaalude-like drug he used to combat paralyzing stage fright)—all told through the eyes and hindsight of a man, Broomfield, who was also on Hydra in the ’60s and also fell in love with Marianne.
The film ends with Cohen reciting the last lines of his poem “Days of Kindness”:
“… What I loved in my old life I haven’t forgotten It lives in my spine Marianne and the child The days of kindness It rises in my spine and it manifests as tears I pray that loving memory exists for them too the precious ones I overthrew for an education in the world.”
Ihlen and Cohen died less than four months apart. And in the end he did give her what she wanted most, sending her a last message on her death bed: “See you down the road my friend. Endless love and gratitude, your Leonard.”
Black and white photographs: Marianne Ihlen and Leonard Cohen in Marianne & Leonard—Words of Love (2), courtesy and Nick Broomfield and Roadside Attractions. Color photographs: Broomfield (2) and Jacqueline Lyanga at the Film Independent Presents special screening of Marianne &Leonard at the Arclight Hollywood on July 2, 2019. Photograph by Araya Diaz/Getty Images.
For his directorial debut, RashidJohnson has shot an update of Richard Wright’s controversial 1940 novel about Bigger Thomas’ seemingly irrevocable slide into the void. The screenplay by Suzan Lori-Parks changes some of the novel’s key plot points—”It’s not the book,” Elvis Mitchell told a recent FilmIndependent audience at the Arclight screening in Hollywood—but the expendability of black lives in this new NATIVE SON is, tragically, still contemporary.
“One of the criticisms of the book—and one I share—is the character’s lack of agency. Wright wrote them as archetypes.” — Rashid Johnson, at the FilmIndependent screening of NATIVE SON
As Bigger, Ashton Sanders (Moonlight) gives a performance of cool hesitation that recalls the voice and armature of James Dean and a young Keanu Reeves. For a scene at the home of Bigger’s rich, art-collecting employer, Johnson—in an audacious move—places his own 2015 painting Untitled (Anxious Man) directly behind Sanders as an angel/devil-over-my-shoulder figure.
NATIVE SON—which premieres tonight on HBO—co-stars KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk), Bill Camp, Sanaa Lathan, Margaret Qualley, Nick Robinson, Elizabeth Marvel, and David Alan Grier.
Film stills, from top: Ashton Sanders in Native Son (2019); Sanders and KiKi Layne; Sanders; Sanders and Nick Robinson (right); Sanders. Photographs by Matthew Libatique, images courtesy Sundance Institute and HBO.
Film Independent photos, from top: KiKi Layne and Rashid Johnson; Elvis Mitchell, Johnson, and Layne. Film Independent Presents HBO Screening Series—Native Son, March 20, 2019, Arclight Hollywood, photographs by Araya Diaz/Getty Images.
DESTROYER—a new template for sunshine noir and one of its greatest cinematic exponents since Chinatown—is the deeply evocative redemption song of an undercover cop (Nicole Kidman, jagged, reeling, transformed) on a contemporary odyssey across Los Angeles, finally making sense of a life marked and almost ruined by an act of hesitation seventeen years ago.
As director Karyn Kusama told a Film Independent Presents audience earlier this month at the ArclightHollywood, “We all love genre, we all love criminals, but these kinds of movies get a little too easy… We want to see the consequences, the toll.”
Kusama was speaking for herself and her writers—her husband Phil Hay and his writing partner Matt Manfredi—and all three will return to the Arclight this week for post-screening Q & A’s, followed by Nicole Kidman during the first weekend in January.