Thursday, 10 October 2019

London Film Festival 2019 - Happy Birthday by Cédric Kahn



Director Cédric Kahn is best known in the UK for two notable arthouse hits of the 2000's, back when French cinema used to pull the crowds: Roberto Succo (2001) and Red Lights (2004). None of his following films made it over here but he has maintained a steady career in France over the years. At first, his latest, Happy Birthday, seems to be the epitome of that very French sub genre: the bourgeois family reunion in a the countryside, complete with the glossy, ensemble cast and the very early signs that it is all about to kick off in recriminations, secrets and lies, as a sprawling clan reunites to celebrate the birthday of matriarch Andréa (Catherine Deneuve).

Thursday, 27 June 2019

In Fabric by Peter Strickland - Review



There are few words in the English language as exciting to hear together as “Peter Strickland’s new horror film”. After the thoroughly bizarre ride of Berberian Sound Studio, I was ready for Strickland to astonish and amaze once more with his latest offering: a British giallo horror about an indestructible, cursed red dress.

As with Berberian Sound Studio and his previous film The Duke of Burgundy, Strickland brings his audience into a highly stylised world, laden with sumptuous visuals and more than a few moments set to provoke gasps - and maybe the odd laugh. In Fabric takes place around a department store in the South of England, and tells the story of a dress described in the store’s catalogue as ‘artery red’. The dress is a perfect fit on whoever wears it, but the consequences of owning the lavish garment prove to be fateful.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Amin by Philippe Faucon - Review


In recent years there’s been no shortage of films about immigration, but Philippe Faucon’s Amin brings a fresh perspective to a crisis that mass media too often broadens in scope and reduces to numbers. Telling the story of Amin (Moustapha Mbengue), a Senegalese immigrant, Faucon attempts to explore the interior life of an immigrant while stripping down the exterior. Working in Paris for a construction company, Amin lives in hostels with other immigrants and longs for his life at home, but while metaphorically building his new life, his past begins to crumble. When Amin strikes up a relationship with a French woman named Gabrielle (Emmanuelle Devos) his life begins to take a new shape and a conflict between his past and present melts together.


Saturday, 25 May 2019

Cannes 2019 - The Awards



With such a strong line up and so many potential choices for the top prizes, we knew there were going to be some surprises ahead and we were not disappointed in that respect! It was obvious early on that the jury had struggled to decide, which Iñarritu commented on his opening speech and indeed, not only did they split the jury prize in two, they also added a special mention prize.

This special mention prize to It Must Be Heaven by Elia Suleiman felt a bit like a consolation prize and it did not look as if the director was all that thrilled about it! Then came the joint prize winner, to Les Misérables by Ladj Ly, which had made a big impact when it screened early on and more surprisingly to Bacurau by Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles. The latter is a  thrilling Brazilian film that blends in genre elements that would not be out of place in an early film by John Carpenter (to which it is heavily indebted) as well as some very contemporary social concerns. That was to be the first surprise of many.

Cannes 2019 - Awards Predictions & Comments



What a fabulous edition this has been, something that even the usual naysayers agree on. The masters have delivered some of their finest work, those rising stars have confirmed all the hopes placed upon them and there have been several discoveries too, even in the official selection which is a daunting place to debut your first film. There were very few clunkers, which I charitably will not mention and there were also mercifully few of those manufactured and ridiculous outrages that a certain kind of media gets drunk on every year.

Predicting which films a small jury with nine members will hand awards to is such a difficult exercise. All jury members are artists and their potential choices less easy to assess than those of critics. There is also no point basing awards predictions based on the kind of cinema jury members make (who would have thought Steven Spielberg would fall in love with Blue Is The Warmest Colour in 2013?!), as this would assume their vision of films is somehow narrow. Yet I am going to attempt some awards predictions all the same. With so many films deemed deserving of the top prize and no consensus on one in particular, there is bound to be some surprises...

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Cannes 2019 - The Lighthouse by Robert Eggers



Robert Eggers made a big impact with his first film, period horror The Witch and the concern for a young director with an acclaimed debut is to retreat into similar territory for their sophomore effort, which seemed to be the case when his second film was announced as, you guessed it, a period horror, for which an evocative still was released. Except that he had a few tricks up his sleeve...

Set in the 1890's, The Lighthouse sees the young Ephraim (Robert Pattinson) takes his position as an assistant to caretaker Thomas (Willem Dafoe) in a lighthouse on an island off the coast of New England, a position that is only supposed to last four weeks.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Cannes 2019 - Zombi Child by Bertrand Bonello




In Zombi Child, in present day Paris, Haitian emigrant Melissa (Wislanda Louimat) has been struggling to make some new friends in her prestigious French school when a group of schoolmates welcome her in their sorority. Meanwhile in Haiti, through flashbacks we follow the fate of a young man who becomes the victim of a voodoo spell and is turned into a zombie, forced to work for free in plantations as a mindless drone whose memories have deserted him.

Bertrand Bonello tacking the zombie genre (just like Jim Jarmusch did this year with festival opener The Dead Don't Die), that was an interesting proposition when we first heard about this, even though we knew this would not be be straightforward genre fare!