The Missing Person Filmmaker Noah Buschel's homage to Raymond Chandler possesses the same slacker deconstructionist spirit as its ancestor, The Long Goodbye, and transplants it to a post-9/11 world where everyone finds their truth in process and mundane procedure. The wonderfully leathery, mumbling Michael Shannon plays Philip Marlowe stand-in John Rosow, a whiskey- soaked private dick with a noir constitution and an intolerance for societal sensitivities. When Rosow is assigned to follow the titular missing person and the guy's mysterious young Mexican tag-along to Los Angeles, Rosow encounters a non-smoking, no-jaywalking, cell phone-dependent landscape where even the most menial of side characters — taxi drivers, hotel clerks — are required to ask too many questions of him. (He can't even tail a guy without it being logged with the dispatcher.) The result is a sleepy yet utterly engaging riff on post-modern noir that's wittier than last year's other attempt at the commentary, HBO's Bored to Death.
Summer Hours It would be easy to laud French writer-director Olivier Assayas for his unique ability to draw out and create genuine female performances that speak to the true feminine spirit in a time where actresses — especially older ones — tend to be relegated to cougar roles or manic Nancy Meyers cartoons. But as Assayas demonstrates in 2008's Summer Hours — which gets a loving treatment from the reliable Criterion Collection here, including behind-the-scenes docs that illuminate the film even more — he's merely treating them as human beings, with all the nuance, illogic and occasional selfishness that comes with it. The film concerns three siblings coming together to divvy up their late mother's heirlooms. Where (and if) value is or should be placed on even inconsequential belongings — and what that says about art in general — is at the heart of the movie, but where it separates itself from art-house theory is in the performances by Edith Scob, Jérémie Renier and Juliette Binoche.
Tales from the Script Idealistic film-school students and newbie screenwriters with dreams of hitting the spec-sale lottery might want to hide the sharp kitchen utensils before embarking upon this sobering, downright depressing peek into the world of scriptwriting. Helmed by Peter Hanson, the documentary cobbles together some of Hollywood's most successful writers — the venerable William Goldman, dark hero Shane Black — to talk about what it means to be a working writer in a business that views their work as, at best, a blueprint. There isn't much that a script wonk hasn't heard before ("Nobody knows anything," we get it!), but some choice anecdotes, like the writers of Bruce Almighty's photographic proof of their cocky hubris leading into their next "sale," which didn't, in fact, sell, make this a worthwhile journey into the heart of blank-page darkness.
Taxidermia Like Hans Christian Andersen fables for the sick at heart, Hungarian master György Pálfi's collection of three interweaving tales of perversity, art and desire seems to want to push away the viewer but not before it earns their admiration. There's a man who shoots fire from his penis, a Jabba the Hutt-like speed eater and a taxidermist planning the ultimate art exhibit — all of which exist, in film's purist form, as a means of storytelling. And what a teller is Pálfi, whose luxurious atmosphere, aided by Gergely Pohárnok's heartbreaking cinematography, brings out the hidden beauty within the film's outwardly grotesque characters. The original songs by Brazilian DJ Amon Tobin also stand firstname.lastname@example.org