Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Past (2014) - Dir. Asghar Farhadi

The Past finds it characters searching for a future and struggling to live in the present; the past is not finished with them and will continue to plague their lives until it has been resolved. The Past is another intricate family drama from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi who is working outside of his native Iran for the first time.

Ahmad (Ali Mofasa) returns to Paris to finalize his separation from Marie (Berenice Bejo). He returns to the house he once shared with her only to find that her new partner Samir (Tahir Rahim) has moved in and is creating a new family in the house.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Under The Skin - Dir. Jonathan Glazer

Jonathan Glazer spent ten years creating Under The Skin, working with several co-writers to bring Michel Faber’s tale of an extraterrestrial being to life.  The result is harrowing, beguiling and unforgettable.

Scarlett Johansson plays a nameless alien who travels across Scotland searching for men upon which to prey. To reveal any more would spoil many of the surprises that Under The Skin has up its sleeve.

Not only does Scarlett Johansson take on the role of an alien, but she also plays an alien pretending to be a human. The way she switches between these two personas is astonishing, particularly when she is driving around Glasgow in search of her prey. In these scenes, Glazer rarely films from the street; instead he keeps his cameras inside the vehicle. We only see the alien and what she sees. We see these familiar places through her alien eyes and they look very strange indeed.

The alien preys upon a mix of different men, with varying degrees of success. Some of them are actors but the rest are unsuspecting members of the pubic and Glazer hasn’t divulged into which category each one falls (although it’s not too difficult to work a few of them out). This decision, along with the covert filming techniques used, makes for a very unnerving experience.

Mica Levi’s twitchy and sinister score perfectly compliments the uneasy mood whilst Daniel Levin’s cinematography finds a stark beauty in even the harshest of situations.  I particularly enjoyed the apparent lack of any artificial light in situations such as, for example, the night time driving scenes where the alien’s face is only illuminated by the glow of the passing street lamps.

There are too many extraordinary scenes to mention here as we follow the alien on her journey, flirting with all aspects of humanity whilst remaining distinctly alien throughout. I’m not sure that the entire final act, including the shift of pace, is as successful as what preceded it, but Under The Skin remains a remarkable film that will leave an unshakeable shadow over the rest of the cinematic year.

Under The Skin was released in cinemas on 14th March 2014 and is scheduled to be released on DVD/Blu Ray on 14th July 2014.

Mica Levi's score is available on CD, Vinyl and download now.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Frances Ha - Dir. Noah Baumbach

(This review contains spoilers)

Films about middle class white people and their first world problems are so difficult to get right; the audience’s tolerance of the characters is perilously low to begin with and one false move could lose their sympathy. Woody Allen has both won and lost this particular battle many times over his career. Frances Ha is most definitely a victory for creative team Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig; a charming but unmistakable sad film about a floundering woman approaching her thirties.

Frances’ world is sent spinning when her best friend and flat mate Sophie decides to move to a trendier part of New York with another friend. Frances can’t afford to keep their flat and has an uncertain future as a modern dancer. She’s fallen into an early-to-mid life crisis; just about holding on to her teenage years with proper adulthood fast approaching. She’s reached the stage where she should have a clear path of where she wants to go in life. She hasn’t, but everyone around her has.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Bling Ring - Dir. Sofia Coppola

“I think we just wanted to be part of the lifestyle. The lifestyle that everybody kinda wants.”

(This review contains spoilers)

Inspired by the true events and the subsequent Vanity Fair article, The Bling Ring recounts the story of a group of privileged Californian teenagers who stole $3million worth of clothing and jewelry from the houses of Hollywood celebrities. What’s particularly extraordinary about The Bling Ring is how Coppola has managed to create a film that is on the surface as shallow as its protagonists, but also thoughtful and mildly angry in its subtext.

It would have been all too easy for Coppola to take a seat above her subjects and beat us over the head with the notion that these kids are a bunch of deluded narcissists. Instead she observes quietly from the wings whilst the gang gleefully raids through the material wealth of these Hollywood celebrities. By just observing, Coppola allows the inherently risible nature of the material to shine through all by itself.