Christine Smallwood is a writer and critic in New York. (October 2018)


The In-Between World

Thomas Doret as Cyril in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s The Kid With A Bike

The Kid with a Bike

a film directed by Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne
The Kid with a Bike, the 2011 film by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, won the Grand Prix at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and opened in the US in March. Since turning their attention to original movie dramas in the late 1980s, the Dardennes, Belgian brothers who spent the 1970s and 1980s making documentaries, have received international acclaim. They have written, directed, and produced some of the most impressive films to come out of Western Europe in the past fifteen years: The Promise (1996); Rosetta (1999), which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes; The Son (2002); The Child, which also won the Palme d’Or (2005); and Lorna’s Silence (2008). Unlike many French-language filmmakers, whose characters talk about their quandaries or argue the existence of God or other philosophical dilemmas, the Dardennes do not consider conversation a principal mode of ethical inquiry; nor do they seem much interested in sex. Their passion is for the spontaneous or cowardly or unexamined deed, and its consequences.


Dads in Space

Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong in Damien Chazelle's First Man, 2018

Most space movies emphasize the conquest of space. Claire Denis gives us the conquest of people. Agency in High Life is reduced to the point of helpless passivity. In Damien Chazelle’s First Man, Armstrong is great, we are shown, because he is humble and taciturn. This is not a new perspective on Armstrong, but the political climate makes such displays of suffering, “real” masculinity more charged than they were thirty-five years ago, when The Right Stuff was in theaters.