Celine Song on PAST LIVES: Switching from Theater to Film – Wendy Mitchell Interviews

Celine Song’s first day of shooting her debut feature was not the warmest welcome to her new career. The experienced playwright and theatre director was shooting a boat scene, cruising past the Statue of Liberty forPast Lives, but there was a record-setting storm in New York City. “I’ve never been on a film set before, and I show up on this set and it’s raining so hard you can’t see in front of your face,” Song says. “We’d had this really productive prep and we were feeling very prepared.” But they had not quite envisaged a storm of epic proportions. The crew and producers assured her it would clear — and, she reveals, “It did clear up and it was amazing.”

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Greta Lee and Celine Song talk PAST LIVES – Jennifer Green reports

For a film about the deep connections we have with others and how destiny shapes which relationships come and go in our lives, it would seem appropriate that the talents behind the film also share deep bonds. In fact, Past Lives writer-director Celine Song says she’s convinced she was married to actress Greta Lee in a past life. That’s the kind of connection the two forged working on one of this year’s standout films, now widely considered a top contender for recognition this awards season. Song and Lee shared details of their work, and the meaningful on- and off-camera relationships behind their poignant film.

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PAST LIVES – Review by Jennifer Green

If you’ve read anything about Past Lives, you’ve likely heard about the love story at the film’s core or the Korean fate-oriented concept of In-Yun that is woven throughout the tale. The film, which premiered at Sundance and competed in Berlin in 2023, is indeed a quietly powerful story of friendship, love and the winding paths our lives can take. But it is also a story about immigration, of straddling two cultures, and a meditation on the rewards and losses of making more than one country home.

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PAST LIVES – Review by Diane Carson

Beginning in Seoul, South Korea, Na Young, later known as Nora, and Hae Sung are young classmates. She comes in second to him on a math test and cries about it. Hae Sung shows the sensitivity that will define his character, and they part. Nora’s artist mother announces they will emigrate to Toronto, stating, “If you leave something behind, you gain something too.” The remainder of this deeply moving story illustrates exactly that, a reality that resonates with everyone who reflects on life. Director Celine Song renders this with profound impact devoid of sentimentality.

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PAST LIVES (Berlinale 2023) – Review by Serena Seghedoni

A favorite amongst audiences and critics and a strong contender for the Golden Bear is without a doubt Celine Song’s Past Lives, screened in competition after its World Premiere at Sundance and about to be distributed theatrically in the summer by A24. We first meet the film’s protagonist, her name is Na Young (Seung Ah Moon), she’s 12 years old and she lives in South Korea. But her family soon has to emigrate from the country, which means that Nora has to leave her childhood sweetheart/best friend Hae Sung behind and take on not only a new name, but also a new identity.

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18 1/2 – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

The Watergate scandal revolved around a 1972 burglary of the Democratic National Committee’s Washington, DC, headquarters and eventually led to the 1974 resignation of President Richard Nixon. One ongoing mystery of those days is what happened to eighteen and a half minutes of presumably damning conversation recorded at the White House. Nixon’s longtime personal secretary, Rose Mary Woods, claimed to have erased that tape accidentally. Enter 18 1/2, where a young government transcriber, Connie (Willa Fitzgerald, Reacher), stumbles across a duplicate recording with the deleted portion intact.

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18½ – Review by April Neale

Looking backward and rewriting actual historical events are the order for director Dan Mirvish’s 18½. This film is a thriller laced with enough comedy to keep it off-kilter, as the premise toys with what might have happened back in 1974 when a White House transcriber named Connie (Willa Fitzgerald) with a GS2 clearance finds herself in the middle of the Watergate scandal. She has access to the “missing tape,” an 18½ minute gap in Nixon’s recorded tapes, but it conveniently disappeared. Co-writers Daniel Moya and Mirvish’s rendering of Watergate events manages to be both a fun watch, food for thought, and subtly comedically brilliant effort in its alt-historical premise.

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FIRST COW – Review by Susan Granger

Director/co-writer/editor Kelly Reichardt’s minimalist Western takes a while to get into…first, there’s a quotation from William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell: “The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.” In the film’s prologue, a contemporary woman (Alia Shawkat) who is walking with her dog near a broad river discovers a pair of human skeletons. Then there’s a flashback…

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FIRST COW – Review by Diane Carson

First Cow is a thoroughly absorbing story of atypical, three-dimensional characters. Director and co-writer (along with Raymond) Kelly Reichardt shows again an extraordinary ability to capture the look and feel of nineteenth century America, as she did in Meek’s Cutoff. Moreover, Reichardt doesn’t flinch from presenting the dirt and squalor, the struggle for the basics of food and shelter, and the violence barely suppressed and ready to erupt at any moment.

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FIRST COW – Review by Karen Gordon

Some movies deal with the settling of the American West as mythic. And then there are films like writer/director Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow, which strips it down to its basics for a more human scale and poetic vision of the Western era. Minus winners and losers, villains and heroes, this is a sparsely settled, muddy world where some people seek fortunes, and others do what they need day-to-day to survive.

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