Butter on the Latch Screen 85 of 15 reviews

Butter on the Latch

2013

Butter on the Latch Poster
  • Decker makes intense, visionary films. Her two features, Butter on the Latch and Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, are lyrical, but this is not a calm, contemplative, conventionally “poetic” cinema. Instead, it is full of disorientation and surprise — narrative, formal, stylistic. Every single element of film form seems to get a playful workout in her hands.

  • Radical formal breaks distinguish the superb Butter on the Latch, directed by Josephine Decker. Developed from on-set improvisations and shot from a shaky handheld perspective, it judders and disorientates in odd and thrilling ways.

  • Elegant and elliptical, Josephine Decker's psychodrama is a blurring of the line between waking and dream states... The abrupt movement and shallow focus of Ashley Connor's arresting cinematography affords us only the most claustrophobic view of their affairs, like an avant-garde reimagining of The Blair Witch Project.

  • [The two friends'] tenuous reconnection abruptly turns hostile as the film crescendos into a beautiful and terrifying act. Improvised dialogue reflects the film’s confident imprecision, in which impressionistic scenes stretch out and morph.

  • Butter on the Latch is a film that is disorienting in its oblique editing style, in its depiction of the complicated psychology of female friendship, and in its uneasy relationship to men. These are two friends that _seem_ to have a deep connection, but also may not. Their dynamics constantly shift and confuse.

  • Borrowing from, but hardly beholden to, horror and the psychological thriller, Butter on the Latch can sometimes feel like the European film experiments of the 1920s, many of which owed their fascination with the relationship between reality and fantasy to 19th-century Romanticism, gothic horror, Freudian psychoanalysis and wartime post-traumatic stress.

  • Ashley Connor’s cinematography melds with Decker’s ecstatic conception to yield a film that’s simultaneously quasi-documentary in its avidity for detail and nearly surrealistic in its transfigurative power. Even the use of focus (and out-of-focusness) suggests an original rethinking of the expressive force of movie technique.

  • Hugely ambitious, pairing aggressive editing, extreme soft-focus etc with the ethnic experiential ambience of the two Bens, Rivers and Russell, and something even odder, hints of genre horror indebted to The Blair Witch Project. All very art-school, and it might've been better to go avant-garde and forget the horror - the Spirit of the Forest, a bug-eyed dancing crone, is pretty silly - but there's something here, a heedless plunge into half-buried violence and style-as-psychosis.

  • What we have is a filmmaker who seeks to disrupt the viewer’s ability to perceive, by rejecting conventions of plot-driven narrative, cinematography and continuity editing. The effect is one of whirling like a cinematic dervish. This is especially true for Butter on the Latch, which among the two films plants more narrative red herrings and non sequiturs so as to shake the viewer out of conventions, and edits sequences in a more disruptive fashion.

  • Butter on the Latch feels like a sister film to Sophia Takal’s Green, which also weaves dreams and reality, and an alarming soundscape amidst a robustly verdant landscape to keenly observe the forming of a love triangle and the sprouting of jealousy. However, unlike Takal, Decker is more oblique in her approach to jealousy, and quite fittingly for a film that refuses to choose one formal strategy, her images stack up against each other to create an often beguiling, and mysterious document.

  • The willfully oblique storytelling and fugue sequences owe a lot to other hand-held film journeys in the past decade, from here and abroad, that are often also concerned with the quickening turns and nonlinear textures of fear and passion.

  • There are enough isolated moments of evocative, expressive power in Butter on the Latch that, even if Decker's reach ultimately exceeds her grasp, a vague yet undeniable mood is bound to still linger in one's memory, long after its final image—of Sarah laughing to herself in a fit of mad catharsis, with no one except the windy tresses of a nearby tree to bear witness—has come and gone.

  • [...It's] not much like anything else and has an arresting indeterminacy both to its camera and editing styles and its emotional tenor. It’s about what happens when two former female friends get together at a real-life Balkan folk song-and-dance camp, but that barely describes a vivid aesthetic approach that likes to hover around things, have people dream performance art, ad-lib scenes and catch events obliquely.

  • Relating the story (sort of) of two friends (Sarah Small and Isolde Chae-Lawrence, both excellent) who meet a third (Charlie Hewson) at a Balkan-themed retreat in Mendocino, Decker lost me during a key event but won me back again with her handling of its aftermath.

  • There’s something frustrating about both of Decker’s films, as though she were mistaking a diffuse organization of sounds and images with experimentation, or structural meandering with a female-centered aesthetic... I'm not quite certain Decker has arrived as a filmmaker. But these are highly original films, and well worth checking out.

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