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It will be understandable if audiences have trouble deciding whether South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s Mother is a brooding murder mystery, a disquieting psychological study, or a slyly restrained social exposé and satire. It is, of course, all of these, yet not really any of them in its total impact. It’s an idiosyncratic synthesis of generic borrowings. Joon-ho seems to be trying to evoke expectations and the search for generic guideposts even as he sets up to confound them.

The Runaways

To call the Runaways an all-girl band is not belittling. None of them was within shouting distance of 18 when they got started, and the band was history before any of them were 20. They never really hit it big during their four-year existence in the late 1970s, though like the Velvet Underground they were more influential in retrospect than they ever were as a performing unit. Playing an Americanized version of the glitter rock sound that was big in England at the time (the Sweet, Gary Glitter, Suzy Quatro), they were a link to punk’s rawness and simplicity, more than the manufactured novelty act many saw them as.

North Face

In early February, an editorial-note preview in the New Yorker magazine misidentified Philipp Stölzl’s North Face as a documentary film. The magazine never published a review of it so probably it never had to confront the error, but the film is indeed a work of fiction, even though it chronicles a story from German history. In 1936, in the months prior to that year’s Berlin Olympics, Hitler’s Germany became focused on what seems an unrelated national obsession, but one that the German government linked to the games: making a German team the first one to conquer the dauntingly dangerous North Face of the Eiger Mountain. Hitler promised an Olympic gold medal to any men who succeeded that year. Stölzl relates the story of two young rural mountaineers, Tony Kurz and Andi Hinterstoissen (Benno Furman and Florian Lukas), whose personal pride and ambition motored their attempt on the unconquered North Face. (They biked 700 kilometers to get to the base!)

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