3 Movies Like Blonde (2022) On Criterionchannel

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The Iranian director Jafar Panahi has faced constant persecution from his country's government for over a decade, for his career of sharply political films speaking truth to power. In fact, No Bears—which was shot in secret, in defiance of the government banning him from filmmaking for 20 years—had its initial festival run in 2022 while Panahi was in prison. Evidence of Panahi's drive to keep making his movies, no matter what, are clear in this film's limited resources and occasionally inconsistent video quality. But even those obstacles can't get in the way of his vaulting ambition.

No Bears operates on several different layers that all express Panahi's growing frustration with—but also his commitment to—making art that only ever seems to put himself and other people in harm's way. At its base level, this is a suspenseful small-town thriller, as an exiled Jafar Panahi (playing himself) tries to evade suspicion from the villagers around him. At the same time, Jafar is struggling to direct a film remotely, which creates a strain on his production crew. On top of that, the characters in his film undergo their own drama, seeking asylum out of Turkey. All of this is edited together under a stirring screenplay written with heart, humor, and the hope that the institutions that try to scare us will never keep us in the dark forever.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Jafar Panahi, Mina Kavani, Narges Delaram, Naser Hashemi

Director: Jafar Panahi

La Cérémonie is the kind of thriller you can watch repeatedly and glean new insight from each time. Right from its first scene, there’s something puzzling about the buttoned-up Sophie (Sandrine Bonnaire) that narrows your focus and pulls you in. What’s remarkable is that, even after the secret Sophie's keeping that seems to explain her strangeness is revealed, our intrigue never dips. Director Claude Chabrol and his cast construct a gripping twin character study and biting social commentary around that initial hook, as Sophie finds a kindred spirit in the equally uncanny Jeanne (Isabelle Huppert), who opens her eyes to the slyly patronizing way Sophie’s employers treat her.

The film’s study of class relations is always subtle, never veering into over-pronounced territory. That much is clear from the fact that, although some of Sophie’s employer’s family are quite likable, you still understand the ways they’re inextricably embroiled in the film’s quiet indictment of the power dynamics that rule this lofty mansion. More nuance comes by way of the strikingly nonchalant ways evil is depicted in La Cérémonie — just another example of the movie turning something expected (violence is foreshadowed early on) into something that remains viscerally shocking, no matter how many times you watch it.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Christophe Lemoine, David Gabison, Dominique Frot, Isabelle Huppert, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-François Perrier, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Julien Rochefort, Sandrine Bonnaire, Valentin Merlet, Virginie Ledoyen, Yves Verhoeven

Director: Claude Chabrol

Rating: NR

Swiss filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe gave us the free-flowing fandom doc The People vs. George Lucas in 2010 and hasn't stopped obsessing over his favorite filmmakers ever since. Can you blame him? Dedicating years of your life to research of the the weird Lynch-verse is a mammoth task, especially since the kernel of his new doc can be found in a single line uttered by the director. At a Q&A in 2001, he said:"There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about The Wizard of Oz," and that was reason enough to conceive of the 1939 Technicolor film as a lens to read Lynch's whole filmography through. Philippe is dedicated beyond measure, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage for the whimsical exploration of such a fascinating body of work deserves complete devotion. Perhaps even bordering on obsession. A wildcard documentary for the Lynchheads, Lynch/Oz includes not only excerpts from shorts, features, and TV he made, but also clips from various appearances. Plus, the six chapters feature different filmmakers and critics who imbue the film with their own interpretation of the enigma that Lynchian cinema is.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Aaron Moorhead, Amy Nicholson, David Lowery, David Lynch, Jack Paar, Jay Leno, John Waters, Judy Garland, Justin Benson, Karyn Kusama, Rodney Ascher

Director: Alexandre O. Philippe