REVIEW: Disorder

10 09 2016

Disorder 2016 posterAt its best, Alice Winocour’s “Disorder” functions as a more elemental spin on the political conspiracy thriller. Matthias Schoenaerts’ Vincent, a recently discharged Army member, takes on a gig as private security detail at the opulent estate of a Lebanese businessman and his wife, Diane Kruger’s Jessie. Everyone comes to learn the true nature of his enterprise, however, by the threats he attracts when leaving for business.

Winocour can be aggravatingly vague about the identity of the menace facing them, very nearly arriving at the point where ambiguity crosses over into ambivalence. The film stays afloat thanks to the strong character work by Schoenaerts, whose difficulties with hearing hobble his effectiveness as a guard and even emasculate him as a person. The actor’s portraits of fragile masculine performance can sometimes carry a lot of sulking swagger – “Rust and Bone,” “A Bigger Splash” – but his angst in “Disorder” feels truly rooted in Vincent’s PTSD.

Winocour works in Vincent’s aural deficits into the very grammar of the film, playing with both white noise and utter sonic clarity. Ironically enough, Vincent gets tipped off to the shady dealings by overhearing a conversation at a party that seems to indicate these wealthy elites are putting their fingers on the scale of democracy. While details of their nefarious negotiations remain willfully obscured, at least Winocour is willing to engage with the issues of veteran stability and the omnipresence of our surveillance and security state. “Disorder” leaves us with a chilling reminder of the extent to which violence paradoxically secures peace – and how comfortable we are living with this oft-hidden reality once it makes itself known. B-2stars

REVIEW: Mustang

2 01 2016

MustangDeniz Gamze Ergüyen’s “Mustang” tells the story of five orphaned sisters trying to girls when the societal forces around them are conspiring to turn them into women. In their oppressively provincial Turkish town, the overwhelming sentiment becomes that each sister needs to be married off for their own sake. After a harmless incident with some local boys, their reputation could forever become that of harlots if not wrangled into polite deference.

Ergüyen, along with co-writer Alice Winocour, nicely illustrate just how old-fashioned assumptions and attitudes towards women are in the girls’ milieu. Be it voices on the radio demonizing working mothers or the concept that a legitimate punishment for a soccer team could involve playing a game in front of a solely female crowd, misogyny abounds in their northern Turkey community. With all due respect to “Mad Max: Fury Road,” I think “Mustang” may just be the 2015 release that best exposes the stifling hegemony of patriarchal power.

Perhaps it is just the nature of reading subtitles, but these larger structures and institutions limiting the sisters feel presented with very little subtlety. The sexism and outdated customs become so obvious that it makes their rebellion a rather obvious development. They also take up so much attention throughout “Mustang” that it depersonalizes the girls, making them better as instruments to illuminate important themes than as deeply realized human characters. B2halfstars