Wednesday? Suffragette. Thursday? Sicario. Friday? Son Of Saul. Tomorrow? Room and Hitchcock/Truffaut, and then on Sunday High-Rise and Bone Tomahawk, and don’t even get me started yet on next week’s potential activities. Unfortunately some of my ambitious schedule has been disrupted with my plans for Todd Haynes Carol, but when some dolt throws an inescapable meeting with my current Chief Executive into the mix, well suffice to say that the day job has to take unfortunate precedence. I’ve been trying to keep up with the reviews but they haven’t cleared my editor’s Quality Control as yet, hopefully we will see an initial tranche of material dropping very soon. In the meantime here’s a trailer for one of my initial viewings, so it’s not like it’s the end of the world or anything;
It doesn’t help when the normal movie world continues to drop exciting morsels such as the trailer for the Coen’s new picture, with a delicious cast and what one assumes will be a fantastic take on Hollywood’s golden era. It’s all very exciting and exhausting, maybe some German techno can inspire me to push on through via this curious, hallucinatory gremlin baiting debut;
It’s slightly unusual to see a US studio backing such a limited appeal domestic project, but the notorious source material has propelled it as the most lucrative Argentinian domestic opening of recent memory. El Clan concerns a well-heeled Buenos Aires family who abducted people from their own neighborhood, demanding hefty ransoms, before executing their victims upon payment – ugly stuff to be sure. The twist of course is that this is based on a true story known to the population if you are of a certain age to recall the crimes, which occurred from 1982 to 1985;
After Wild Tales international success this seems like an ideal and organic continuation of possible breakthroughs, although given the saturated market I doubt that this film will get much more than potential festival exposure in our hemisphere. Still, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled as the profile of Pablo Trapero rises, more on him and his superb work later in the year…..
I want to talk. I want to talk about money. There has been something of a mini-scandal among the London film critic twitterati recently due to the arrival of a gleaming new art cinema in the capitals hinterlands, with the completed nine month facelift of the old Renoir cinema transformed into the newly anointed Curzon Bloomsbury. Naturally I’m no stranger to the old place having caught the likes of Tarkovsky’s Mirror and Herzog’s Encounters At The End Of The World there over the years, usually during discounted matinee weekend screenings. Like the recent Curzon Victoria the new site has raised eyebrows with its boutique interiors and state of the art cinema systems, enabling well heeled patrons to relax in plush splendor for the princely sum of £18 a ticket. No doubt about it that is rather steep for a movie, particularly since they’ve also axed cheaper costs for early screenings, causing real consternation as it doesn’t exactly encourage punters to ‘take a chance’ on foreign or slightly offbeat non mainstream fare. I, however, am a slave to my obsessions so I couldn’t help myself but shell out the currency for a duo of screenings to celebrate the newly minted space, firstly taking in a sparsely attended screening of Argentina’s unsuccessful candidate for the 2015 Best Foreign Language Oscar – Wild Tales.
If revenge is a dish best served cold then these furious Latin protagonists certainly don’t care for temperature, as this portmanteau series of tales angrily orbit a central conceit – venomous vengeance, vigorously executed. In one tale a waitress in a quiet restaurant recognizes an extremely rude patron as a loan shark gangster who drove her father to suicide, in another a road-rage incident screeches off the tracks like a Spanish language remake of Spielberg’s Duel. A group of seemingly unconnected aircraft passengers grow frantic when they discover they all know the same unhinged person, in another sequence a wealthy businessman persuades his gardener to take the rap for the hit-and-run killing of a pregnant woman by his substance abusing son. Cannily saving the best for last proves that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, particularly a bride on her wedding day when she discovers that her newly acquired husband has been playing hide the llama with an attractive, younger co-worker. These half-dozen vicious vignettes are endemic with rage and frustration, an anthology of anxiety, dripping with despair.
Being something of a jaded, cynical, dark hearted soul this film was right up my alley, and although as always with episodic structured films some threads are stronger than others this is a hysterically funny picture, a hellacious hymn to our corrupt and hades natures. The camera placement and occasional storytelling flourish from director Damián Szifron add a delicious frisson to the blackly comic proceedings, with some ironies and twists while eminently guessable would have an onyx hearted prankster like Hitchcock gleaming with pride. The standout is probably the final wedding from hell with a hilariously frenzied turn from Érica Rivas, although like most of the other sections it does run out of steam in its final contortions, rather than closing with a definitive, grotesque gut-punch. Wiser souls than I could probably identify some specific social commentary on Argentina’s recent corruption revelations and her economic woes, particularly with Ricardo Darín’s struggling everyman turned furious explosive insurgent due to endemic corruption in a Kafkaesque labyrinth of rules, regulations, and turgid civil servants.
As for the cinema facilities I test drove two screens during my duo of viewings (we have a bona-fide cult classic on the way specifically for you 1970’s petrolheads), catching Wild Tales in the splendor of the primary Renoir screen, and I have to say it is a terrific space with an appropriately mammoth screen, blessed with 4K projection capacity and the sound quality was simply fantastic – Dolby Atmos all the way. The facilities have expanded from two to six screens which is quite an achievement for the cluttered geography of the original footprint, with a promise of more bespoke film seasons alongside the high visibility art-house fare which should keep the tills twanging – they’ve commenced proceedings with a week-long auteur themed series. Maybe Curzon’s recent excursion into premium costs for a high-end experience is a metaphor for the wider 21st century divide between the rich and poor in terms of services, housing, travel and the generally frenzied cost of living in London, but there was one incident that perhaps says it all – Bloomsbury charged me £3 quid for a modest glass of coke. It’s enough to drive you mad;
It’s speed review time! In preparation for the incrementally approaching Frightfest extravaganza here is a quick double whammy, a couple of flicks I’ve just caught over the weekend, one serious and one stupid, both throughly entertaining in their own particular ways. I’ve timing myself to see how long it takes to throw these two together, I therefore make no apologies for any lack of sense or any paralysing insights into the human condition rendered via celluloid form, heck just getting some sentences together and hopefully getting the plots explained can sometimes be difficult enough. These two films are quite different beasts, one a melancholic mediation on memory and regret, the other some grisly aquatic carnage, they don’t quite make comfortable bed-fellows but both are recommended, I guess your attraction to either with depend on your mood. So lets begin;
Argentina, the late 1990’s. Haunted by the brutal unsolved rape and murder of a young schoolteacher twenty-five years ago retired magistrate Benjamin Esposito (a terrifically smoldering Ricardo Darín) has decided to exorcise his demons by writing a novel of his experiences, a tome whose research leads him down new avenues of investigation that drag some submerged secrets back into the revelatory sunlight. Benjamin’s quest simultaneously rekindles a smoldering romance he almost consummated with the sultry Irene (a pulchritudinous Soledad Villamil), a para-legal colleague whose assistance in his original inquisition threw them both into terrible danger at the hands of the corrupt and murderous political elite as his country slid inexorably toward a horrific military dictatorship. Benjamins only other accomplice in his crusade is his alcoholic colleague Sandoval whose drunken rants against the growing degeneration of his beloved country provoke some lethal attention, both men being provoked into bravery by the fathomless love that the victims young husband Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago) still cherishes for his lost inamorata.
El secreto de sus ojos is a superb, politically muted and noirishly tinged investigative thriller with a simmering cry for justice at its core. Quite rightly the political turmoil surrounding this moving tale is secreted in the ambience of the tale, enabling the investigation of the terrible crime to come forward through a dexterous use of the traditional flashback technique, the film deftly flips through match-cuts and sound cues from the immediate aftermath of the crime of 1974 to Benjamin’s later investigations almost three decades later. As such the film is embroidered with notions of regret and the trouble with memory, for me the more powerful strand was the unconsummated love affair between Benjamin and Irene, a woman from a higher caste and class which complicates and ultimately dooms his romantic intentions. Director Juan José Campanella throws in some unusual camera techniques, utilising different focus patterns to distort and sequester elements of the frame which builds the films sense of mystery and suspense, there is also a terrific chase scene between the police and the main culprit at a Buenos Aires football stadium which is traced in a Hitchcockian overhead shot that moves from a wide, establishing landscape to the urgent concerns flickering across Benjamins anxious face in one deft, ‘uncut’ manoeuvre. Now, moving on from the sublime to the ridiculous….
Any aquatic monster movie that opens not only with a Richard Dreyfuss cameo, but a Richard Dreyfuss cameo of him alone on a boat, drinking bottles of ‘Amity’ beer and singing along with this signposts a film which is not exactly subtle in its intentions – welcome to Piranha in terrifying 3D. Sleepy Lake Victoria, a small, sun-drenched American hamlet is host to the yearly spring break festivities where hordes of Budweiser fuelled, firm bodied students descend to party like it’s, erm, 1999 or something. An underwater tremor releases a horde of frenzied, carnivorous ichthyoids who are very,very hungry, when a crew of inquisitive divers breach their lair events turn a bloody crimson hue in two shakes of a vertebrates tail. Elizabeth Shue – always a treasure on-screen in my humble opinion – is the town’s efficient Sheriff with solid support from the hefty Ving Rhames, the film’s main hero however is newcomer Steven R. McQueen as Shue’s son Jake Forester, a young resident who is hired to be the location scout for sleazy porn director Derrick Jones (Jerry O’ Connel in a barely camouflaged satire of the odious git behind the Girls Gone Wild DVD industry – you can find your own links) who is shooting a new movie on his yacht. Jake accepts this dubious assignment in order to defend the honor of his friend Kelly whom has been seduced by Jones, his obvious affection for her resulting in some unlikely heroics when events become drenched in pelagic peril. There’s also a couple of further cameos from a bug-eyed Christopher Loyd as the towns elder scientist and Eli Roth makes a brief appearance as the host of a wet t-shirt contest – a real stretch for his acting prowess I’m sure – before SPOILER being dispatched in one of the films more pleasant homicides SPOILER END.
Utter and complete nonsense of course but Piranha 3D is great fun, it walks a fine line between parody and caricature of all those exploitation flicks of years gone by although there are a few knowing winks to the audience throughout its compact 88 minute run time – this is a film which doesn’t get a chance to out-stay its welcome – director Alexandre Aja concocts a winning combination of titanic tits, gruesome gore and hectic homage, I felt a little stupider on exiting the cinema but that’s not always a bad thing now is it? Once the slaughter proceeds in earnest during the films final half hour I was chuckling away with all the other patrons, I may regret this phrase but the film has some of the best kills I’ve seen on the big screen for quite a while. The 3D, as you might imagine is of the shock and awe variety, there is plenty of beasts hurtling at you from the screen, plus a few well executed jumps complement the films B-Movie intentions. You don’t care about any of the characters and it’s blatantly obvious who will be left relatively unscathed as the credits begin scrolling, plus the obligatory avenue for a bigger, bloated sequel is mooted during the films closing moments – who can ask for more?
Phew, well I’m quite pleased with that effort I have to say. A little over an hour and a half without identifying links or pictures for those two reviews (which has taken me a further couple of hours if you must know) this bodes well for when the carnage commences on Thursday evening. Baring some tumultuous events in the film world things are going to be very quite around here for the ten days or so, make sure you bookmark the Sound On Sight joint to follow my incoherent warblings as there is no way I’m going to have the time to update this blog and submit my reviews once things get rolling. I’ll probably transfer my reviews back over here with the usual links and pictures once the dust has settled in early September, maybe I’ll expand on my initial reactions to the movies I see with further musings and observations, we’ll see how it goes. Essential viewings for me at the moment – and be seriously beware because some of these links are astoundingly NSFW – include Hatchet II as the opening film, Eggshells, the supposedly harrowing I Spit On Your Grave remake, We Are What We Are, the aforementioned Monsters, The Dead, The Last Exorcism as the closing film and of course the immediately notorious A Serbian Film which just looks, well, it just looks evil. EDIT – Forgot to mention I have tickets to a preview of this on Wednesday at the NFT, its got a good looking website….