Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

AFI Fest: Celine Sciamma's 'Girlhood:' A splintered self

Strand Releasing

"Bande de Filles," titled "Girlhood" in the US, is a coming-of-age story about a girl named Vic, played by Karidja Touré.

In his final dispatch from this year's AFI Fest, Off-Ramp contributor RH Greene gives his thoughts on Celine Sciamma's French "coming of age" drama "Girlhood," one of his favorite films of the fest.

It's understandable that Strand Releasing would want to retitle French filmmaker Celine Sciamma's wonderful new coming of age drama "Bande de Filles" as "Girlhood" for U.S. consumption. What indie distributor isn't looking at the grosses for Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" ($42 million global and counting) without smacking its lips?

Still, "Girlhood" (which took Cannes by storm this year) is a wildly different film from Linklater's one-of-a-kind time lapse stunt piece, and it's an ensemble effort in ways "Boyhood," with its single main protagonist, could never be. "Bande de Filles" (translated roughly as "A Gang of Girls") is the far more appropriate title. It speaks not only to the artificial family at the core of the drama but also to the splintered soul that is "Girlhood's" center.

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AFI Fest: 'Merchants of Doubt' is the Lord's work, done badly

Sony Pictures Classics

"Merchants of Doubt," a new documentary from Robert Kenner.

Off-Ramp contributor RH Greene continues his journey through some of the more prominent AFI Fest titles with Oscar-nominated documentarian Robert Kenner's new movie "Merchants of Doubt."

I'm personally quite sympathetic to the impulse behind "Merchants of Doubt," the new documentary from the Oscar-nominated Robert Kenner ("Food, Inc."), which he based on the 2010 book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. I think the planet is warming. I think human beings are the cause. I think the evidence is overwhelming. I think the counter-argument is so clearly manipulated by vested interests it would be laughable, if the stakes weren't so high.

WATCH: A clip from Robert Kenner's "Merchants of Doubt"

In other words, I'm the ideal audience for "Merchants of Doubt."

Which is basically the only audience for "Merchants of Doubt."

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LA Opera's doubleheader 'like Bambi Meets Godzilla'

Craig Mathew/LA Opera

Paula Murrihy and Liam Bonner in the title roles of LA Opera's "Dido and Aeneas"

Off-Ramp commentator Marc Haefele reviews the L.A. Opera doubleheader of Henry Purcell’s "Dido & Aeneas" and Bela Bartok’s  "Bluebeard's Castle," in performance through Nov. 15.

Purcell’s "Dido & Aeneas" sharing an opera double bill with Bela Bartok’s "Bluebeard's Castle" is a lot like Bambi Meets Godzilla. These are works from two different universes, with different physical laws.

While nominally a tragedy, "Dido" folds English late-17th century brightness into Virgil’s epic. But Bela Balasz’ libretto for “Bluebeard” blends the darkest of all fairy tales and the apocalyptic shadows preceding World War I into a morbid tableau carried on the shoulders of the young Bartok’s incendiary, ground-breaking score.

So how do the two manage to create such an enjoyable evening together? By being a novel and welcome departure from the L.A. Opera’s chestnut repertory of the past few years and by being singular operas, brilliantly (with some exceptions) mounted.

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AFI Fest: 'It Follows' offers Hitchcockian take on 80s slasher fare

It Follows film

Courtesy "It Follows"

R.H. Greene says "It Follows," an AFI Fest offering, is easy on the gore, hard on the dread. It tells the tale of an unexplained and murderous shapeshifting entity that is transmitted from victim to victim via sex.

Off-Ramp contributor R. H. Greene is covering AFI Fest for Off-Ramp. Today, he reports on one of the more celebrated recent horror titles at  the festival.

"It Follows," a more-artful-than-most teen horror film, broke out at Cannes last year and will be distributed by Radius-TWC (the Weinstein Brothers) in 2015. Very well directed by David Robert Mitchell ("The Myth of the American Sleepover"), the film uses a quasi-Hitchcockian approach — easy on the gore, hard on the dread — to tell the tale of an unexplained and murderous shapeshifting entity that is transmitted from victim to victim via sex.

This post-coital demon can take any shape, and slow walks implacably toward whomever is the latest victim in the chain. The only way to find respite from the monster's scary intentions is to remove yourself at a vast distance, and then pass it on through intercourse before it catches up to you.

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AFI Fest: Tommy Lee Jones directs haunted, worthy Western 'The Homesman'

Tuesday evening, a new Western directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones premieres at the AFI Film Festival in a gala screening. R. H. Greene, who is filing from AFI Fest for Off-Ramp, saw the movie early so he could give you his thoughts.

We are far enough along in what could be called the Tommy Lee Jones Western Project to know it's an eccentric one.

A passionate amateur historian with a special interest in the history of Texas, Jones' deep knowledge of the Old West seems to drive him toward the margins of the form. With the arguable exception of "Lonesome Dove," Jones simply does not play archetypal Western heroes. Instead, he gives us the half-and-half shaman/cowboy of director Ron Howard's "The Missing," or the fraught and despairing Texas sheriff Ed Tom Bell in the Coen Brothers' downbeat classic "No Country for Old Men."

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