Archive for November, 2012

Sightseers

November 30th, 2012 - Graham Eley

The film’s scriptwriters, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, play the leads; Lowe, as a thirty something Tina, looking to escape the emotional blackmail of a dependent mother, and Oram, as a slightly older Chris, who takes her on a low-cost touring caravan holiday, staying at backwater sites with facilities that are throwback to an earlier age when hot water was a luxury.  They are successors to Mike Leigh’s brilliant creations, the faux bourgeois and smug Keith and Candice from ‘Nuts In May’, but now taking the form of ordinary working class ‘Brummies’, who unnecessarily finish sentences with a question and make a virtue out of inverted snobbery.  Everything is hunky dory in a Seventies UK sitcom sort of way or, at least, until they encounter people and in particular, those who drop litter or adopt a sacrimonous attitude; crimes against humanity that bring out Chris’ inner pyscho with shocking results.

 

What starts as the contamination of Tina’s innocence in the name of love – pleasing her man by embracing his gruesome tantrums – gradually becomes a warped emancipation with a shift in the balance of power, Tina calling the shots and Chris adopting a truly perverse moral high ground.  It is all bookended by two versions of the Northern Soul classic, ‘Tainted Love’; first the Soft Cell cover that brought it to a wider audience and, then, a gender switch to the Gloria Jones’ original once Tina’s transformation is complete.

 

Anchored by Lowe and Oram’s smart script and wonderfully deadpan performances, it successfully injects the macabre into the quotidian without entirely alienating the protagonists.  For some reason, we retain an affection for their simple outlook that accepts the naff as fit for purpose, the childlike quality of their conversation in all social situations and the caravan rocking ‘bull in a china-shop’ attempts at wild lovemaking.  Watch out for Tina’s hand-knitted ‘sexy’ lingerie that sends Chris asleep and complements his very long ginger beard and trusty orange kagool.

 

There are solid supporting performances from Eileen Davies playing Tina’s ailing mother at the point that she is losing her powers as the fierce matriarch, Richard Glover as an artless inventor who innocently seduces Chris with his twaddle and – in a nod to ‘Nuts In May’ – Jonathan Aris captures something of Keith in his portrayal of a writer now on other side of the fence with little chance of making it to the end of the film.

 

Consolidating his reputation as one of the more interesting cinematic voices to emerge during recent years, Wheatley does a superb job integrating material into a very pleasing whole, which in lesser hands, could easily have come across as a series of comic sketches.

 

And Laurie Rose, returning from Wheatley’s ‘Dead Terrace’ and ‘Kill List’ makes the most of the tourist settings for a more expansive cinematography, which takes on an irony all of its own in playing to connotations totally at odds with the action unfolding on the screen.buy female viagrabuy female viagra australiafemale viagra for salebuy female viagra ukwomens viagra onlinecheap female viagrageneric female viagra

 

Gotham Independent Film Awards 2012

November 27th, 2012 - Graham Eley

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Silver Linings Playbook

November 21st, 2012 - Graham Eley

With his previous feature, ‘The Fighter’, David O Russell hit the mark with a fine boxing movie where fighting – at least, in the ring – was conspicuous by its absence for much of the film’s running time.  Drawing on the downbeat realism of Seventies New Hollywood, Russell, instead, provided a throughly engaging portrayal of a dysfunctional family in all its ugliness but without losing hope or appearing retro.

 

For his follow-up, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, Russell turns to a different sub-genre, the romCom, for focusing on another dysfunctional family, whose fortunes are no less linked to sport.  Defying expectations, he stays far closer to the sub-genre’s history and conventions than we might expect for a filmmaker who has remained true to his indie roots even when working with higher budgets and succeeded in irritating many resolutely committed cinephiles with the single-minded – and some would say self-indulgent – ‘I Heart Huckabees’.  But this is not Russell selling out, and nor is it an exercise in Russell displaying his auteur credentials against the odds in a mock recreation of the old studio system when circumventing strict rules was a necessary part of being creative.  This is Russell using the romCom in a way that works for him notwithstanding the obvious limitations of the sub-genre and it is a testament to his skill as a writer and filmmaker and, perhaps, above all, his absolute faith in the characters, that he offers us something that feels fresh, relevant and very enjoyable.

 

Bradley Cooper, best known for the ‘Hangover’ movies, is the latest of Hollywood’s younger stars – Robert Pattinson is another – looking to strut their stuff in more challenging roles alongside the high grossing fare.  Here, Cooper plays Pat Solitano, who faces a crisis point – a serious dose of reality – upon his premature release from a secure psychiatric hospital with his head full of optimism of the totally deluded kind, based upon a misapplication of the already dodgy notion of ‘positively’ that he has picked-up from an unconventional psychiatrist.  Seemingly with no alternative but to build a new future, he obsessively returns to his past where an uncontrollable violent attack on his ex-wife’s lover – shown later in flashback – lead to a bi-polar diagnosis and the cruel loss of everything.

 

Cooper pulls it off superbly; striking a nice balance between investing Pat with the necessary innocence and warmth for endearing him to the audience in the tried and tested traditions of the romCom but without losing an unnerving edginess, a constant potential for ‘blowing up’.  It is a tension that raises the stakes when Pat obsessively embarks upon an idealised reunion with his ex-wife, rationalising a ‘restraining order’ as being no more than a test for monitoring his sanity levels.

 

Robert De Niro rolls back the years as Pat’s Dad; a dodgy bookie and American football fanatic, combining both interests in the family’s front room where he watches his beloved Philadelphia Eagles after being banned from their stadium for expressing himself with his fists and now risking far too much offering bets based on a misguided sense of the Eagles’ potential for making the play offs.  This is De Niro fully committed to the role, paying attention to even the smallest movement of his face in bringing to life a gritty old timer from the tough side of Philly, the only part we usually see in the movies.  De Niro, seamlessly switching from comedy to drama and back again, makes the most of his character’s OCD and its manifestation in bizarre sporting rituals that expose traits now visible in Pat but neither can recognise in themselves.

 

An already volatile situation becomes even more explosive with the arrival of Tiffany, who is more than a match for Pat and his Dad when it comes to inner demons and anti-social behaviour.  Given serious depth and complexity by Jennifer Lawrence – and what a performance it is – she shares Pat’s desire to get a grip but has the wherewithal to do something about it.  Redirecting rather than changing her combative mindset, Tiffany offers him a silver lining dressed as a Faustian pact that must compete with any number of false ones that he imagines elsewhere.

 

This is a smart and sincere movie where sophistication replaces sentimentality but still aims to send everybody away with a smile on their face.  And what’s wrong with that.buy female viagrabuy female viagra australiafemale viagra for salebuy female viagra ukwomens viagra onlinecheap female viagrageneric female viagra

 

Amour

November 16th, 2012 - Graham Eley

A memorable sequence three quarters of the way through this latest feature from Michael Haneke focuses on a series of landscape paintings hanging on the walls of a plush Parisian apartment.  It is a temporary reprieve for these paintings that have otherwise slipped into a background of irrelevance, a mere part of the overall decor.  We are caught by surprise, when they appear full screen in striking close-up with time for contemplation in a cinematic recreation of a gallery experience.  It takes us a moment or two to adjust but, one by one, overriding all else, each of the paintings become a powerful metaphor for an outside world that lies way beyond the film’s dark and stifling interiors; a melancholic Bergmanian domestic prison that almost exclusively forms the mise-en-scene for the 125 minutes running time.

 

This is the once comfortable home of former music teachers now in their 80s, Georges and Anne, played by two of cinema’s most distinguished actors, Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant.  Perhaps best known for ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ and ‘The Conformist’ respectively, they have arguably reserved their finest performances to now, bringing all those years of experience to bear on their devastatingly accurate portrayal of the inevitable consequences of old age.

 

Georges and Anne are still content and apparently enjoying life when we see them at a concert for the only time outside the apartment.  It has echoes of the final scene of Haneke’s ‘Hidden’ and once again, we pick out the protagonists from a panoramic shot of a crowd; noticeably engaging in more lively conversation than the rest of the audience.  They slip into relaxed routines at home – reading newspapers, discussing music and enjoying a spot of banter – and, then, at breakfast, Anne becomes unresponsive, frozen in a fixed position, smiling vacantly.  It is the start of an appalling end game, the first of two debilitating strokes and, in between, we detect the all too familiar tell-tale signs of one of life’s cruellest afflictions, vascular dementia.

 

The ‘amour’ of the title is of the very mature kind, particular to long-term relationships and experienced here by Georges in the face of Anne’s gradual lose of dignity, regression into confused nothingness and pending death.  Keeping an earlier promise, Georges refuses to allow her to die in hospital but it’s a burden that proves too great.  He creates his own terrible isolation – a soulless environment  – even excluding his middle-aged daughter, Eve, played with a well-judged intensity by Isabelle Huppert returning from Haneke’s ‘The Piano Teacher’ from ten years earlier.  Wholly unequipped to deal with the enormity of the change, she appears occasionally but demands much and becomes more frantic and self-obsessed with each visit.

 

There is one profoundly moving moment when something of Anne’s former self fleetingly returns as Georges helps her to cross the room and, unexpectedly, silently, they enjoy a brief clumsy dance.  Tantalisingly transitory – almost gone before they have started – these occasional shared experiences are all that Georges has left of his former life, which falls away in front of our eyes.

 

Haneke makes this film with a humanity that we have seldom seen before but we are still firmly in his territory.  The sense of a constant threat remains but it lurks from within rather than outside, and the ‘curse’ of mortality is, in its own way, as chilling as anything that Haneke has offered before.doxycycline costdoxycycline genericdoxycycline genericbuy doxycycline ukbuy doxycycline ukorder doxycyclinedoxycycline buy

 

It is deeply disturbing and engaging in equal measure, takes a subject that we avoid and demands repeat viewings and deservedly won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Master, The

November 16th, 2012 - Graham Eley

A resolutely independent deconstruction of religious cults that emerged at the onset of the Cold War, against the backdrop of government generated delusion and paranoia, depicts American society as torn between extreme fantasy and cynical realism when facing despair in victory at the end of the Second World War.

 

The movie media whipped-up its own pre-release ballyhoo speculating as to whether this latest feature from critics’ favourite, Paul Thomas Anderson, was a biopic of arguably America’s most prolific cult leader, L Ron Hubbard.  Notwithstanding the very obvious similarities between the Master of the film’s title and the founder of Scientology, Anderson has always remained at a distance from the speculation, content to leave the viewers to draw their own conclusions.  Whether Anderson’s position rests on legal advice or artistic preference is unknown but this film’s scope is far too wide to justify being hung-up on its precise historical origins.

 

We enter the Master’s world via an extraordinary fictional creation, Freddie Quell, an amalgam of the most acute psychological wrecks returning to civvy life after military service in Japan.  A violent alcoholic, addicted to his own paint stripper hooch, vulnerable and surprisingly seductive – a captivating cocktail – he is every bit the forerunner to the Nam pyscho, almost an early version of Travis Bickel, making explicit all of those tensions that simmer below the surface in the film noir masterpieces of the immediate post war period.  Played superbly by Joaquin Phoenix – virtually unrecognisable from his best known role in the overrated ‘Walk The Line’, an abject effort at capturing Johnny Cash on screen, this is a fresh, engaging and genuinely disturbing portrayal of an unpredictable personality on the edge that avoids the cliché-trap of a characterisation drawing too much on hindsight, being wise after the event.

 

The Master, Lancaster Dodd, a self-appointed/faux writer, doctor, theoretical philosopher and – yes – nuclear physicist, who describes himself as “above all, a man”, just like Freddie, is head of ‘The Cause’, a pseudo-religious/scientific combo based on self-knowledge, spiritual gratification and reincarnation.  Given a hypnotic allure by a captivating Philip Seymour Hoffman, there is commanding knowingness in his stare that remains steadfast beneath those regal eyebrows; lending a frightening credibility to the absurd.  This is genuine charisma, no less so than the feverish variety exuded by Tom Cruise as another dangerous self-styled guru, Frank T.J. Mackey, in Anderson’s breakout film, ‘Magnolia’.

 

Once Quell turns to the Cause for some kind of salvation, an acolyte with a difference who beats the shit out of those who question the beliefs/motivations of the cult, the power games begin.  Dodd, strangely obsessed with his new recruit, rises to his greatest ever challenge, looking to dominate him in the absolute sense and, possibly, fulfil his latent sexual desires.  It is a relationship that troubles Dodd’s formidable wife, the woman behind the crown, who in the hands of a splendid Amy Adams takes on a chilling menace; a ruthless Lady Macbeth figure without the guilt.

 

Quell is a willing guinea pig up to a point, intrigued by repetitive third-degree interrogations in the name of a therapy supposedly designed to recover lost memories from previous lives – sometimes going back trillions of years – but seems more concerned into preying into private moments from the present.  It never seems sustainable, Dodd’s methods become more extreme and Quell’s anti-authoritarian instincts always threaten to resurface; creating a tension that becomes more pronounced as the film develops.  One particularly alarming scene, shown to us over a sustained period, pushing our unease to the limits, has Quell endlessly walking from one wall to another, chanting meaningless twaddle at Dodd’s arbitrary commands, where quasi-treatment becomes degrading torture.

 

The drama plays out at a series of locations – a luxury pleasure ship, a well-to-do patron’s Philadelphia retreat, a Phoenix rally – that are precursors of Eisenhower’s Fifties conservatism and false prosperity, but the preciseness of the 65mm film stock exposes their artificiality, stripping away the carefully honed symbolism of the era to give an eerie sense of forbidding.  It is a mood that Jonny Greenwood picks-up in his lean but imaginative score, which is as unpredictable as the action and will further enhance Radiohead’s guitarist as a film composer of note.doxycycline costdoxycycline genericdoxycycline genericbuy doxycycline ukbuy doxycycline ukorder doxycyclinedoxycycline buy

 

As with Anderson’s previous feature, ‘There Will Be Blood’, this is a work of considerable maturity that no longer shows the traces of Robert Altman’s influence as visibly as his earlier work.  Oscar nominations should follow but it remains to be seen whether the Academy will be go one stage further for a film some way removed from the mainstream.

Rust And Bone

November 2nd, 2012 - Graham Eley

Jacques Audiard takes us to the fringes of society in this love story with a difference that brings together two diverse characters, who, for very contrasting reasons, find themselves on the outside with little hope for the future until they discover a fragile companionship against the odds.

 

A highly contrived sounding plot comes alive on the screen in ways that would not seem possible from the film’s written synopsis.  Bringing together two dominant trends of French cinema – post modern style and incisive drama – Audiard finds an expansive film form of enormous ambition that elevates the potentially theatrical to something genuinely affecting.

 

Matthias Schoenaerts, establishing his credentials as an emerging talent of considerable subtlety, is highly believable playing one of life’s drifters, Ali, a Belgian ‘heavy ‘ with aspirations in the ‘fighting game’ but making ends meet from short-term security work.  He arrives in the South of France with his son in tow and proves something of a binary opposite to his estranged sister who is allowing them to stay for a while.  It is here that he encounters a whale trainer, Stéphanie, a familiar character from French cinema, apparently comfortable and content on the surface but looking for kicks on the quiet at night clubs where Ali saves her from an unlikely punch-up.  What at first sight seems like a set-up for a conventional screen romance with an ‘indie’ edge takes on a completely different complexion after she loses the lower part of both legs in a terrible accident when a killer whale misreads one of her signs.

 

Audiard has established his reputation as one of the few independent filmmakers whose world premieres constitute an event on the back of films that are ruthlessly masculine.  Outstanding crime dramas – ‘A Prophet’, ‘The Beat That My Heart Skipped’, ‘Read My Lips’ – deconstruct the male gender from different angles and this latest feature continues the thematic exploration, but female characters, who once served as supporting backdrops, a foil to heighten characteristics in their male counterparts, now take centre stage on an equal footing.

 

We see two sides to Ali’s character; the ruthless bare knuckle fighter and neglectful, and sometimes cruel, father, who shows unexpected tenderness in reintroducing Stéphanie to the outside world from where she has been hiding for months.  There is a genuine chemistry here, and what starts as a friendship seems to evolve into something else, until, in a truly jaw dropping moment, Ali ruthlessly dumps her during an evening out to pursue a one-night stand.

 

Marion Cotillard, one of only two actresses to win an Academy Award for a lead role in a non-English language film, invests Stéphanie with considerable emotional depth in a performance that once again places her right at the forefront of the awards season.  Needless to say, there is no hint of sentimentality in Stéphanie’s slow rise from the depths of despair, almost suicidal, to rediscover that which we all frequently take for granted, the sheer joy of living for its own sake; fuelling a return of her independence without entirely giving up on Ali.

 

Based on a collection of Craig Davidson short stories, various sub-plots weave in and out of the main narrative including one worthy of a film in its own right; focusing on the highly disturbing practice of major corporations spying illegally on their lowest paid employees.  Audiard blends it all together seamlessly as if adapted from a single source until perhaps the final few scenes where there is a sense that Ali was ready to reassess his priorities and his commitment to Stéphanie without need for the final drama that brings him to his senses.

 

Cinematographer, Stéphane Fontaine, who won César Awards for his work on Audiard’s previous two films, returns with his usual dazzling flair, sometimes rendering dialogue unnecessary and doing a superb job filming the pivotal accident scene.

 

An original orchestral score from Alexandre Desplat blends with an assorted selection of dance and indie tracks to intensify the tone in ways that could have been overly melodramatic but works in the overall stylistic scheme.

 

Rust and Bone did not make the expected impact at Cannes where it left empty handed in an average year but has had success elsewhere, including a win in the new ‘best film’ category at London.doxycycline costdoxycycline genericdoxycycline genericbuy doxycycline ukbuy doxycycline ukorder doxycyclinedoxycycline buy