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Critics reviews
Stinking Heaven
Nathan Silver United States, 2015
The result is an atmosphere of almost unbearable intensity where, as in the work of Jacques Rivette, “real life” and performance mingle, giving the distinct impression that the potent onscreen drama must have reflected the off-screen drama of how the film was made.
December 11, 2015
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A tale of rehabbed junkies shot on junky, rehabbed video equipment, Nathan Silver’s Stinking Heaven is a singularly bleak smash-up psychodrama. Silver’s fifth completed feature since 2009 comes in at a slender seventy minutes; he works at a brisk clip, and like the much larger filmography of South Korea’s Hong Sang-soo, Silver’s work thus far can be experienced as a series of evolving drafts, reworkings that give the feeling of working toward something rather than acting as a testament.
December 10, 2015
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The latest feel-strange indie from Nathan Silver (Uncertain Terms) is the visual and emotional equivalent of curdled milk: yellow-tinted, clumpy, and queasy. Though advertised as a black comedy, this Betacam-fuzzy and largely improvised ensemble piece is more unpleasant than amusing, despite the bitter laughs promised by the setting—a crumbling sober-living commune in Passaic, New Jersey, circa 1990.
December 10, 2015
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Silver’s partially improvised film—whose story was conceived by the director and Jack Dunphy—is just a tick over 70 minutes, but it packs in too much commotion to feel like short shrift as a feature. Busy and loud to begin with, Heaven crescendos into terminal histrionics during many of its living-room powwows.
December 08, 2015
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Like many of Joe Swanberg’s recent efforts, Stinking Heaven plays like a potentially strong idea for a movie that never quite takes shape, which is the problem with “writing” a movie while the camera rolls. Its flaws are nothing that a good second draft couldn’t fix… but that would require making the whole movie again.
December 08, 2015
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Mr. Silver’s movie is a strange brew. It’s part of-the-moment micro-budget indie hybrid, part throwback to improvisational exercises of yore. And it’s shot with a pre-high-definition broadcast video camera, which roughs up the images nicely but engenders tight, disorienting shots that do the story no favors… Yet Mr. Silver gets credit for raising the stakes with each sinewy new film, from the adolescent apathy of “Exit Elena” (2013), all the way to this film’s unholy sobriety program.
December 08, 2015
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A lo-fi, high-volatility psychodrama, Nathan Silver’s Stinking Heaven, the 31-year-old director’s fifth feature, ricochets with raw, mercurial responses… Never a banal depiction of dysfunctional group dynamics, Stinking Heaven, which was shaped, as in Silver’s previous work, largely through improvisation, remains consistently absorbing: The actors’ agile reflexes keep scenes unpredictable as their characters react to passive-aggressive slights or terrifying paroxysms of rage.
December 08, 2015
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As in the work of John Cassavetes, where the dramatic exorcism of personal trauma helps create a dialogue on the relationship between performance and pain, Silver’s increasingly complex films imagine society as a shared space fraught with potential complications, one where inner turmoil finds ample room to fester and develop.
December 06, 2015
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Filming with vintage video equipment, Silver makes the story’s agonies reflect the tone of its era; his densely textured images have many planes of action, which he parses with pans and zooms, revealing the volatile bonds of a group on the verge of combustion as well as the howling horrors of unremitting solitude.
December 04, 2015
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Befitting its contradictory title, the film can be as trying as it is absorbing, with its group therapy scenes becoming particularly tiresome. But even in its more grating, histrionic moments, it’s bracing to be in the hands of a filmmaker with complete control over the level of discombobulation he’s after.
August 16, 2015
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For Silver, it’s another film about people looking for a place to call home and people to call family, trying to change and looking to turn over a new leaf, only to find that they’re stuck with who and where they are. But through his lens, it’s hardly the bleak outlook that may sound like, and the struggle of the characters in Stinking Heaven are rendered as something if not beautiful, then, at the very least human.
June 18, 2015
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These [therapeutic re-enactments] provide the opportunity for improvisational play from the actors – a performance strategy whose rawness and spontaneity is clearly appreciated by Silver – and form the core of a film that is both deeply unsettling and profoundly sympathetic to its myriad protagonists.
March 14, 2015
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As in his other works, Silver gets amazing performances from his actors, both professional and non, and turns a seemingly benign reality quickly and quietly into an unsettling one… Though a brisk 70 minutes, Silver never forces the narrative, choosing perfectly timed beats to reveal details of each character’s background, while still leaving room for ambiguity.
January 30, 2015
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Those who stick out its short-and-sour duration will note a deepening timbre in Silver’s already distinctive storytelling voice, as he deftly balances curdled comedy with candid humanism.
January 30, 2015
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