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Monthly Archives: June 2014

Exhibition

Synopsis

Stars Viv Albertine (once of ‘punk’ pop group The Slits) who is an artist called D living in an expensive London house.  About her relationship with her partner H (Liam Gillick).  They are selling the house, we see their tensions and anxieties.

Review

This is made by Joanna Hogg who also produced Archipelago.  Exhibition like Archipelago looks at the twitchy middle classes and the blood-sport of their relationships.  Like those affluent couples in posh versions of Jack Vettriano paintings, the subjects are not happy despite their wealth.  They look like they’re on the verge of losing it all, materially and psychologically.  The camera is an extra presence in the house, its fixed gaze picking out the domestic details with malevolent curiosity.  It’s the familiar fascination with domestic boredom.  D spends a lot of time at her desk, phoning her husband though they live in the same house.  She’s a performance artist but a pretentiously coy one, the film itself is a domestic performance art.  The house is stylish and bleak.  The camera peers at this to such a degree that it’s like you’re in a static world in a Janet Rego painting.  You feel increasingly suffocated by the nullity of this affluent hell hole.  The film’s palette is from bleak to sterile.  There is an underlying turmoil of unmet needs and frustrated eroticism.  The big question for me is, how can people live in a place like this?  When they condescend to summon up the energy to speak to each other face to face their dialogue is pretentious enough to fill ‘Pseud’s Corner’ several times over (‘Pseud’s Corner’ is an article in a satirical magazine Private Eye” that catches people out being very pretentious).  She won’t communicate her work and his criticism might prevent it happening at all.  Tom Hiddleston has a walk on part as an estate agent, his icy politeness in tune with this scarily lifeless domesticity.   Exhibition is bohemian hate mail to the God of money.

 

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The Last Days on Mars

The Last Days on Mars film posterSynopsis

Based on a short story The Animators by Sydney J Bounds, Liev Schreiber, Romola Garai, and Olivia Williams are scientists ready to finish six months working on the planet Mars.  The are taken over by a virus that turns them into unkillable zombies.  Will any of them get away and escape the virus?

Review

The desert landscape in this film was shot in Jordan.  Its toffee and gold coloured mesas and endless desert is all truly dramatic.  I hoped for a decent film but it didn’t turn up.  Ok, so the story came out before the film Alien (1979), but surly cynical scientists ever ready to bitch at one another over bragging rights of rank and mission objective vision has become the de rigeur dramatic furniture of this kind of movie.  The two big nineties movies about Mars focussed on the humanity of the scientists and were more fun.  Olivia Williams’ character was so truculent as to be a parody.  Liev Schreiber predictably is the strong guy trying to hold things together amongst the carping prima donnas.  At the beginning the enemy is one’s own mind but then they have to combat the real foe, a virus turning them into zombies.  Do me a favour, Zombies??!!  Is that the best we can come up with in a story about pioneering on another world?  Surely it’s a cop out, as a film simply repeats Alien and John Carpenter’s The Think (1981) set in Antarctica.  Come to think of it, the rides in the desert Transa reminds me of Hilary and Fuch’s Transantartic expedition of 1958 in their snow-cat crafts and I wish the film had trusted the audience’s capacity for imaginative patience in following the desolate isolation of it all.  The acting became surprisingly good considering the dross in the script, and I did eventually care a little about Liev Schreiber and Romola Garai.  The final scene, where there is an escape into space, simply reprises Alien.  A missed opportunity.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2014 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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Locke

Locke film posterSynopsis

Tom Hardy plays Ivan Locke alone in his BMW.  He’s the only actor in the film, dialogue is courtesy of his car phone calls.  He’s a Welsh construction boss and leaves instructions for the pouring of concrete for the foundations of an £11 million skyscraper in Birmingham.  He once slept with Bethan (voice of Olivia Coleman), who is having his baby, and she wants him in London with her and he’s on his way there.  He tells his wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson) about Bethan.  Katrina, who was expecting him home, is distraught and so is Locke’s deputy (Andrew Scott) in Birmingham who has responsibility for traffic closures around the concrete pouring.  Locke also talks to the memory of his father who did not do right by him…

Review

This could have been a claustrophobic sort of film, like Buried Alive or Colin Farrell trapped in the phone booth, but it isn’t as it holds the attention all the more for its horrifying conjunction of ordinary responsibilities.  Locke has to juggle between people of differing neediness and we see the look on his face as he registers clamping control to tearful discomposure.  Think of this face as a mask responding to the tones in a tension ratchet of a radio play.  The tiniest changes in the face could also be like a drumskin reverberating to mounting panic.

This ought to be a nightmare but Hardy’s Locke looks too much the wizard of crises, that would turn most of us into quivering wrecks.  He has ‘flu for good measure.  He is pulled tight in different directions by his grimly distraught wife, by his hysterical drunkard of a colleague (whose panic sounds like stand up comedy), and then by Bethan whose stressful pleading is all the more insidious for being just this side of snapping point.  Hardy does a reasonable job of the Welsh accent (I know it well as I live in Wales).  The car windscreen acts as an implacable confessional as night-time images of 21st century motor traffic bleakness flow past.  The screen is like a relentless camera that won’t shift its gaze, just as the unseen voices flow like echoes into his conscience.  As the motor journey ends it’s as if he is accommodating to the narrowing of a funnel focusing on the big existential choice.  Which one will be happy in the end, Katrina, Bethan, or his colleague?  Must be watched!!!

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2014 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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Frank

Frank film posterSynopsis

Starring Michael Fassbender (in a papier mache head of South Park weirdness), as Frank written about by Jon Ronson (Domhnall Gleeson) who was bandmate of Chris Sievey who called himself Frank Sidebottom (who was an indie musician).  Jon wants to be a pop star but he falls foul of Frank and other band members Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Don (Scoot McNairy).  Jon tries to steer Frank in a commercial direction.  They play in Britain, the drummer tries to kill himself.  They do rehearsal sessions in Ireland and then are due to perform at SxSW in Texas and they break up.  Frank’s mental health fails, but they might get back together.  Jon learns wisdom…

Review

The weird papier mache pot that Frank hides his head in is intended to be disconcerting.  It’s an alienating joke and an Indie film leit motif which manages to avoid merely experimental caprice (because it’s part of Frank’s struggle for identity), and poses pertinent questions about our notions of acceptable behaviour.  At one point Frank says that the human face is a vulnerable wound so why not seek the freedom of the papier mache hideaway?  Those who talk to him must pay more attention to the intonation in his voice, in doing so they are at once in a what can descend to controlled monologue as they must cope with the attention drawing but emotionally deflecting absence of a face.  At times it’s like a satire on the retarded adolescence of a pop group with an artistic mission, but I do like their music.  Maggie Gyllenhaal is surely based on the Velvet Underground’s Nico, all Central European diva with a big bad attitude and questionable artistic talent.  She is like one of those people who want to spend their lives at the back of the class.  Jon is resolutely naive and exploitable, worshipping the religion of neglected genius that Frank has made of himself.  He tries to push them in a commercial direction and they despise him for it as they look like they’re auditioning for a David Lynch film.  Each of their solipistic personalities is the claustrophobic complaint of a group of outsiders whose very identity is based on rejecting the mainstream and being rejected by it.  My favourite song of theirs is “Lone Standing Tuft” (about a twist of carpet strand).  Jon becomes increasingly obtuse and you feel yourself like kicking him out of the band.

 

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