Search Film Reviews

Friday, May 30, 2014


Liv LeMoyne, Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin in WE ARE THE BEST! a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
2014, 102 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

There have been numerous films about rock bands, but never has a rock movie been made like We Are the Best!, Lukas Moodysson's new film based on a graphic novel by his wife, Coco, about three seventh and eighth-graders, Bobo, Klara, and Hedvig, who form a punk rock band in Stockholm in 1982.  While We Are the Best! is a small-scale production, it never lacks for heart and Moodysson's direction and the three leads' performances are so strong that they make watching We Are the Best! one of the most enjoyable moviegoing experiences of the first half of 2014

In lesser hands, We Are the Best! would have been precious and the three teens at its center would've been precocious brats who think and act like they're adults.  However, in Moodysson's hands, the three characters act like the kids they are in all of their awkwardness, immaturity, and clear-eyed vision.  Bobo, Klara, and Hedvig may take themselves and their band seriously, but at their core, they're kids who make mistakes and frequently look ridiculous (Moodysson never mocks his characters, though, which is one of his greatest strengths).

Over the past few decades, there have been a number of Swedish films that have explored the experience of adolescence through the eyes of the adolescents.  Bergman's Fanny and Alexander, Lasse Hallström's My Life as a Dog, and Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In are all exemplary examples of the aforementioned kinds of films.  What distinguishes the approaches of Bergman, Hallström, Alfredson, and Moodysson from other directors is their gentleness and honesty.  American films about adolescence or the early teenage years are usually either comedies aimed towards kids that rely on crude humor for laughs or teen weepers.  The Swedish directors mentioned above use little to no manipulation and derive laughter from honesty (Moodysson masters this in We Are the Best!).

Mira Barkhammer, Mira Groslin, and Liv LeMoyne are Bobo, Klara, and Hedvig, respectively.  Their performances strengthen each other and are charismatic, sympathetic, and frequently hilarious.  They are the center of the film, as the supporting cast, while important, is limited.  All of the dramatic heft is placed on Barkhammer, Groslin, and LeMoyne's shoulders and they anchor their respective performances with grace.

Overall, We Are the Best! is a wonderful evocation of the 1980s, an honest look at adolescence, and a masterclass in direction.  I can think of few who wouldn't like We Are the Best!.  It is an excellent piece of filmmaking that's designed to please, and I would see it again without hesitation.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE Criterion Blu-ray Review

Courtesy of The Criterion Collection
Criterion Blu-ray Review
2012, 109 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Acclaimed director Abbas Kiarostami's 2012 film Like Someone in Love is finally being released on home media in the United States by The Criterion Collection.  The film, while flawed, is fascinating in its own right.  It tells the story of an elderly professor, Takashi Watanabe (Tadashi Okuno), who forms a connection with a young student, Akiko (Rin Takanashi), who's also a prostitute.  Kiarostami allows us to watch their relationship unfold over the course of two days.

Like Someone in Love is a slowly-paced, yet never boring, film that allows us to soak up each moment, and this movie is full of small, beautiful moments.  Kiarostami doesn't seem to be interested in plot points or cliché - he stays far to the side of cliché.  He seems to be more interested in the structure of plot.

Watanabe and Akiko both live lonely lives.  When we first open on Akiko, we see her in an upscale restaurant.  Her pimp is telling her to go to Watanabe while Akiko's jealous boyfriend questions her about where she is over the phone (he doesn't know about her work as a prostitute).  When we first see Watanabe, he's alone in a small, ordinary restaurant.  There are a few other people in the restaurant, but he's alone.  Akiko and Watanabe are two halves of one whole and need companionship.  Watanabe needs someone to care for.  He's been alone ever since his wife passed away.  Akiko's boyfriend is jealous and the only other companionship she gets is momentary and unnatural.

Through his long takes and simply-framed, yet active shots, Kiarostami allows us to explore and observe Akiko and Watanabe's friendship.  I was never quite invested in the relationship itself, but was invested in Watanabe.

While there is plenty to explore in Like Someone in Love, the film's ending seems contradictory to what came before and feels is out of place.  Given the pacing of the first 106 minutes of the film, it would be only natural for the final few to be similarly paced or to be at least thematically similar, but Kiarostami allows something to happen at the end that made the overall viewing experience unsatisfying.  Maybe that's Kiarostami's point, but I do not believe that the ending, in its current state, is appropriate.

Criterion's Blu-ray looks great, as always.  The sleek cinematography by Katsumi Yanagijima is highlighted by the beauty of the transfer.  In terms of special features, there is a 45-minute making-of featurette that's illuminating and well-worth viewing.  Kiarostami discusses his directorial decisions and we see how Kiarostami directed his actors in a language that he doesn't speak (he didn't always use the interpreter).  Also included is a theatrical trailer and an essay by film scholar and critic Nico Baumbach.

Overall, while not completely satisfying, Like Someone in Love is an interesting piece of work that will be required viewing for Kiarostami fans and Japanese cinema lovers.  While Kiarostami is Iranian and had never shot a film in Japan before Like Someone in Love, it is fascinating how distinctly Japanese in tone and theme this film is.  This Criterion edition is not a must-buy unless you're a fan of the film, and it is certainly not one I'd recommend as a blind buy, though I would recommend viewing the movie if only to discuss the ending with friends after.

Film: 3/4
Special Features: 2/4
Overall: Not a must-buy, but worth viewing

Thursday, May 15, 2014


A scene from Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' epic action adventure "GODZILLA," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
2014, 123 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence

Review by Joshua Handler

Blockbusters are some of my favorite kinds of movies to see, at least when done well. There’s something supremely satisfying about seeing a well-executed movie meant to thrill. The sad thing is that it is so hard to find a great blockbuster. The last exemplary one I can remember was J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness. I almost would’ve said Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, but that was more “big-budget” than “blockbuster”, though it was excellent. What Star Trek had that others didn’t was that it seemed that Abrams was having fun while still trying to make a thrilling sci-fi action movie with characters I cared for. While Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla has no characters that I truly cared for, it is a very well-executed film, and it appeared as if Edwards was having fun while trying to make a good movie.

Godzilla has had a rocky history. While the Japanese original is now widely considered a classic, it had numerous knockoffs, and a 1998 remake by Roland Emmerich that was universally panned. While every piece of advertising for this Godzilla made it seem as if we were in for a thrilling spectacle, I was still suspicious of whether Edwards’ Godzilla would deliver. To my complete delight, it did.

Edwards knows what his fans want, first and foremost. There are numerous moments in Godzilla in when I was truly in awe. The only spoiler-free moment I can share is the one in which we are first introduced to Godzilla himself. Like Jaws and many other films after, we are teased with glimpses of Godzilla, but don't see him in full until a good portion of the film has passes. After building anticipation for what seems like an eternity, Edwards gives us a shot that first focuses on Godzilla’s body before slowly tilting up. The beast’s body gets larger and larger. We know what’s coming. Finally Edwards stops on Godzilla’s face and the beast ROARS! This is the roar Edwards knows everyone has been waiting for. And this roar is loud. And satisfying. It’s moments like this that make Godzilla the satisfying spectacle that it is. However, the other virtue of Godzilla is that there isn’t too much monster action.

Many might ask why an abundance of monster action is a negative. After all, isn’t that what we’re watching the movie for? I would ask that person to sit back for a second and think of Jaws. We don’t see the shark until a chunk of the movie has passed. What we’re imagining is terrifying and Spielberg knows that if we see the monster too early, we’ll quickly grow tired of it. If Spielberg had given us a number of shark shots early on, we would quickly tire of the shark and we would keep wanting more. The same goes for Godzilla. The more we see of him, the more quickly we want more and become bored of the creature that we came to see the movie for.

Many may be wondering why I have discussed little more than the monster aspect of the film. The reason is because the humans are simply there to balance out the monsters. Almost all of the monster action is shown from the human’s viewpoint, which allows us to only see glimpses of monster action, which keeps us wanting more. I never had any attachment to the humans, which normally would detract from my viewing experience, but in this case, it was okay because I was so entertained.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson heads up the cast and Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, and Sally Hawkins also star. All give fine performances (Cranston really shines – he should’ve been the lead), but again, they truly do not add or detract from the movie.

Overall, Godzilla is a loud, well-made piece of entertainment that features some very good storytelling, an exciting score from the versatile Alexandre Desplat, spectacular visual effects, and incredible sound design by Erik Aadahl and sound mixing David Alvarez. While far from perfect, this Godzilla is very satisfying. A note: do not see this film in 3D. It doesn’t need it (Seamus McGarvey, the director of photography, has spoken out against it) and it severely darkens the image. If you do see it in 3D, take off your glasses for a moment to see how much more vivid the colors are and how much brighter the picture is without the glasses.


Joshua Handler On HuffPost Live 2:50 EST Today!


I will be on HuffPost Live today at 2:50 EST (i.e. 10 minutes) to discuss road movies with director Tamra Davis (Billy Madison) and host Billy Camilleri.

Watch here:


Monday, May 12, 2014

QUEEN MARGOT: Restored Director's Cut Review

Courtesy of the Cohen Film Collection
1994, 159 minutes
Rated R for nudity, strong sexuality, and for graphic scenes of massacre (cut version)

Review by Joshua Handler

The director's cut of Queen Margot is now showing at Film Forum in NYC for a one-week engagement.

We all have our ideas of what a traditional historical epic looks like.  They are big in every way: big hair, big costumes, big words.  They are very "arty", slow, snobby, and are usually very polite.  Add in a lot of sex, intrigue, a story that is consistently smart, twisting, and filled with inventive poisonings, throat-slittings, and massacres that moves at a pace that more closely resembles a thriller than a costume drama and you have a fairly good idea of what Patrice Chéreau's Queen Margot looks like.

The film is set in 1572 and Margot (Isabelle Adjani), a Catholic, is forced by the royal family to marry Henri (Daniel Auetuil), a Protestant, to supposedly make peace between Catholics and Protestants in France.  The peace lasts for all of two minutes before violence breaks out and comes to a head during the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in which Catholics killed thousands of Huguenots.

Chéreau doesn't want his adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' 1845 novel to be a typical costume drama.  He wants it to be a bold, bawdy, grimy piece of work with a strict adherence to realism.  France in 1572 was not a nice place.  Between the political turmoil and the religious tensions between the Catholics and the Huguenots, there isn't a lot to call "nice" or "elegant" other than the monarchy's clothing.  Paris was a dark, dirty city, and Chéreau makes sure that we realize that by making nearly everyone physically dirty.  All of the pretensions associated with period pieces are stripped back.  There is no politeness.  Everyone is out to kill each other and all of this killing and betrayal continues on for 159 minutes.

By the end of the film, I felt as if I'd seen a 159-minute film, but that was good because it was 159 minutes well-spent on a great movie.  Isabelle Adjani and Virna Lisi are the two stand-outs in the cast.  Adjani's Margot is strong, passionate, and sympathetic (one of the only sympathetic characters in the film).  Adjani's expressive face speaks volumes.  As Catherine, Margot's manipulative, scheming mother, Virna Lisi is despicably wonderful.  Lisi deservingly won the Best Actress Award at Cannes for her layered, ice-cold performance.  While she may one of the cruelest mothers ever depicted on film, she is still portrayed as a human, not a monster, which is to Lisi and Chéreau's credit.  Showing the human side of villains is what makes them all the more frightening.

Queen Margot was initially recut by Miramax upon its first domestic theatrical release in 1994.  Before Patrice Chéreau's untimely death in 2013, he supervised a 4K restoration of Queen Margot and crafted his director's cut, which is what is now being screened courtesy of Cohen Film Collection.  With this new restoration, the film looks quite good and is an excellent showcase for Philippe Rousselot's stunning cinematography.

Overall, Queen Margot is essentially a historical Game of Thrones.  It always treats its audience with respect and is simply an excellent piece of filmmaking.  Chéreau and Denièle Thompson's screenplay is filled with a serpentine plot, many characters, and little "hand-holding".  If you are in an area in which the restored director's cut of Queen Margot is playing, seek it out.  I promise you, this is one for the ages that will disappoint few.


IL SORPASSO Criterion Blu-ray Review

Courtesy of The Criterion Collection
Criterion Blu-ray Review
1962, 105 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Dino Risi's Il Sorpasso has long been a classic in Italy, but for some reason, it never caught on in the United States.  Luckily Janus Films released it theatrically last year and The Criterion Collection took the time to restore it and release it in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack loaded with special features.  The film tells the story of Bruno (Vittorio Gassman), a man who wants to live the easy life, who befriends a student, Roberto (Jean-Louis Trintignant), and their spontaneous road trip throughout the Italian countryside.  With Criterion's 2K digital restoration, Il Sorpasso looks stunning - the black-and-white shines and the film looks as good as if it was shot yesterday.

Due to time constraints, I was unable to watch the special features on this disc, but can wholeheartedly recommend buying this edition for the film alone, since I believe it will connect with many viewers.  Alexander Payne recorded an excellent introduction to the film, saying that Il Sorpasso was a major influence on Sideways.  Il Sorpasso's influence on Sideways and Nebraska is very evident.  One scene in Il Sorpasso is nearly identical to one in Nebraska.

The artistic success of Il Sorpasso can be attributed to two things: Vittorio Gassman's performance and the humanity and complexity of the screenplay.  Gassman's Bruno is exciting, unpredictable, and out-of-control.  He seems to relish building this character throughout every scene until finally the illusion comes crashing down.  Trintignant is the perfect match for Gassman.  Roberto is quiet, calm, and responsible and Trintignant portrays Roberto with his usual outer calmness mixed with inner conflict.

The screenplay was written by Risi, Ettore Scola, and Ruggero Maccari.  There are so many memorable scenes in Il Sorpasso and they're memorable because they're observant and brilliantly directed by Risi.  Each scene has little moments that surprise or move because they're human and emotional.  Moments like these are what connected me to Il Sorpasso.

Overall, Il Sorpasso is an underseen movie that I hope gains a following in the U.S.  While its ending is too abrupt, the rest of the film flows beautifully.  Il Sorpasso is a film about the consequences of living the easy life.  One day or another, we have to mature, but for Bruno, life is too real to have to face.  I believe Payne fans or fans of films about relishing life should consider Il Sorpasso a must-buy or at least a must-see.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

VENUS IN FUR: Tribeca Film Festival 2014 Review

Emmanuelle Seigner (back) and Mathieu Amalric (front) in VENUS IN FUR
Courtesy of Sundance Selects
2014, 96 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Roman Polanski's adaptation of David Ives' Venus in Fur is one of his best films, not only because it's incredibly entertaining, but because it's also a great piece of filmmaking.  With two actors and one location, Venus in Fur could've easily been a slog.  However, with the talent that this film has behind it, it would've been hard for Venus to fail.  Polanski's previous film, Carnage (which I enjoyed) was an adaptation of a play, but was far less successful than Venus because it always felt stagy with its overly neurotic characters and uninspired cinematography.

Venus in Fur tells the story of Thomas (Mathieu Amalric), a theater director who is about to end a frustrating day of auditions for his new play until a disheveled and uncultured actress, Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner, Polanski's wife), comes in begging to audition as Thomas is about to leave.  Initially reluctant to allow her to audition, Thomas relents.  Her audition is unusually good.  And that's where I'll leave you because to tell more would spoil the fun.

Venus in Fur always feels alive.  Polanski and cinematographer Pawel Edelman play with the space of the theater in which the film is set.  Depending on the intensity of the action, they open or close the space, making it feel as grand or as claustrophobic as they please.  Carnage, while very entertaining, was visually very plain.  Venus is the exact opposite.  The musical ups and downs of prolific composer Alexandre Desplat's vibrant (and hummable) score perfectly complements the cinematography, and the two work together in perfect sync.

The real stars of Venus in Fur are the two actors, Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner (Polanski's wife).  These two starred together in Julian Schnabel's masterful 2007 film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and in both films, they have natural on-screen chemistry.  Amalric is perfectly cast as the stressed, mouse-like.  Seigner steals the show.  She is alternately funny and sexy.  Her comedic timing is spot on and the unpredictable nature of Vanda is perfectly captured by Seigner.  Seigner exudes a coolness and magnetic quality in the film's latter half that really makes her shine.  Her intimate scenes with Amalric are truly seductive.

Venus in Fur was adapted from David Ives' Tony-winning play of the same name by Ives and Polanski, and they make every moment count.  Each line, each sequence is in this film is there to build character and mood, and watching the magic that all of these artists created is truly an experience to savor.  Sitting in my seat at the screening of this film, I felt a sense of awe that I rarely feel while watching a movie.  It's rare to see a director show as much mastery of his or her craft as Polanski shows with Venus.  Sitting through Venus in Fur is like being lead down a rabbit hole of intrigue, kinkiness, and debauchery, twisting and turning at will.

Overall, Venus in Fur is a great piece of cinema.  With it's brilliant cast, direction, cinematography, screenplay, and score, this is a movie that I hope people see when released in the United States on June 20.  The film's high entertainment and intellectual value should please arthouse audiences across the country.


Saturday, May 10, 2014


2001, 100 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day was recently released on DVD for the first time in the United States.  The film opens with Tindersticks' brooding, jazzy rendition of Frank Zappa's "Trouble Every Day", and it set the tone for this disturbing, oblique, frustrating, yet ultimately rewarding film that only a filmmaker as skilled as Denis could pull off.  I have now seen three of Denis' films (Beau Travail, Bastards, and Trouble Every Day).  With each film, the narrative takes a back seat to the mood which makes viewing her films hypnotic experiences.

Trouble Every Day tells the story of an American, Shane (Vincent Gallo), who travels to Paris with his wife, June (Tricia Vessey), for reasons explained later.  We are also introduced to a few other characters, one of whom is a cannibal locked up by a man who appears to be her caretaker.  These story lines all intertwine over the course of the film.

The narrative of Trouble Every Day is intriguing, yet so oblique that it is borderline incoherent.  Key pieces of information are kept from the audience until late in the film (this is also the case with Bastards), so we are left in the dark for much of it.  Denis and her cinematographer, Agnes Godard, however, tease us with unusual, unsettling images, and these keep us involved

Agnes Godard's gritty cinematography is stunning.  During many of the intimate scenes, she uses 16 mm film, which makes the footage grainy, harsh, and saturated with color.  In the special feature where Godard introduces the film, she mentions that for the intimate scenes, she was incredibly close to the actors.  Though she was close, they began ignoring her because they simply got used to her being near them.

Trouble Every Day is a sex-driven cannibal film that is intermittently violent, but when it is violent, it is shockingly so.  Many have appropriately placed it in the New French Extremity film movement.  This movement consisted of a group of extremely violent French films released around the turn of the 21st Century.  Two of the most famous films from this movement are Irreversible (which I will defend any day as an excellent film) and High Tension (one of the best-crafted horror films of all time…until the final twist).  Many can dismiss the movies of the New French Extremity as nothing more than gratuitously violent pieces of trash, but if one can look past the violence, they will (frequently) find exemplary pieces of filmmaking.

Overall, Trouble Every Day is a good film that's worth seeing if you're a fan of Denis.  However, Trouble is nowhere near on the level of greatness that is Beau Travail, which many argue is not only Denis' best film, but one of the best of the past decade.  Reviled upon its initial release, Trouble Every Day has undergone a critical reevaluation and is considered by many to be Denis' most underrated film.  Whether it is or isn't a great film is up to you.  I would say it's interesting, if not great.  The DVD includes a theatrical trailer, a critical reassessment by film critic Melissa Anderson, and an audio introduction by Godard, but for fans of the film, being able to own it will be enough reason to purchase.  This release is courtesy of The Film Desk, which is, according to Indiewire, a company that is "two years old and showcases revivals of personally beloved films, great films, internationally acclaimed, with no U.S. distributor for which he [head Jacob Perlin] strikes new 35 mm prints and then showcases them in cinematheques across America, at LACMA, Film Forum, Pacific Film Archives, in art houses in Portland, Seattle, DC, Philadelphia, etc. Sometimes [Perlin] works with Janus/ Criterion."


Monday, May 5, 2014

An Interview with Joe Berlinger, Director of WHITEY: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA V. JAMES J. BULGER

Joe Berlinger
An Interview with Joe Berlinger, 
Director of 
By Joshua Handler
Oscar-nomianted documentarian Joe Berlinger has made a career of exploring an incredible array of subjects ranging from the West Memphis Three (the Paradise Lost Trilogy) to Metallica (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster). His latest film, Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger is an exploration into the trial of James 'Whitey' Bulger, the criminal who was the inspiration for Jack Nicholson's character in The Departed. Bulger was allowed to roam the streets of Boston for decades, committing heinous crimes with no punishment. Berlinger explores the truth behind the claim that Bulger was an FBI informant (a claim that Bulger consistently denies) and whether there was corruption in the FBI during the period when Bulger was terrorizing Boston.

Because of the diversity of his projects, I asked Berlinger about how he decided on his subjects. "Different projects…have different reasons for being. I jokingly tell my friends that…I do either music or murder," said Joe Berlinger. "In all seriousness, I tend to go for subjects that I think the media has treated in very black-and-white terms because the truth in most situations is much more complex. I tend to like to explode stereotypes…even with this Whitey film…there are just many myths that have grown up about this story, and the reason I was attracted to doing something about it is, for me, the trial represented an opportunity to separate the man from the myth. [T]here are a lot of swirling questions that have never really been answered…"

Whitey is not a straight biography, which is highly unusual for a documentary about a character as colorful as Bulger. Making a straight biography was never Berlinger's intention, though, because, as he
said, ""The straight biopic is kind of a tired form…it's not really what intrigues me."

Whitey explores something quite different from the life of James 'Whitey' Bulger; it explores the corruption in the FBI during the '70s and '80s. "I actually think it's light on deep biography, but really explores his [Bulger's] relationship with the FBI and his life of crime during the period during [which] he was allegedly an informant, and…for me, thats the new and interesting part of the story - the allegations that the story that has been…told by so many people and accepted as fact that he was an informant might actually not be the case at all. I'm not saying he was not an informant per se, but I am saying in this film there are some definitely disturbing questions that have yet to be answered about if he was an informant, how on earth could that have happened that he was given basically a license to kill and all the blame is heaped on...two bad apples, John Morris and John Connelly? Certainly this guy couldn't have operated with that kind of impunity with only those two people aware of what was happening. [I]f he was an informant and allowed to kill, it's bad enough hat we don't have more accountability for the sake of the families of the victims, and if he was not an informant, as Bulger alleges during his trial, then the level of corruption and deception goes much deeper and these questions need to be answered as well.

"[A]s a true crime aficionado, I have always been deeply fascinated by the Bulger saga, and also as a media-maker, I've been fascinated by the Bulger saga because I can't think of another contemporary criminal…who has…passed into the cultural myth-making machine the way Bulger has…you know you say "Whitey" and many people know exactly who Whitey is. You know, how many criminals are we on a first-name basis with like that? And so even though I've been fascinated with this story for a really long time, I never thought i had anything to add because there's been over a dozen books written, there've been television docs, two major feature films in the works…but a lot of this stuff deals in this mythology of Bulger.

"When he was arrested in Santa Monica, my ears perked up because…prior I thought there's no way this guy was ever getting arrested, that he had been given a free pass, you know, he was tipped off and given a free pass…so when he was arrested, my ears perked up and then when it was finally announced towards the end of 2012 that he was going to stand trial in Boston, that's when I thought theres a great opportunity here to explore a lot of these questions, to separate the man from the myth…to find out what really happened. [T]o me, it was the opportunity to structure it around the trial to start with the arrest and then to use the trial as this present tense springboard to flash back on his criminal history, what the standard story is, and then what Bulger's arguments are to me interesting opportunity to do something new because there has been so much coverage but…the trial [was] the first opportunity to dig into that mythology, and also, which I wasn't necessarily sure I was going to get, this is the first time Bulger has ever spoken in a project, this is the first time we actually hear from Bulger himself and his side of the story…this is the first time…he has willingly cooperated with a film.  But, all that having been said, in no way is this an apology for Bulger…Bulger is a brutal, vicious killer who deserves to be where he is…so I'm not an advocate for Bulger, but I'm an advocate for the truth and I think the truth...has been far from told in this kind of sordid tale of corruption within…the highest levels levels of, I think,…certain government agencies to allow this guy and his associates to run rampant through Boston…for several decades with impunity.

"[F]or almost 25 years he was known to be a vicious killer and not indicted for anything, not even charged with a misdemeanor, and I don't think we know the full story, and so the film is here to ask the question 'why?' and to dig deeper into why this happened."

"I actually thought the trial itself was going to do that, so I and many others who have observed this case…were disappointed that the trial was such a narrow inquiry into what made Bulger possible. The government did not allow…Bulger to present his immunity defense, and to call certain witnesses that would have blustered that immunity defense. Now, one can look at that immunity defense and say, 'Well that's absurd for Bulger to think that he had a license to kill...but that's his defense, and in our country…a defendant should have the right to present a meaningful and rigorous defense of his choosing and the fact that the government...did not allow any line of inquiry about his immunity defense which goes to the heart of 'was he an informant which is why he was never indicted?' or was there something else going on here…that should have been allowed to have been presented by Bulger in my opinion, so again the film is not...a defense of Bulger. I think [Bulger] should be in prison, and the film is not stating affirmatively that he was not an FBI informant, but there are many troubling questions swirling."

"For me what's interesting is, okay here's a trial, and strangely…the families of the victims feel some loyalty to the defense, the very guy who killed their loved ones. [W]hile they weren't condoning or excusing Bulger himself, the families of the victims felt a kinship with the defense attorneys because it was the defense attorneys who were asking the hard questions during the trial through cross examination that were attempting to expose…the deeper levels of corruption and to ask questions that the families of the victims deserve to know about the deaths of their loved loves. I've covered many trials over the years and I've never seen a situation where victims' family members were feeling sympathy and kinship with the defense attorneys of the perpetrator of the crime against them. So, to me…that was yet one more later of intrigue as to why we need to dig deeper into these questions of corruption... and why the…straightforward biopic…was not the way to go with this particular film."

For the record, Berlinger wants us to know that he doesn't think the FBI is all bad. "I don't think everybody in the FBI is a bad guy. Most people in the FBI want to do well…I don't think institutionally the a corrupt organization by any stretch of the imagination - they do a lot of good - but in this instance, in the late '70s...and '80s, in their zeal to bring down the opinion, they were going to choose who was going to live and who was going to die, and the zeal to bring down the Mafia I think blinded the FBI and the Department of Justice and allowed criminals to roam the streets and kill at will, and I think thats something that has largely been swept under the rug…"

"[W]e need to understand exactly what happened here so that it doesn't happen again and there evidence that it has happened again, where informants…have been allowed to kill and do all sorts of terrible things because…law enforcement has decided that there's a larger objective that needs to be achieved, and I think…when you have informants being…the grease that keeps…the wheels running in investigations…as long as informants play[ing] such  major role, you're going to gave problems and we need to look into it…"

According to Berlinger, "If we want to have any faith in our institutuons, we need to know that they operate with integrity. If citizens aren't fully armed with information, it's bound to happen again [cases like Bulger's] and it has happened again."

Despite what some government officials want us to believe, this case isn't closed yet. "To me, if we don't know exactly what made Bulger possible and who was responsible, how can [we] close the chapter on that sordid history on two decades of...utter corruption in our institutions of law enforcement?" asked Berlinger.

Whitey will be released in June by Magnolia Pictures and played at Hot Docs this past week.