Phoebe Chen

  • 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