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Critics reviews
Butter on the Latch
Josephine Decker United States, 2013
Lots of indies strive for weirdness, but unusual ways of seeing—both in terms of literal camera placement and the more ephemeral quality of “perspective”—come to Decker naturally. Butter on the Latch is nightmarish in the truest sense; its freakiest moments seem to have been filmed with eyes wide shut.
October 18, 2018
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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.
April 08, 2016
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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.
December 23, 2014
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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.
November 20, 2014
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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.
November 14, 2014
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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.
November 13, 2014
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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.
November 11, 2014
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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.
November 10, 2014
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[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.
November 05, 2014
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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.
August 21, 2014
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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.
April 18, 2014
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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.
March 23, 2014
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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.
February 24, 2014
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[…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.
February 07, 2014
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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.
May 15, 2013
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