Review: “Arrival”

By Gabriel Renggli

arrivalThe number one priority, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) explains, is learning why they are here. The problem with that, linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) explains, is knowing whether we are capable of asking the question, whether they are capable of understanding it, and whether we are capable of processing a potential answer.

In linguistics, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that how you see the world depends on the language you use. I’m not a linguist myself (my speciality is literature), but I’m an intuitive believer in at least a weak version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. I know from experience that I think and act differently in English than in my native language. By the end, Arrival will have asked you to accept a very strong version indeed of this idea: our physical reality itself is structured by how we speak.

The reason this rather large claim does not fall flat on its face is that Arrival is so well made. This is captivating film-making, employing a simple three-act structure to stunning effect. The first act is more or less taken up by establishing the stakes, and they are high. Aliens land on earth, twelve crafts scattered over the globe in no discernible pattern. What follows is, in a way, pretty formulaic. Yes, we focus largely on the American landing site; yes, the military rushes in to cordon off the ship; yes, they soon helicopter in a number of experts. Godzilla films use that structure. But director Denis Villeneuve’s film-making is delicate, alert to the significance of the events.

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The Best Films of 2016

By Alan Mattli


Outside of the world of cinema, the past twelve months have been eventful, to say the least. So compiling a list of my favourite Swiss cinema releases of 2016 felt ever so slightly more significant and tied to real-life goings-on than it did in the past. But maybe that’s just another way of trying to put my opinions into a somewhat more “meaningful” context than would otherwise be the case. Ultimately, everybody can judge for themselves, which is why I will stop hedging now and, after pointing out that Oscar hopefuls like La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, and Jackie (which already makes a strong case for being my Film of the Year 2017) are not in the running here because of their January and February Swiss release dates, get started.

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Review: “High-Rise”

By Gabriel Renggli

High-RiseThere’s a tall building. Some people live at the top. Some at the bottom. Do you get it?

If you don’t get it, don’t worry, director Ben Wheatley has you covered. Before long, the people at the top will dress up as French aristocrats for a party (and where’s a guillotine when you need one?). If that’s still too cryptic for you, there’s an excerpt, at the very end of the film, from an actual speech by the Iron Lady. Which is silly, because very few people will be moved by this of all films to exclaim in genuine surprise: “You know, I think Thatcher may actually have been wrong! Well, I never!”

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Review: “Hail, Caesar!”

By Alan Mattli

Hail, Caesar PosterThere’s something about trilogies. If one film is a monolith, and two films are a cash-in, then three films can be a commanding multi-volume presence, exuding an air of purpose and intent. To speak of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King does not convey the same degree of grandeur as referring to the trilogy in toto as The Lord of the Rings. Aki Kaurismäki, famously, classifies many of his films into groups of three in order to stop himself from becoming complacent (even though more than four years after Le Havre, audiences are still waiting for parts two and three of what would be the Finnish master’s third proclaimed trilogy).

The brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, too, deal in trilogies, both officially and implicitly. While they themselves have termed their sporadic collaborations with George Clooney their “Numbskull Trilogy” – which, after 2000’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? and 2003’s underrated Intolerable Cruelty, now concludes with Hail, Caesar! –, it doesn’t take outrageous interpretative gymnastics to see series-like patterns in their filmography. Continue reading “Review: “Hail, Caesar!””

Bye Bye Gunnie and Alfie, I miss you already!

By Nadine Schwizer

Click here to read all entries into this series of columns.

Wednesday, 24/02/2016

Here I am with my last post, and it’s a sad one, I’m afraid: Gunnie and Alfie are gone!

Last Friday, I went to the doctor’s for my post-op check-up… Even though I knew this was going to be the day that I’d told to wear normal shoes again (and I even had a pair of trainers with me), it really only hit me once my surprisingly cute surgeon said in a very matter-of-fact way: “Let’s do it, then: time for normal shoes again”.

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Our first crisis

By Nadine Schwizer

Click here to read the first two entries into this series of columns.

Thursday, 04/02/2016

It’s been almost two weeks since my last post, so you must all be dying wondering what incredible experiences I’ve shared with Gunnie and Alfie lately. Since I wouldn’t want any of my readers to despair having to spend yet another week without any updates, here it comes…

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Review: “The Hateful Eight”

By Alan Mattli

The Hateful Eight PosterThere are two moments – or rather, one moment and one motif – in Quentin Tarantino’s latest film that revert back to the more unsavoury aspects of his filmmaking; those instances of glorified machismo that make a movie like 1992’s Reservoir Dogs tough to enjoy with a 2010s sensibility towards racism and misogyny. One involves a scene of homosexual rape that is played for laughs; the other revolves around the impression that the film seems to take an inordinate amount of pleasure in its violence against its one major female character.

Although the former, being a story told by a marked liar with the aim of riling an opponent, may well be a fake, the scene nevertheless casts Tarantino’s stance on both rape and homosexuality in a somewhat dubious light. It certainly is the more disruptive element of the two, as the latter can be read as a warped attempt at postfeminist gender equality, especially since the violence does not seem to be directed at the character as a woman but as a criminal. In short, however, The Hateful Eight is not exactly a beacon of progressivism – but then again, there have been far worse examples in Tarantino’s oeuvre.

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Review: “The Revenant”

By Alan Mattli

The Revenant PosterAlejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant, based on Michael Punke’s eponymous 2002 novel, which offered a fictionalised account of American frontiersman Hugh Glass’ incredible journey back to civilization following a near-fatal bear attack, is a strange animal indeed. Knowledge of the film’s turbulent production history almost inevitably bleeds into any kind of assessment, while its unflinchingly raw, visceral, ostentatiously serious nature helps to mask the ethical issues a more thorough analysis of intention and audience guidance might potentially raise.

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What a fun night I’m having with my pals Gunnar and Alfred

By Nadine Schwizer

Click here to read the first entry into this series of columns.

Friday, 22/01/2016

I’m a 22-year-old on a Friday night in Zurich and I just spent the night having pizza and playing Singstar and Buzz on the Playstation with two friends of mine (and Gunnar and Alfred of course) and absolutely zero drinks (thanks to my painkillers, which have so far been my best mates, right after Gunnar and Alfred). So far, so good.

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