Monthly Archives: August 2015
Saturday, August 29, 2015
Looking for a new box set? Waiting for the experience of an obsessive nightly fix or a gross-out weekend of end-to-end viewing? Fargo Season 2 is on the horizon but a gem lurks and it’s up and running.
It’s brilliantly scripted, wonderfully photographed and unerringly acted – but might not accord with those who steer clear of the picaresque. Drugs and computer coding form a dark wallpaper (the program coding is nailed on by experts to keep geeks happy) against which druggie/idealistic hackers seek to save the world from multinational cyber barons. It raises, in its tense depiction of extremes, the slithering underbelly of modern, technology-dependent life.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Melancholia (2011): Is it a drama, is it a sci fi, is it a study in psychological depression? One thing is certain, it is a film by Lars von Trier. The studied authorial eye is as beady and detailed as always, as is his drive to subordinate art to a philosophical thesis. Imagine landscape gardening by Capability Brown, aerial shots of country lanes with magnificent galloping horses, mists, a stately pile and the most appalling nouveau riche wedding you might ever encounter and you have the setting. Counterpoise this with a bride’s disintegration into depressive aimlessness and involuntary bursts of escapism and cap it all with the impending arrival inside Earth’s gravitational field, of a rogue planet, once hiding behind the sun and you have the ingredients of maybe the best von Trier film. Whether you read it as a treatise in individual human fragility in the face of a harsh and pointless existence or an entire race’s collapse in the face of an externally imposed, insuperable finality, the effect is the same. It is disturbing to watch as you realize that Kersten Dunst’s character is not an irritating, self-advertising, selfish melancholic so much as someone’s response to having a clairvoyant’s understanding of impending disaster – so where is the meaning in marriage, above all else?
The film contains one of the most wonderfully constructed scenes in cinema. The approaching planet – the Melancholia of the title – begins to fill the entire horizon. Dunst’s character, until now a black hole of emotion which those around her have tried perpetually and unsuccessfully to fill, takes charge and comforts her sister and her nephew, the only ones remaining in the house with her. She has them build and occupy a magical defence against cosmic annihilation, a skeletal pyramid of sticks. Huddled inside, their hands clasped, they draw succour from Dunst’s nihilistic preparedness to face whatever might come.
Saturday, August 15, 2015
I once walked from Bungay to Ditchingham across the Norfolk/Suffolk border by a back road. An old man came down the hill and passed me by. We did not speak. When I looked round a few moments later, he had disappeared. The reason I turned was because he seemed familiar. Too familiar. He was my older self.
The notion of identical selves occupying the same time and space has preoccupied creative minds often enough. The latest film on this theme is Enemy (2013) with Jake Gyllenhaal playing two identical men, one of whom sees an actor in a film and pursues him to discover why they are identical. The feel of the film is of cold war East Europe with its leached browns and yellows, totalitarian architecture and complete absence of human warmth. As the characters and their female companions begin to mesh and grind in a hopeless foursome, the foreboding in the film increases. A small review cannot be a spoiler, so I will only say that Gyllenhaal is remarkably subtle in demarcating the two characters he plays, that a strange, unfathomable symbolism appears and reappears, hanging like a black pall over the city, that there are some disturbing extremes of human behavior and that it ends with a single moment of abject terror.
It has elements of Christopher Nolan, of Wim Wenders and of Michael Haneke but it is also impressively the unique work of its director, Denis Villeneuve.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
True Detective 2. A mesmerising mix of Grand Guignol blood and violence and powerful emotional characterisation, Season 2 provokes both bewilderment at sudden, unfathomable plot lines and eyes-on-stalks tension as key events unfold. Fantastic credits with Leonard Cohen’s “Never Mind” growling over industrial decay, a uniformly brilliant evocation of a society whose toxic margins are creeping into the mainstream, excellent and at times sensational acting and a conclusion both better and worse than Season 1. Mullholland Drive married to Infernal Affairs with the occasional glitch of easily editable B movie indulgence. Colin Firth and Rachel McAdams are terrific, the sense of a social world spiralling into moral, environmental and political degradation is unflinching and the risks it takes are sometimes exhilarating. Roll on Season 3.
Thursday, August 6, 2015
For everyone who wants more from a film, in particular an engagement with that prickly darkness that resides below every day consciousness wherein we dare to question how much freedom we actually have, then ‘Frequencies’ will be a delight.
In a new book of aphorisms I am cooking in the oven there is one that is pertinent to this review:
We exist in a God’s first novel; our lives are full of paradox, blind alleys, weak characterisation and illogical endings
The feeling that under the deepest scrutiny life just does not add up suddenly grips us from time to time. It can be unsettling and we tend to banish it to the depths and ‘get on’ as best we can knowing full well that we are choosing to gloss over our unrest. Have we free will or are we fated to live our lives according to an opaque grand design? Is there, in physics, perhaps at the quantum level, a code that defines what we are and the limits of what we can do?
Frequencies’ is a brilliantly unorthodox film, a perfect other world, a story of code-crossed lovers, of god-creation and of a society where each must play a designed part until …