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Author: Greg Cwik

The Downward Spiral: Hu Bo’s “An Elephant Sitting Still”

An Elephant Sitting Still (2018) is tainted by death. Director Hu Bo, also an esteemed novelist, killed himself at just 29 years old in October, after prolonged arguments with the film’s producers regarding creative control, making this disconsolate, four-hour opus his feature-length debut, as well as his swan song. (The film was finished posthumously, with the rights returning to his family.) His premature death haunts the story like an unsound apparition. One watches the film, a miserable and extraordinary endeavor, painful and profound, as it trundles along at a torpid, woebegone pace, unable to disassociate the filmmaker’s death from...

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Watching and Being Watched: Hong Sang-soo’s “Grass”

Hong Sang-soo’s pitiable, bibulous characters always seem in pursuit of something ineffable, something just out of reach. Sad and voluble, they desire love, and answers to questions they can’t quite articulate. In Grass, his first film of 2018, a rotating coterie of couples bicker and banter and talk at length about the various banal things that comprise the majority of relationships. It’s a film about the unimportant moments, the minutiae that would normally be cut from a mainstream narrative. Hong works at a prodigious rate (Grass is his fourth film in the last 12 months), and one has to...

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