Sunday, 12 January 2020
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 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
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
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
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
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.
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...