On Monday I took advantage of the cheap tickets at Cinema Nova in Carlton. Seriously, $6 for a movie before 4pm – if you’re not working, why wouldn’t you? I was tossing up between ‘Frank’ and ‘The Rover’, I chose the latter because it started sooner. I’d heard a bit about the film, I vaguely recalled Marc Fennel having talked about it on Triple J, and I like Guy Pierce so it seemed like a good plan.
The Rover theatrical poster
I went into it with absolutely no expectations – I didn’t have much idea what the premise was, nor had I seen Animal Kingdom, the first film by the director David Michod. This may not have worked in my favour. My initial reaction to this is that it’s Mad Max but rewritten with George R. R. Martin’s penchant for death. It’s bleak, and I mean bleak. Walking out I felt quiet, a little overwhelmed, and with a feeling of ‘if this is where the world’s going, we may as well all kill ourselves now and save the bother.’ But let me deconstruct that a bit.
Firstly, the narrative. The opening of the film explains that we’re ten years after ‘the collapse’, no context is given for this. I becomes clear as we go along that there was some sort of serious global economic crisis thing, that law and order has fallen over, that Australia is a giant open cut mine, and that the money and work have run out. It’s a dystopian future scenario. The first thing that happens is Eric’s (Guy Pierce) car is stolen and the rest of the story is about getting the car back.
It is a slow moving film, with lots of atmosphere. This is built in part by the soundtrack, by Antony Partos, which felt very post-apocalyptic, all banging piano strings with hammers and bowing bits of metal. It was also very loud, which I expect was deliberate to create a sense of oppression of sound. At least it did for me. The rest of the atmosphere is developed by the lack of dialogue. As Fennel describes, it is not the words that matter here, but what is not said – the gaps between the characters, their PSTD-esque stares, in particular from Eric, who is a mysterious and hard-to-sympathise-with character. I suspect that this impression is heightened by the focus on listening – what I mean is how much of the film shows actors reacting to dialogue as opposed to acting dialogue. In particular a scene between Eric and Sgt Rick Rickoffersen in which Eric talks about how he got to this point and we watch Rickoffersen hear his story. The effect is powerful in a way that it wouldn’t be if we’d watched Eric talk.
Visually, this film is typical of the Australian outback film. These is a lot of dust, and sweat, and reds and browns and yellows. Everything is old and broken and dirty. I don’t know how well an international audience would relate to this, but I felt like it was very true to the tone of the outback, in this case filmed in South Australia – it’s hot, dry, brown and empty.
Still: The Rover
Finally to the acting. Eric and Rey (Robert Pattinson) are extremely different characters, and this was borne out very well in their physicality. Eric was still, almost zen-like in his demeaner, he stares straight ahead and barely seems to be affected by anything going on around him. Rey, on the other hand, is jittery, fidgety, scattered and potentially low in the intelligence stakes. Rey also has an almost unintelligible southern American drawl which is juxtaposed to Eric’s crisp Australian speech. I’ve always thought that silent acting is the hardest, being able to convey your whole character without words, and this film does really well in this regard.
So what didn’t I like? Well for one thing, this film has only two female characters who don’t meet, so it fails the Bechdel test miserably. Secondly, I’m not sure how well it will survive over time given that it leaves the viewer feeling absolutely defeated – I don’t know how many people will chose to rewatch a film that’s this intense. I felt similar about Nymphomaniac actually, it requires quite a lot from the viewer and doesn’t give much back.
In a nutshell, I’m going to give this 3.5 out of 5 stars, there are some excellent parts to this film but overall it was just a little bit much.
It’s been three days since I watched Lars Von Trier’s ‘Nymphomaniac’ Vol I and II. It has taken me this long to work out what I want to say, and even so I’m just hoping I’ll be able to make some sort of coherent statement about it by the end of this post.
Nymphomaniac Vol I poster
These two films, shown back to back at the Cinema Nova in Carlton, ‘Nymphomaniac’ follow the story of Joe, played by Stacey Martin (Young Joe) and Charlotte Gainsbourg, after she is found by Seligman (Stellan Starsgard) bloodied and bruised, in an alley near his house. Tucked up in his bed Joe tells Seligman the story of her life, and about her struggles with her apparently insatiable desire. That’s basically the plot.
I was a Von Trier virgin before seeing this film, I’d seen a bit of ‘Antichrist’, probably only the opening sequence, and had never seen a whole film of his, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.
I’ll start with the easy stuff; what I liked. Visually this film is gorgeous; not only is the cinematography (Manuel Alberto Claro) impeccable and beautifully constructed, but the use of split screen, text over the action, animation, weird bits of wildlife footage and various other digressions are masterful. One chapter of the narrative is shot in black and white, causing the whole episode to take on a surreal faraway aspect. In particular the overlay of a shot of hairless female genitals to a closed eyelid was lovely.
Secondly, the acting was astounding. There was a depth to the characters that you don’t/can’t often get, a genuine sense that what they’re showing you is real, sometimes painfully so – Christian Slater’s hospital scenes, Uma Thurman’s scorned woman, Stacey Martin and Charlotte Gainsbourg’s blank desperation, Jamie Bell’s sadistic care, I could go on. Shia LaBeouf’s Jerome and Stellan Starsgard’s Seligman while beautiful, were not stand outs for me in this parade of great performances. Perhaps I should be fair to them and admit I wasn’t particularly sympathetic to their characters and this may have coloured my impression of their performance.
Thirdly, there were aspects of the story which stood out for me as being particularly well handled; the chapter featuring Jamie Bell’s character K is a particularly interesting episode for reasons (spoilers) and the relationship between Joe and her father (Christian Slater) come to mind. The addition of Seligman’s obscure diversions I think also adds a sense of lightness to the film which would otherwise be lacking – a chance for us to catch our collective breath between the cocks and clits and wrechedness.
Fourthly, it is clear that Von Trier is a master of manipulation and suspense; in at least two scenes we were convinced that something absolutely terrible was going to happen and it never eventuates. The flip side of this is that when the bad thing does happen we’re completely blind-sided by it.
Nymphomaniac Vol II poster
Now we get to the parts I’m not so sure about and that is, to a greater or lesser extent, the statement the film is making. We are shown over the course of ‘Nymphomaniac’s’ four hours a number of controversial and/or ambiguous moral positions. The discussion of whether Joe’s prioritisation of pleasure over the care of her child and whether this would have been questioned had she been a man, and the discussion about whether a person with a sexual attraction to children who never acts on it is a good person for example. I feel like this film is supposed to provoke the viewer to think about their own attitudes to sexuality and it’s relationship to morality, but part of me wonders whether the bad thing that happens takes focus away from this by leaving you feeling like you’ve been kicked in the guts. Interestingly the bad thing could also be analysed at a potential statement, but spoilers.
I suspect that this is what all of Von Trier’s films are like; gauntlets of mind-fuckery that you have to run until you come out the other side changed. I think the question one really has to ask is am I changed for the better?
Nymphomaniac is a beautifully made, gut-wrenchingly intense cinematic journey which makes you question not only what just happened but whether you can ever look at people the same way again; whether your definition of right and wrong has been irrevocably altered.
I’m fairly sure I enjoyed it, much in the same way I can say that enjoyed ‘Shame’ or ‘Requiem for a Dream’. Definitely an experience to watch, and not a film I would recommend entering lightly, it should probably come with a trigger warning, all the trigger warnings. Overall, I think I’m going to agree with Margaret and David and give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars.
I haven’t done a Watching Movies post for a while, somehow life got in the way of taking myself to the cinema, but I thought I’d make up for it by seeing four films over two days. This post, therefore, will be short reviews of each of the four films, in the order that I saw them.
The Wind Rises (2013)
The first of this weekend’s celluloid dreams was Studio Ghibli’s latest offering ‘The Wind Rises’ at the Cinema Nova in Carlton. From director Hayao Miyazaki, whose other films include ‘Ponyo’, ‘Spirited Away’, and ‘My Neighbour Totoro’, ‘The Wind Rises’ is an animated feature which focuses on pre-WWII Japan. The film’s hero, Jiro Horikoshi is an aeronautical engineer who designs planes which will eventually be used by the Japanese as fighters, the Zero. Jiro and many of the other characters are historical figures, however my Japanese history is pretty sketchy so I just have to trust that the film is accurate-ish.
Miyazaki’s films often involve quite surreal sequences; high fantasy and exaggerated characters which work well in an animated film. While ‘The Wind Rises’ has a couple of dream sequences in which conventional reality takes a back seat, I was surprised by how much of the film was done as realism.
I chose to watch the English dubbed version, over the Japanese language version with subtitles for two reasons; firstly, dubbing jars much less in animated films because they don’t really talk anyway, and secondly, while there will be translation anomolies either way, one can get more words in a dubbed version than in a subtitled version and hopefully that results in a more faithful translation. That being said I’m also not a big fan of having to read the subtitles. The English voice cast was full of people who I recognised, which was also fun; Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Mandy Patinkin, John Krasinski, and Martin Short.
In terms of the plot, this film was a poignant exploration of the life of Jiro leading up to WWII (which is actually not mentioned in the film, but is implied). It was a very interesting portrait of the time period; Japan was quite poor, they were occupying Korea (also not mentioned in the film), it was an interesting time of cross over between traditional Japanese lifestyles and Western influences from clothing to aeronautical designs. Given the film’s time frame, I should have been ready for it to be a sad story, but having seen a couple of Miyazaki’s other films I was expecting it to be a light children’s story. It might be rated PG but I think this is a film made for adults. My friend said he managed to only cry a little bit, and I was very close to tears as well.
Beautifully drawn, in particular the backgrounds are spectacular, and beautifully written; there is surprisingly little dialogue, and it’s all important, this is a moving film well worth a watch. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
Rear Window (1954)
The first Saturday night’s double feature at the Astor in St Kilda was ‘Rear Window’. A classic thriller from Alfred Hitchcock, this is the story of the L. B. Jeffries (Jeff), who is stuck in his apartment, in a wheelchair, with a broken leg for what feels like an eternity over a sweltering Manhattan summer. Pre-television, Jeff’s boredom leads him to spend his days watching his neighbours; his apartment faces the back, the rear windows, of several other apartment buildings. In one of these buildings, he sees some suspicious activity and we follow his story as he tries to convince his friends and the police that he’s not just a paranoid curtain twitcher.
To make this film, Hitchcock built all of the apartments on a sound stage. Each apartments has actors playing the inhabitants and they were all given activities to perform. The whole thing seems to have been run more like a play than a film; in particular some of the opening shots are of the camera, set in Jeff’s apartment, panning over each of the apartments giving us a glimpse into the life of the people living there.
Based on a short story, ‘It had to be murder’ by Cornell Woolrich, ‘Rear Window’ has been spoofed and references many, many times. I went into the film without knowing the ending, but assuming it would be similar to ‘The Simpson’s’ version; which it was and wasn’t at the same time.
Despite having been made 60 years ago, the film was suspenseful, and believable. Some of the cinematography dated it a little, particularly the heavy use of soft focus for Grace Kelly, and some of the attitudes and pass-times of the characters placed it at the time, but generally speaking it could easily have been made recently. I did notice the age difference between Stewart, 46, and Kelly, 25, but unfortunately that hasn’t really changed all that much.
All in all, I can certainly see why this film has had such a profound impact on popular culture and is considered a classic. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Rear Window poster
The second of the Astor’s double feature was ‘Vertigo’ – another Hitchcock film starting James Stewart. This psychological thriller makes ‘Rear Window’ seem like a comedy – it is much darker, and without giving away spoilers, the ending is horribly unsatisfactory. In this film, James Stewart plays a retired police detective who suffers from acrophobia, fear of heights, and gets vertigo, dizziness, whenever he’s somewhere high.
The opening titles of ‘Vertigo’ are a distinctive sequence of receding and advancing spirals. It’s a visual that stays with you and has a certain similarities to a Bond film opening (although with the first Bond film in 1962, ‘Vertigo’ was probably an influence on Bond, rather than the other way around).
Based on a novel, ‘D’entre les morts’, a French crime story by Pierre Boileau, Stewart’s character ‘Scottie’, John Ferguson, is hired to investigate the strange behaviour of the wife of an old college buddy. As the investigation progresses, Scottie falls in love with the woman, played by Kim Novak, and that’s about all I can tell you without spoilers.
Again there are a few interesting gender issues in this film; specifically Kim Novak is also 25 in this film, but Stewart is now 50. Additionally Scottie’s friend Midge is an interesting portrait – a woman who is in love with him, but she seems to be too ambitious, or capable, or career driven, or not pretty enough for Scottie to notice. She’s also supposed to be a college buddy, but actor Barbara Bel Gedes is only 36 and doesn’t quite pull off the concept of being the same age.
The film’s ending is unexpected and not a little distressing. I would be extremely surprised if an ending like that made it past a test screening nowadays! It speaks to Hitchcock’s influence in the industry and to the changing expectations and tolerances of the movie-going public.
Despite the unusual ending and consistently dark tone, this is another classic well worth watching. I’m giving this one 4 out of 5 stars (I dropped it from 4.5 for being a bit long and having an annoying ending).
Die Besucher (Visitors, 2012)
The final film in this epic weekend was ‘Die Besucher’, a German film, which I saw as part of the Goethe Institut Festival of German Films at the Palace Como in South Yarra. The film follows a family as the patriarch, Jakob, tries to break some news that will have an impact on all their lives. The three adult children, Karla, Arnolt, and Sonja, live in Berlin away from the family home in rural Germany. The younger two of the three are still heavily financially dependent on their parents.
This is a character driven film, much more than a plot driven one. The film quietly explores the unspoken conflicts between the six members of this family. Directed by Constanze Knoche, and co-written with Lies Bagdach, this film was made with a very modest budget. They spent several years working on the screenplay and getting the funds together to make the film. It would be easy to assume from watching this, that it was a big budget studio production; the acting is first rate, particularly from Uwe Kockisch who is a prolific and well-respected German actor, the screen-play is extremely tight, each moment of dialogue or silence is perfectly crafted to carry forward the character exploration. It has also been made with high production values, that is to say the the cinematography, sound recording and soundtrack, bear none of the dodgey hallmarks one might associated with a low-budget feature.
My biggest complaint about this film is the ambiguity and apparent tidiness of the ending. To me, it felt like the characters forgave too quickly and the reconciliation seemed unrealistic, however my friend disagreed with my interpretation and didn’t think there was a reconciliation. I can see how both interpretations could be correct. I think there was a part of me that identified strongly with a family whose conflict is unspoken, and so perhaps I was more appalled by the ability to forgive and forget than she was.
Overall a lovingly crafted film which left both of us feeling quite unsettled. It’s not an easy film to watch for reason’s I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps it’s the result of a built up of tension over the 90 minutes which does not have a satisfactory release. Even so, this film deserves 4 out of 5 stars.
Unfortunately I can’t find a trailer with subtitles, but this should give you a feel for it:
Ok, so I should probably admit right off that this only barely counts as a movie; it was the National Theatre Live’s recording of ‘Coriolanus‘. This was staged as a play in the Donmar Warehouse in London, filmed, and shown at the Nova.
‘Coriolanus’ is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, and is a political thriller set in very early ancient Rome. Caius Martius Coriolanus (Tom Hiddleston) is a decorated and accomplished soldier in the Roman army, and a bit of an asshat. Menenius (Mark Gatiss) and his mother, Volumnia (Deborah Findlay) try to have Coriolanus elected as a Consul, but it all goes a bit awry because Coriolanus has to be himself; he can’t play the political game.
It has been said that this is Shakespeare’s bloodiest play and one of the most visceral; that is talks about the body the most. There’s lots of fighting, and this production uses lots and lots of fake blood (side note: Tom Hiddleston covered in fake blood is thoroughly enjoyable). Part of me feels like I missed out a bit on the experience of seeing it live, and this is largely influenced by the amount of shouting that happened. There is something intense about being in a room with someone who is screaming their hatred that cannot be captured on film, not least because when you record something you fiddle with the levels; you make the whispering louder so it can be heard, and you make the shouting softer so that it doesn’t blow our eardrums/speakers. Having seen another play in the flesh the night before in which the cast were about five metres away and their shouting was honestly frightening, I wanted to have the same reaction to ‘Coriolanus’ but just couldn’t.
Now, that’s not to say that it wasn’t an outstanding experience. The play seems to have been written as almost exclusively darkness, and though Shakespeare wrote in a couple of gags, the cast were able to bring in bit more levity with some sarcastic tones, and the best of these were delivered by Menenius – who takes on the role of the fool for part of the play. I’ve been a big fan of Mark Gatiss’s work for a while, not least because of his roles in ‘Sherlock’, but I hadn’t realised the depth of this acting ability until this production. Not only does he do some excellent shouting, he also does some excellent crying.
On the other hand the main women in this production, Volumnia and Virgilia (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen), Coriolanus’s mother and wife respectively, were less than extraordinary. I mean they were good, but Deborah Findlay became a bit much in her shouty bits, I think she needed a little bit more light and shade. Sørensen (who you might know from Borgen) seemed to spend and awful lot of her time weeping in a bit of a pathetic way and I think a bit less crying at the start might have made the crying she did at the end more effective.
In the title role, Tom Hiddleston was epic. He was brutal, he was callous, he was a total bastard toward his fellow Romans, but he was also completely convinced that he was right. I think it would be hard to play a role that is this close to grotesque without making a mockery of it. Hiddleston also did some very good light and shade in his shouting bits and, without giving away any spoilers, was really good at the end.
All of the cast did a great job with the language, Shakespeare can be a bit dense sometimes and I will readily admit that I missed a fair chunk of it, but there was never a moment in which I didn’t know what was happening. Not one tripped over their words or made their part sound like a foreign language (which it kind of is, especially for Sørensen who’s Danish).
In terms of the production itself the space at the Donmar Warehouse is quite unusual so they made a conscious decision to keep the props and backdrops to a minimum. I think the bareness of the setting made the acting seem that little bit more other-worldly; that little bit more impressive.
I don’t really know what else I can add except that if you get a chance to see this film, you should definitely go! I am going to give this 4.5 out of 5 stars, with the caveat that if I had seen it for realsies, it think it would have been a 5.
Today’s movie review will be of ‘August: Osage County’, an intense drama about the difficulties of living in the Weston family. Written by Tracy Letts, based on his Pulizter and Tony Award winning play of the same name, this story follows the relationships in the highly dysfunctional family as they try to deal with the death of its patriarch, Beverly.
August: Osage County poster
From the outset this film is confronting. The women in this family, Violet (Meryl Streep), Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale), Barbara (Julia Roberts), Karen (Juliette Lewis), Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) and Jean (Abigail Breslin) are complicated, flawed, and extremely believable. While the film is an excellent ensemble piece, the mother-daughter relationship between Violet and Barbara is the centrepiece. Violet is a mean-spirited, bitter woman who has a tendency to abuse prescription medication, and Barbara, her eldest daughter struggles with a sense of obligation to care for her mother, and a need to escape her destructive influence. Trying to explain the intricacies of the relationships without giving away some of the story is going to be difficult, so I’m not going to try. Suffice to say that the relationships between the family members are complex and filled with betrayals and misery.
The performances by each member of the cast are spectacular. With so many central characters, each with rich back stories filled with hardship, it’s hard to pick one or two who stood out. What makes this more difficult is that each actor’s performance is as reliant on the way they react to the actions of the others as with their own actions, something which is a basic tenet of acting, but which is rarely seen so clearly on the screen.
The men in the film, Beverly (Sam Shepard), Charlie (Chris Cooper), Bill (Ewan McGregor), Steve (Dermot Mulroney) and Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch), are shown largely as counterpoints to the Weston women, and each gives a beautiful, nuanced performance. The stand out relationship among the men is between Charlie and his son Little Charles; there is a tenderness there that doesn’t exist in any of the other relationships, and this contrast makes it all the more striking.
Throughout the film the script writing struck me as being incredibly tight. Each scene was carefully crafted to add tension to the film, and while the events in this family are extreme, there was no point at which I found myself disbelieving them. I did find it interesting that in a film that is built upon difficult familial relations, the romance between Ivy and Little Charles (who are first cousins), which remains a secret for the majority of the film, is never overtly shown. The furthest they get is hand holding and making moon eyes when they think no one is looking. I find it intriguing that the producers chose not to show a kiss, it’s likely they were worried it would be too much for the audience, but for me it seemed a bit contrived (or maybe I’m just a perv for kissin’ cousins). Not having seen a stage production, I would be interested to know whether or not they kiss there.
All the family around the dinner table
Visually, the tone of the film is heavily in the brown spectrum. The house is dark and brown, the rolling Oklahoma fields are yellow and dry; even the costumes are browns, beiges, muted blues, and blacks. Nothing escapes the oppressive pallet except Steve’s bright red sports car. The use of colour is particularly strong in evoking the feel of the house in which most of the film takes place, and in conveying the stifling heat of an Oklahoma summer. At one stage we see a neon sign telling us it’s 108˚ (Fahrenheit, in Celsius that’s 42˚, a temperature which for us Melbournians is still a fresh trauma).
If I were to criticise the film it would be to say that I was disappointed with Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent. Some of you may understand how difficult that is for me to say given how much of a ridiculous uber-fan of his work I am, but I say it with love, I say it because I know he can do better (case in point his Australian accent as Julian Assange). If I were to justify this less than his best performance I would suggest that given the size of his role, fairly small, and the amount of screen time he has to spend crying, disproportionately large, the fact that his accent is passable, but not brilliant is probably fair enough.
My overall impression of this multiply nominated film (Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, both well deserved) is that it manages to balance serious, hard truths about life in this family with some black comic moments and the result is a thought provoking yet enjoyable cinematic experience. I was left wondering how they all got on after the end; I wanted to know what happened next, which is always a good sign that you’ve identified with the characters. I think a lot of the patrons at the Cinema Nova where I saw this walked out feeling much better about the interesting family scandals in their own lives. A thought provoking, authentic exploration of family dysfunction; I give this film 4 out of 5 stars.
One of the great things about Mondays is that it’s cheap movie day at the Cinema Nova in Carlton, Melbourne. To celebrate this fact I took myself to see ‘Kill Your Darlings’ yesterday. This film, directed by John Krokidas, is the story of the murder of David Kammera by Lucien Carr in New York in 1944 (or there abouts, it’s not clear exactly). Before I saw the movie I didn’t know who either David Kammera or Lucien Carr were, but their friends were Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, and I knew them. As well as being a story about murder, it’s a story about literature, about poetry, about rebelling against the system and about creating a new style – the founding of the Beat Generation.
Kill Your Darlings poster
But why did I title this blog ‘Harry Potter is gay?!’? Because a lot of the buzz around this film when it was released late last year what that it’s star, Daniel Radcliffe, was playing Allen Ginsberg who’s famously into dudes. There are a lot of people out there who insist on comparing everything Radcliffe does to his role as Harry Potter, and the same can be said about everything that J. K. Rowling has written since then too, but that’s for another time. In an interview, when asked what it was like to film man-on-man sex scenes (of which there is one, and it’s short) Radcliffe said he was astonished at the amount of time people have spent talking about this. His comment was that he got less flack for doing a show on Broadway in which he was completely nude and had a love affair with a horse than he did for this part. This, to me, says a lot about the way people think about same-sex relationships and shows a complete lack of understanding of the weirdness of filming any kind of sex scene with anyone ever (seriously, it must be really weird). I got chatting with a woman sitting next to me in the cinema about the mixed reviews the film has had, she said she’d seen both 1 star and 4 star reviews, and I suggested that perhaps people who didn’t like it were commenting on the content rather than looking at is as an artform or entertainment.
So, let’s talk about about the acting. Firstly Radcliffe is very good. He has a convincing accent throughout the film, which is good, because sometimes American accents done by British actors are not so good. His portayal of Ginsberg’s self-destructive adoration of Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) is poignant and vivid; it was all in the longing stares, the unspoken hurt, and the ridiculous things he was willing to do for Carr. Dane DeHaan is similarly convincing as the boy who both revels in and abhors the attention of the men around him. There is something of Dorian Grey in the character; beautiful and cruel, he inspires art around him but produces none himself. The relationship between Carr and David Kammera (Michael C. Hall) is tense throughout the film, and for a long time I was on Carr’s side, but by the end everything was much murkier. Michael C. Hall, who I know best from ‘Dexter’ fame, is clearly more versatile than I gave him credit for. His desperation, jealousy and hurt were palpable. There was nothing about his performance as the love-sick older man who cannot let Carr go that was comical. Even when he’s sitting on the balcony of Kerouac’s apartment knocking on the window, begging for forgiveness, all I felt for him was pity. Pity and a little bit of disgust for being so pathetically obsessed.
Still: Burroughs, Ginsberg and Carr in the Columbia University library
My favourite performance of the film would have to be Ben Foster’s William S. Burroughs. I have heard a number of recordings of Burroughs’ spoken word performances (for example) in which his languid, slurred, monotonous voice is as much a trademark as his fantastical, pornographic content. Foster has clearly spent a good amount of time studying how Burroughs speaks because the stoned flatness was obvious from his first appearance on the screen. I will be very disappointed if he isn’t nominated for some of the Supporting Actor awards in the upcoming season of statue giving (but then again there were lots of good films this last year, either way he’s one to watch in the future.)
Reed Murano’s cinematography of this film was used to great effect, in particular the use of focus and depth of field. There are scenes in which the screen is blurred, where the actors swim in and out of focus, and these scenes generally denote flashbacks or drug-altered states. Indeed the flashback scenes involved the film running in reverse, like trying to find the right spot on a VHS tape, before settling on a particular phrase or image. The film’s first scene is repeated towards the end of the film, almost shot for shot, and this has the effect of emphasising this as a defining moment between Ginsberg and Carr, paralleling the way repetition is used for emphasis in poetry.
The last thing I want to talk about is the ‘gayness’. Over the course of the two hour film there is one kiss between Ginsberg and Carr, and one sex scene between Ginsberg and a guy who’s name we don’t find out. If these scenes were between a man and a woman, they would barely even register. The sex scene is dingy, shot in sharp focus, and has a strong undertone of misery and raw hurt. These scenes are not in the film to be shocking or controversial, they are in the film because they are important to the development of the relationships and characters. If only straight sex scenes were given as much thought and had such clear reasons for being in films, (I could go on about the way sex is (mis)used in films, but I won’t).
In sum, ‘Kill Your Darlings’ is a poignant, thoughtful, genuinely curious look at the beginnings of the Beat Generation and at the relationships which allowed it to happen, this film was a joy to watch; I’m giving it 4 out of 5 stars.
I’ve recently discovered the joy of going to the cinema by myself. I don’t have to wait around for someone to be available to go with me, which is great because I have a bit of a weird schedule and I know lots of busy people. I don’t have to compromise and see a movie that is acceptable to everyone; I can see a movie I want to see and if is sucks then the only person who suffers is me.
It occurred to me that I could start writing out my thoughts about the movies I’ve seen in some sort of review fashion, so that maybe when I grow up I can get paid to go to movies and write things about them.
So here goes, hopefullythe first in a series entitled ‘Watching Movies Alone’.
‘Blue Jasmine’ is Woody Allen’s 2013 contribution to the film industry. I read somewhere that this is a script he’s had for a while and hadn’t made into a film, I couldn’t tell you why not but perhaps it wasn’t the right time, or he was busy doing other stuff, who knows.
Blue Jasmine poster
My first exposure to Woody Allen properly was when a boyfriend of mine insisted that we watch ‘Annie Hall’. He loved it, and he wanted to share that love with someone he loved. I watched it, I enjoyed it, I didn’t really get it, and I couldn’t have told you I loved it but I gave it my best shot. Since then I’ve had many conversations with people about whether ‘Annie Hall’ is Allen’s finest film, opinion is still divided about that.
Since that time I’ve become more and more aware of Allen’s work. I have been trying to teach myself to appreciate the nuances of the writing and directing of several film makers, Allen being one of them. People have said that he’s a bit hit and miss, and I agree that there are films of his I like/understand better than others. I really enjoyed ‘Vicki, Christina, Barcelona’ for example, but was a bit meh about ‘Midnight in Paris’. That could have been because I couldn’t take Owen Wilson seriously, his voice is so goofy!
But back to the film at hand. The synopsis is basically that Jasmine French (Cate Blanchett) has recently split up with her rich, dismissive, bastardy husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) and has come to San Fransisco to stay with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), while she gets herself back on her feet. Jasmine has been used to the high-society life in New York; living on Madison Ave and filling her days with philanthropic work, leisurely lunches, shopping and hosting dinner parties. Ginger lives in a small apartment with her two children from a previous relationship with Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), a construction worker/small business owner/removalist/whatever else he happens to be doing at the time. Ginger has a new relationship with Chili (Bobby Cannavale), and we are told that he was supposed to move in with her, but has had to put it off while so Jasmine can live there.
Going into this film I knew that it was heavily inspired by Tennessee Williams’ ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, a play I had conveniently studied this semester at uni, and was therefore pretty familiar with. There are times in ‘Blue Jasmine’ that we see the parallels between the two stories very clearly, but there are other times where Woody Allen’s touch shines through. For me, Bobby Cannavale’s portrayal of Chili draws heavily on Marlon Brando’s seminal role as Stanley in the 1951 film adaptation of the play. It’s hardly surprising that Brando’s version has been so influential, not only was he the first person to ever bring Stanley to life, as an original cast member of the first Broadway season, but his performance in the 1951 film version is disturbingly real. While I would suggest that Allen’s writing of Chili was not necessarily intended to channel Brando’s Stanley, there is something in Cannavale’s intense stare and crackling physicality that makes the comparison hard to avoid.
Interestingly, Cate Blanchett has played Blanche DuBois in a stage production of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ to excellent reviews and I felt her intimacy with Blanche gave Jasmine a depth that might otherwise have been lacking. Jasmine is crumbling under the pressure of her misfortune (arguably in part self-made) and Blanchett’s portrayal of her attempts to seem normal while everything is coming down around her are mesmerising. I really felt like I knew Jasmine’s reality.
Still: Hal and Jasmine in their posh home
If I had to make one criticism of an otherwise very strong film it would be that Blanchett’s Jasmine could have had a bit more range in her distress. I felt like I wanted Allen’s direction to reel her in in certain places so that the intense breakdown scenes were more striking.
That being said almost everything about this film was pretty spot on; the cinematography was seamless, the soundtrack developed the emotional connection without being intrusive, the supporting casts’ performances were strong and of course the main cast were spectacular. I enjoy Woody Allen films a lot more when he doesn’t cast himself in them; I always feel like when he’s acting in his own films he plays himself, and I don’t really like that character. I went into ‘Blue Jasmine’ with high expectations and I would say that most of them were met.
I give ‘Blue Jasmine’ 4.5 out of 5. Anyone who likes movies should see this one, but be warned that the ending is truer to the play than it is to Hollywood’s standard ending (which is good coz Hollywood often screws up endings).