Wednesday, 8 July 2020

The Vast of Night by Andrew Patterson

In the midst of a summer without theaters, promotional tours, and major studio releases, the way we process cinema has taken on a life through different channels. A handful of interesting films have made a splash, but perhaps the most effective recreation of “Movies” as an abstract term is Andrew Patterson’s The Vast of Night, a micro-budgeted retro throwback to The Twilight Zone and the science fiction drive-in films of the 1950s. It’s a close encounters short story that’s imbued with a cinematic creativity born out of necessity. Ironically, so far the film this year that best replicates the feeling of seeing a film communally is a remarkably small one. It’s left me wondering: how do we define cinematic experience now?

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Never Rarely Sometimes Always by Eliza Hittman

“Don't let the sun catch you cryin' 
The night's the time for all your tears 
Your heart may be broken tonight 
But tomorrow in the morning light 
Don't let the sun catch you cryin” 

Midway through Eliza Hittman’s quietly devastating new film about a 17 year old girl journeying to New York to get an abortion, the film’s reserved lead character, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), chooses “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” by Gerry and the Pacemaker’s as her karaoke song. The camera holds on her as she seemingly sings it to herself. Autumn’s choice and the lyrics act as the film’s thematic anthem and as a gateway into Autumn’s guarded emotions.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Uncut Gems by Benny & Josh Safdie

There’s a mysterious pull that emanates from Uncut Gems, at once a cosmic and microscopic power that seems to orchestrate the chaotic thrills of Adam Sandler’s Howard Ratner. Josh and Benny Safdie follow up their manic midnight caper, Good Time (2017), with this addictive carnival centered around a New York jeweler.

This is Adam Sandler returning to arthouse cinema with a story that's like the Book of Job as a gambling drama, or a Seinfeld episode as an action movie -- it’s a dirty joy to behold. Through a stunning and humorous visual metaphor that opens the film, we understand that it is in Howard’s DNA to seek out riches; not for the result, but for the act of desiring, of trying to reach the end of the maze where it’ll all be clean and finished. It also very literally tells us that Howard is an awful person.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

The Irishman by Martin Scorsese - Review

The opening scene of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman drops the viewer into a dim and dreary nursing home as the camera slowly hovers through the mundane halls of lives that are nearly over. The whiz-bang opera of gangster films is deflated as Robert Deniro’s Frank Sheeran is revealed to frame, talking directly to us, or perhaps more-so, to himself. Consider how Henry Hill is introduced in Goodfellas as a man who achieved his devilish dream, or how Jordan Belfort immediately boasts about his insidious kingdom of wealth in The Wolf of Wall Street.

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.