Movie Review – Persona

Persona (1966)
Written & Directed by Ingmar Bergman

Persona is a fever dream. Literally. Writer-director Ingmar Bergman says he worked out the rough draft over nine weeks while recovering from pneumonia in the hospital. The film is tangled up in Bergman’s rather complicated personal life. At one point, Bergman was involved romantically with actress Bibi Andersson. A few years later, he ran into her in Stockholm, where he met Liv Ullman, who was friends with Andersson. The director says the friends’ resemblance to each other was uncanny, and the idea of this blending of identity came from that thought. Bergman, who was married to this third wife at the time, would eventually start an extramarital affair with Ullman and would have a child with her. Persona ends up being a film as complicated and entangled as the filmmaker’s own personal life. 

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Movie Review – Pleasure

Pleasure (2021)
Written & Directed by Ninja Thyberg

The adult film industry and sex work, in general, have become propelled into the mainstream in the United States in a way that hasn’t been witnessed since the early-mid 1970s. With platforms like PornHub, these videos are easily accessible at home on a myriad of devices. OnlyFans has empowered many young people to take back their labor by profiting from sex work instead of other forms of physical labor. They are enriched as a result of both a Puritanical culture that seems to only experience sex in extremes of complete sin or hedonism rather than just a part of life & a stratified class structure that leaves some with enough disposable income to pay others for videos or perceived personalized performances. Nothing about this is entirely new; it’s more the delivery of sex that has changed. Decades ago, you might have gone to a peep show to watch a person undress, and now you just go to a website. Swedish director Ninja Thyberg has set her debut feature film in the American adult film industry and explores how this business operates.

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Movie Review – About Endlessness

About Endlessness (2021)
Written & Directed by Roy Andersson

Roy Andersson is one of the most original voices in cinema in many years, and his career has a fascinating trajectory. He made two feature films in Sweden in the early 1970s and then nothing again until 2000. After that, Andersson pivoted to commercials for two and a half decades before that return. The result is a visual style that is a combination of advertisement and art pieces. Every scene is a static wide shot, with the main action often happening in the middle ground. It’s unlike pretty much anything else, and it’s the style the director has used for four films. It ensures consistency in his work and that your eye is always drawn in, but it doesn’t guarantee a good movie.

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TV Review – Scenes From a Marriage (1973)

Scenes from a Marriage (Criterion Channel)
Written & Directed by Ingmar Bergman

While I am very much aware of Ingmar Bergman, I sadly admit he is a blind spot in my personal cinema education. The only other work I’ve watched is the theatrical version of Fanny and Alexander, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. With HBO releasing a modern remake of Scenes From a Marriage, I thought it would be an excellent time to watch the original and expand my knowledge of the Swedish director’s filmography. The only thing I really knew going into the six-episode mini-series was that it had such a profound effect on Europeans that it caused a spike in the divorce rate due to its frank portrayal of marriage and the difficulties associated with the union.

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Movie Review – Koko-Di Koko-Da

Koko Di Koko Da (2020)
Written & Directed by Johannes Nyholm

I’ve recently tried to pin down what specific type of horror that resonates most with me. I know people who love over the top gore and what veers into comedy. Others enjoy the haunted house jumpscare ride experience. The horror I am drawn to is often based on human grief and is a slow burn. It doesn’t fall back onto cheap spooks and actually delivers horrifying moments that sink in and stick with the viewer.

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Movie Review – The Square

The Square (2017)
Written & Directed by Ruben Östlund

Modern art is the topic of many heated discussions. Once upon a time art was just landscapes and Greek sculpture but if you step into a museum of contemporary art now, you’ll find video installations and seemingly random assortments of clutter. The reason why modern art draws the ire of so many is that it doesn’t offer easy answers or even poses questions in ways that are accessible in a single glance. Modern art makes demands of the viewer to look beyond the surface and, sadly, so many people don’t like doing that. To look beyond is to be uncomfortable and enter a realm where you can never be sure of previous assumptions. However, there is a bizarre marketplace at work that injects billions of dollars into modern art and creates inflated value for these objects. In turn, a sense of elitism centered around wealth and prestige has taken old and twisted art into something to be hoarded rather than shared with all.

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Movie Review – Force Majeure

Force Majeure (2014)
Written & Directed by Ruben Östlund

Tomas, his wife Ebba, and their two children are on a skiing vacation at a luxury resort in the French Alps. While eating lunch on the deck of a restaurant, they witness a controlled avalanche that suddenly becomes much scarier and looks to threaten their safety. Tomas runs leaving his family behind, but the incident turns out not to be dangerous. The rest of their trip is plagued by the fact that the patriarch abandoned his family in the face of potential death. This is exacerbated when Tomas’ old buddy Mats shows up with his much younger girlfriend, Fanni. Mats tries to defend his pal, but that creates friction in his and Fanni’s relationship. The two men suddenly find themselves questioning their masculinity and place as the “heads of their families.”

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Movie Review – The Hunt

The Hunt (2012)
Written by Tobias Lindholm & Thomas Vinterberg
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg

Lucas has ended up at preschool after budget cuts to the high school. Despite the significant shift in students’ ages, Lucas has made the transition fairly smoothly, looking after the young children of many of his friends. One of those children is Klara, a five-year-old who develops a crush on the man. During playtime at the school, Klara kisses Lucas on the lips which stuns him. He quietly admonishes her and moves on. That evening Klara sits waiting for her mother to pick her up she strikes up a conversation with the headmistress of preschool. Jumbling together her embarrassment over Lucas and pornography she saw her brother and his friend looking at earlier she rattles off a story about Lucas showing her his genitals. This snowballs until multiple children in the town are also claiming to have been abused by Lucas, caught up in a mob mentality. Lucas’ standing in the community quickly crumbles to pieces as does his sanity.

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Movie Review – Border

Border (2018)
Written by Ali Abbasi, Isabella Eklöf, & John Ajvide Lindqvist
Directed by Ali Abbasi

Tina lives a secluded life, markedly different from everyone around her from a chromosomal abnormality compared to the humans that populate her world. She has a pronounced brow ridge and protruding teeth recalling images of long-extinct Neanderthals. What makes her valuable to people is her ability to smell guilt and shame making her a perfect customs agent at a Swedish port of entry. After years of ferreting out contraband, she eventually meets a man who shares her facial deformities and seems to be beyond her ability to detect evil. There is an attraction between them that develops and leads Tina to discover the truth about her past and the lies she has been told her whole life.

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Movie Review – Fanny and Alexander

Fanny and Alexander (1982)
Written & Directed by Ingmar Bergman


At the start of the 20th century, the Ekdahl family are living a luxurious and free life. Helena is the matriarch of this clan, followed by three sons at various stages of life. Gustav is a boisterous restauranter, Oscar manages the theater Helena and her husband used to own, and Carl has fallen into ill repute as a result of a drink. The family is seen through the eyes of Oscar’s son Alexander during their last Christmas Eve as a complete unit, and then tragedy strikes. A series of rash decisions leaves Alexander and his sister Fanny in a dire situation and their family grieves while trying to find a way to reunite them all.

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