Saturday, March 05, 2016


It's been my honor to have participated in all nine years of Muriel awards voting and writing since the roll-out of the first Muriel Awards in 2006, and this year I've been lucky enough to contribute three pieces to Muriel's tribute to the best movies of the year.

One has already been published, and that one is my essay focused on what I, and in a lovely bit of coincidence the majority of Muriels voters, think is the best, most indelible and moving moment of the cinematic year, the conclusion of Christian Petzold's Vertigo-infused noir drama Phoenix, starring the incomparable Nina Hoss as Nelly, a WWII concentration camp survivor who undergoes facial reconstructive surgery. After the operation which, in a fashion, restores her face to a semblance of her past visage, Nelly longs only to return to her husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), a pianist and her accompanist in their previous life, who may have been the one who betrayed her to the Nazis. He realizes her resemblance to his wife, who he assumes was killed in the camp, but he doesn’t recognize her as Nelly, and soon he involves his wife in a scheme to essentially impersonate herself in order to lay claim to the money which lays waiting in her estate.

The movie is a beautiful, agonized slow burn leading to the moment when Johnny may or may finally realize that the woman he has been coaching to impersonate his "dead" wife is in fact the woman herself, and that moment is the focus of my Muriels essay:

"Petzold brilliantly understands that the wrenching drama of the entirety of the film, which has always been understated and tentative where it could have been morbid and excessively melodramatic, is crystallized in this moment, and he expresses it with an exquisite modulation that fully informs and honors Nelly’s journey of tentative rediscovery." 

If you haven't seen Phoenix, first of all, see it as soon as you can. It's available right now streaming on Netflix, and is scheduled for a beautiful Blu-ray edition courtesy of the Criterion Collection next month. But if you choose to ready my piece before having done so, be aware that it was written for readers who were already aware of how the movie ends. For those unfamiliar with Phoenix, it should be considered a major spoiler and not read until you've had a chance to experience the movie firsthand.

With that in mind, click here for my Muriels piece on the conclusion of Phoenix.

And stay tuned for my two other 2015 Muriels pieces coming this weekend!


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