JUMBO – Review by Nadine Whitney

Belgian director Zoé Wittock’s debut Jumbo tells a bizarre tale. Jeanne Tantois (Noémie Merlant) is a shy and “special” young woman who works as a cleaner in an amusement park. Something beyond reticent, Jeanne is reluctant to be around people and spends most of her time making models of park rides in her room in her mother’s house when she isn’t working. When the amusement park adds a new attraction, a large spinning ride, Jeanne finds herself falling in love with the machine she names Jumbo.

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TAR – Review by Susan Granger

Cate Blanchett delivers a powerhouse performance as an acclaimed concert conductor/composer in Todd Fields’ revelatory Tar. Our first glimpse of Lydia Tar (Blanchett) is a tall, slim, confident woman, stylishly dressed in a black suit and crisp white shirt, luxuriating in her celebrity while preparing to take the stage in Manhattan for a New Yorker talk with writer Adam Gropnik (as himself).

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TÁR – Review by Diane Carson

Writer/director Todd Field’s captivating TÁR opens with real “New Yorker” writer Adam Gopnik in an extended Manhattan stage interview with the fictional Lydia Tár. This establishes her career highlights as well as her emphatically egotistical persona, anticipating what follows in Lydia’s personal and professional life as the first conductor for the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic preparing to record Mahler’s fifth symphony.

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TÁR – Review by T.J. Callahan

Cate Blanchett IS Lydia Tár. The Oscar winning actress gives a masterclass interpretation of a masterclass musician. A devious bully that beats to her own metronome. Blanchett, who switches from English to German flawlessly, not only learned to play several instruments for the role, but she did her own conducting, twirling the orchestra baton like a musical majorette. Blanchett is better than the movie, though.

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TAR – Review by Serena Seghedoni

In TÁR, writer, director and producer Todd Field (In The Bedroom) provides us with the character study of a brilliant, pretentious, cruel genius who gets no redemption by the time the credits roll. Is the filmmaker making a point about the nature of art, talent and creativity? Is he showing us a successful woman who just so happens to be a horrible person and asking us if we’d judge her as harshly if she were a man? Or is he turning the tables on us, showing us that a sexual predator – which is arguably who Lydia Tár eventually turns out to be – doesn’t always look like what we’d expect them to be?

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PARIS, 13TH DISTRICT – Review by Jennifer Green

Veteran director Jacques Audiard’s Paris, 13th District (Les Olympiades, Paris 13e) is a beautiful film to look at, well-acted and full of commentary on a generation of contemporary Parisians. It does for the meandering lives and loves of thirty-something Parisians something akin to what Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World did for Norwegian millennials. What voids these young people are grappling to fill (or ignore) is left at least partially up for interpretation. Perhaps that’s why Paris‘s somewhat traditional – and satisfying – closure comes as a bit of a surprise.

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CURIOSA – Review by Leslie Combemale

Lou Jeunet’s woefully off-target and ponderously slow French Curiosa aims for historical illumination, sex positivity, and strong feminist and feminine energy, and misses the mark in nearly every way. I’m all for sexy fun couched in a historically-influenced story, especially when it’s delivered in such a beautiful palette and accompanied by women so well appointed in costume, makeup and hair that they literally look like they just stepped out of a Marie Cassatt painting. What none of us should be up for is a story that ignores the most fascinating aspects of the real-life characters on which the film is based, in favor of a clumsily structured tale of supposed female empowerment.

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PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE – Review by Diane Carson

Writer/director Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a haunting examination of love and the restrictions imposed on women by eighteenth-century French society. Artist Marianne is commissioned to paint a portrait of Héloïse, a work solicited by her potential husband in Milan for his approval and acceptance of Héloïse as his wife.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK Dec 6, 2019: PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

A picture is worth a thousand words — and leads to a thousand longing glances — in writer/director Celine Sciamma’s passionate drama Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Set in remote mid-1700s Brittany, it follows the increasingly intense relationship between painter Marianne (Noemie Merlant) and her unknowing subject, Heloise (Adele Haenel), who has just left sheltered convent life.

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PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE – Review by Leslie Combemale

If there is such a genre as ‘Mystical Femme,’ and there really should be, French writer/director Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire belongs in it, placed at the top. Winner of the Queer Palm and Best Screenplay at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, the film features magnetic lead actresses whose chemistry with each other is off the charts.

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