Phoebe Chen

  • Park Chan-wook, Decision to Leave, 2022, DCP, color, sound, 138 minutes. Hae-joon and Seo-rae (Park Hae-il and Tang Wei).
    film October 14, 2022

    The Lady Vanishes

    MIDWAY THROUGH THE FIRST ACT of Decision to Leave, Park Chan-wook’s new film, a split-second gesture baits the senses: Alone with a woman late at night, a man unfastens his belt, its frictional hiss lancing the room’s tense silence. But the loaded cue dissolves in the same instant, as he reaches for a leather holster and fastens it to the belt. In the next scene, he’s cooking her dinner. No other filmmaker could so swiftly cram three seconds with as many successive feelings: a nascent thrill, its swerve into frustration, and its sudden detour into confusion, seeming too brief to have happened

  • film August 12, 2021

    Burn This Way

    AMID CREPITANT FLAMES and crying gulls, Pablo Larraín’s Ema begins with the same musical device that opened his previous film, Jackie (2016): a glissando, that quivering freefall between two notes ferried by string, synth, or breath. The sound of surrender to momentum, the sliding frequencies of a swoon. Jackie’s blooming glissandi laid a shortcut to intrigue where there was otherwise little, but with composer Nicolás Jaar, Larraín has found a way to spin that sonic texture into the core of his new film. Ema is about many things—a couple’s failed adoption, the special vitriol reserved for

  • Christian Petzold, Undine, 2020, 2K video, color, sound, 92 minutes. Undine (Paula Beer).
    film June 03, 2021

    Lady in the Lake

    FORGED FROM APOCRYPHA by men who collect tales, the siren—mermaid, Undine, what have you—is marked by a thousand visions and revisions. What endures in the popular imagination: She is piscine from the waist down; calls a body of water home; and boasts, in lieu of a soul, a voice so devastating that Hans Christian Andersen collects her tongue along with her tail. But in Christian Petzold’s new film, Undine, our titular water nymph seems more weary scholar than mythic feminine, working as a docent at Berlin’s Märkisches Museum, where she relays municipal history to curious visitors. Where is her