Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Paul WS Anderson, 2016)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
                               —William Butler Yeats “The Second Coming”

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The long-awaited sixth film in Paul WS Anderson’s survival horror saga has finally arrived, and it’s everything his believers could have hoped for. When the last film in the series came out, Anderson attracted a lot of attention in certain quarters as a symbol of so-called “Vulgar Auteurism” sparked by comparison of Resident Evil: Retribution with The Other Paul Anderson’s The Master, released the same week in September of 2012. The White Elephant/Termite art comparisons were irresistible to the wags of film twitter, and thus a movement was born, or at least a trend piece. The next six months or so were abuzz with discussions pro- and contra- Auteurism such as the film world hasn’t seen since the heady days of the Paulettes and the Sarrisites, a veritable Algonquin Roundtable of blog posts and tweet threads. Not above drifting with the winds myself, and binging on contemporary action cinema in a desperate attempt to keep conscious while caring for a newborn, I wrote a multipart essay on the Resident Evil films, Anderson and Auteurism in general, using the director and his films as raw material for an application of the critical method as Andrew Sarris initially described it back in the 1960s. I concluded that Anderson hadn’t quite reached the highest echelons of Sarris’s scheme, because he hadn’t yet established the kind of tension between himself and his material that marks the nebulous “interior meaning” that is the hallmark of personal filmmaking. I therefore placed him in the “Lightly Likable” category and wrote:

Anderson’s films can more rightly be described as competent treading of well-worn terrain. His last few movies, however, show potential, and so I’m unwilling to write Anderson off as an impersonal filmmaker. Perhaps he has it in him to perform the auteurial jujitsu necessary to turn the generic qualities of his movies into virtues, into a truly compelling and original statement about the world and/or the cinema itself, merging the blankness and fungibility of his characters with the schematic structures of their worlds and the interchangeability of their dialogue to say something truly meaningful. But I don’t think he’s made that complete a filmic statement yet.

Well, it’s four years later, and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is that statement.

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Friday January 27 – Thursday February 2

Featured Film:

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter in Wide Release

Sure there are a ton of Oscar contenders I haven’t caught up with yet, like 20th Century Women or Hidden Figures or Jackie or even Hacksaw Ridge, playing around town. And sure, one of the all-time greatest films in the history of the medium is playing one night only at the Seattle Art Museum, with Roberto Rossellini’s Voyage in Italy. But the movie I’m going out of my way to see this week is the sixth and final film in Paul WS Anderson’s video game-adaptation saga. Milla Jovovich and her army of clones and clone-friends make their last stand against a never-ending glut of zombies, mutants, clone-friends turned clone-enemies, homicidal computers taking the form of little girls, and shockingly athletic blond scientists and capitalists. An endlessly fascinating dive through our fungible reality, told in Anderson’s unique blend of crisp imagery and stale dialogue, the Resident Evil films are the better collectively than any series to come out of Hollywood since the Matrix movies. Be the Alice Clone you want to see in the world right now.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

The King (Han Jae-Rim) Fri-Thurs
Raees (Rahul Dholakia) Fri-Thurs
Kaabil (Sanjay Gupta) Fri-Thurs
Un Padre No Tan Padre (Raúl Martínez) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The Eagle Huntress (Otto Bell) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993) Fri-Tues, Thurs
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, 1989) Fri-Tues Our Podcast
Peace for the Streets Benefit featuring Breakin’ (Joel Silberg, 1984) and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (Sam Firstenberg, 1984) Weds Only

SIFF Egyptian:

20th Century Women (Mike Mills) Fri-Thurs

Century Federal Way:

Raees (Rahul Dholakia) Fri-Thurs
Kaabil (Sanjay Gupta) Fri-Thurs
Dirty Dancing (Emile Ardolino, 1987) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Elle (Paul Verhoeven) Fri-Thurs Our Review
20th Century Women (Mike Mills) Fri-Thurs
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (Andre Ovredal) Fri & Sat Only
The Brand New Testament (Jaco Van Dormael) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Elle (Paul Verhoeven) Sat-Weds Our Review
All Governments Lie (Fred Peabody) Fri-Thurs
American Angels: Baptist of Blood (Anthony Spinelli, 1989) Fri Only VHS
Saturday Secret Matinees: Presented by the Sprocket Society (Various directors & years) Sat Only 16mm

Landmark Guild 45th:

Julieta (Pedro Almodóvar) Fri-Thurs
20th Century Women (Mike Mills) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

20th Century Women (Mike Mills) Fri-Thurs
Raees (Rahul Dholakia) Fri-Thurs
Kaabil (Sanjay Gupta) Fri-Thurs
Dirty Dancing (Emile Ardolino, 1987) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Paterson (Jim Jarmusch) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review 
20th Century Women (Mike Mills) Fri-Thurs
Silence (Martin Scorsese) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Northwest Film Forum:

Children’s Film Festival Seattle Fri-Thurs Full Program

AMC Oak Tree:

Get the Girl (Eric England) Fri-Thurs
Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs

AMC Pacific Place:

Kung Fu Yoga (Stanley Tong) Fri-Thurs
Buddies in India (Wang Baoqiang) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

20th Century Women (Mike Mills) Fri-Thurs
Raees (Rahul Dholakia) Fri-Thurs
Kaabil (Sanjay Gupta) Fri-Thurs
Dangal (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Voyage in Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Deconstructing the Beatles’ White Album (Scott Freiman) Fri-Sun

AMC Southcenter:

Hacksaw Ridge (Mel Gibson) Fri-Thurs
Un Padre No Tan Padre (Raúl Martínez) Fri-Thurs

Sundance Cinemas:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs
They Call Us Monsters (Ben Lear) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

Split (M. Night Shyamalan) Our Review
Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi) Our Review
Fences (Denzel Washington) Our Review
La La Land (Damien Chazelle) Our Review
Moonlight 
(Barry Jenkins)  Our Review
Arrival (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review

Friday January 20 – Thursday January 26

Featured Film:

Kurosawa on 35mm at the Grand Illusion

The first movies I ever watched after I moved to Seattle were a series of Akira Kurosawa films at the Varsity. Throne of Blood and The Bad Sleep Well were among them, and it was a revelation seeing them on the big screen. Of course it was on 35mm then, digital video wasn’t a thing yet. Kurosawa remains one of the most reliable figures on the repertory film scene, but prints are becoming harder and harder to find. The Grand Illusion is one of the very few venues in town to reliably seek out and exhibit films on actual film, so take this opportunity to see a couple of great films from a great director while you can. We talked about The Bad Sleep Well on The George Sanders Show, and I wrote a little bit about Throne of Blood a long time ago.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Sailor Moon R: The Movie (Kunihiko Ikuhara, 1993) Fri-Thurs Re-edited in English

Central Cinema:

Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004) Fri-Weds Subtitled Tues & Weds Only
Death Becomes Her (Robert Zemeckis, 1992) Fri-Weds

Century Federal Way:

Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) Sat Only English Dub, Free
Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World (Charles Wilkinson) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Elle (Paul Verhoeven) Fri-Sun, Tues & Thurs Our Review
Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosaw, 1957) Fri & Tues Only An Old Review 35mm
Sailor Moon R: The Movie (Kunihiko Ikuhara, 1993) Sat & Sun Only Re-edited in English
Saturday Secret Matinees: Presented by the Sprocket Society (Various directors & years) Sat Only 16mm
Dixie Ray, Hollywood Star (Anthony Spinelli, 1983) Sat Only
The Bad Sleep Well (Akira Kurosaw, 1960) Sun & Weds Only Our Podcast 35mm

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

XXX: The Return of Xander Cage (DJ Caruso) Fri-Thurs Dubbed in Hindi
Khaidi No. 150 (V. V. Vinayak) Fri-Thurs
Gautamiputra Satakarni (Krish) Fri-Thurs
Shatamanam Bhavati (Satish Vegesna) Fri-Thurs
Pushpaka Vimana (S. Ravindranath) Sat & Sun Only
Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Paterson (Jim Jarmusch) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review

Northwest Film Forum:

Goodnight Brooklyn – The Story of Death by Audio (Matthew Conboy) Fri-Weds
Deluge (Felix Feist, 1933) Fri-Sun Only
The Ardennes (Robin Pront) Fri-Sun Only
Loa (Georg Koszulinski) Weds Only Filmmaker in Attendance
Children’s Film Festival Seattle Starts Thurs Full Program

AMC Oak Tree:

Bakery in Brooklyn (Gustavo Ron) Fri-Thurs

Pacific Science Center:

Voyage of Time (IMAX) (Terrence Malick) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Sarvann (Karaan Guliani) Fri-Thurs
Dangal (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs

Seven Gables:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs

Sundance Cinemas:

Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Uptown:

Tampopo (Jûzô Itami, 1985) Fri-Sun Only

In Wide Release:

Split (M. Night Shyamalan) Our Review
Silence (Martin Scorsese) Our Review
Live by Night (Ben Affleck) Our Review
Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi) Our Review
Fences (Denzel Washington) Our Review
La La Land (Damien Chazelle) Our Review
Moonlight 
(Barry Jenkins)  Our Review
Arrival (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review

Split (M. Night Shyamalan, 2016)

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Preposterous in all of the best ways, and some of the worst, the latest film from once-overhyped, now underrated auteur M. Night Shyamalan is as confounding as any film Hollywood is likely to produce this year. Ostensibly a horror film of the ‘girls trapped in a basement by a madman’ subgenre, like last year’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, it somehow ends up being a rape-revenge superhero movie, like a DC Comics version of Elle. With a barely taped together plot, a streak of goofy black comedy and a cheap, exploitative perspective on real-life trauma, the movie is clearly the work of some kind of a lunatic. But what a lunatic!

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Elle (Paul Verhoeven, 2016)

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There is no tiptoeing around the subject matter of Elle, a study into the ramifications of sexual violence seen through a particularly perverse lens. This lens is of essentially three people: the central character Michèle, Isabelle Huppert as the actress that plays her, and the director Paul Verhoeven. Together, the two collaborators create an indelible and often frightening world filled with constant paranoia and even more black comedy, all while the mystery—surrounding both the identity of the attacker and Michèle’s motivations—moves further and further along, culminating in a place both completely logical and totally unexpected.

In the first of many salvos, Elle quite literally opens with the sounds of Michèle being raped in her home by a masked assailant, who leaves behind a scene filled with broken objects. Michèle, however, demonstrates she is no mere object, quickly cleaning up the mess and ordering sushi in a manner that both feels like a subversion and a natural extension of the personality that Huppert has already crafted, almost entirely nonverbally. Interestingly enough, Elle remains consistently nervy, even utilizing a scene like one where Michèle bathes for maximum effect, as blood appears under the suds and she stares before quickly wiping it away.

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Friday, January 13 – Thursday, January 19

Featured Film:

Paterson at the Regal Meridian

Jim Jarmsuch’s best movie in more than twenty years, and probably the best movie of 2016 (at least, that’s what I’ll say right now), stars Adam Driver as a poet named Paterson, who lives and drives a bus in the city of Paterson, New Jersey, which was itself the subject of an epic poem by William Carlos Williams called Paterson. Jarmusch deftly tracks a week in Paterson’s life: the habitual necessities and routines, and the small spaces within them that he carves out for writing (think Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems). Small details accrete: the job, the dog, the regulars at the neighborhood bar, and an infinite, livable world is created. Rarely has a film so elegantly captured creative work as process, as an integral part of everyday life. When Driver reads Paterson’s poems, he doesn’t recite them, the words in voiceover come with the halting, tentative speed of composition. Neil reviewed the film for us last fall at VIFF, and Ryan wrote about it this week.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Ok Jaanu (Shaad Ali) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941) Fri-Tues
The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982) Fri-Tues

Century Federal Way:

Khaidi No. 150 (V. V. Vinayak) Fri-Thurs
Sarvann (Karaan Guliani) Fri-Thurs
Master (Cho Uiseok) Fri-Thurs
Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1952) Sun & Weds Only
One Piece Film: Gold (Hiroaki Miyamoto) Tues Only

Grand Cinema:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs
Olympic Pride, American Prejudice (Deborah Riley Draper) Tues Only
Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) Weds Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Elle (Paul Verhoeven) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Mifune: The Last Samurai (Steven Okazaki) Sat & Sun Only
Saturday Secret Matinees: Presented by the Sprocket Society (Various directors & years) Sat Only 16mm
Up, Up and Away (Andy Liotta) Thurs Only

Landmark Guild 45th:

One Piece Film: Gold (Hiroaki Miyamoto) Sat & Tues Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Khaidi No. 150 (V. V. Vinayak) Fri-Thurs
Dangal (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs
Bairavaa (Bharathan) Fri-Thurs
Gautamiputra Satakarni (Krish) Fri-Thurs
Ok Jaanu (Shaad Ali) Fri-Thurs
Shatamanam Bhavati (Satish Vegesna) Fri-Thurs
Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1952) Sun & Weds Only
One Piece Film: Gold (Hiroaki Miyamoto) Tues Only

Regal Meridian:

Paterson (Jim Jarmusch) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1952) Sun & Weds Only

Northwest Film Forum:

Il Solengo (Alessio Rigo de Righi & Matteo Zoppis) Fri & Sat Only
Notes on Blindness (Peter Middleton & James Spinney) Fri-Sun Only
The Road to Nickelsville (Derek McNeill) Sun Only Filmmaker in Attendance
Goodnight Brooklyn – The Story of Death by Audio (Matthew Conboy) Starts Weds

AMC Pacific Place:

Some Like it Hot (Song Xiaofei and Dong Xu) Fri-Thurs
Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1952) Sun & Weds Only
One Piece Film: Gold (Hiroaki Miyamoto) Tues Only

Pacific Science Center:

Voyage of Time (IMAX) (Terrence Malick) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Elle (Paul Verhoeven) Fri-Thurs
Sarvann (Karaan Guliani) Fri-Thurs
Ok Jaanu (Shaad Ali) Fri-Thurs
Shatamanam Bhavati (Satish Vegesna) Fri-Thurs
Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs
Dangal (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Europa ’51 (Roberto Rossellini, 1952Thurs Only

Seven Gables:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Nordic Lights Film Festival Fri-Mon Full Program
You Will Be My Son (Gilles LeGrand) Weds Only Pastries and Wine

Sundance Cinemas:

Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Uptown:

Jackie (Pablo Larraín) Fri-Thurs

Varsity Theatre:

Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1952) Weds Only

In Wide Release:

Silence (Martin Scorsese) Our Review
Live by Night (Ben Affleck) Our Review
Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi) Our Review
Fences (Denzel Washington) Our Review
La La Land (Damien Chazelle) Our Review
Assassin’s Creed (Justin Kurzel) Our Review
Moonlight 
(Barry Jenkins)  Our Review
Arrival (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review

Paterson (Jim Jarmusch, 2016)

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There is a famous quote by Alfred Hitchcock that posits, “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.” In a way, Paterson acts as both a reinforcement and a challenge to this idea. It is a film that demands to be considered in its totality, a strange but endearing feeling that combines an ever-so-slightly abstract approach with the mood of a hangout movie. But it is neither of these, nor is it a simple valorization of the artist. Rather, Paterson is a film about both the constant and the ever-changing natures of life, that emphasizes the similarities and differences in equal nature.

Taking place over the course of a week in the life of Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver and burgeoning poet working in Paterson, New Jersey, Paterson very quickly establishes a sense of routine to its central character’s life. He wakes up, walks to work and drives while thinking of new poems, then goes home and walks his dog Marvin to the bar. Rinse and repeat. But Jarmusch uses this loose but reliable structure in fascinating ways, not to evoke monotony but to allow for significant jumping off points, not just in the mood (which mixes the hypnotic with the comic) but in fairly interesting subplots, some of which take place over the course of the whole film and some of which are only present in one scene.

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Live by Night (Ben Affleck, 2016)

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It is often tempting to look at the possible influences that a particularly derivative-feeling movie has drawn on, to see the superior versions of a standard or rote narrative. Live by Night is no exception; to this reviewer the film almost reads as a clumsy marriage between Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, in overall style and milieu, and Miami Vice, if Colin Farrell’s character was on the other side of the law. Yes, the film is adapted from the novel of the same name written by Dennis Lehane, but there is an undeniable urge to compare this limp, lifeless work to its better examples.

There are, of course, many other and better examples. Live by Night is an extraordinarily by-the-book gangster film set in during Prohibition, detailing the rise to power of Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck, who also directed and wrote the adapted screenplay) in first Boston and then Tampa. Herein lies the first fatal mistake of the film: Affleck structures the first third of the film that takes place in Boston as a kind of prologue, briefly introducing Joe lying in a hospital bed before moving back seemingly only a few months back in time. The Boston section as a whole is thus rendered moot, and the film feels too rushed to fully luxuriate in the urban grime that it attempts to evoke, especially in a mildly thrilling Model T chase.

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Silence (Martin Scorsese, 2016)

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Boiled down to its essence, Silence is the story of two identically framed shots, both of which take place in the film’s first third. The first is of Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) striding across a beach, accompanied by members of a village in Japan almost wholly inhabited by Kakure Kirishitans (Japanese who worship Christ in secret) that welcome him and the spiritual services he provides with open arms. The second is of Rodrigues stumbling along the very same beach alone in disbelief, the wide and distant framing creating a sense of absence rather than a feeling of grandeur. Of course, no movie, and certainly not one of this magnitude and accomplishment, can be summed up in such a way, but it provides an undeniable contrast that mirrors that of the film of the whole. It is a constant struggle, orchestrated with nigh-impossible finesse by Martin Scorsese and company, between faith and doubt, destruction (physical and spiritual) and endurance, and a score of other eternal opposites. But it is never a simple conflict of East versus West or Christianity or Buddhism, nor does it ever succumb to any sort of extreme. It remains exceedingly faithful and yes, quiet, but in a way that feels irrepressibly moving and impactful, that continues to affect this reviewer days after, and will likely to shake me for years to come.

Scorsese’s confidence and his utter trust in the thematics at the center of his film (and the novel by Shūsaku Endō that it is based on) is such that the driving narrative force is all but absent during much of the film. After introducing the impetus for Rodrigues’s and Father Garupe’s (Adam Driver) perilous journey to Japan, the disappearance and possible conversion of their well-known mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), the film purposefully moves in fits and spurts, never breaking away from Rodrigues’s perspective. Its flow is impeccable, as comfortable when it lingers on the Jesuit padres providing the sorely needed sacramental rituals as when they are itching to continue the search, to leave the outer villages and search among the grave dangers of the cities under the iron rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

This is an unexpectedly quiet and powerful aspect of Silence, occurring even before the unimaginable turmoil that dominates the latter two thirds of the film, the simple statement “We need you.” It is said in a moment of desperation by one of the villagers, but it feels as if it applies to every waking moment of the Kakure Kirishitans’ lives. For them, the arrival of the padres is almost literally life-changing, a return of hope for a hidden people who have been forced to use valiant imitations and a surrogate priest in the face of systemic suppression. It is a comfort born out of an immense hunger, where the gift of a single rosary bead or a handmade cross gives immeasurable satisfaction. Scorsese shows this with utmost clarity, with a profound empathy for their belief almost without reservation.

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Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016)

fences

Hidden Figures is the strange sort of film where absolutely everything, even and sometimes especially the not insignificant number of well-done parts, act as a sort of detriment. It is a disappointment, for sure, but there is something in its shamelessly crowd-pleasing manner that feels both ingratiating and off-putting.

The first oddity of Hidden Figures is its altogether odd attempts at a sort of verisimilitude through a mixed visual style. Most of the film takes place in flat but serviceable digital, but the opening few minutes, set in the 1930s, are irritatingly manipulated to seem “vintage” (a useless effect since the date is shown in a chyron). But the majority of the work seems to have gone into darkening the images to an absurd extent, an effect which serves as the opposite to the extensive “bright” CGI used in the second half of the film. It isn’t extraneous, as there are vital scenes surrounding the spaceflights of the Mercury 7, but it feels distracting, often coupled with archival footage where the shift from film grain to sleek digital destroys a sense of continuity.

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