Archive for June, 2012

Killer Joe

June 29th, 2012 - admin

Adapted from Tracy Letts’ first play from almost twenty years ago with the playwright providing the script, Friedkin would, no doubt, baulk at us for doing the auteur thing, which – yes- would inevitably take us back forty years to his masterpieces of genre reinvention, ‘The French Connection’ and ‘The Exorcist’, the two films that have limited critical responses to his work ever since.  True, we should tread carefully; that was then and this is now and the psycho-cop of the film’s title is not Popeye Doyle and the somnambulist-like girl that catches his eye battles very different demons from those that possessed Regan.  Yet, the religious iconography remains – crosses appear in quotidian settings with the same structural signposts familiar to us from Renaissance paintings, a strategically positioned ‘family grace’ scene is packed with a double irony – and, there is another highly constructed ‘chase scene’, wonderfully laced with a knowing Post Modern simulacrum and mischievous self-parody.  And what are to make of the ending; a metaphorical Russian roulette moment of life and death giving way to a possible sardonic redemption and rebirth?  How could we not treat all of this as some kind of correspondence with his earlier oeuvre?  Any denial would be Mr Friedkin taking the piss, surely.


This is an adaptation that sees Friedkin playing a dangerous game, seemingly reluctant to transcend the film’s theatrical origins in an absolute sense but pulling it off against the odds.  Creating a subconscious awareness of the source similar to the kind that we might experience from an adapted novel, the subtle manipulation of space adequately replaces the physical presence of the actors in avoiding the ultimate ‘cinematic death’ sensation of a filmed play.


Matthew McConaughey, reaping the rewards of a career switch away from his trademark romcoms, delivers a compelling performance as Killer Joe, the amoral cop for hire with a sideline in bumping people off.  His portrayal has something in common with Casey Affleck’s small time deputy sheriff, Lou Ford, in Michael Winterbottom’s ‘The Killer Inside Me’.  Both embody a lawless streak, a throwback to the ideological contradictions of the Western, in their deeply disturbing display of Texan charm and manners, leading to an insatiable but frighteningly controlled ultra-violence of the ‘bashing women’s faces to a pulp’ variety.


A dysfunctional ‘trailer park’ family with its back to the wall on every front becomes the victim when a hair-brained insurance scam brings Killer Joe into its world.  Morally conflicted but not entirely repugnant, their double and triple crossing and a murder of an unsympathetic sounding character becomes a set-up for a smart blend of noir comedy and involving drama.


Completing the excellent ensemble cast are Emile Hirsch as a naive drug dealer son desperate to avoid something worse than the ‘good kicking’ that he received for not paying his debts,  Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon playing the intellectually challenged father and his second wife of easy virtue and the emerging Juno Temple as the vacant daughter with a truly deluded notion of Prince female viagrafemale viagra for salewomens viagra onlinegeneric female viagra


And yes, there is the much discussed fowl and foul ‘fried chicken’ scene.

Your Sister’s Sister

June 29th, 2012 - admin



It really doesn’t matter whether mumblecore has come of age or whether those associated with the once unfairly derided quasi-movement are branching further field.  The truth is that we are now seeing a new sophistication to the low-fi aesthetic and softly spoken improv, which retains the sense of a ‘found’ story but comes to the screen with a broader use of film style and greater discipline; making works like Lynn Shelton’s fourth feature, ‘Your Sister’s Sister’, amongst the more interesting and relevant to emerge from what can sometimes be a compromised American indie sector.


Mumblecore has always carried the lofty ambition of crossing the line between photographic reproduction and reality by embodying both in the film’s form.  Ruthlessly creating set-pieces that allow actors to open-up in something close to a controlled variant of ‘talking’ therapy, it establishes genuine interactions, which create/tap into organic social transactions.  It may not be what André Bazin had in mind exactly but there is a purism to its direct correspondence with the real world that successfully narrows the gap between fly-on-the-wall documentary and fiction.


‘Your Sister’s Sister’ is a superior example of this approach; comfortably transcending a contrived sounding plot that has a thirty something man attracted to one sister before having the briefest of one night stands with another.  Set almost exclusively in a single location, the sisters’ family’s lakeside retreat, it becomes an engaging three-hander with smart dialogue and understated comedy seemingly taking us in a familiar direction, only to defy our expectations with subtle variations.


Rosemarie DeWitt stepped in at the eleventh hour to play the older sister after Rachel Weisz withdrew unexpectedly.  Almost as a vindication of mumblecore’s stance, she delivers a superb natural performance, with little time to prepare, as the most complex of the characters; a lesbian coming to terms with the break-up of a seven-year relationship, who, as it transpired, had an ulterior motive for the momentary fling.


There is a genuine chemistry between mumblecore mainstay, Mark Duplass, and Golden Globe winner, Emily Blunt, playing best friends, whose ease in each other’s company always seems to be at the point of developing into something else.


And the non-intrusive but thoughtful cinematography from Shelton regular, Benjamin Kasulke, a nominee at this year’s Independent Spirit Awards for ‘The Off Hours’, is always in tune with the unfolding low-key drama.


One small gripe; a lengthy montage depicting the characters without dialogue as a ‘shit happens’ aftermath is unintentionally retro, a throwback to Sixties style padding when the filmmaker had run out of ideas.  That aside, Shelton finds a winning blend of warmth and idiosyncrasy on the way to an ending that is wholly in keeping with the film’s organic female viagrafemale viagra for salewomens viagra onlinegeneric female viagra

Where Do We Go Now?

June 22nd, 2012 - admin

Nadine Labaki follows her indie hit of five years ago, Caramel, with a slightly odd mix of light comedy and serious drama, which holds together, just, but has nothing particularly new to say on its important subject matter.


Christian and Muslim women in a remote Lebanese village conspire to prevent the menfolk from renewing hostilities on religious grounds and, when all else fails, hire a bunch of Ukrainian strippers as a sure-fire distraction.


Notwithstanding the good intentions, it is a conceit that inevitably relies upon predictable set-pieces and gender stereotypes, which unintentionally reinforce the damaging cultural norms that Labaki looks to attack.


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As with Caramel, Labaki directed, wrote and starred in this her second feature, establishing authorship in the pure auteur sense.

Royal Affair, A

June 15th, 2012 - admin

Nikolaj Arcel’s fourth feature is a throughly absorbing dramatisation of Johann Struensee’s unlikely rise to ‘de facto ruler’ of Denmark as a dress rehearsal for the French Revolution.


Mikkel Boe Følsgaard won a Silver Bear at Berlin for his portrayal of the troubled Danish king, Christian VII, a childlike figure trapped in an adult body giving full reign to his sexual desires.  Working with traits that lend themselves to satire – unnerving stares, high-pitched giggles, camped-up gestures – Følsgaard does a superb job moulding them into a convincing character, who comes across as a spoilt brat on first impressions but ends up eliciting our sympathy.


The King is singularly unimpressed by his new wife, an educated and accomplished English princess to whom he had been betrothed for years but never met.  Played by Alicia Vikander in the customary posed and precious manner of the costume drama, she has high expectations that evaporate in the absolute sense on their ‘horse and carriage’ crash of a wedding night.


Mads Mikkelsen plays Struensee, a German physician who secretly publishes treatises on the Enlightenment and accepts a position at court providing 24/7 quasi-psychiatric care to the King.  There is a seductive knowingness in his manner that the King finds irresistible, placing Struensee in a position of power, one that he is prepared to manipulate fully for his political ends.


Struensee discovers an unlikely accomplice in the new Queen and together they plot to shine some libertarian light on the feudal darkness of 18th century Denmark, embracing Voltaire, Rousseau et al.  It sets up a clash with the powerful ruling aristocracy and a full blown exploration of political and sexual influence and the corrupting nature of power on both sides.


This is a real surprise.  Proving that we should not judge a book by its cover, what appears from the tagline to be another costume drama serving the mid-week audience of middle aged, middle classes, turns out to be an insightful and perceptive film, which has much to say of contemporary female viagrafemale viagra for salewomens viagra onlinegeneric female viagra

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Angels’ Share, The

June 1st, 2012 - admin

Paul Brannigan was smoking cannabis at the age of eleven, homeless a year later and serving time for violence before he was twenty, then decided enough was enough, but he needed an opportunity, a lucky break.  That opportunity arrived when Ken Loach’s longtime screenwriter, Paul Laverty, came across him in the most unlikely of places, doing a spot of soccer coaching for the Strathclyde police – apparently Paul B could have had a shot at the professional game – and persuaded him to audition for Loach’s new film, The Angels’ Share.


Brannigan plays Robbie, another young Glaswegian tearaway looking to escape the vicious cycle of macho gang warfare ‘without a cause’ where not backing down was more important than the often disproportionately severe consequences.  Laverty’s instincts proved spot-on with Brannigan providing the kind of knowing performance that Loach elicited from Martin Compston in Sweet Sixteen a decade ago and, like Compston, he has an easy screen presence, which fits in a treat with Loach’s naturalistic style.


Robbie finds himself in the last chance saloon after avoiding a custodial sentence by the skin of his teeth for his latest brush with the law.  Coping with fatherhood for the first time, he is on a final warning from his girlfriend’s psycho dad who means business.  All roads lead to violence in this world where one generation raises the next in its own image and then condemns it for repeating the past.  The most hard-hitting scene of the film sees Robbie squirming with shame when a rehabilitation programme brings him face-to-face with the mother of a disfigured victim of an unprovoked drug-fuelled attack from Robbie’s past.


As with Brannigan himself – is this a case of film following real life or vice versa? – he receives a chance out of the blue.  It comes in the form of Harry, a no-nonsense community service officer with a massive heart, played with conviction and touching humour by the terrific character actor, John Henshaw.  Harry introduces him to the bourgeois and wacky world of whisky tasting and inadvertently sets in motion a series of events that has Robbie and three of his offender mates embarking upon a scam, which takes them off to the Highlands and a possible escape from their predicament.


This is Loach in the same lighter mood as his minor work, Looking For Eric, but the blend of comedy – a nod/quasi homage to the Ealing comedy, Whisky Galore – and his trademark social realism has much more to say; focused with sharp observation and astute political irony on the return to Thatcher style unemployment in general and the very serious and socially disruptive poverty trap of 21st century Glasgow in particular.


Gary Maitland, Jasmin Riggins, and William Ruane provide solid support as Robbie’s accomplices with seamless shifts from comedy to serious drama, and Charlie MacClean provides a superb deadpan turn as an over the top and dandy master of ceremonies that nevertheless seems very real.


Robbie Ryan is on board as the cinematographer but his camera is less prominent than usual; kept at a safe distance in the familiar Loachian style.


Loach, very much a Cannes favourite and a former Palme D’Or winner, bagged the Jury Prize for The Angels’ Share in this year’s main female viagrafemale viagra for salewomens viagra onlinegeneric female viagra