Phoenix (Christian Petzold, 2014)

Nelly and rubble

Ash, ash–
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there–

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling. 

. . .

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

~Sylvia Plath, “Lady Lazarus”

I confess, I found myself a bit disappointed when I learned Christian Petzold’s new film, Phoenix, would be “about the Holocaust.” There is a certain weariness that arises out of the fact that so many use or have used the events of the Holocaust as a reference point, whether artistically, for a film’s central story (see Sophie’s Choice, Schindler’s List, The Pianist, among others) or socially, for a cheap point in a debate gone awry (see my Facebook feed). I wondered whether I was up for seeing yet another movie centering around the much-documented tragedy.

But great artists work familiar things in such unfamiliar ways that even the cliché can take on unexpected, fresh resonance, and I see the familiar thing as I had not seen it before. It is both old and wholly new.  Continue reading

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Jenny’s Wedding (Mary Agnes Donoghue, 2015)

Jenny's Wedding

Jenny’s Wedding—a coming-out story set in Cleveland and starring Katherine Heigl—is a dated, lugubrious mess. The tone is drippy, the dialogue is ponderous, and the pacing operates in geological time. Watching this movie is like getting slapped in the face with raw, boneless chicken over and over.

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