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Film

BFI London Film Festival 2014 – Day One

What fresh madness is this? My alarm screeching me awake from some pleasant, engulfing dream, sent shrieking back into the pallid consciousness of a thoroughly miserable and overcast London morning. I swear, if I ever get my hands on whatever genius programmed these Press Screenings for 9:00am I’ll give them a damn good thrashing, of a verbal persuasion anyway. So somehow I managed to rise from my crypt and shouldered my way through rush-hour to get over to the Odeon Leicester Square, to kick-start the official beginning  of the London Film Festival with a preview of the Gala Opening Screening – The Imitation Game;

I’ll admit it, this trailer left me a little meh as I’m definitely not one of the ‘Cumberbitches’ as I heard a fellow critic remark, but I’ll concur that this film was a lot stronger than anticipated, heck it even got a light round of applause which is quite rare for us jaded and cynical wordhounds. It was quite the melancholy experience to wonder over to the Corinthia Hotel for the press conference after the screening, winding past Trafalgar Square and peeking down the main rivulet of Her Majesty’s Government, when considering that if it wasn’t for the breakthroughs of the abominably persecuted and discarded Turing then that might have been Himmler’s Square and swastikas might still be festooned down Whitehall.

I can see the numerous BAFTA nominations from here, you don’t have to be any breed of movie savant to predict that the film is going to hoover up all the prestige awards next February, and maybe give the Oscars a few runs for it’s money. So here’s the red carpet nonsense, if you are so inclined – more international flavoured material tomorrow;


Nightcrawler (2014) Trailer

Bloody disgusting, slithering press eh? Can’t trust ‘em, can’t shoot ‘em more’s the pity. Here’s the trailer for another dive into the squalid world of the media which might serve as a unintentional companion piece to Gone Girl, this has been getting some serious kudos from the US festival circuit and gets a European release in a few weeks;

Speaking of the press of course the London Film Festival opened today and already your mild mannered correspondent has been out and about, I think I will have to play this on a rolling 24hr cycle so I’ll begin my coverage in earnest tomorrow with today’s activities – that gives me a chance to source supplementary material and keep on top of the reviews which are dropping over here.. I’ll just say this though, we’re off to a solid start as all three films I’ve caught this week, including this evenings Gala opening The Imitation Game which I saw at the absurd hour of 9:00am this morning have been stronger than anticipated…..


It Is Happening Again…..

Fuck me gently with a chainsaw as Heather would say, yes I saw the rumors and the enigmatic tweets from Frost and Lynch over the weekend, yes it did play on my mind that something genuine might be afoot, but apparently after twenty five years – and never let us remember we have been instructed – it appears that we’re finally popping out for coffee again. This will take some time to percolate as quite frankly not every revisit / reboot / remake / over the history of communication entertainment has always been great, but the news that Lynch is directing all of the episodes and Frost is writing them, well, since Dave scuppered hope of any new film on the remote horizon a few months ago we can take this as some sort of consolation prize. Here, as I’m sure you are all fascinated to see is a deleted peek from the Fire Walk With Me Blu-Ray;

I wonder if they were waiting to see how much of a cultural and financial splash the Blu-Ray set made before making the final plunge? I dunno, I’m sure it will be fun but ever since the original mystery was solved the show went south almost immediately (as Lynch walked away to make Wild At Heart) but if they can come up with some new way to get us into the Lodge and find out ‘Where’s Anne?’……..oh, and apologies for the obvious post title which everyone else will use but hey, my mind is spinning…..


London Film Festival 2014, Prelude 2

I just wanted to poke my nose in here whilst we have a quiet moment before Wednesday’s official launch, suffice to say I have some catching up to do after only managing one paltry LFF official screening this week. Hey, c’mon, one has to have some priorities, I did manage to bound through a handful of screeners, and even though I was looking forward to seeing this black & white Russian post renaissance SF epic I had an interview for a lucrative contract over in Kings Cross which had to take precedence;

Looks like Tarkovsky mated with Bela Tarr through the viewfinder of Terry Gilliam which is quite a combination, I’m hoping for a screener soon. I did manage to see Tokyo Tribes (from which I’m still recovering) and my review along with a half-dozen or so others should be dropping in the next day or two, I’ll keep you posted. It’s also jolly exciting to see the press conference schedule do the rounds which should factor into next weeks activities,  with quite a roster of international and local talent on display. So this looks like fun, you can’t beat a blast of South Korean neo-noir, right?;

I’ve also managed to factor in what I think we can term a ‘technical appraisal’ second viewing of Gone Girl over the weekend, having conducted a fair amount of reading around the film’s initial reaction we must now await the inevitable onslaught of ‘What does Gone Girl tell us about contemporary marriage? and ‘Why has Gone Girl been embraced by the Men’s Rights Movement?’ ill-informed opinion pieces. Second time around and further details of the precision engineered construction come to the fore, and I’ll just say this –  making a film with a horrible, horrific character of one particular gender does not equate to damning and compartmentalising that entire gender, and you can’t make movies with some tough ideas and controversial  events without total fucking idiot groups like Men’s Right Advocates adopting and co-opting them for their own political expedience. Pandering and self censoring yourself in order to placate such stupidity and ignorance  leads to the path of madness. Speaking of madness;

There’s a wet-nosed treat that I’m sniffed out through deeper research of the LFF schedule, looks barking mad and as the winner of the Un Certain Regard strain of Cannes I’ll be talking this out for a – Jesus Christ, enough with the canine metaphors already. I mean, throw me a bone here people. We also have a distinctly eerie looking Lovecraftian Italian mood-piece lumbering through the darkness toward us and a post civil war Spanish historical psychological horror to infect before the festival officially begins (Boy, I hope this is better than the Spanish found footage film I’ve already caught which was terrible), so as usual no rest for the wicked;


And the other way is wrong…..

Forgive me for continuing the fan-boy fetishation but this is currently doing the rounds and it is fantastic, a technical appraisal of Fincher’s directorial style and creative process;

Well, as we’re here I suppose you should also take a look at this;

And a detailed, precision tribute to close. Now I’m off to see Sion Sono’s latest burst of insanity before a gig over in Islington somewhere, keep it safe people;

The Films of David Fincher from Daniel Silva on Vimeo.


Gone Girl (2014)

gg1A rare treat gentle readers, a delicious chance to settle down and get my teeth into a new film from one of my favourite filmmakers – David Fincher’s Gone Girl. First things first in the form of a penitent confession but I love being proved wrong – completely wrong. When the trailer for Fincher’s second foray into popular mystery literature after The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo I naively voiced the opinion that Dave might be treading water, that he wasn’t stretching himself thematically or technically, that after his foray into Scandinavian noir he might be pandering to popular culture with another screen translations of an immensely popular book which must have circulated through the agents inboxes of the highest Hollywood echelons. Well, like the arrogant elitist buffoon I am that notion has been eviscerated with this severe and scything motion picture, a thoroughly gripping and savagely satirical piece of work which tears strips from a number of targets – tabloid 24hr cycle sensationalist media, the holy institution of marriage, the rather naïve notion of everlasting and infinite love. Other than a couple of viewing of the trailer I went into this colder than a waterlogged corpse, knowing nothing of the book or its sarcastic dimensions, I can’t comment therefore on how much of this is present in the source text but the film has urged me to give the book a go, and that’s always the mark of a great film. In that spirit yes I will be studious avoiding spoilers which is going  to make really digging in this films guts impossible to achieve, although I’d say that the so-called ‘twist’ isn’t really a twist as it occurs a mere hour into the picture, that plot trajectory really much more of a left turn manoeuvre into territory where the film firmly locks down its misanthropic jaws and sucks you into a deeply troubling vortex.

gg2The screenplay is scribed by Gillian Flynn, adapted from her phenomenally successful 2012 novel, an autopsy of a formerly loving, almost perfect marriage in the final throes of disintegration. Redundant writer Nick Flynn (Ben Affleck) returns home on the day of his 5th wedding anniversary to discover a disquieting scene – an ajar front door, a smashed coffee table, and a light daubing of copper liquid streaks in the kitchen area.   Deftly dancing from flashbacks of the initial flushes of love with the ethereally beautiful Amy (Rosamund Pike in a breakthrough performance) and the embryonic consequences of his wife’s disappearance the public image of the perfect couple is slowly eroded, as incriminating elements are unearthed by chief investigating officer Dvt. Boney (the consistently brilliant Amy Dickins). The national media descend on their quiet Missouri town as Nick suffers a slow evolution of public sympathy to spiteful suspicion, as his extracurricular activities and suspicious circumstances are brought to light – serious financial woes, possible infidelities and a brooding resentment at having to move from New York to suburban Missouri to care for Nick’s cancer stricken mother. I think I’ll draw a discreet veil over the plot here as that’s just the establishment of a deliciously nasty neo-noir narrative, with cloaked secrets and clandestine couplings obscuring a procedural pricking of modern life.

gg3As we all know this quiet corner of the internet is also the domain of the local president of the David Fincher appreciation society, and although the film is still percolating I’m fairly sure of one thing – this is one of the best films of the year. It’s a masterful exercise in anxiety and unease which would make Hitchcock proud, a struggle of the sexes and thwarted ambitions for the 21st century. They say directing is 90% casting and down the line this film is stuffed with brilliantly played and thoroughly authentic characters, from Tyler Perry’s amusing barracuda entertainment lawyer, from Nick’s supportive  twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) and my personal favourite the always acerbic Amy Dickins whom you might recognise as poor exhausted Joanie from Deadwood and more recently the spirited  Janette from Treme. Affleck is that slightly charming, yet slightly squirm inducing alpha male next door whom remains eminently punchable, the film brilliantly manipulating our sympathy and suspicion of his motives and incriminating behaviours.   But one thing is for sure, Rosamund Pike is going to be a fucking massive star after this movie hits with a North American audience who might only recognise her in passing as that broad who was in one of those dumb Titans movies, again avoiding spoilers I can’t delve into any specifics so I’ll just leave it to Fincher who stated that he cast her from a long list of A level actresses as (permit me to paraphrase) ‘she a mystery, an enigma on-screen, a cryptic presence whom you can’t be sure if she’s twenty-two or forty-two years of age’.

gg5To say the sexual and gender politics of this film are challenging and complex is the understatement of the century, as I’m guessing that left-wing feminists and right-wing puritans will loathe the representation of men and women in Gone Girl with equal ferocity. This is crucially an adult film made for an adult audience with no glib positions on power dynamics or the intrinsic social pressures to confirm and succeed, possibly the worst date movie or recent vintage since the Antichrist or Blue Valentine nuptials were consummated.  Obvious barbs are also hurled at celebrity sensationalism, of trial by media jury, with a brooding undercurrent of economic malaise foisting a further level of disquieting ennui. That said it’s also very, very funny not just judging by my personally rather dark sense of humour (the audience I saw this were equally receptive), until Fincher pulverizes you with one scene that summons frantic shrieks and groans, reminding us that this film was made by the same sick fuck that foisted Se7en upon an unsuspecting congregation. This third collaboration with soundsmiths Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross yields another fantastically seething yet unobtrusive score, perfectly complementing the slithering plot, an ideal aural background for writing this review as it happens. An obsidian black satire on marriage, of the impossibility of ever really knowing what makes your other half tick, Gone Girl is an apprehensive film for an anxious era;


Interstellar (2014) Final Trailer…..

Whilst I feel a little exasperated at even writing the phrase ‘final trailer’ – so this is where we’ve come to with modern movie marketing is it? – I’ll let the general excitement overwhelm my antipathy;

Industry wise its kinda controversial he’s releasing it in IMAX only for a few days before it launches in regular theatres, and Netflix or whatever your copies of The Right Stuff now while you can. With the new Fincher released tomorrow the final quarter of the year is turning out quite nicely isn’t it? I think I’ll etc…….


Inherent Vice (2015) Trailer

After the long wait it’s finally here, the first filmed adaptation of Thomas Pymchon, like, ever;

It screens at the New York Film Festival on Saturday, suffice to say expectations are stratospheric. Looking good, that trailer made me laugh three times which is more than most comedies manage in 100 minutes…..


Maps To The Stars (2014)

maps1‘Burn Hollywood Burn’ is the mantra of David Cronenberg’s new film, a corrosive glance at the denizens and degradations of the beautifully adored and venomously vacuous. Working from a script from renowned Los Angeles wordsmith Bruce Wagner Maps To The Stars plants another seed of satirical savagery in the mould of Altman’s The Player, the Coen’s Barton Fink, Vincette Minelli’s The Bad & The Beautiful or the more recent Tropic Thunder, biting that hands that feeds with a filmmaker reveling in the tortured tribulations of Tinseltown. What sets this film apart from its predecessors is Cronenberg’s gleeful unpeeling of the rotting core at the heart of the film business, pitching the entire gamut of mythmakers as poisonous narcissists, with every layer – agents, actors, directors, executives, producers – all squatting in some Dantesque sun bleached Gehenna, willing to sell their very soul to prosper in the city of fallen angels.  When it comes to DNA strands of Hollywood shining a dark mirror into its own festering conscience Maps To The Stars is lensed in the tragic and tyrannical mould of Mullholland Drive, rather than the flippant mocking of Sullivan’s Travels.

maps2The film follows a half dozen characters as their careers and lives intertwine in a nest of serpentine egoism. New starry eyed arrival Agatha (Mia Wasikowski, effortlessly isolated) arrives in LA, afflicted with mysterious burn scars she begins a remote romance with chauffeur cum aspiring actor and screenwriter Jerome (Robert Pattinson). Jerome strategically takes a real shine to her once she lands a job as personal assistant to Havana Segrand (a frantic Julianne Moore, ironically likely to get an Oscar nomination next February), a highly strung fading star who desperately needs a starring role to resurrect her faltering career. Her masseuse / psychiatrist / Jungian primal screen therapist is the slithering Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), a shuddering salesman whose hollow metaphysical platitudes are as desolate as the minimalist décor of his Beverley Hills mansion. His wife Christina (Olivia Williams) closely manages the career of their brat-child star Benjie  (Evan Bird) who is wrestling with a rehab stint and being raised as a thoroughly hateful brat, nervously assuring the studio that he’s clean as he signs up for the latest instalment of the family friendly franchise Bad Babysitter. All are haunted by ghosts of the past, some of which are less incorporeal than their distressed mental states seem to suggest, promising a biblical reckoning in the modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah.

maps3What a bunch of absolute charmers, as sour as a widowed lemon grove it doesn’t get more acidic than this, as Cronenberg turns the bile up to choking proportions in this scabrous, ruthless vision of the contemporary film industry in moral disarray. There is not one human trait which could charitably be described as  unmotivated in Maps To The Stars, as the venal, self obsessed dwellers discard or exploit their brood with callous indifference, a cycle of abuse which has spun for numerous nepotistic generations. Like much of Cronenbergs pate period work this is another frigid film, a coolly measured dissection of the entertainment world’s body politic, neatly dissembled in his sterile dissection dish. Whilst it is clearly a comedy with a pitch black heart it is not exactly the sort of laugh-riot which prompts rolling in the aisles, offering more grimacing grunts of approval at the observations and activities of these loathsome individuals (seriously, the Bieber alike and all his peers could die in a particularly prolonged fire and the rest of humanity would rejoice in this cleansing annihilation of their gene pool) before in the final act the moral abyss which has only been grazed through Wagner’s supernatural leaning script plunges deep into squalid violence and taboo bruising sexuality.

maps4Cronenberg has built an impressive cult of long devoted accomplices over his four decade career, working with his wife Denise on costume duties, Howard Shore 0n muted musical arrangements (well, muted in comparison to his more mainstream franchise gigs), production designer Carol Spier, longtime editor Ronald Sanders (who has cut every one of his film since Scanners in 1981)  and digitally attuned cinematographer Peter Suschitzky. There’s a distinctive, flattened dynamic range to his films which like a Fincher composition can be spotted at a million pixellated paces, moulding a very flat, shallow-focus  plane which is carefully cut around his principals modulated performances – Wasikowski is particularly modulated in this film for a character with a particularly painful history. This precipitates that cold, distant feel to his films which eerily complements his downplaying of emotional reverence, of not yielding to an audiences hunger for empathy and identification, gestating his human subjects as cogs in some self replicating machine whom follow their impregnated motions within society.

maps6This spartan approach indicates little in the way of being pushed into how to think, of what he’s trying to ‘say’ in his movies, an aesthetic which permits individual floodgates of meaning and musings in the eye of the beholder. This failure to commit leaves a lingering and slightly hollow taste to his work, a slightly disquieting feeling of something missing as the mechanistic plots arc through their predetermined movements – like Cosmopolis, A History Of Violence and much of the last two decades of work its abundantly clear where the tale will end from a very early vantage point. Nevertheless some DNA strands emerge between the mind and the body, this being Cronenberg the film has a rather ghoulish fascination with bodily functions which are not always easy to stomach, the violence for the most part remains at a minimum aside from a few incendiary incidents. Maps To The Stars is Cronenberg’s cartography of Hollywood as a land wreathed in incest and vacuous vanity, haunted by ghosts and infected with demons;


London Film Festival 2014 – Prelude One

So here’s a quick round-up of the first weeks activities, I think I’m going to be a little more discerning for the next fortnight . An eclectic bunch as always, beginning with a French translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses transplated to a modern day dress by irrepressible auteur Christophe Honoré;

Something a little more up my alley, or should that be down my caverns? Erm, well, ugly language aside this Spanish take on The Descent is another claustrophobic horror, not for the faint hearted;

This was quite vibrant and original, being in the original native language and a few surprises up its well muscled sleeve;

America seems to be shifting into a Stockholm syndrome phase of th war on terror with Camp X-Ray, which is somewhat sympathetic with the terrorists;

Well, if we needed proof that critics are a perverted sort then here’s the evidence, as Peter Strickland’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to Berberian Sound Studio was the first ‘sold-out’ press screening of the festival. Why perverted? Well the film concerns the S&M relationship between two lesbian lovers, framed in the manner of a 1970’s Jess Franco sexploitation flick – that plot summary got ‘em out of the woodwork. Strangely there is no trailer yet, but here is some commentary from TiFF to whet your whistle, as it were. I liked it as with Berberian it was exquisitely observed with a some amusing sequences, but there ain’t much going on beneath the cinephile surface;

And finally what I can confidently predict as one of the best films of the year, a seething interplay on Scandinavian noir, American crime films and Chinese cultural artefacts;

It’s a bit like the Tour De France around here as I now have two rest days before returning to the fray, but with a new Cronenberg in theatres there is no rest for the wicked……


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