LFF 2015 - Day 10! Cowboys / Steve McQueen - The Man and Le Mans

Our penultimate day at the festival (an inconvenient wedding for one of us - not ours - and a trip to LA for the other put paid to Saturday) was a pretty varied affair. Beginning with a particularly tetchy Q&A after a movie we quite enjoyed, followed by a documentary about a movie we'd never see (now rectified) and topped off with the BFI Surprise Movie (which would have been surprising even if we'd know what it was).... 

COWBOYS

COWBOYS

Q&A sessions are a integral part of the LFF experience. We’ve been to some doozies in our time. Ginger Baker still takes the biscuit but an awkward encounter at the premiere of the otherwise unremarkable Serena sticks in the mind. Sometimes though it just takes a couple of malcontents and the whole tone of the session changes…

Cowboys is a rough remake of the old John Wayne movie The Searchers which if you’ll recall tells the tale of a rancher who sets out to retrieve his niece from the clutches of the nefarious locals, only to realise that she has been ‘tainted’ by them and thus has to be done away with. For me it’s largely memorable for some truly stunning cinematography and of course, that shot of Wayne standing in a doorway. Whatever your thoughts on that movie though, I wouldn’t read too much of it into this one.

Thomas Bidegain’s debut as a director after penning both A Prophet and Rust and Bone, this modern day western takes place in a weird bit of French society that apes the American cowboy world. It’s 1995, father Alain (François Damiens) and sulky teenage daughter Kelly share a slightly awkward dance together at a fair and before you know it, she has vanished completely. Alain assumes she has been kidnapped and heads off to the police station before combing the town for her. When a letter is received at home saying that she is fine and the family are not to look for her, Alain confronts his daughter’s Muslim boyfriend’s family. They have not seen their son either and so Alain sets off on a trail across the world to find his daughter.

It’s a queasy concept from the outset, if somebody doesn’t want to be found, should you go looking for them and if you do, are you going to be prepared for what you find? Bidegain skips forward in time without much warning on two occasions, the first picking up with Alain and Kid (his son Georges - Finnegan Oldfield), now a teenager as they travel together following increasingly desperate and expensive leads. Alain’s marriage has fallen apart in the interim with his wife desperate to continue living despite the loss of her daughter and his unrelenting desire to chase her down. The second leap forward in time finds Kid, seemingly at peace with his sister’s disappearance but soon revealed to be working as an aid worker in the Middle East in the hope that he can track down Kelly.

The contrast between the father and son’s views on life is a noticeable one. Alain is at odds with a world where Muslims and non-Muslims are part of the same society, something that goes back to the strangely folksy but ultimately xenophobic cowboy scene back in France. Kid on the other hand, appreciates that the world has changed immeasurably since his sister disappeared but still cannot quite let go of the quest.

Despite the wails of protest from three people in the audience during the Q&A (who managed to find this movie both racist and mysogynist), Cowboys is a complex and nuanced movie that rewards close attention to the motivations and consequences of all its characters. Oldfield is perhaps an odd choice for a French part but his vulnerable Kid is a good character with far more about him than his troubled father. Spanning two or so decades of turbulent times across Europe and the Middle East, the movie doesn’t hammer home the Muslim / non-Muslim conflict points, it is more subtle and interesting than that. Female characters are somewhat secondary to the main two men but the Kid’s mother and his ultimate wife are neither stereotyped or offensively one-dimensional.

Si 

STEVE MCQUEEN: THE MAN & LE MANS

STEVE MCQUEEN: THE MAN & LE MANS

In a rare case of not having not read the book but not having seen the movie, I decided to shoe-horn this one before heading to the pub to prepare for the BFI’s Surprise Movie of the festival (which Jo will review at some point because I still have no idea what quite to make of it). Steve McQueen it would seem, not satisfied with being one of the most magnetic movie stars of his generation, was also a dab hand at the old racing lark. Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna decided that this was worthy of more of a look than has currently been afforded and so we have their documentary revolving around McQueen’s love of racing and his subsequent attempt to make a fictional movie based around the Le Mans 24 Hour race.

Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans is more than just a convenient title, the man’s obsession with racing is far more all encompassing that one movie and this documentary is an interesting insight into a world that until now we haven’t really seen. In the run up to the 1970 Le Mans race, McQueen was stellar. Hits like The Thomas Crown Affair and Bullit (both 1968) had cemented his star after star building turns in John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape. Movies were only part of McQueen’s life and off set, he was fast becoming a well respected motor racing driver. It seemed like the perfect time for the actor and Sturges to collaborate on the greatest endurance race in the world and so Le Mans was born. Sadly there was no script and all the professional racing drivers in the world ain’t going to fix that….

I’ve since watched Le Mans and…. well, it was an experience. That there was no script is now painfully obvious, the first lines of dialogue being uttered some thirty-eight minutes into the movie and the remaining film being an incredible view of the race but a woeful experience as a piece of human drama. The documentary though is everything the movie was not. Filled with talking heads who experienced the vanity project scale up and then meltdown and audio recordings of McQueen (who tragically died in 1980 of a rare form of lung cancer thought to be caused by asbestos), the film makers have done a great job of supplementing the impressive race footage with a human voice. The film makes have done well to get insight from a huge range of people, including McQueen's son Chad, his ex-wife Nellie Adams along with a number of the professional drivers involved in the movie, all mixed with archive footage of the cast and crew.

The professional drivers are particularly interesting. Professional at a time when that didn’t mean earning a fortune, they were more than happy to effectively drive practice laps and get paid a relative fortune for it. The feeling of brotherhood within the drives is extended to include McQueen who, despite superstar status, was very much just one of the drivers (all be it one who couldn’t get insurance to cover him during the actual race). Witness his continued (failed) written attempts to get all proceeds from the premiere of the movie donated to one of the drivers who lost part of his leg in the making of the film. 

Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans is ultimately a tragic tale of a man who never quite fulfilled his potential in the one area he probably valued above the other hugely successful elements of his life. Ahead of his time technically by decades (the racing scenes stand up magnificently today making reliance on CGI seem cowardly and, well, ungentlemanly), McQueen struggled to articulate a human story into his grand vision. That this struggle is echoed in the personal life outlined here is a bigger tragedy. 

Si

LFF 2015 - Day 8! Dégradé / The Lady in The Van / I Am Belfast / My Scientology Movie

Day 8 then and we’re sticking with this new very post-modern technique of shunning chronology completely. Big day though, five movies covering a Gazan hair salon, an irascible outlaw in a van, a bunch of South African middle class kids doing lord knows what, a city embodied in a actor and a crazy new religion. 

DEGRADE

DEGRADE

One of the joys of the London Film Festival is our once yearly chance to really see some movies we wouldn’t otherwise get an opportunity to view, or at least would never be brought to our attention. A chance to get inside other countries and other cultures and really see a world view that is completely removed from our comfortable London existence.

Identical twins Arab and Tarzan Nasser’s first movie Dégradé is set in the country of their birth and childhood - Gaza. I probably mean territory when I say country but you’ll forgive an ignorant westerner the lack of subtlety to know the difference because that is exactly what this wonderfully insightful black comedy is all about. Rather than hitting all the big themes, and to be fair the themes that were very much current during filming, of the larger conflict between Palestine and Israel, the film makers instead concentrate their gaze on ordinary life within the strip as seen through the eyes of thirteen very different women in an entirely innocuous hair salon.

Shot in Amman, the conditions with Gaza prohibiting any location photography and shot entirely within the walls of the hair salon, we spend an hour and half with a bunch of women as they await their treatments whilst gradually deconstructing the political and social situation sandwiched in a country between numerous warring factions. Whilst the women wait, it becomes clear that one of the employees is in an on / off relationships with the local warlord and sometime owner of a lioness stolen from the local zoo.  As time progresses, the increasingly hostile security forces mount an operation to liberate the lioness and a violent fire fight develops outside the salon.

The result of all the activity outside the building is that the ‘sisters’ are barricaded into the salon and the power is cut, ramping up the tension between them as they discuss everything from relationships through to the political situation in the strip. Writing and directing, the twins’ dialogue is very naturalistic and is allowed to unfold in a way that you would expect between largely strangers from a wide variety of backgrounds forced into a very contained situation.

I mentioned subtlety at the top of this review and it’s this subtlety that gives Dégradé its impact. The characters are major players in any part of the conflict waging around them. They are as critical of the local warlords as they are of the local government as they are of the Israelis (mentioned only twice in the entire movie). One exchange has one of the characters describing how life is made difficult for them, describing the checkpoint situation to get into Israel along the lines of Fatah setting up checkpoint 555 within the Israeli checkpoint, only for Hamas to set up checkpoint 444 within that checkpoint. It’s grimly funny and superbly illuminating for an audience not used to this level of intricacy in a movie based in the Middle East. I hope that the twins go on to further bring their world to us.

Si

THE LADY IN THE VAN

THE LADY IN THE VAN

One of the obvious standout movies at this year’s festival sees the irrepressible Dame Maggie Smith return to a role that she has played seemingly forever now in Nicholas Hytner’s adaptation of Alan Bennett’s mostly true play The Lady in the Van. Playing to a sell out (downstairs at least) crowd on a Wednesday morning at the Odeon Leicester Square, I clearly wasn’t the only one who had this near the top of their list.

As I am apparently an unstoppable philistine, I was only vaguely aware of the story behind this movie, let alone the stage adaptations that have apparently been selling out for years now. Telling the story of an old lady who appears in Alan Bennett’s street when he moves in to Gloucester Crescent in Camden during the sixties. Already a fixture in the street, the old lady, known as Miss Shepherd moved constantly largely under the instruction of the Virgin Mary. When Camden Council finally decided to make parking illegal along the length of the road, Bennett took pity on her and allowed her to park her decrepit old van on his driveway. Where it stayed for fifteen years.

Hytner’s movie opens with a somewhat younger looking Miss Shepherd apparently fleeing some kind of accident, something that is evident in the broken windscreen on her van for the years that follow. Bennett (a pretty much spot on take by Alex Jennings), something of a soft touch living alone and mainly having conversations with himself, soon allows or at least is forced to allow the strange woman into his life. Both characters harbour dark secrets (at least, Bennett’s secret was dark back then) and soon a weird, almost maternal bond develops between the two.

Hytner and Bennett are both too smart to let this become the standard Hollywood fare though (with the possible exception of an ending that borders on schmaltz, only to swerve off at the last minute into inspired weirdness) and we soon see Bennett scrubbing his toilet out after the old lady’s visit, Smith’s Shepherd rounding on Bennett for a list of perceived slights and constant references to the horrific smell in the van and entirely unsanitary method of disposing of…well, you can guess what.

The result is a wonderfully endearing but at times bruising movie that pulls no punches in its treatment of the old lady. And of course there is Maggie Smith, a supremely skilled actor who must have approached Miss Shepherd as you would an old friend you haven’t seen for years. Her Miss Shepherd is undoubtedly now mostly her creation and it’s an absolute delight to witness her charging around in a Reliant Robin and tearing apart anyone who gets in her way. Smith brilliantly plays her more vulnerable side too when dodgy copper Underwood comes visiting or when social services suggest she has a day in a centre to get cleaned up.

The Lady in the Van is a very English movie and for that alone it will no doubt raise some eyebrows during awards season next year. Outside of that though, Hytner has done a grand job in bringing Maggie Smith’s awesome Miss Shepherd to the screen.

Si

I AM BELFAST

I AM BELFAST

Mark Cousins is a filmmaker who oddly I have read far more than I have ever seen on film. Looking at his filmography on IMDB, it quickly becomes clear that I haven’t seen a single movie of his. I even booked a ticket for and then completely missed Here Be Dragons at 2013’s LFF. on the basis of his latest, it’s an omission I should be rectifying with speed (can I borrow that The Story of Film boxset now or what?).

I am Belfast is a movie that is pretty difficult to write about so do not take the brevity of this review as any comment on the movie beyond that. A kind of visual poem (I hate myself for that inarticulate phrase), Cousins imagines Belfast as a woman (the serene Helena Bereen) and has we wander around the city as a kind of half conversational voiceover between Bereen and Cousins sketches out a history of the city. Archive footage is interspersed with footage of ‘Belfast’ walking in the city. Occasionally and at turns poignantly and hysterically we visit with residents of the city and spend time with them.

And that’s your lot really. Largely politically neutral in its view of Belfast, Cousin’s movie is a moving and engrossing and straggly intimate experience. Frequently transcending its media it is a faithful, honest and heartfelt love letter to a wonderfully flawed city, only now emerging from a history of turbulence, survived you have to think by the sheer will and warmth of its citizens. 

As the words in I am Belfast wash over you, mingling with images and the beatific soundtrack (by the fellow Belfast born David Holmes) you will find yourself floating above it all, bought back into focus for occasional bursts of dialogue or specific events. I can't finish without mentioning Rosie and Maude - two people who very probably should have a documentary entirely to themselves. Gloriously foul mouthed friends from across the years and the political divide, their dialogue slams through the patient beauty set out by Cousins but still fits in perfectly with the movie. But then, isn’t that the point?

MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE

MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE

We all love Louis Theroux. One of this country’s most prolific and respected documentary makers, he is rightly lauded for his uncanny ability to ask even the most bare-faced bigot the most reasonable of questions. Rarely flustered and disarmingly charming, who else would be suitably to take on a modern mega-church / cult (depending on how you split those two things)?

Hold the phone! I have actually read the book! I’ll give you a moment to pick yourselves up off the floor before I qualify that statement. I’ve read Lawrence Wright’s bak Going Clear - Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Somehow I haven’t managed to get around to Alex Gibney’s adaptation of that book for the screen but, and here’s the issue with this subject, it pretty much covers exactly the same ground as Theroux’s My Scientology Movie. The issue with Scientology is that there is so little public information out there and such a restriction on current church members discussing it outside their own circle that we end up with many subjects being covered to saturation.

What Theroux does manage to do is produce one of the most overtly entertaining documentaries I’ve seen in some while. The material and the characters may be over familiar (Marty Rathburn features heavily but no sign of Paul Haggis) but with Theroux’s genial spin, the whole affair still has legs.

Refused access for years and having just watched Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, Theroux decided that he would create a movie reenacting some of the material that is available out in the public domain. So we get Theroux and Rathburn auditioning young hopefuls for the roles of David Miscavage (Scientology’s rodent-like leader), Tom Cruise (Scientology’s diminutive A Lister of choice) and various other minor Scientology ‘victims’. This obviously attracts the church’s attention and very soon we’re faced with the surreal image of a camera crew turning up to film the camera crew….. Theroux is of course a past master at dealing with this kind of nonsense so we get no Mark Sweney - esque on camera breakdowns, just a very polite English guy attempting to make friends with hostile cameramen.

There is no doubting that Scientology is a subject worth making a documentary about, I’m just less than convinced that it’s as interesting as everyone makes out. Whether it’s a religion or a cult surely is only a matter of tax status (something the church litigiously guards) and the idea of people being trapped in an abusive religion only to be exiled on their departure is something that is entirely common with just about every religion on the planet. The main difference between ‘mainstream’ regions and this one seems to mostly be a matter of time.

There is interest here in the relationship between the Scientology view of progression within the church (there are a huge number of levels to ascend to depending on time and money invested) and American ideas of self progression but that’s something that none of the documentaries on the subject have approached so far. All have sought to get under the skin of the church itself and with access largely only to disgruntled ex-members, this is a very tricky area to convince.

My Scientology Movie succeeds then almost entirely based on Theroux’s perpetually watchable charm. It’s hugely entertaining and will no doubt get a large amount of hostile attention from the church but ultimately it uncovers virtually nothing new.

Si

LFF 2015 - Day 7! - Very Big Shot

Day 7 then and a slow start for this one. Did I have a hangover? The morning after going to see a ‘participatory opera’ about a pub and visiting said pub? Oh yes. Needless to say a couple of morning screenings went unwatched but I did make it out for a Lebanese caper (not often we can say that) and er… The Lobster. Which Jo already covered on our mammoth Day 6 run and a movie I’m still not overly fussed about. Just the one today then. 

VERY BIG SHOT

VERY BIG SHOT

Lebanese movies don’t cross our paths very often so as this one was in official competition, it looked like we’d be on to a winner here. And to be fair, it was actually pretty good. Set around a trio of brothers attempting to make ends meet with a combination of pizza and drugs (not necessarily at the same time), Very Big Shot picks up with a tragic event that lands the youngest sibling inside.

Innocent of the crime but light on time already served, youngest brother Jad takes the rap for eldest sibling Ziad when the latter shoots somebody in self defence. Five years’ time later and Jad is welcomed back into the family. Ziad and the middle brother whose name escapes me are running a moderately successful bakery which acts as a nice front for delivering illegal narcotics. Ziad isn’t content with the low level situation though and is soon off to see the big boss (and his hilarious, at least to this western audience, habit of offering whole cucumbers as a snack to guests) in order to secure a more advanced role in the organisation. This doesn’t quite pay off and very soon Ziad finds himself shooting dead two drug traffickers en rout to Erbil, stealing the complete stash of coke in the process..

All of which, with the probably exception of the locations, sounds like it could be any drug heist / dealing movie.Which is where director / writer Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya and co-writer / actor Alain Saadeh start to send us off in a completely different direction. Through a series of pretty plausible incidents, Ziad finds himself as a budding movie producer and eventually, politician.

The journey itself is an entertaining one but it’s the wonderfully complexity that Bou Chaaya weaves into the movie that really pays off. Simple on premise but picking up interesting points about Lebanese society, attitudes to fame, day to day life and political motives, this is far more fun than a rote Hollywood effort. The movie is beguilingly amusing throughout and Alain Saadeh is a standout lead who should be getting attention outside Lebanon for his lead potential. His Ziad is just smooth enough to make you believe he could get away with it but just rough enough around the edges for you to wonder if he actually will.

At a perfect 107 minutes, Very Big Shot is a superbly entertaining ride with a sharp, droll script, decent action pieces and some nicely rounded characters. Hollywood, take note.

Si

LFF 2015 - Day 9! King Jack / The End of The Tour / Desierto / Youth / Green Room

So far into the festival now and we can't tell one day from another. We're pretty sure this is day 9 but hell, it could have been any of them. I don't think we're fooling anyone into thinking we're updating this thing on the fly. One of us is already back at proper (paying) work and the other is in LA. Rock n Roll. Hope we haven't ruined the illusion. Either way, Day 9 saw teenage angst, middle age angst, border angst, old age sort of angst and holy christ, what just happened?! Big day.

KING JACK

KING JACK

A coming of age story with strong visuals and a great central performance from Charlie Plummer as the eponymous Jack; King Jack is a confident and accomplished first feature from writer / director Felix Thompson.

Fifteen year old Jack is surviving in a tough existence. Engaged in a war with the town’s local bully Shane, Jack insists on fighting back and the bullying is reaching new worrying heights.  Jack’s single other clearly struggles to make ends meet and his brother doesn’t really want anything to do with him and has kindly bestowed the nickname scab upon him. Looks like another crappy summer for Jack. Things take a turn when his younger cousin arrives to stay and Jack is forced into doing some growing up really fast.

King Jack isn’t particularly showing us anything new or ground-breaking but it does manage to not patronise youth with this portrayal if the hardships of being a teenage boy. This is mainly down to the subtleties and complexities with which Charlie Plummer bestows his Jack. This boy is complicated; multi layered and learns a lesson. This is hard to pull off in 81 minutes and it’s a job well done. Plummer has a touch of the young River Phoenix and Jacob Lofland about him which can only be a good thing.

The supporting cast are all great, particularly Cory Nicholas as little cousin Ben and Yanis Ynoa as Harriet. It was also commendable to see nice, normal shaped young ladies of all colours represented. 

So as we said, King Jack isn’t breaking any ground here but it’s an honest, unflinching look at what it’s like to be a teenager, it also has a brilliant soundtrack. Definitely worth a look.

Jo  

THE END OF THE TOUR

THE END OF THE TOUR

I love Jesse Eisenberg, I really do. This year I was hugely excited for American Ultra which I kept missing as the release date kept mysteriously changing, not the sign of a good film and subsequently meant in the end I just missed it. Anyway I was also excited about the End of The Tour and made it to this one and on the whole it didn’t disappoint. 

The End Of The Tour is not about a rock and roller having an almighty live it up but David Foster Wallace, author of Infinite Jest, and the last stop on the book tour in the American Midwest and David Lipicky, also an author and writer for the Rolling Stine. Lipicky was a fan of Wallace, a little in awe, and suggested it his RS editor that he should go do a piece on the last stop of his book tour. What culminated from this was an intense love/hate relationship between the men that makes for compelling, intelligent viewing, if sometimes a little slight. Writers are often mysteries, romantic figures in film, the tortured artist is a typical suggestion and one we are often happy to go along with. The End of The Tour does a good job

It’s everything you would expect from a Jesse Eissenberg movie, it’s smart, it’s intelligent, and it’s unconventional. Scripted by Pulitzer Prize winner David Margulies and directed by Sundance Vet James Pondstadt The End of The Tour is eccentric and smart. I’m not sure I entirely bought Jason Segal as Wallace but the two men make for interesting sparring partners and it’s certainly a more cerebral outing than some other films out there. 

Jo

I haven't read the book.

Si

DESIERTO

DESIERTO

We were vaguely sniffy about this one purely from a worry about a lack of meritocracy when a director’s son pops up with an A list Hollywood star headlining his debut movie. Well, far be it from us to shout about Cuaron Snr’s influence here… but…..

So Jonás Cuarón has somehow managed to cobble together Gael García Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan for his US / Mexico border set chase movie Desierto. Bernal is Moises, what can best be described as the obvious one to survive in a group of Mexican immigrants making their way illegally across the border into the good old US of A. When the truck breaks down in the middle of nothing, two of the smugglers are tasked with leading the group across the border in order to secure the transport money. One of the smugglers is less than pleased with the direction he is ordered in.

En-route, the group manage to split into two as the fitter ones forge ahead, leaving the weaker or less able to care about anything ones to straggle behind. Moises is in the latter group as he is fretting about the overweight guy and the guy who’s molesting the woman. Meanwhile, Morgan’s white power crazy is cruising around the border attempting to alert the bored border patrol that there are illegals everywhere dagmanit. Sadly the only border guy around isn’t particularly interested so Sam and his dog Tracker mooch off, see if they can’t find themselves some game.

You can pretty much guess where it goes from here. Sam and his hound gradually and pretty graphically pick off the front lying group whilst the lame group are watching and then head off after team B. Who then get picked off in particularly obvious order. Want to guess if the molesty guy survives? Nah, you won’t get any odds on him coming through this in one piece. So we get Morgan doing an admittedly good job of being unpleasant and Bernal being utterly wasted as the Good Guy.

The photography is impressive, the script almost non-existent, the characters wafer thin and the conclusion obvious but at times Cuarón manages to inject a decent amount of excitement into proceedings, I’m just not convinced it’s the nihilistic thriller that I think he was going for. It’s all as subtle as the title really, which ominously appears on the horizon at both ends of the movie.

Si

YOUTH

YOUTH

This one on the other hand we were very much looking forward to as director Paolo Sorrentino’s previous effort was one of our movies of the year for 2013. To be totally honest, the previous movie and the prospect of the final movie had sent us running for the pub so memories of this one are a little hazy but we’re entirely sure it was great and Harvey Keitel isn’t really one for a Q&A session.

Youth then tells the story of Sir Michael Caine’s retired maestro Fred Ballinger, on retreat in the Swiss alps with his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz). Having composed his ‘Simple Symphonies’ (we’re trying not to compare that title in any way to Looney Tunes) some years ago for his wife to perform, he quickly discovered that all of his other work before or since has been eclipsed by the genius of that moment. When an emissary from the Queen turns up to ask him to play at Prince Phillip’s birthday, he is forced to admit that only his wife could sing the Symphonies and therefore he must refuse.

Knocking around the retreat is old friend Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), a movie director clinging to some past glory that may or may not actually exist and Paul Dano’s Jimmy Tree, a young actor who believes his path in life and the maestro’s are treading a parallel path. Things start to go a bit awry when Lena is dumped by her boyfriend, who happens to be Mick’s son and Mick’s film begins to unravel as his travelling student writer group struggles with the script and a final surprise appearance by his star actor (great to see Jane Fonda back on our screen) sends the entire enterprise south.

I would very much like to watch this movie again sober as I suspect I may have missed out on agood number of subtleties. Having said that, although the review may suffer in the short term, I will get to rediscover the whole thing all over again which has to be a result. Not to be put off by my fuzzy memory though as I still thoroughly enjoyed this movie, despite possibly the most horrifically jarring appearance of a pop star playing a pop star and a subsequent dream sequence pop video. I can only assume that Sorrentino either owed Paloma Faith a MASSIVE favour or her appearance in the movie guaranteed some sort of funding that would otherwise have scuppered the whole enterprise.

Pop videos not withstanding though, if you’ve seen The Great Beauty, you’ll be on good ground here. Sorrentino has a wonderful eye and ear and the luscious photography of the Swiss countryside, coupled with a delightfully eccentric mix of contemporary and classically styled music add to a gently insightful script and the sort of performances you’d expect from Caine and Keitel wearily comparing how many times they’ve managed to piss that day. 

The script, also by Sorrentino, is alive with droll observations on the nature of ageing and memory and the writer / director has done a superb job of filling his characters with enough history for us to buy their fifty plus year friendship. Caine’s troubled relationship with his wife is mostly seen through his relationship with his daughter but the anguish is written across Caine’s magnificently expressive visage and when the full relationship is revealed, it’s a genuinely moving experience.

Youth lacks the gorgeous rhythm of Sorrentino’s previous movie and I’ll always pine for Toni Servillo but with a genuinely impressive cast, spot on minor characters (the wise beyond her years masseuse is a masterstroke), poignant and intelligent script, oddball moments and a suitably opulent canvas, one of my favourite directors has once again delivered a movie worth watching and, certainly if you were half-cut the first time, re-watching.

Si

GREEN ROOM

GREEN ROOM

So, if I was half-cut for the previous movie, it’s not going t take a genius to guess that I was well on the way for the final movie of Day 9. Which is kind of completely suitable and kind of a shame given that it is the latest from the lunatic genius behind Blue Ruin - one of the most surprisingly brilliant movies I’ve seen in recent years.

Green Room is writer / director Jeremy Saulnier’s third movie. I haven’t seen Murder Party but based on movies two and three and considering that he is too cool to even fill in his biography details on IMDB, I’m going to assume he’s way too young and way too cool to be this good. Which is my way of saying I hate him.

Rapidly becoming a master of modern grime / horror movies, Saulnier’s latest is a simple take about a down on their luck punk rock band (the Ain’t Rights) who accept entirely the wrong gig invitation after their previous one falls through and arrive in their Scooby Doo esque van at a new-nazi dive in the middle of sweet nothing with the promise of an actual payday. The money isn’t great but it’s a whole lot more than they were getting, all they have to do is not talk politics. Of course, opening their set with a rendition of the Dead Kennedy’s ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ doesn’t bode too well but when the reception is generally positive (that is, nobody gets killed on stage), all looks well for the band. They collect their money and then remember that guitarist Sam’s (Alia Shawkat - Maeby from Arrested Development) mobile phone is still plugged in charging in the green room…..

Needless to say, swinging back for the phone precipitates a pretty bad evening for the team. The discovery of a girl with an ice-pick rammed in her head (grimly hilariously demonstrated to be entirely dead), leads to the band being locked in the green room whilst the denizens of the bar call their leader to work out how to tempt them out in order to kill them away from building. What follows is a spiralling, horrific whirl of suspense, violence, gore and, well, general grimness

Saulnier’s ace in the hole here is that he knows exactly what his movie is and plays it to such an extent that it becomes more than the genre flick it starts out to be. The band are a wonderful bunch of individuals, trapped in a situation they have little control over and Patrick Stuart’s Nazis, with the exception of a conflicted Macon Blair (returning from Blue Ruin), are all as horrible as you’d expect them to be. The fun then lies in the suspense and the inevitable releases of the next, overtly nasty death. As stated in my half review of Evolution, I’m not good with the blood but Saulnier gets away with it somehow.

Green Room is outrageously violent, relentlessly suspenseful, grimy to the extreme and, in its own horrible way, great fun. I have a strong suspicion that my next viewing of this will be through half closed eyes…. 

Si

LFF 2015 - Mitzie Day! Dheepan / The Pearl Button

We're frankly so astounded that our new intern managed to produce any copy whatsoever from his days at the festival, we thought we'd give him his own day. So here we present, fresh from the slums of Rio, BS's latest recruit and the two movies he managed to watch out of 240. 

DHEEPAN

DHEEPAN

Jacques Audiard confirms he is the voice of the underdog with his latest psychological thriller, Dheepan.

The film centres on Dheepan, a Tamil freedom fighter, who travels to France with two strangers pretending to be a family so as to secure asylum more easily. Upon arriving in France, however, a war of sorts takes shape as the harsh reality of the French banlieue affect all three characters in different ways.

Audiard is a master of telling stories of those in the fringes of society. Here we are, listening to the story of a man from the Indian subcontinent whose first job in the new country is to sell undesirable bric-a-brac to tourists in Paris. We’ve all seen him, and we’ve all probably brushed him off without a second though as to what life he may lead. Audiard, on the other hand, not only does not brush him aside, he follows him intently through a journey of re-birth and reconciliation, of people whose destructive environment has the power to dictate entire life trajectories, and who ultimately just want a better life for themselves and those around them. 

The acting, as ever, is spot on. Dheepan’s faux wife Yalini is played with a resilient iciness that crumbles ever so slightly at the sight of the hood’s bad boy and her employer, Brahim. Illayaal, the child they pick at the refugee camp as their supposed daughter, gives a nuanced and mature performance that betrays her young age.

The dynamics between the three, as well as of each of them and their wider community, is played out with subtlety and tact, again something the director has mastered in his past work. Audiard’s films are all about the non-dits, and the immeasurable pain resides deep within, out of reach – and it’s all the more effective for it. 

In a time when refugees are reviled in the media, shrunk to non-persons and statistics, Dheepan is not only a great movie, but also a vital one for the understanding of humanity as we know today. Nor is it a treaty on free immigration: Dheepan’s shady past is slowly drawn out as chaos takes over the state-within-the-state of the banlieue, causing bloody havoc in its wake. It is, however, a daring insight where not many venture, lending voice, body and soul to a forgotten slice of European society.

Through two hours of film, Audiard has you caring for characters that often act selfishly, whose seeming goodness hide a much darker past, whose desperate actions may well seem cruel to outsiders. He forces you to sit there and understand that not all realities are the same, that environment and circumstance can define a person’s actions to the point of brutality. The movie does all that with tact, lending love to a tale that could so easily end in despair. Throughout the film, you feel the characters are trying as hard as they can to clutch to some idea of sanity, to move on after all the trauma. The director closes with a beautiful message, whereby salvation shall only come when barriers are broken and the solitude of yesterday can become the common denominator propelling all characters to move on to better things.

Mitzie

THE PEARL BUTTON

THE PEARL BUTTON

With The Pearl Button, Chilean master documentary maker Patricio Guzman delivers yet another study of his homeland’s recent history, although the results are never as effective as with some of his previous work. 

Guzman once more delves into dictatorship territory, in a format that suffers somewhat from the author’s humdrum narration (after hearing Pablo Neruda recite one of his poems to death, we may conclude monotonous monologues are a Chilean speciality). In his previous Nostalgia For the Light, Guzman raised complex and riveting parallels between the desert, the cosmos, and Pinochet’s “disappeared,” as the thousands of people who mysteriously vanished over the dictator’s sixteen-year reign are known as. This time, the director chooses to run parallels between water – Chile’s greatest neighbour – and the country’s history, running the gamut from colonisation to dictatorship.

Herein lies the problem: Guzman tries to engulf too many ideas into the one film, and the end result is nothing short of confusing. As he traces the tragic destiny of Chile’s southern tribes on the hands of succeeding governments and its sponsorship of cruel colonialists, the director manages to enrapture the audience with the plight of a forgotten people. However, he feels the need to return to his usual theme – that of the Chilean dictatorship – drawing grander parallels that feel like marijuana-induced meandering. It’s all too big, too abstract, to be put into context.

Guzman has already delivered a number of pivotal films around the topics of Pinochet and Allende, and maybe it’s time for the director to look elsewhere for inspiration. As urgently important as Battle of Chile or Nostalgia For the Light were, it seems like the director is purely repeating himself, looking for different analogies to repeat the same story. I was much more interested in hearing about the indigenous’ people stories, something which the director picked up and left aside, as an afterthought.

As painful as the memory of the Pinochet era is for all of those involved, Chile is a complex and vast land, with many other stories to be told. Maybe it is time for the director to let go of his obsession with a specific time when many died, and look around to those who still populate this most fascinating nation. 

Mitzie

LFF 2015 - Day 5! Evolution / The Witch / Black Mass

The first Sunday of the festival rocks around and we drag ourselves back to base at the Picturehouse Central for some spooky shenanigans. Also, the Black Mass premiere where a slow motion Johnny Depp wows the crowd with his utter slow motion-ness. Must have had a tiring flight we think. Anyways.....

EVOLUTION

EVOLUTION

I’m not a big fan of excesses of blood on the screen. I’m sure there’s some significant psychological thing going on but I just can't be doing with it. This is especially true of anything that resembles a medical procedure. Notbig fan of needles either. But as one of the main joys of the LFF is seeing films with little or no prior information, every now and again the above issue makes screenings something of a gamble. I was a little weary or Evolution form the synopsis but by the thirty minute mark, I was done. To be fair, the movie wasn’t excessively gory as such, it was more the pervading atmosphere that did me in. It was also Sunday lunchtime which I don’t think is necessarily the best time to be watching something like this.

So this is based on the part of the movie I actually managed to watch before stumbling out into the bar - an altogether safer Sunday afternoon destination. We pick up with a young by swimming in a beautifully photographed sea of indeterminate location. He discovers another boy’s body wedged amongst the coral and flees the water in a panic. Back at his curiously sparse white home, his mother dismisses what he saw, gives him his weird gloopy tea, some drops of deeply suspicious medicine and puts him to bed. Later that night, all the women of the town troop out of their identical houses and down to the beach where the mother retrieves the dead body.

And so it goes, the kids go swimming the mothers all sit around and bathe… and then you notice that all the kids are boys and all the adults are women… As you’re starting to get your head around this, the boy who discovered the body starts a fight with the local bullies before brutalising a starfish with a rock. Soon after, his mother carts him off to the local infirmary where iodine is painted on his stomach and a GIANT needle is produced. I’m wobbling at this point. A few minutes later a group of nurses are sat watching a very pregnant woman draped in surgical sheets….. And I’m out. Apologies if you were either of the journalists I stumbled past on the way out.

Evolution then is an odd movie, or the first thirty minutes are and one that I’d bet good money makes itself no clearer by the end. It is beautifully shot and the strange world the people inhabit is meticulous constructed… just not one for me and not one for Sunday lunchtime. Never let it be said that we aren’t professionals here at BS. When the going gets weird, we hit the bar.

Si

THE WITCH

THE WITCH

After the experience of Evolution, I thought I would re-jig my calendar and take in a nice relaxing movie. That didn’t quite work out though so instead I headed off for Robert Eggers’ debut feature The Witch. I’ve just glanced at Eggers’ profile on IMDB - his next project is listed as Untitled Nosferatu Remake. Given this movie, I can see how that might come about but for crying out loud Robert, stay away from the Nosferatu. No good can come of that.

Similarly, no good an come of being kicked out of your New England plantation for non-specific god based issues and thrown into the wilderness with your young family. This being the 1600’s, it’s not looking too friendly out there, even without the intervention of anything remotely supernatural. Which is the key to why Eggers’ movie works so well. It is billed as a horror, but in a way, that probably does the movie a disservice. The wilds of New England are horrific enough in the situation described and Eggers does really well to concentrate on the family and their relationships. The titular Witch is barely glimpsed and doesn’t need to be, the family’s gradual destruction is compelling in itself.

Central to the family are father William (Ralph Ineson) and eldest daughter Tomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy). When the youngest member of the family disappears in particularly abrupt circumstances whilst in Tomasin’s care, the family initially face it stoically, relying on their faith to pull them through the dark times. As things start to escalate though, suspicions (stoked by the family’s mischievous twins) turn inwards and the family falls apart in line with the gradual destruction of its crops and livestock. The central performances are both impressive, Ineson, in what I think must be his first attempt at carrying a movie is great as the gruff, pious father. Ineson and the script both manage to steer around the usual witch hunt style personality that could easily have ben inflicted on the father figure and his eventual accusation against his daughter is all the more powerful for it. Taylor-Joy is likewise impressive in what is her first major role. Nailing the accent (decent for a Miami resident) and the right line between Thomasin’s youthful innocence and the strength required to support the family in the time period.

Eggers paints his New England doused in greys and browns and creates a horrifically hostile environment to layer on the pains of the family. My only reservation in my recommendation for this one is the final ten minutes. There is a point (no spoilers) where one character sits dejectedly at a table and lays their head on the kitchen table in utter lost desperation. Had Eggers cut to credits there, I’d have been happy. Sadly he continues into an utterly unnecessary prologue that I won’t describe for fear of ruining it for you. You’ll know when you get there. But up to then, as a dark, brooding shocker filled with believable characters and motivations, The Witch scores well.

Si

POST FESTIVAL NOTE: Okay, I re-checked my facts, Taylor-Joy was bought up in the UK so the accent wasn't a stretch. Doesn't matter, she was still magnificent.

BLACK MASS

BLACK MASS

Jo has already covered Black Mass in some detail so I won’t go into too much here as I’m pretty lazy and about ten reviews behind on a deadline that doesn’t exist. Suffice to say that despite the absolutely stellar cast on hand here, Scott Cooper’s South Boston tale of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger is a solid but not particularly spectacular entry into a genre that is stacked with great movies.

Johnny Depp has fun but is otherwise borderline distracting in the title role, Benedict Cumberbatch is mostly sidelined as Bulger’s senator brother, Kevin Bacon barely registers on screen as the FBI boss and it’s only really Joel Edgerton who stands out as the brilliantly morally distracted agent John Connolly - an old boy from the hood now getting into bed with Bulger in an attempt to score points at the bureau. Oh, and the girls are around there somewhere but hey, man stuff.

Overall then, not especially worth your time unless you really want to spend two hours starring at Depp’s impressive contact lenses and wondering just how many times you can watch a tale of brothers from the Baawston hood doing bad shit and getting away with it for an astonishing length of time. You know what, go watch Precinct Seven Five instead. That is far more thrilling and it’s a documentary….

Si

LFF 2015 - Day 4! Room / Aferim! / Ghost Theatre

YIKES!

YIKES!

Day 4 then and a very mixed bag that took in another genuinely impressive turn from Brie Larson (plus, stars named after cheese - top marks from us), a Romanian Western (not too many of those about) and a frankly godawful return from the once lauded director of Ringu. Oh, and the door shown in the picture here. We were too scared to look inside to see just what Education Hackney Picturehouse was offering but, well, surely it's not just us that finds that door a little intimidating? 

Si

 

ROOM

ROOM

Anyone want to guess the opening to this review? Yawn, yeah,right first time, I have not read the book. It would appear that I am borderline illiterate as once again, everyone I have mentioned this movie to has already read the book. Hey ho. There are minor spoilers ahead (according to people who have read the book) so if you haven’t read it and want to go in blind, stop reading now.

Adapted by Emma Donoghue from her book of the same name, Room picks up without any background with Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his Ma (Brie Larson) living in the room of the title. The reason for their incarceration gradually becomes clear but is not explained until about the midpoint of the movie, though by this point I would be surprised if you hadn’t worked it out. In order to keep Jack as normal as possible giving their living conditions, Ma has constructed a very specific world for Jack to inhabit, including everything outside Room being ‘television’. This can’t last of course and after his fifth birthday and a encounter with her captor, Old Nick, Ma decides that it is time for Jack to break them out…

Frank director Lenny Abrahamson has a substantial challenge on his hands with this adaptation. Conveying the claustrophobia of Room is one thing but realistically depicting the time spent between mother and son in such an atmosphere is difficult. So the time spent within Room is shot through necessary closeups that do help to convey this to a point. I never quite felt the level of claustrophobia that the space warranted though. Having said that, the space is really only a small part of this movie, it’s the relationship between Ma and Jack that carries the most weight and Abrahamson has cast incredibly well. Larson was already a star in the making from her astonishing turn in Short Term 12 and here she builds on that. Her Ma is fallible, desperate and lost but has an amazing strength when it comes to her son. Tremblay, in only his second major role is superb. Asked to carry large parts of the movie (as well as providing some wonderfully insightful narration),  he is well up to the task and keeps up with Larson well. It’s comparatively rare that a child actor gets so much screen time and he doesn’t waste any of it.

For a movie titled Room, I found the most interesting aspects of it once the pair escape. Movies are famous for concentrating on victims and perpetrators during events, they rarely stick around to deal with the aftermath. At least half of this movie’s running time deals with the effects on Jack and Ma once they have their freedom, or at least once they’ve exchanged their incarceration in Room to hiding in Ma’s mother’s house away from the baying media. It’s notable that the villain of the piece gets barely any screen time and his fate is only dealt with through news clips. Ma’s disintegration once she is released into the world (having been only a teenager when she was taken) is soul-destroyingly compelling as she is forced to draw strength from a son she has only every poured strength into. Highly recommended.

Si

AFERIM!

AFERIM!

I can’t quite be sure how many Romanian movies I’ve watched but I suspect it’s a pretty low number. The number of Romanian western’s I’ve seen, well, you can probably guess just how many that it. So it was with some trepidation that I embraced Claire Stewart’s enthusiastic recommendation for this one…

Set in 19th century Wallachia, Aferim! (bravo! in English) follows a constable Costandin (Teodor Corban) and his son and sometime assistant Ionita (Mihai Comanoiu) as they traverse the wilds of the countryside in search of a runaway slave. Along the way they meet a variety of colourful locals, including a priest who delivers a spectacularly racist diatribe and various ‘Crows’ - as the local gypsy population is derogatorily referred to.

Filmed in a deep, grainy black and white texture, director Radu Jude weaves a variety of tales pulled from historical documents together and lays them on a bleakly beautiful Romanian landscape. His protagonists are at times comedically shambolic but as time wears on and we witness how they deal with the locals the humour of their actions drains and we’re left with two officers of the law who seem powerless or disinterested at least in doing the right thing. A gypsy boy they collect en-route is sold off to the highest bidder at a market and the slave they retrieve is dragged back to his savage master for a wholly unpleasant punishment. 

Beautiful in its own way, occasionally funny and brutal as the times would demand, Aferim! is an interesting view of a time and a part of the world that we don’t often get to see.

Si

GHOST THEATRE

GHOST THEATRE

Remember back in the day when Hideo Nakata unleashed the VHS nightmare on us that was Ringu? Remember how bang on terrifying that was? Just about, right? Well, since Dark Water in 2002 (a movie I never quite got on with), Nakata hasn’t exactly set the fright world alight, at least not that the Western part of it has noticed. Well, he’s back at this year’s LFF and…. well, I really can’t tell if he’s taking the piss or not. To be honest, I really hope he is.

Ghost Theatre tells the story of a young actress used to picking up roles as either dead bodies or soon to be dead bodies. When she auditions for a role with the hottest star in Japan, she is grateful for picking up a minor part (Peasant no. 3 or something I think). Things don’t quite go to plan though when ghostly shenanigans in the form of a decapitated mannequin see the star in hospital, meaning that Sara must step up to the main role….

The movie is prefaced by a sequence in which a hysterical man takes a meat cleaver to the above mentioned mannequin and I was almost convinced for large parts that the majority of it was deliberately put together to give us a heightened feeling of artificiality (you know, actors, mannequins etc), so it could slam us later on with a gigantic revelation that would chill our spinCones. No, not even close. In his synopsis for the LFF program, the BFI’s Michael Blyt19th century h states that this movie has a more tongue in cheek tone than Nakata’s previous work and also that it has the power to chill with haunting set pieces. Well, the tongue in cheek part is certainly true. This movie has its tongue so firmly in its cheek that its positively licking its own ear. Sadly though, it retains absolutely no capacity to chill and the set pieces, such as they are hysterically over the top and surely deliberately false.

I say deliberately false because for a film maker who is so talented this can only be the case, otherwise I really can’t think what Nakata is aiming for here. There are several moments in the opening act of the movie where he has every opportunity to head off in a genuinely creepy New Nightmare sort of direction but these are all shrugged off in favour of presumably anticipated scares from taking all of this nonsense on face value. The dolls movements are comedically bad, akin to something that Ray Harryhausen might have constructing in the fifties. If he’d been really drunk and in a mad rush. And its method of slaughter utterly bizarre. In the end though none of that makes any difference because Ghost Theatre insists on going entirely with the Theatre and not even slightly with the Ghost. Hysterical acting, a bland villain and absolutely no atmosphere of dread leave this one with very little to recommend it. And for crying out loud, don’t keep your petrol can next to your wood burner, that is obviously going to end badly.

Si

LFF 2015 - Day 3! The Program / High-Rise

Day three then and at least this one didn't begin with a hangover. I'm lying but at least it was less of a hangover than day two. On the menu today, world famous cheater Lance Armstrong and some particularly strange shenanigans in a brutalist block of flats. Oh and newly crowned BFI Ambassador Tom Hiddleston on the red carpet of course... 

THE PROGRAM

THE PROGRAM

Lance Armstrong has been a fascinating character for a couple of decades now and for very contrasting reasons during that time. Alex Gibney’s recentish documentary was serendipitous in its timing, spanning as it did both the extreme hight and extreme depth of the cyclist’s career. That movie as as fascinating as it was frustrating in that although Gibney had unprecedented access to Armstrong, you never actually felt that you got close to the man himself.

Stephen Frears and John Hodge have adapted cycling journalist David Walsh’s book of his pursuit of the Armstrong truth (Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong) for this based on a true story version. It treads very familiar ground - there are no revelations that will knock you off your seat here - but, thanks mainly to a truly impressive turn by Ben Foster, does at least hold your interest for its relatively zippy 103 or so minutes.

Frears uses some suitably large cinematography along the way and weaves in the various characters that were instrumental in Armstrong’s rise and fall. Or at least the ones that came through from Walsh’s presumably sport-centric book. I say presumably because I obviously haven’t read the book but as there is very little of Armstrong in the movie that isn’t related to his sport of his charity, I doubt I’m far out. Armstrong’s wife and family for example feature for all of about ninety seconds of screen time although they surely played a significant part in his career. Likewise we don’t get any particular attempts to get into Armstrong’s early years or anything that might have led him to believe that winning was the absolute beginning and end. This in itself isn’t necessarily an issue with this movie, more that we’ve seen all this before so it would be nice for a slightly different perspective.

Of the other players beyond Foster’s superb imagining of Armstrong, Chris O’Dowd is suitably harried as David Walsh but you don't really get a great sense of his complete isolation within the sport and the journalist community. Guillaume Canet is almost hilariously over the top as the mercurial doctor Michele Ferrari but it’s probably Jesse Plemons who stands out alongside Foster as the conflicted Floyd Landis, at once a part of Armstrong’s great lie but also a latecomer from a deeply religious background who didn’t quite fit in and who would ultimately precipitate the great downfall.

The Program is a solid movie in its own right with some impressive photography and use of archive footage (or at least footage that has been made to look archive - I’m unsure which) and standout performances from an utterly committed Foster and from a super Plemons. Shame there isn’t anything new to hold our interest.

Si

HIGH-RISE

HIGH-RISE

I’ll get two things out of the way from the outset on this one. One, if you’re really interested in Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of JG Ballard’s novel, you should read as little as possible about it beforehand and Two, I obviously have not read the novel on which this is based, though apparently everybody else has.

So, that being the case, High-Rise is a very difficult movie to summarise but the long and the short of it is that Tom Hiddleston’s Dr. Robert Laing moves into his new apartment after the death of his sister. The apartment is part of a huge brutalist construction built by Jeremy Irons’ architect Anthony Royal and houses a range of people from the lower (in both senses) floors up to the overhanging penthouses that dominate the top of the building. Over the course of the first three years of the building opening, all hell breaks loose and the entire edifice comes crumbling down around the ears of both rich and poor.

And it’s a spectacularly messy fall. I was a huge fan of Wheatley’s Sightseers but to be honest, didn’t really fancy his subsequent efforts. Suffice to say though if you got on with the kind of everyday deadpan brutality of that movie, you’ll be on solid ground here. Well, thoroughly fetid ground but at least you’ll know where you stand. Decadence and creeping horror seep out of every horrible concrete pore of this movie. From the moment we glimpse the savagely angular lines of Laing’s apartment (little context is given within the space - there is a balcony that seems to allow little light, a kitchenette but no real rooms as such), we are sucked into a vicious world where a man can escape being thrown off the roof only because he owes the architect a game of squash.

Sienna Miller is great as Laing’s direct neighbour one floor up, a predatory mother with a son of deeply dubious provenance who slinks around the inhabitants of the upper-lower floors. Likewise Luke Evans, resplendent in some awful 70’s facial hair and responsible for the majority of the rabble rousing against the power hungry (in a literal sense) elite above him, as well as ‘raping people he shouldn’t’. And Jeremy Irons is, well, Jeremy Irons. Absolutely perfect as the mysterious ‘genius’ responsible for the complex that so accurately comes to represent the horrific nature of its inhabitants.

Wheatley has constructed a wonderful monster in High-Rise and just watching it breathe in and out, spewing rot is a sight to behold. One particularly brutal set-piece in the monolith’s shopping centre is a superb piece of work that brings together the carnage perfectly. And then there is the soundtrack. Never have you witnessed Abba so utterly, brilliantly abused. Portishead’s cover of SOS is magnificent and perfectly reflects the building escalation of the horror within the walls of the building. Taken as its parts, this movie will make you uncomfortable and probably pretty baffled. As a whole though, it’s a vile, spewing, mutated look on the underbelly of civilisation hiding in very plain concrete clad sight.

Si