Category: Movies


WIDOWS directed by Steve McQueen (UK,USA 2018)

widows_282018_movie_poster29There are many reasons why the best TV series are more rewarding and creative than most current movies and Steve McQueen’s latest feature film illustrates why.

There’s something deeply unsatisfying and frustrating about seeing a complex, multi-layered plot condensed into just over two hours. A story divided into one hour episodes can take its time building nuanced characters and the twists, when they come, they don’t feel forced or rushed.

‘Widows’ is based on Lynda La Plante’s ITV series broadcast in the UK in the early 1980s. La Plante had previously written the peerless ‘Prime Suspect’ starring Helen Mirren which proved that ball-breaking women make compelling protagonists. Continue reading

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A bio-friendly David Lynch

ROOM TO DREAM by David Lynch & Kristine McKenna (Canongate Books, 2018)
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This is book for those who love David Lynch and his unique art life. If this part memoir-part biography is to be believed, this includes approximately 99% of the population.

In all the interviews with friends, family, ex-wives and actors practically no-one has a bad word to say about him and the level of critical analysis is about as deep as an article in Hello magazine. I’m a huge admirer of Lynch’s work but even I wearied the constant fawning tone adopted by journalist Kristine McKenna.

The book’s structure provides that a chapter of biographical details by McKenna is followed by one by Lynch who corrects any errors and adds his own memories. The introduction states: “What you’re reading here is basically a person having a conversation with his own biography”.

In principle this seems like a good plan. What we know of Lynch  is that he plays his cards very close to his chest. He gives relatively few interviews and never explains his strange visions. The most you’ll get out of him is that his ideas come from dreams, chance encounters or overheard snippets of conversation. Continue reading

CAROL directed by Todd Haynes (USA, 2015)

carol_film_posterI borrowed this film from my local lending library in Cesena, Italy. This excellent ‘mediateca’,  somewhat anachronistically, continues to maintain a healthy stock of old and new DVDs.

In a card inside the case of more recent acquisitions you are invited to write what you think of the movie: “Lascia un commento, potresti convincere qulache indeciso” (Leave a comment – it may convince others who are undecided).

For Carol, there is just one review which (translated from Italian) states that it is “the story of an upper class woman who destroys the life of her husband and, not content with this, also ruins the life of a poor young working woman. All this in the name of a presumed sexual liberation. A film of homosexual propaganda”.

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The offending review of ‘Carol’.

This blinkered and spiteful reading of Todd Haynes’ elegant and intelligent movie illustrates that, despite some encouraging advances in LGBT rights, this is no time for complacency. Continue reading

 

SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE directed by Steven Soderberg (USA, 1989)

sex & lies“All life is sex. All sex is competition”. James Spader’s line comes from a cameo appearance the US sitcom The Office but could easily stand as a tagline for his captivating lead performance as Graham Dalton in Sex, Lies And Videotape.

This independent movie had a huge impact when it was first released and watching it again , almost three decades on, I was struck about how it still holds up for its bravery, integrity and originality.

The themes of sexuality, fidelity and gender politics remain as relevant now as they did in 1989. Indeed, these issues are arguably even more significant in the wake of the plethora of #metoo related stories and Trump’s brazen capacity for lying. Digital technology would now replace videotape but everything else about the story rings true.

The film deals with the notoriously delicate topic of sex with a liberating degree of frankness and maturity. This is all the more remarkable given that Soderberg was only 26 when he wrote and directed it. He’s made some decent movies since but the audacity and boldness of youth still makes his debut his best work.

Significantly, there are no explicit sex scenes. Soderbach’s stated aim was that of challenging mainstream audiences with ideas rather than with nudity. Continue reading

SON OF SAUL directed by Lázió Nemes (Hungary. 2015)
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How much of the horror of the holocaust can you stand to watch?

Newsreel footage can turn us all into passive voyeurs to humankind’s capacity for evil. On the other hand, however noble the intentions, turning history into cinema can reduce Nazi atrocities into entertainment.

Lázió Nemes’ remarkable debut avoids both pitfalls. You are never in any doubt about the barbarism at the heart of the story but the camera never dwells on the details. Continue reading

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