Friday, 14 October 2016
Well Brimstone (Martin Koolhoven, 2016), as the title may indicate, is a western mired in a battle between good and evil. We meet Liz who with her husband and their children live in a small frontier community, she is a midwife and we soon find out that she is mute. A new preacher arrives in town and Liz takes an instant dislike to him. There then follows a story about death, accusation and redemption. It's a world full of misogyny and mistrust, where men display unspeakable behaviour, truly awful. There are some moments in this film where I had to hide away they were that horrible to look at. It maybe that Martin Koolhoven had this in mind when he was making the film, you certainly empathise with the characters. There's at least one Chien Andalou moment here. There are great production values on display here, the film is well shot but I'm not sure about some of the content I saw here and it was all a bit far fetched really.
Their Finest (Lone Sherfig, 2016) this a film set in the early forties in London and concerns itself with the then British film industry. Being in the middle of World War II there were of course films being made for propaganda purposes. Here we see the production of a film about the evacuation of the British Army from Dunkirk in 1940. To make the film more relevant to women there is a recruitment of a female screenwriter to write the slop, as they call it, dialogue for women in most other parlances. The film does give just coverage and space to the role of women in the war and how people's perceptions changed as to what women could achieve. There is a natural humour in the film which makes the film hilarious on occasion. Some of that is due to the performances especially Gemma Arterton, Bill Nighy, Sam Claflin and Rachel Stirling, but also due to the freedom the director gave her actors. There is as well a healthy acknowledgment of the nature of living in wartime and how you can be talking to someone one minute and then they're dead the next. The film is nostalgic, but with good reason, it never really strays into sentimentality, it stays true to its intentions and to the believability of the situation, as well as keeping well within the language of film.
Wednesday, 12 October 2016
The Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker, 2016) seems to have been the controversial film de jour. To my mind it's a violent film about a violent time, being Georgia of the 1820s and 30s. The events of Nat Turner's life led him to the slave uprising of 1831, a violent act that was resolved with violence. At an early age he'd been set up as a leader and because he had the ability to read eventually became a preacher in his own community and then farmed out to put other slaves in their place. That then led to his realisation of what he could achieve. All of this is set in place in very well made, written and acted film. Full of nobility and beauty, befitting the importance of the subject matter.
Dearest Sister (Mattie Do, 2016) is that curious mix of a Lao/Estonian co-production. Nok has been hired to look after Ana in the capital. She's married to Jakob, an Estonian working for an NGO. Conveniently Ana has started to be given winning lottery numbers by the dead. This though makes people think Nok has been stealing money. No one seems to trust anyone else here, with good reason in most cases. There's a long tradition of Asian horror films which the subtle and not so subtle touches on display here are a fine addition.
American Honey (Andrea Arnold, 2016) a tough watch really, not only for the length of the film. The film was concerned with Star who at 18 hooks up with a group of door to door magazine sellers in the southern states of the US. She's recruited by Jake (Shia La Boeuf) who acts like a Fagin figure training impressionable youngsters to get people to buy subscriptions. Although they use trance and hip hop rather than Lionel Bart. It's a film about growing up but also about putting up with the necessary to get along. When you're 18 and you find a sense of belonging it's often difficult to break away from that. There's a great ensemble cast and as ever a largely improvised script.
The Unknown Girl (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2016) tells the story of Jenny, a doctor in Liege. She has a guilt hanging over her due to the death of the eponymous girl near her surgery. She decides to do some investigating herself and uncovers some unpalatable truths about her community. The film was largely but there could have been a bit more pace.
A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies, 2016) is the story of Emily Dickinson, played beautifully in adulthood by Cynthia Nixon. The film ably discusses her views on gender and religion, which at the very least were progressive. She paid prices for her talent and her creative output which sometimes put her at odds with those around her. Davies is as meticulous as ever in his output, paying great attention to music as much as anything else.
The Untamed (Amat Escalante, 2016) was another addition to the list of excellent Mexican horror films. It's about an entity that resides in the countryside and the compulsion to do its will. It's not quite as bleak as Under The Skin but gives it a good run for its money. The film as well though makes interesting points about social politics in Mexico. Maybe isn't for the faint of heart.
David Lynch: The Art Life (Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, Olivia Neergaard-Holm, 2016) which told the story of his life, basically up to Eraserhead. With such a man and what he's created it would be impossible to separate art and film, they both inform each other. He spoke at length about himself and showed the art of his youth which gives clues to the inspiration for Blue Velvet, Inland Empire etc.