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Critics reviews
Madeline's Madeline
Josephine Decker United States, 2018
It takes nothing for granted; it doesn’t record performances and deliver a story but seems to reinvent the very material of its existence . . . as it unfolds onscreen. It also heralds the arrival of a great actor, Helena Howard, who was a teen-ager when the film was made . . . it’s simply one of the most powerful, inventive, and daring performances by a teen-ager that I’ve ever seen.
January 26, 2019
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Decker’s filmmaking is so busy that one can easily get caught up in the technique and never question what it’s for. But despite introducing the major themes of mental illness and the art-making process, Madeline’s Madeline doesn’t have anything worthwhile to say about either.
August 29, 2018
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The film takes its most promising diversions through virtuoso character acting methodology through the brilliant Helena Howard. Two scenes in particular, one discussing pregnancy & the other a portrait of her mother, evoke the volcanic ashen rage inside of her that could lay waste to everything at any given second, that she constantly keeps under control in front of her mother and other authority figures.
August 10, 2018
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If “Madeline’s Madeline” is sometimes unconvincing and frequently unnerving, it is never uninteresting. In its final moments it ascends into heady, almost visionary territory, like a balloon caught in a sudden updraft, and becomes a singular and strange experience.
August 09, 2018
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Decker’s film, the best thing I saw at Sundance earlier this year, is built around tension and chaos. Its unruly scenes emerge out of disorder, out of chants and shrieks and fractured images, and always threaten to fade back into abstraction. . . . But one senses a method in this madness. The narrative might be shattered, but the film’s slipstream of emotion is powerful and inescapable.
August 07, 2018
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Elliptical and experimental, Madeline’s Madeline makes a dizzying head trip out of a troubled teenager’s foray into theater and its destabilizing effects on her perceptions of reality and fiction.
July 03, 2018
Madeline and Decker are respectively attempting to explode the narrative strictures of theater and filmmaking, utilizing strands of plot as buoys bobbing up and down in a kind of roiling ocean of emotional formalism. They’re aiming for unbridled subjectivity—the performative and “achieved” equivalent of free writing.
June 29, 2018
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The film is gorgeously shot and edited, especially in the sequences that express Madeline’s inner-eye vision. At those moments, Decker seems inspired by landmark avant-garde films such as Maya Deren’s At Land (1944) and Stan Brakhage’s Scenes from Under Childhood (1967–70). Too bad that such an adventurous filmmaking aesthetic and three wonderful actors are undermined by gimmicky, half-baked storytelling.
June 21, 2018
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Decker invents (especially here, though it was already present in her previous films) an entirely new formal language, to express an entirely new sort of subjectivity, here embodied in her teenaged protagonist Madeline (the utterly brilliant an remarkable Helena Howard).
June 10, 2018
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Madeline’s (and Howard’s) incredible performance, matched to a turbulent storyline and expressionist, intimate camerawork—recalling the haptic style often employed by the Harvard Sensory Lab for experiential documentaries such as Leviathan or Somniloquies—makes us question who the “real” self is, and what the real story here is. Our bewilderment as viewers is not taken for granted, but stimulated with formal elements typical of Decker’s filmography.
March 02, 2018
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The bleary, dissonant, emotionally bracing style that Decker has developed with cinematographer Ashley Connor is matched by a psychologically searching and generous portrayal of the fine line between psychosis and creativity. . . . The climax explodes into an assaultive, confrontational musical number recalling great alternative movie musicals like All That Jazz and Dancer in the Dark, and by the end we’ve seen a dizzying act of film experimentation.
February 27, 2018
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Is this a great movie? With a day to think about it, I’m not sure it is, but Josephine Decker’s feature has ambition and the desire for greatness in spades — in the context of a festival that mostly inspired one “yup, that was fine” reaction after another, that counts for a lot. I was grinning throughout; it’s nice to see somebody going for it.
January 25, 2018
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