Pick of the week: “Anna Karenina“: Director Joe Wright and actress Kiera Knightley reunite from “Atonement” in this bracing adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel, written by playwright Tom Stoppard, in which sets blur into each other, and country houses become stages, the better to heighten the artificiality of Anna’s life. At the center of this maelstrom, Knightley holds her own with a finely-tuned performance as the tragic heroine.
“A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting On Existence…“: My full review is here. Roy Andersson’s fantastically bleak and weird film is a series of single-take human dioramas, most comic and some horrifying, that sum up the futility and dark comedy of human behavior. Running through it all is a pair of sad-sack novelty-gag salesmen who wander through the scenes, looking for joy that never comes. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before (if you haven’t seen any of Andersson’s other films.)
“Seymour: An Introduction“: My full review is here. Ethan Hawke made this lovely and insightful documentary about his friend Seymour Bernstein, an 87-year-old concert pianist who eschewed fame for the change to teach others and perfect his art in solitude. The film makes an eloquent case for a life well-lived in the arts, with much to say about being human for musicians and non-musicians alike.
“Do I Sound Gay?“: My full review is here. Filmmaker David Thorpe interviews David Sedaris, Dan Savage, Tim Gunn and others to investigate why many gay men talk in a certain way, and why that seems to bother Thorpe so much. Although Thorpe gets distracted by some tangents, this is an illuminating film about self-acceptance and speaking up for yourself — whatever you sound like.
“Tu Dors Nicole“: A post-graduate young woman wanders through the Montreal suburbs in a hot summer in Stephane Lafleur’s languid and quietly comic take on twentysomething aimlessness, with gorgeous black-and-white cinematography and an arresting central performance by Julianne Cote.