Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.

 

Articles by Diane Carson

 

WHERE IS KYRA? — Review by Diane Carson

Where Is Kyra? is not a film that grabs headlines; it is one that lingers with a profound emotional, empathetic appeal. For Kyra is that rare woman in narratives: middle-aged, unemployed, down-on-her-luck, and becoming increasingly desperate. With credit cards canceled and homelessness looming, Kyra becomes resourceful by necessity, adopting her recently deceased mother’s identity in order to cash her checks. Continue reading…

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LOVE & BANANAS: AN ELEPHANT STORY — Review by Diane Carson

The documentary Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story begins in northern Cambodia with David Casselman in a helicopter surveying and commenting on the appalling deforestation of seventy-five percent of the Cambodian jungle by logging companies. Casselman makes clear the related peril for the endangered Asian elephant and the critical need for the one-million-acre Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary he has co-founded. Continue reading…

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BEIRUT — Review by Diane Carson

Beirut paints a retrograde picture of Lebanon and US involvement. As the story set in and simply called Beirut begins in 1972, cultural attaché Mason Skiles hosts a lavish formal reception and dinner at the U.S. embassy. Mason clearly enjoys sharing the event with his wife, thirteen-year-old Palestinian ward Karim, and colleagues. Suddenly and catastrophically Mason’s world will be destroyed, and a politically retrograde plot set in motion. Continue reading…

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FINAL PORTRAIT — Review by Diane Carson

True to its title, Final Portrait chronicles, in tiresomely repetitious detail, Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti’s cajoling American writer James Lord to sit for what becomes Giacometti’s final portrait. Promised as a few hours’ work, the 1964 event stretches to nineteen days because of Giacometti’s characteristic self-criticism and his obsessive need to undo (his words) several days’ work, to start afresh. Continue reading…

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THOROUGHBREDS — Review by Diane Carson

Thoroughbreds lacks admirable pedigree. Thoroughbreds is one of those films that lives in its own hermetically sealed world, one that defies any suspension of disbelief. Two young women—Lily and Amanda—reunite as teenagers when Lily begins to tutor Amanda, as organized by Lily’s mother. Amanda lacks emotions, is profoundly unresponsive, though she’s learned to mimic those she observes. Continue reading…

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SUBMISSION — Review by Diane Carson

Submission lacks insight into sexual victimization. It’s certainly the right time to tackle the important topic of sexual harassment and sexual victimization. But we don’t need director Richard Levine’s Submission, a dim-witted film that reinforces insulting male and female stereotypes as it follows a veteran college writing professor, naïvely malleable and easily seduced by an attractive, ambitious, duplicitous female student. Continue reading…

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BLACK PANTHER — Review by Diane Carson

black pantherBlack Panther thrills and inspires. Since the 2014 announcement, eager fans have waited with great anticipation for director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. I won’t bury the lead: the film merits the hype and the record-breaking advance ticket sales. It is terrific in so many ways, enhancing the conventional superhero dichotomy of good and evil with conflicting loyalties in three-dimensional, culturally grounded African characters. The conflict and surprises (no spoilers here) begin in Oakland, California, 1992 on an outdoor basketball court before moving indoors to a small apartment. Continue reading…

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THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN — Review by Diane Carson

lefty brown posterThe Ballad of Lefty Brown is a retro western of revenge and frontier justice. Announcing lofty intentions in its opening, The Ballad of Lefty Brown begins with an onscreen quotation from Frederick Jackson Turner, influential historian of the American West. He wrote, “The frontier environment is at first too strong for the man. He must accept the conditions which it furnishes or perish.” The character study that follows highlights that dichotomy: adapt or die. Continue reading…

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A FANTASTIC WOMAN — Review by Diane Carson

In an early scene in Chilean director Sebastián Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman, performing on stage, the transgender, sultry nightclub singer Marina flirts with Orlando, her older lover and partner. They return to their apartment, make love and go to sleep before a medical emergency initiates the tragedy Marina will face and the treatment she’ll contend with from Orlando’s family. Continue reading…

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FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL — Review by Diane Carson

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool finds love and compassion triumphing. Films seldom candidly portray the last days of once glamorous, sultry actresses. Admirers prefer to revisit their triumphant performances in which these women command screens with captivating energy and irresistible appeal. Kudos then to Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, an exception that dramatizes the physical and psychological challenges faced by 1940s/1950s Hollywood star Gloria Grahame in her final months. Continue reading…

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THE INSULT — Review by Diane Carson

The Insult tracks a personal and political confrontation. The personal is political and the political gets intensely personal quickly in director Ziad Doueiri’s The Insult. What begins as a minor problem escalates into legal confrontations with international reverberations. At first glance, it seems such a simple issue to resolve. Instead, it quickly becomes apparent that in the charged atmosphere of Beirut, Lebanon, nothing is truly innocuous. Continue reading…

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HAPPY END — Review by Diane Carson

The cerebral Austrian director Michael Haneke refuses to explain his grim, astute snapshots of scrutinized lives: the elderly couple in his Oscar-winning Amour, the dystopian pre-WWI German village in The White Ribbon, or the French couple receiving frightening anonymous tapes in Caché. It comes, then, as no surprise, that the ironically titled Happy End captures a troubled, bourgeois French family. Continue reading…

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