Producer Jordan Horowitz, Director Damien Chazelle, Producer Fred Berger at photo shoot for La La Land.
EDITORIAL Ah, here we are with this Special BFI London Film Festival Issue of MbM. You are invited to relive the 60th BFI London Film Festival and to be able to read the reviews of fourteen films from LFF which were seen at the Odeon Leicester Square, Picturehouse Central Piccadilly, Vue West End and the Embankment Garden Cinema.
Join us at the Press Conference for Arrival and its stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner and the Opening Film: A United Kingdom with Lone Scherfig, Rosamund Pike, David Oyelowo. View the glitz and glamour of the movie world. As always, we offer you the best, with ratings for each film. London can justifiably be proud of hosting a spectacular twelve-day event.
Among the talent who attended were: Amy Adams, Casey Affleck, Benedict Andrews, Andrea Arnold, Gemma Arterton, Amma Assante, J. A Bayona, Laura Carmichael, Damien Chazelle, Sam Claflin, Shalto Copley, Tom Ford, Ryan Gosling, Werner Herzog, Nicole Kidman, Sasha Lane, Kenneth Lonergan, Steve McQueen, Ben Mendelsohn, Cillian Murphy, Bill Nighy, David Oyelowo, Nate Parker, Dev Patel, Rosamund Pike, Jeremy Renner, Jack Reynor, Lone Sherfig, Makoto Shinkai, Ruby Stokes, Oliver Stone, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Wheatley, Michelle Williams, Stephen Woolley
Films reviewed in this issue: Arrival, Elle, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, Have You Seen My Movie? *La La Land, Lion, Manchester By the Sea, Nocturnal Animals, Paterson, The Red Turtle, Their Finest, Una, A United Kingdom, and Your Name. *Cover feature review.
Enjoy the read.
CONTENTS Page 5 Editorial. 6-9
La La Land. Damien Chazelle’s bitter-sweet love letter to the city of Los Angeles, the golden era of Hollywood musicals and the visual flair of French maestro Jacques Demy. Emma Stone is an aspiring actress barely holding down a day job while juggling auditions, meets a jazz pianist played by Ryan Gosling who is struggling to keep his job at a family restaurant. After a series of blunders and mishaps, romance blooms. Undoubtedly Chazelle has followed Whiplash with another amazing film that has been critically praised and applauded at every screening it has had.
10-13 The Red Turtle. A dialogue-free and the first Studio Ghibli co-production, which came about when London-based Oscar winning filmmaker Michael Dudok de Witt was asked by Studio Ghibli if he would make a film for them. It tells of a man who was shipwrecked on a beautiful island devoid of humans and must make the most of what he has to survive. Watched by a group of sand crabs, he attempts to escape, but is thwarted by a red turtle.
14-17 The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki. Shot in gorgeous 16mm, and tells the story of Olli Maki, Finland’s hope for the 1962 World Featherweight boxing title. Known as the Baker from Kokkola, Maki’s small-town life expands quickly when he’s thrust into the media spotlight. At the same time, he falls in love with a local girl. It’s an effective sports biopic. The film becomes a charming portrait of an introverted underdog who doesn’t see boxing as the most important thing in the world. Based on a true story.
18-21 Manchester By the Sea. Kenneth Lonergan’s third feature as a director; Margaret and You Can Count on Me previously. Casey Affleck gives an indelible, careerdefining performance as the laconic Lee, whose spare existence is suddenly ruptured when the death of his brother forces him to return to his hometown he abandoned years before. Now he must face the prospect that Joe has made him legal guardian of his teenage son; neither are happy about that.
22-25 Elle. Adapted from Philippe Dijan’s novel Oh… French icon Isabelle Huppert gives a brilliant performance as Michelle LeBlanc, the director of a video game company who is raped in her own home by a masked assailant. Giving no immediate sign of distress and taking what appears to be a deliberate pleasure in shrugging off the terrifying incident, she locks the door after her attacker and gets on with her life.
26-29 Paterson. A magical ordinariness in the everyday life of a bus driver named Paterson in a town of the same name. Throughout the day Paterson mulls over words, observing fragments of life and constructing verse for a series of poems he writes in a notebook. Meanwhile, his wife Laura’s creative impulses know no bounds and she is learning to play the guitar, bakes cupcakes for a competition she has entered and has a fixation for wearing and painting everything in monochrome.
30–33 Arrival. Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s latest film borders science fiction but goes emotionally deeper and heralds a potential awardwinning performance from its star Amy Adams who plays Dr Louise Banks who is enlisted by the US government to decipher the language of extra -terrestrials who initiated first contact. Accompanied by scientist Ian Donelly (Jeremy Renner) on a mission to determine the purpose of their mysterious visitation.
34-37 Lion Saroo Brierley’s memoir “A Long Way Home” receives a sweeping adaptation with this highly-anticipated feature debut from Garth Davis. As a boy Saroo lived with his beloved hard-working mother and siblings in an impoverished rural township in India. One night, when out with older brother, he falls asleep on a train and gets trapped on board when it departs. Days later he arrives hundreds of miles from home and lost. He gets adopted but yearns to find his mother and brother.
38-41 Their Finest A delectable comedic drama set in the UK. Catrin (Gemma Arterton) a young Welsh copy-writer enticed to London by her husband, lands a job as a script editor within the Ministry of Information, hired to provide a ‘woman’s touch’ to propaganda films being made during the Blitz. Thrown into the colourful and surprisingly active world of filmmaking in London in the 1940s, her confidence grows and new interests and desires soon ignite.
42-45 Have You Seen My Movie? A veritable feast for all cinema-lovers, this is an enthralling montage of magical moments of cinema-going extracted from movie history by Paul Anton Smith. The movie explores the entire film-going experience: underage boys attempting to get in to a cinema to see some bare flesh; pretentious debates in the queues, loading choc-ices into trays, and of course the trailer and the main feature.
46-49 Nocturnal Animals Susan, (Amy Adams) is a glamourous and accomplished Los Angeles gallery director whose current marriage appears to be unravelling despite the glossy, high design trappings of wealth and success. She fuels her insomnia by reading a manuscript of a novel written and sent to her by her ex-husband. It’s a thriller about a man (Jake Gyllenhaal) whose recklessness and fear ultimately endanger the lives of his wife and teenage daughter. Is she meant to identify with the victim?
50-53 Your Name Two teenagers’ lives are changed forever when the first visible comet for a thousand years approaches Japan. Mitsuha lives in a rural area and longs to leave, whilst Taki waits tables in Tokyo when he’s not studying. Despite never having met, they both begin to dream about each other, imagining that somehow they have exchanged bodies and are existing in parallel lives. A beautiful romantic animated film.
54-57 A United Kingdom A powerful testament to the defiant and enduring love story of Seretse Kharma, King of Bechuanaland, and Ruth Williams, the London office worker he married in 1948 in the face of fierce opposition from their families and the government of the time. At a London dance, there is an immediate spark of attraction when the erudite and dashing Seretse (David Oyelowo) meets the independent-minded Ruth (Rosamund Pike).
58-61 Una Benedict Andrew’s remarkable cinematic debut, based on David Harrower’s play “Blackbird”. Una (Rooney Mara) has some deeply unresolved questions about her past and travels to another city and turns up unexpectedly at Ray’s (Ben Mendelsohn) work and dredges up a decade-old experience that he thought he’d left behind. The film interrogates the psychology of abuse with intelligence, and restraint.
62 Paterson (Poster) 63 Arrival (Poster) 64 La La Land (Poster) PHOTO CREDITS: Lionsgate: 1,6,8,9,38,40,64. Studio Canal: 10,12,13,18,20,21. MUBI: 14,16,17. Picturehouse Entertainement:22,24,25. Entertainment One: 30,32,33,63. Soda Pictures:26,28,29,62. Entertainment Film: 34,36,37.
Universal Pictures:46,48,49. Anime Limited: 50,52,53. Pathe UK: 54,56,57. WestEnd Films: 58,60,61 BFI: 41 Just Jared: 41 John Phillips – Getty Images: 33.
Acknowledgements We would like to thank the following for their invaluable help: Marine Monnier, Matty O’Riordan, Charlotte Moore and Annabel Hutton at Premier comms.com. Marguerite Michael and Melissa Ryan at Weinstein.co.com. Aimee Hall and Charlotte Frankum at Lionsgate. Charlotte Binney at NBC Universal. Asa Martin and Natacha Clarke at Studio Canal. Saffeya Shebli, Ed Frost and Anjali Mandalia at Soda Pictures. Abby Watson at Feref.com Emily Lodderhouse at Organic-Publicity.com Matt Dinsdale and Christina Wood at Entonegroup. Elle McAtamney at Fetch fm.
LA LA LAND Directed by Damien Chazelle Starring: Ryan Gosling. Emma Stone. John Legend. JK Simmons. Here’s to the ones who dream / Foolish as it may seem - Mia La La Land arrived at the LFF with an impeccable pedigree: Damien Chazelle, director of the amazing Whiplash which produced a standing ovation as the credits rolled at its press and public screenings two years ago at the festival; Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone teaming again but this time in a musical allowing Gosling to tap dance and Stone to sing. The response the film has received at previous film festivals has been unprecedented with audiences and film critics alike praising it to the skies and like Whiplash it was received at the London Film Festival with applause too but it came after the opening pre-credit sequence and its first song which happens on a traffic congested Los Angeles freeway. Suddenly the drivers get out of their cars and burst into a song and dance: “Another Day of Sun”. The film announces its intention straight away with its biggest number. They resort to fantasy to get out of the situation they are in and it works because we are projected into the musical genre of Hollywood in an emotionally justified way. Chazelle chose a particular freeway which was shut-downable, in a way other parts of L.A. weren’t. But when it came to shooting the scene everything was conspiring to go wrong as Damien explained. It was a heatwave, the hottest two days of the year. The car tops were boiling, that the people have to dance on. The truck door that the guy opens decides to stop opening before we do that take, so we have our producer and three crew members with a makeshift pulley system behind it to open it because it wouldn’t open on its own. And then half of one of the days, there decided to be giant, thunderous cloud over L.A. when we’re singing about how it’s just another day of sun. So we had to wait for the clouds to break. Among Chazelle’s musical inspirations have been Singin’ in the Rain and Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. While Gosling and Stone, appearing together for the third time (Crazy, Stupid, Love and Gangster Squad) are being seen as a famous twosome like Astaire and Rodgers or Tracy and Hepburn. The storyline in La La Land is about Mia (Stone) an aspiring actress who serves coffee to movie stars in between auditions, while Sebastian (Gosling)is a jazz pianist eking out a living at cocktail parties in dingy bars playing music that the manager and audiences want to hear rather than what he wants to play. When he does play jazz – he is fired. Both Mia and Sebastian are big dreamers trying to make it in an industry where constant rejection is the norm. Chazelle admits that 6
Whiplash and La La Land reflect his own experiences as a film-maker working his way up the Hollywood ladder.
I guess you write what you know. There is something to be said for having even unrealistic dreams. Even if the dreams don’t come true – that to me is what’s beautiful about Los Angeles. It’s full of these people who have moved there to chase these dreams. A lot of those people are told by people around them that they’re crazy, or that they’re living in la la land. I wanted to make a movie that saluted them a little bit, and that kind of unrealistic state of mind. As the success mounts for the couple, they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart. Really they are a couple who inspire each other to do what they need to do – and go on their way. Justin Hurwitz wrote the music for Whiplash and La La Land. At one time they even thought that they might become rock stars; Justin played piano and Damien played the drums. They have always shared a love of movies. Justin wanted to score films, and Damien wanted to make movies since he was a little kid. So, they bonded over different ways of combining music and film. The combination was exciting to both of them. They were inspired by the great musicals of the past. As for Ryan Gosling he had done summer stock theatre, he had just not danced in front of the cameras before, just as it is Emma Stone’s first time of singing in a movie. La La Land is the best film at this year’s London Film Festival, and has every chance of winning an Oscar for Best Film and even Best Actress come next March. A film for dreamers and film loversthwho are generally one and the same. It will be released in the UK on 13 January. See it on the big screen and share your love for it to your friends just as Movies by Mills is doing right now. At the recent Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, Tom Hanks who was there to promote his title role in the Clint Eastwood directed Sully, interrupted the Q & A by praising La La Land: I like to think we approach movies the same way we approach being members of the audience in that you just want to see something you have never seen before. It’s funny. Who saw La La Land yesterday? Members of the audience clapped in response. When you see something that is brand new, that you can’t imagine, and you think, ‘Well, thank God this landed,’ because I think a movie like La La Land would be anathema to studios. Number one, it is a musical and no one knows the songs. This is not a movie that falls into some sort of trend. I think it is going to be a test of the broader national audience, because it has none of the things that major studios want. Pre-awareness is a big thing they want, which is why a lot of remakes are going on. La La Land is not a sequel, nobody knows who the characters are…But if the audience doesn’t go and embrace something as wonderful as this then we are doomed. Here’s to the ones who dream. It really is not as foolish as it may seem. Treat your heart to this one.
Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) in La La Land.
Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) in La La Land. 8
Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) in La La Land.
Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) in La La Land.
THE RED TURTLE
Directed by Michael Dudok de Witt I received a letter from Studio Ghibli in Tokyo, saying that they had seen my short film “Father and Daughter” (which was about a father who says goodbye to his young daughter. In time she grows old, but within her there is always a deep longing for her father), and they liked it and asked me if I wanted to make a feature film for them. I was extremely keen. Studio Ghibli advised me to meet up with Vincent Maraval from Wild Bunch because Wild Bunch would also produce the film. I immediately started writing the synopsis of a story and that’s how The Red Turtle began. - Michael Dudok de Witt He was influenced by many things, including the films of Studio Ghibli, certain cartoons by Herge and Moebus, drawings by French cartoonist Sempe. Nature of course was also a particularly important source of inspiration for him too; not just animals and landscapes, but also light and shade, unique atmospheres and the emotional relationships that we have with them. The short animated films of the Russian director Youri Norstein, which he made with his wife Franceska Iarboussova, Dudok de Witt thought were the most beautiful short films ever made: The Heron and the Crane, Hedgehog in the Fog, Tale of Tales. How does the director of The Red Turtle work? My best creative moments? I need emptiness. I need to know I won’t be interrupted and I need to know I have a clean sofa, a clean space and now I’m in the process, I can be very messy but I need to clean everything at the end of the job, then I can start the next day.
The Red Turtle is a metaphor for life. The film begins with a man swimming for his life in the middle of the ocean, his name and backstory we will never know. He finds his way to a deserted island, washed ashore and all alone. His only companions being a small group of crabs that come and go as they please. With no help in sight, he has to find a way to get off the island. Time and time again he attempts to make a raft but it breaks-up, destroyed by a hidden force beneath the water, but he still perseveres; the destruction is shown later to be the red turtle. But when he encounters the red turtle it forces him to return to the shore. All hope seems lost until a woman appears much to the man’s dismay. From that moment on we watch as the man and woman attempt to survive on the island. It is a film about life and the opening scene was symbolic 10
of life – the birth of his character are like a baby: helpless, unable to talk and without a name, just like a new-born baby We are aware of all the key aspects of human existence, love, loss, regret and isolation. The Red Turtle is a very spiritual film and at times like a cinematic meditation. A few years ago cinema audiences were treated to a beautiful silent black and white which won our hearts which went on to win an Oscar for Best Picture: The Artist. Now comes this wonderfully made animated silent movie that invariably will win an Oscar too…for Best Animated Picture. Taking away the words allows for everything to feel a little more intimate. The film becomes visually poetic; every frame draws you in to help make a perfect story. The castaways have a child. He grows up and is determined to leave the island and make his own life out there beyond the horizon. There is sadness and yet there is hope too. Gradually we watch the couple grow old together as though spying on their dreams. The tranquillity of silence is powerfully engaging and hypnotic in its simplicity. The turtle and the woman are one in a way that again is symbolic and beautiful. Nature is the root of the majority of films from Studio Ghibli and none more so than this little masterpiece. It is unique and aesthetically pleasing style that makes this film a work of art. As this is being written, the news has just come in that one of Studio Ghibli’s greatest animators and colour designers, Michiyo Yasuda has died at the age of 77. Yasuda played an integral role in the creation of the most famous works in her five-decade long career. Spirited Away Princess Mononoke My Neighbour Totoro Howl’s Moving Castle Ponyo
She said that colour has a meaning and it makes the film more easily understood. Colours and pictures can enhance what the situation is on the screen. The words could have been spoken by the director of The Red Turtle, Dudok de Witt, because those sentiments are expressed in his film as he weaved the colours and pictures in this beautifully created work of art. Let us hope that The Red Turtle inspires the Japanese masters to come out of semi-retirement and start drawing again – please!
Man on raft in The Red Turtle.
Man, Child and Woman in The Red Turtle.
Woman, Child and Man in The Red Turtle.
Young man swimming with turtles in The Red Turtle.
THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MAKI Directed by Juno Kuosmanen Starring: Jarkko Lahti. Oona Airola. Eero Milonoff. Can I be honest?
- Olli Maki
Of course. You have to be honest with me. You know, I think I’m in love.
- Elis Milonoff - Olli Maki
I see. This is the shittiest moment to fall in love. - Elis Milonoff This charming feature from Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen was awarded the Un Certain Regard Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The film takes place in 1962, when Finland was preparing to hold a boxing world championship on home soil for the first time. Everyone’s hopes are pinned on the fists of Olli Maki (Jarkko Lahti), the “Baker of Kokolla”), a former European amateur champion who has very little experience in professional boxing (with 8 wins out of 10 fights) and is set to face a very tough American opponent with 64 victories to his name. Olli is trained and managed by retired boxer Elis Ask (Eero Milonoff) who uses the opportunity to get himself back into the limelight. However, there is a big problem, he’s dropped down to the featherweight category and must lose a lot of weight in a very short time to be under the 57 kilos that will allow him to fight. More importantly Olli has fallen in love with Raija (Oona Airola), who lives in the countryside and follows him to Helsinki where his training is taking place. But just as Elis comes to the conclusion that she is a dangerous distraction to the concentration and future of his champion, Raija leaves and Olli is left all alone. Filmed on 16mm in black and white, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki is uniquely refreshing in that its hero is a modest fellow who although has the potential to be a good boxer does not see fighting as the most important thing in the world because when love intervenes boxing is floored and will never make the bell as it is really no contest.
The charming couple that Olli and Raija meet as passers-by at the end of the film are the real Olli and Raija.
We first see Olli escorting Raija to a wedding which he is totally unprepared for. The cine verite look of the film enhances it and recalls Jean Luc Godard’s A Bout de Souffle. One of the film’s unique slants is concentrating on the boxer’s draining rigours of the publicity circuit: the endless interviews and photo sessions and posing with fashion models. Jarkko Lahti as Olli may be on the ropes in the ring but never in his craft as an actor. Likewise, Oona Airola as Raija is a beautiful and believable distraction for Olli. Her smile lights up his life and they were made for each other. What makes this film a winner is that it is about the heart not the head. When your protagonist is egoless, likeable, humble and kind, you are in his corner. In contrast his overbearing manager and trainer is clearly trying to vicariously relive his own days in the ring. Maki cares much more about spending time with Raija than he does about training for the fight. When she is not with him he seems lost and sad and cannot help thinking about her. Though he has told his manager that he is in love, he knows that he does not understand what that means and expects him to continue boxing as though nothing has happened to his heart. Finland is becoming a leading European country for quality filmmaking. Their most famous film director Aki Kaurismaki (The Man Without a Past, part of a trilogy, and Le Havre) is known for strong dramas and Finland’s greatest export. You can see a short film of his on the DVD To Each His Own. It is called La Fonderie. Last month Movies by Mills had the pleasure of reviewing The Fencer, which was directed by Klaus Haro, another Finnish film. There will be many films from Finland I am sure in the coming months that this magazine will have pleasure in reviewing. The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki is a remarkable feature that must be seen to be believed.
JUNO KUOSMANEN THE PAINTING SELLERS THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MAKI OONA AIROLA THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MAKI – First Feature SORCERESS Completed. JARKKO LAHTI CITIZENS - Short ALONE THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MAKI UK RELEASE DATE: March 2017
Olli (Jarkko Lahti) in The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki.
Raija (Oona Airola) and Olli (Jarkko Lahti) in The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki. 16
Olli (Jarkko Lahti) in The Happiest Day of the Life of Olli Maki.
Olli (Jarkko Lahti) and Elis (Eero Milonoff) in The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki.
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Directed by Kenneth Lonergan. Starring: Casey Affleck. Michelle Williams. Kyle Chandler. Lucas Hedges. Liam McNeil. Hello? - Lee Hello. Lee, I just wanted to call, say I’m sorry. How’s Patrick doing? - Randi He doesn’t really open up with me. - Lee
The buzz around this film has been loud since it first breathed light when Matt Damon passed on the lead character role because he was committed to another project and suggested to Ben Affleck that his brother Casey would be ideal for the part – and so it was that Casey Affleck signed for the part and is now being mentioned as a cert nomination at the Oscars for Best Actor. The helmer for the film is Kenneth Lonergan directing only his third film in sixteen years, You Can Count on Me and Margaret being the previous two. The former about a woman fighting to keep control of her own life. The latter about a young woman witnessing a bus accident and is caught up in the aftermath, where the question of whether or not it was intentional affects many people’s lives. Lonergan has a way of subtly imposing funny dialogue in everyday situations whether it be facing loneliness, guilt or death. Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, living out his lonely life working as a janitor for a group of four apartment buildings. A phone call from his hometown informs him that his brother Joe’s (Kyle Chandler) long-diagnosed congestive heart failure finally caught up with him. Passing away before Lee makes it home, he must deal with the aftermath of his brother’s death and the ocean of grief that it brings, all in a town that carries its own tragic memories for him.
Upon the untimely death of his brother Joe, Lee returns to Manchester by the Sea and learns that he has been named sole 18
guardian of his 16-year-old nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). A traumatic event from the past slowly reveals itself and gives insight to the psyche of Lee who lives alone in a cell -like basement apartment, gets into bar fights and overall seems to have pushed his soul aside for another day. There is a telling breakfast scene which shows how each person disconnects with each other by what they have chosen for the breakfast. Lee has only coffee, Patrick eats a huge bowl of cereal with milk, and one of his two girlfriends, Silvie (Kara Hayward), has an organic yoghurt. Another example of Lonergan’s use of detailed symbolism. Mention must be made too of the way the costume designer Melissa Toth uses a coded symbolism with the clothes the women and men wear. The women wearing low necklines even though they fail in their attempts to befriend or seduce. Second husbands wear sweaters with zippers as though attempting to forget or zip-up their past. But the main centre of attention is Casey Affleck who appears in nearly every scene who rivets our attention by how he reacts to each person that has left him mentally scarred in the past. Affleck is able to exhibit both the suffering and confusion without saying a word. His previous films: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Gone Girl, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford have prepared him for the role of Lee Chandler perfectly. Manchester by the Sea is not a joyous walk in the park, but is a wonderful example of superb acting, even though like Lee you may leave the cinema round-shouldered with your hands in your pockets. But what was it like for Casey Affleck? What were his memories on working on the film? The script does so much for you and Kenny does a great job and if you are doing something like this, you want to be with people you can trust and then lose yourself. It’s really a luxury to be able to show up for work and be kind of a mess and know that the people are just going to guide you to the right place and Kenny is really brilliant. He is not just a good writer. He really knows how to direct actors and get everyone to where they need to be. So all you have to do is turn the engine on.
Joe (Kyle Chandler) and Lee (Casey Affleck) in Manchester By the Sea.
Lee (Casey Affleck) in Manchester By the Sea. 20
Randi (Michelle Williams) and Lee (Casey Affleck) in Manchester By the Sea.
Patrick (Lucas Hedges) and Silvie (Kara Hayward) in Manchester By the Sea.
ELLE Directed by Paul Verhoeven Starring: Isabelle Huppert. Laurent Lafitte. Anne Consigny. I spotted him in the bushes, watching your house.
You saw his face? - Michelle No, he had a mask. Like a ski mask.
Paul Verhoeven films are prone to be controversial and his latest is no exception as it is about a woman who is raped in her own home and then resorts to her finding her assailant and taking out her revenge. Both Basic Instinct and Showgirls were ostracised for their nudity and misogyny. Sharon Stone’s famous scene when she opens her legs to show that she isn’t wearing any underwear and Elizabeth Berkeley’s pool orgasm in a pool. Michelle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) is a moneyed Paris games executive and her best-selling game reflects sexual assault on a young damsel who is penetrated from behind by a snaking tentacle. The backstory reveals that Michelle is the daughter of Charles Le Blanc, a notorious 1970s serial killer, now safely behind bars. There is even a suggestion that she was involved in his crimes. Michelle recalls her father to be a monster. Not surprising then that she courts danger and violence. We spend over two hours with this film and with a protagonist who is constantly revaluing her life, which may provoke you to question why you came to see this film. Her family life is complicated with an ex-husband Richard (Charles Berling) dating a yoga instructor, her mother (Judith Magre) dating a toy boy (Raphael Lenglet), her son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) setting up house with his psycho pregnant girlfriend (Alice Isaaz) and a lover Robert (Christian Berk) who is of course her best friend’s husband
Huppert’s performance as Michelle is never short of amazing. After the assault, Michelle buys some pepper spray and an axe, learns how 22
to shoot a gun and begins her own investigation as to who might be responsible. Based on the novel “Oh” by Philippe Dijan, it allows Isabelle Huppert the chance to play black comedy and under the direction of Verhoeven is witty in a storyline about rape, not a subject that should be considered comedic in any way so one can well understand the accusations aimed at his film about being misogynist. So, where is the comedy supposed to come from? Well, it is from her feminist response to rape. She considers herself to be a survivor, rather than a victim, or prefers not to be defined as being violated at all. She is a successful businesswoman with an infamous history, there are many possible suspects, but the mystery is resolved relatively early in the film and what follows takes the film into mind-game territories as she begins to flirt with rape fantasies and an absurd romance develops between victim and attacker, which is played for laughs. The performance of Huppert is unquestionably brilliant as she uses every acting technique in her limitless repertoire of acting: a glassy stare, a casual remark, a quiver of her upper lip, often reacting in a serendipitous way that bemuses those around her. As Michelle, she often mocks the idiocy of others and enjoys her own power, especially her power to disrupt. Even when she receives a series of text messages from her attacker she plays along with his game; after all games are her forte. What is Isabelle Huppert’s take on the film? The film is really rich, very surprising and enigmatic. It’s elusive. It’s not a genre movie either – it floats somewhere between Chabrol and Hitchcock, but it’s still a thousand per cent Verhoeven. There’s also a sociological dimension. It’s about a very contemporary woman, not a victim, but someone who bears up – only you don’t see her bearing up. Things just happen to her and she lives through them, without complaining. You can’t say she’s a victim, or a heroine, or a woman of power. All these categories distract us from reality, in a way. And what was Paul Verhoeven’s feelings about using Stravinsky for the music in the film? What I learnt from Stravinsky was to be short. He has structure and that is an important point. There are no superfluous notes. Stravinsky is so very precise. I’ve always admired that. I can say I use this is in the film. I use it to look at the actors and the screenplay to ensure the scene has a given pace and movement. I want there to be a real movement in the film. I want things to move forward and I think Stravinsky’s music does that, for me at least.
Michelle (Isabelle Huppert) in Elle.
Michelle (Isabelle Huppert) and Patrick (Laurent Lafitte) in Elle. 24
Michelle (Isabelle Huppert in Elle.
Michelle (Isabelle Huppert in Elle.
PATERSON Directed by Jim Jarmusch Starring: Adam Driver. Golshifteh Farahani. When you are a child, there are three dimensions: height, width and depth, like a shoebox, and then later you hear there’s a fourth dimension – time. - Paterson
This is a beautiful observation of ordinariness in the life of a bus driver named Paterson (Adam Driver) in the town of the same name who finds inspiration in seeing the happenings around him to write poetry about it. Each morning he wakes-up in bed next to his wife and checks his watch to prepare for another day driving his bus. The narrative has a timespan of just one week in Paterson’s life, each day captioned. He is remarkably stress-free and he writes his poetry in his breaks and before his shift. A tell-tale sign of his passion can be glimpsed in his driver’s cab: Frank O’Hara’s “Lunch Poems”. Once his shift is over, he returns home to his loving wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) who excitedly tells him of her latest creative pursuit, which ranges from painting everything in their home black and white, which includes her clothes, to sending for a guitar so that she learns to play it and become a Country and Western star, or she is baking cakes to enter a competition as another dream for her is to open her own bakery. Laura is just very talented and both she and Paterson support each other’s work. Bulldog walking Marvin is another daily routine as he too observes all that goes on from his chair. Later when he does decide to take an interest in something it is most unwelcoming. Patterson walks Marvin as far as his local bar and ties him up outside to wait for him while he goes in for a beer and a chat with the philosophical barman Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley). It is on one of these dog excursions that Paterson meets a car full of gang bangers which at first appear to be threatening but they are more interested in Marvin and giving advice about dog security.
All the encounters reflect a simple world where one man spends his day bemoaning his unrequited love, construction workers talk 26
about the girls they like but can’t find the courage to do anything about it, a couple of students discussing history of a local anarchist, and a Japanese poet (Masatoshi Nagase) who admires the poetry of William Carlos Williams and inspires Paterson to continue writing. To the viewer Paterson is like wearing a comfortable pair of slippers and snugly sitting with your arm around your loved one. Paterson is part of the community, he is good hearted and optimistic, a good listener and conversationalist. He is passionate about poetry and writes it in a little notebook and as they are composed they appear on the screen – a verse here and there. He doesn’t have a mobile phone; he is a face-toface person. And Laura is a huggable presence with wild, crazy but wonderful ideas. They are ideally suited to each other. The namesake town is a character in itself and as aforementioned Doc the barman who pins a tableaux of pictures of local heroes behind the bar, the main one being Lou Costello who partnered Bud Abbott in the famous comedy double-act of the 1940s. Jim Jarmusch recalls how easy it was for him to direct and was fun just going to the studio each day with such excellent actors: Adam is not an analytical actor. He is a reacting actor, very intuitive which is how I work and is the same quality which also Paterson has. This couple are not miserable, living in what happens in the moment. Paterson putting it into poetry and Laura putting it into art, painting curtains, doing stuff, making cupcakes. Having such a great amount of energy and love for each other. There are lovely little vignettes in the movie like when Paterson listens to a girl reading her poem. The ending when Paterson encounters a Japanese poet who loves the poetry of William Carlos Williams. For Adam Driver: The script in itself was so strong in the writing. The biggest thing I tried to do was not get in the way of it. Golshifteh remembered when she was twelve watching Jarmusch’s film Coffee and Cigarettes in Iran. Jim Jarmusch was her favourite director. Jarmusch is a fan of Wes Anderson’s movies and loved Moonrise Kingdom and cast the two youngsters, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward in Paterson. Ultimately the major theme in the film is about choosing your own path in life. The way the things we do in our spare time can come to define who we are. Aha.
Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and Paterson (Adam Driver)in Paterson.
Paterson (Adam Driver) and Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) in Paterson. 28
Paterson (Adam Driver) in Paterson.
Paterson (Adam Driver) in Paterson.
ARRIVAL * Spoiler Alert *
Directed by Denis Villeneuve Starring: Amy Adams. Jeremy Renner. Forest Whitaker. Michael Stuhlberg. There are days that define your story beyond your life – like the day they arrived. - Dr Louise Banks
We have heard so much about how much women need to be given leading roles, well, here in this quite brilliant film in which Amy Adams plays a linguist professor who receives an assignment of interpreting extraterrestrial language by aliens to define whether they come in peace or to make war, is a leading role for an actress in which Amy Adams carries the film on her shoulders in an outstanding Oscar-worthy performance. In no way does this take away the collaborative contribution by the rest of the cast: Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker, but just as in the story Dr Louise Banks is confident in what she is doing and how to handle the delicate situation she confronts and gets total backing from physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) on her actions, and the only critical objections come from Agent Halpern (Michael Stuhlberg) to which she reacts by saying: I don’t want to talk to him.
The story revolves around the characters establishing what they are dealing with, using the most basic tool – communication. In past films about aliens, there has been a fear of why they have chosen to come to Earth and a lack of communication has always prevented mutual understanding, which tends to result in explosions and mass destruction. In Arrival therefore Dr Louise Banks is an integral character. Banks is the US-appointed bridge between mankind and the aliens, and the way she approaches them shows a deeper understanding of what can be achieved without resorting to violence. Through her knowledge with languages, she connects with them on a higher level and elevates the film to another level.
The earlier sequences in the film establish Louise’s profound sense of loss of her daughter and she needs to believe that 30
something exists beyond the terrain of the Earth. These aliens offer some hope of an afterlife as all this expansive space houses the unknown. Memories of her daughter appear fleetingly as the film deftly begins to reconfigure its chronology to favour a non-linear syntax to match the alien language. Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Eric Heisserer put on the alien elements. They keep nearly all the action grounded on Earth and find that the greater potential comes from withholding things from view. Arrival is a meditative experience and keeps the audience guessing until its final moments until everything comes full circle. The movie, based on an award-winning 1998 short story by Ted Chiang titled “Story of Your Life”, was bought by Paramount in a then-record $20 million deal at the start of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. French Canadian Denis Villeneuve is one of the rare foreign filmmakers to excel in Hollywood, and is at present shooting the untitled Blade Runner sequel. He has always wanted to make a science fiction film. Paramount missed out on Sicario, so they really wanted to do Arrival. Here Villeneuve explains: Everyone was seduced by the script and the idea that Amy Adams was attached to the project. Everyone was really enthusiastic. She was the first choice, she loved the script and said OK in 24 hours, so it had wind in its sails. Amy came in really early, earlier than I would have thought. I thought it was going to be a much longer process. I was doing Sicario, so Arrival had to wait; otherwise we would have shot earlier. I’ve always been in love with language. My favourite book is a dictionary. I have always loved words. There’s something to that. Ant the etymology of words, to dig into the origins. For me it was a choice to make films in English – for now, that doesn’t mean I won’t go back to French. But I realize that there’s something that rises above language and even in my work there’s an intuition. Arrival talks very little about language and how to dissect a foreign language. It’s more a film on intuition and communication by intuition, the language of intuition. That’s something that I find in my work. When I work in English, I’d say I see a big difference in my rapport with my team or the actors. Films choose you, and you choose the films. What I loved about this film was that it was a character where, again, there’s something in her rapport with intuition and opening. But it’s honestly a coincidence that I chose two projects with a female protagonist. Arrival isn’t born of a desire to comment on the current political situation in America
UK Release date: November 11
Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) in Arrival.
Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) in Arrival. 32
Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) in Arrival.
Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams at Press Conference for Arrival.
LION Directed by Garth Davis. Starring: Rooney Mara. Dev Patel. Nicole Kidman. David Wenham.. A life I had forgotten. You okay? I had another family. A mother. A brother. I can still see their faces. What happened?
- Saroo - Lucy
- Saroo - Lucy
The Weinstein company come to a project that they feel will be an award winner of which they have a good record, two Best Picture Academy Award wins; The Kings Speech and The Artist. Could Lion be another? Their latest is almost certain to be nominated but it will it win? Lion is set in Khandwa, India. Saroo and his elder brother Guddu help their mother by collecting rocks which she will sell. Saroo, though only five-years-old, insists to be taken to the train station by his brother to find a job. Guddu did not want to disappoint Saroo and agrees to take him to the station. By the time the train arrives, Saroo has fallen asleep. Guddu asks him to stay on the bench and rest until he gets back. So Saroo does, but when he wakes up, he finds himself completely alone. Getting on the first train, Saroo falls asleep again and a few hours later is 1200KM away from Khandwa in Calcutta. Three months later he is sent to an orphanage and a year later he is adopted by an Australian couple, adoptive parents Sue and John Brierley (Nicole Kidman and John Wenham) who live on the island of Tasmania. The couple also adopt another boy, a troubled soul with a traumatic past. It is beautifully shot by cinematographer Greg Fraser and it has its moments of memorable scenes mainly being when Saroo as an adult finally meets his mother and learns that his brother Guddu did go back for him but he was killed by a train. 34
Saroo’s obsession in wanting to go back to India to find his mother and sibling is at the expense of his girlfriend Lucy and his adoptive parents, and it is this that I found so jarring and unbelievable. Lucy is a remarkable human being and knows what suffering is all about, yet does all she can to help Saroo, and he does not deserve her. Rooney Mara’s role is grossly underwritten for an actress of her calibre. The first half of the film is its strongest part, dominated by an incredible performance by Sunny Pawer who plays Saroo as his younger self. He is a natural actor and totally overshadows Dev Patel. The problem is not so much Patel, but the script which appears to lose its way when Saroo’s adoptive parents appear on the scene which gives rise to clichéd roles that fail to see anything but follow a formula and endeavouring to emphasise that this is a real story in case we have forgotten. Nicole Kidman is given a long monologue to provide an explanation as to why she and her husband decided to adopt, but it slows the film down by getting a character to talk about their backstory, their reasons for making the decisions they made – they need to be seen not talked about. Show don’t tell – using exposition was totally unnecessary.
Somehow the urgency of trying to make everything so real ends up in it being contrived and feeling less emotional that it intended to be. Will this story make you weep? Yes, if you totally buy into Saroo’s character as an adult. What is admirable is tackling the story in the first place, as it is not an easy story to tell. The frustrating thing is knowing that the film had such great potential which it somehow missed. For a narrative that is so emotional and designed to fit in the weepie genre it did not reduce this viewer to tears. However, I would love to hear from you if you had a different reaction to mine. Undoubtedly there was one patron in the very same row as mine who sobbed their way through the film -for them it was an emotional picture.
Saroo (Dev Patel) in Lion.
Saroo (Dev Patel) and Lucy (Rooney Mara) in Lion. 36
Sue Brierley (Nicole Kidman) and Young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) in Lion.
Saroo (Dev Patel) in Lion.
THEIR FINEST Directed by Lone Scherfig Starring: Gemma Arterton. Sam Ciaflin. Bill Nighy. It is very rare to read a leading lady part that isn’t necessarily a leading lady, so she is very timid and quite shy and a bit awkward and has a voice inside her that is very strong and witty and funny and self-assured and yet she hasn’t yet found it and it very gently emerges. - GEMMA ARTERTON Chosen as this year’s Mayor of London’s Gala, and opening at the Odeon Leicester Square on the 9th day of the BFI London Film Festival, Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest is an emotive portrait of British filmmaking during the Second World War, capturing the crucial wartime role of women in boosting public morale. Catrin (Gemma Arterton) is a young copywriter who is taken on to help with the script for a flag -waving feature film being put together by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Information. Her role is initially confined to adding a touch of realism and authenticity to the dialogues between female characters, in the hope of attracting and pandering to the large numbers of women who frequent the capital’s cinemas. But Catrin turns out to be a modern, resolute sort of woman, and she’s determined that the women appearing on screen should be endowed with strong, significant roles and personalities of their own, rather than being mere plot devices or love interests for the male heroes. She is to work with another screenwriter, Buckley (Sam Claflin) to bring forth the tales of authenticity and optimism that the ministry wishes to inspire and boost the morale of the general population during the war. They are also including two sisters in the film who take a boat trip to help the evacuation of Dunkirk. Also, cast in the film within in a film is a pompous, past his prime Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy) who seems to be known for only one role and relies on Catrin to bring him greater and better lines. It’s a wonderful script and it’s a great book and it was a great group of people and I had a marvellous part. They were looking for somebody 38
to play a chronically self-absorbed pompous actor in his declining years and they thought of me, which was tricky to process on occasions, but I suppose I should be grateful for the work. Lone and I drifted off the script a few times during the shooting and Lone came up and handed me some great gags, some real gifts, because when you are talking about vain, shallow and totally self-obsessed people, they can be funny if observed in the right way. - Bill Nighy Shooting the film in Devon, Cole begins to come into her own as a very talented screenwriter, and her and Buckley grow even closer as they work together to perfect their passion project. While a romance is obviously pending, director Lone Scherfig never lets it get in the way of impending doom that the characters face every day.
Catrin lives with her husband Ellis (Jack Huston), a struggling painter whose work is deemed too gloomy for a country desperately trying to encourage optimism. Ellis resents the idea of being financially dependent on his wife. But just when Catrin is getting more and more involved in the production of the film, he is handed an opportunity to display his work that will keep him away from home for several weeks. It is while he is away that the at first antagonistic relationship begins with fellow writer Tom Buckley (Sam Ciaflin). He is not too thrilled at the idea of a woman being elevated to his professional standing, little by little he reveals his softer side. For Catrin, she soon realizes that in a male-dominated and highly politicised world, subtlety and cunning are the only tools that will help her bring her ideas to life. Their Finest shows a rare insight into the unsung heroes of screenwriting and how a story is developed, particularly the immense pressure they are under and how they cope and it is also a wonderful role for Gemma Arterton, a remarkably versatile actress. What the film beautifully captures are that in our darkest times films are our greatest escape and always will be, and all great films rely on a good story that will move people and will be played again and again on the screen of their minds. Their Finest is such a film. Working in period film is clearly a comfort zone for Lone Scherfig with its attraction of nostalgia. Her attention to this 1940â€™s period piece is perfect as was one of her previous films An Education, set in the 1960s. In Their Finest you are projected into the colours, dress, and character mannerisms of the time. The dialogue is witty and fast paced with banter passing between characters to great effect. It is the dexterity of the screenwriter that reminds us of how far we have come in some aspects, particularly highlighting a comment about Catrin not being paid as well as her male counterparts and sadly demonstrating that there are some areas that have remained unchanged for decades. Gemma Arterton beautifully encompasses her character with grace and sensitivity, and Sam Claflin gives one of his finest performances to date. Bill Nighy is as always commanding our attention in every scene he is in. Like La La Land, Their Finest is a heartfelt love letter to cinema. In the film one character comments Film is real life with the boring bits cut out. Well, cinemagoers, there are no boring bits in this film, I can assure you.
Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) in Their Finest.
Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) and Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy) in Their Finest. 40
Bill Nighy on the red carpet for the premiere of Their Finest.
Gemma Arterton at the photo shoot for Their Finest.
HAVE YOU SEEN MY MOVIE? Documentary * Spoiler Alert * A feast for all film lovers, an enthralling montage of magical moments of cinema-going extracted from movie history by Paul Anton Smith. - Helen de Witt. Here is a film that will awaken films that you have seen and may have forgotten and post stick them in your mind to watch them again or add them to your DVD collection if you haven’t done so. Paul Anton Smith worked as Christian Marclay’s assistant on the beautifully edited The Clock which was a twenty-fourvideo installation from film clips that mirrored the actual time of day, and now Smith has branched out on his own by taking clips from over one hundred films to create a micro narrative of the experience of going to the cinema: people first arriving at the cinema, some trying to talk their way into the cinema for free, to plush red carpets, and to everyone heading home after collectively watching the end of Casablanca. There are some amusing and ingenious juxtapositions, one being when an audience is seen watching the horror flick sequel Scream 2, and cuts back to the audience to see Michael Jackson eating popcorn with a wide grin on his face.
Of course, the greatest fun for film buffs is to see how many film clips they can recognize. The ones of the stars sitting in the stalls watching a film are numerous in films and this documentary captures a few of these, Mia Farrow in The Purple Rose of Cairo for example. My favourite sequence was Gene Kelly dancing on roller skates in It’s Always Fair Weather. Though the narrative was different, a better example of the use of clever editing of films to tell a story was Final Cut – Ladies and Gentlemen. A film where the hero and heroine changes faces, age, looks, names, and so on. The consistency is its theme: the love between man and woman. The film is Gyorgy Palfi’s stunning 90-minute montage of compiled clips from over 400 films, all cut into a classic love story narrative.
Contrastingly, Have You Seen My Movie? concerns itself with why we go to see movies. Like Palfi’s film you will have fun spotting the films you recognize. It is unique in that you see people queuing and obviously gives rise to the memorable scene from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall: Alvy Singer: (the man behind him in line is talking loudly) What I wouldn’t give for a large sock with horse manure in it!) Alvy Singer: (to audience) Whaddya do when you get stuck in a movie line with a guy like this behind you? Man in Theatre Line: Wait a minute, why can’t I give my opinion? It’s a free country! Alvy Singer: He can give it…do you have to give it so loud? I mean, aren’t you ashamed to pontificate like that? And the funny part of it is, Marshall McLuhan, you don’t know anything about Marshall McLuhan! Man in Theatre Line: Oh, really? Well, it just so happens I teach a class at Columbia called “TV, Media and Culture.” So I think my insights into Mr McLuhan, well, have a great deal of validity! Alvy Singer: Oh, do ya? Well, that’s funny, because I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here, so, so, yeah, just let me…(pulls McLuhan out from behind a nearby poster) Alvy Singer: Come over here for a second…tell him! Marshall McLuhan: I heard what you were saying! You know nothing of my work! You mean my whole fallacy is wrong. How you got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing! Alvy Singer: Boy, if life were only like this! There are scenes of lovers in interested in each other that plus the ambiance of being in to cinema and watching a film
a cinema audience who are more what is being shown on the screen, a cinema. It reminds you that going is a shared cultural experience.
Yes, both Have You Seen My Movie? and Final Cut – Ladies and Gentlemen will be enjoyed mainly by film lovers as will a film called Cinemania, which reveals the impassioned world of five obsessed movie buffs in New York City. Interviews in movie houses, on the street and in the homes of the subjects tell the story of everyone. All of them have demoted the importance of the real world, giving all their attention to the fantasy world of the movies. These obsessed human encyclopaedias of cinema see two to five films a day, and from 600 to 2,000 films a year. They were up all night planning today’s film-viewing itinerary. Before they leave their apartments, they call the theatres’ projectionists to discuss the print quality of the films. Armed with their final unemployment cheques, they lock their doors wondering where next month’s ticket money will come from. One of them has collected every ticket of every film she has seen. As for Have You Seen My Movie? It will be dependent on getting a UK distributor which at present it does not have.
Premiere of “The Buccaneer” at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Hollywood Boulevard, in Have You Seen My Movie?
Auditorium of cinemagoers in Have You Seen My Movie? 44
Silhouette of cinemagoers in Have You Seen My Movie?
Cinemagoer with popcorn in Have You Seen My Movie?
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS * Spoiler Alert *
Directed by Tom Ford Starring: Amy Adams. Jake Gyllenhaal. Michael Shannon. Aaron Taylor-Johnson. I really wanted to be this person that you thought I was. - Susan When you love someone, you have to be careful with it. You might not get it again. - Edward The opening of any film should take you into the crisis of the story or show the protagonist at their lowest point struggling to get out of the mess or danger that they are in. It also should determine the genre of the film, leaving no doubt as to the type of film you are about to see. So what are you to make of an opening that shows in slow-motion images of grossly overweight women, naked, old majorettes gyrating to make their loose skin flap around while being incongruously serenaded by classical music. We then see that the women are performing as part of an art gallery display and watched by the gallery owner, Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), on a big screen. Morrow is in an unloving relationship but she does not seem to care. Her story is explored and exemplified when she receives a novel by her exhusband Edward Sheffield. The book’s title is “Nocturnal Animals” a name which her ex gave her. She delves deeper into the book out of curiosity and fear about what she did to him. The fictional thriller is played out as part of the triple narrative, with Susan’s story being the first part and another story about a man named Tony Hastings whom is driving across Texas with his wife and daughter.
It is cleverly written in a way that begs recognition that the author is Tom Ford. The same ‘Tom Ford’ a fashion designer icon who bailed out Gucci in 1990 making it one of the world’s most desired brands at 10 billion dollars. Ford then started trading under his own name and now 46 www.moviesbymills.com
has 122 stores. Then he cat-walked into films in 2010 directing, writing, and producing, A Single Man, starring Colin Firth as a gay college professor contemplating suicide. One can look at Nocturnal Animals as an attack on consumerism; the must-have syndrome which has brought Ford fame but not it seems happiness and sees Susan as autobiographical – he lives in her world but seems symbolically strangled by the fashion world and his alluring label that sells a Dakota bag for £5,250, men’s suits from £4,100 and he has homes in Bel Air, Mayfair, a ranch in New Mexico on land larger than Manhattan, plus a £60 million airstrip. He seeks happiness now by making films as a catalyst. Does it work? Is Nocturnal Animals as good as over ninety percent of film critics say it is? Is it a sad indictment of Ford’s attitude to women? Does he want to punish his leading character by giving her a soulless life of luxury? The only happily married woman is married to a gay man. And what about Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal), an anti-hero, vilified for not using strength and anger like everybody else in Texas until you beat him into submission and make him like everybody else. Yes, an almost unrecognisable Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s gleeful psychopath acting out his disgusting treatment of people? Were it not for Michael Shannon’s character as Bobby Andes, a lawman willing to break every law in the book because he is dying of cancer so has nothing to lose and gets fun out of it, and perhaps shows that rich, poor or indifferent, whatever you have in this life is fleeting; that cynically elevated the movie. Amy Adams as always is excellent and should get an award for walking in torturous ten-inch high heels. Her character is not to be envied but pitied, just as Tom Ford vicariously identifies with her. There is no question that many of the scenes are bathed in luxury, but as the director has stated that most of his ideas that he gets are from lying in a hot bath – this one ran too long and was a great relief to pull the plug on it and get out.
Ford has stated that he would not want to leave it too long before he makes his next film. Like a session on a cinema couch, it is obviously therapeutic for him, let us hope it will be for its audience too. This will probably be one of the only reviews of Nocturnal Animals which fails to praise it with all the hyperbole associated with great films. It does have sequences which aspire to genius - but unfortunately it fails to inspire. I really wanted this film to be the film I thought it would be.
Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) in Nocturnal Animals.
Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Nocturnal Animals. 48
Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) in Nocturnal Animals.
Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) in Nocturnal Animals.
YOUR NAME Directed by Mikoto Shinkai Featuring the Voices of Rynunosuke Kamiki. Mona Kamishiraishi. Come to think of it, I kind of feel like I’ve been stuck in some weird dream. A dream about someone else’s life. - Mitsuha “Treasure the experience. Dreams fade away after you wake up.” After seeing Your Name, you just might still be in the dream of this lovely film from writer and director Makoto Shinkai about strange bodyswapping experiences between two teenagers Mitsuha and Taki. This is Japanese anime at its most original and beautifully drawn and coloured. Mitsuha lives in the countryside with her grandmother and younger sister. She is learning under her grandmother’s watchful eye, the ceremonies of the local Shinto Temple. Taki feels something is missing from his life, but does not know what it is.
Then one day, Taki wakes up to find himself in Mitsuha’s body, and a day or so later, Mitsuha finds herself taking Taki’s place. They are not dreaming. The first half of the film is funny, showing the reaction of shock by both Mitsuha and Taki in discovering themselves in a new body. There is a running joke in the film around Taki’s obsession with feeling his ‘breasts’ and Yotsuba’s reaction when she finds her sister doing this. Taki, temporarily inhabited by Mitsuha’s body, begins speaking in a feminine way using “women’s words” which his friends find quite weird and worrisome. And then comes an unexpected storm. Can Taki and Mitsuha overcome the awful tragedy that awaits them as the gentle at-a-distance relationship slowly takes shape? Will they finally get to meet? The soundtrack is provided by eclectic Japanese band Radwimps and seems to fit the visuals quite well. Makoto Shinkai introduced the screening of the film at the Embankment Gardens by saying that he wanted to make a happy film which came as some relief when as the closing credits rolled it was met by warm applause by a group of young Japanese girls sitting by me.
Those of us in the West currently coming to terms with a rewriting of the rules of gender through the advent of gender fluidity and a broader awareness of transgender issues. this is interesting for the way it does not dwell on such things. Yes, there is some very interesting stuff on social attitudes to masculinity and femininity turning up in the wrong body – Taki’s female co-worker finds herself drawn to Taki’s newly discovered femininity; Mitsuha’s father declares she is no longer herself, which is, of course, quite literally true. The comet plays a major role in the action and arrives with a plume of pastel blue and purple which are the colours of the Trans Pride flag. But the film does not labour the point, and seems far more in tune with a Japanese sense that gender is not abrupt binary that it has been declared to be in so much of western culture.
What this film again shows is the magic of movies and its wide audience. Your Name is aimed at a young audience with a film that has a 12 rating but there were just as many adults at the screening as there were children. It also showed how a packed auditorium of film lovers cannot, and never will be, replaced by watching films on Netflix, mobile phones or other digital substitutes. We are so fortunate in Europe to have arthouse cinemas which cater for discriminating audiences. Makoto Shinkai, nicknamed ‘The New Hayao Miyazaki’; the Oscar nominated director of The Wind Rises and of course the founder of Studio Ghibli the most famous Japanese Animation Studio in the world, has a distinct trade mark in his films: romantic stories with characters maintaining long distance relationships, and often with a science fiction element or fantasy. His greatest influence in his work has been sci-fi writers Haruki Murakami and Ray Bradbury. The first thing you make is a story. Then you decide where the location of the story will be, and how the story will develop. And then, when you think how the visuals will be in this process, then you finally think about how you take something from the setting and use it, how to depict it, and how to make the setting beautiful. That’s when you begin to think that. So the story always comes first. And on rejection? The reflect and think and learn a lot more from about becoming happy.
thing about getting rejected is that you analyse about why you got turned down. You stories about getting rejected than stories That’s why I prefer those stories.
Shinkai is known for films: The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004), 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007) and The Garden of Words (2013). His films often feature a cat, his favourite pet animal. Ever since I was a child I always had cats with me. I’m from the Nagano prefecture, and while living there I had cats, and after I came to Tokyo I also picked up some strays and started raising them. So I definitely always had cats with me.
Taki and Mitsuha in Your Name.
Taki and Mitsuha in Your Name. 52
Taki in Your Name.
Mitsuha and Taki in Your Name.
A UNITED KINGDOM Directed by Amma Asante Starring: David Oyelowo. Rosamund Pike. Jack Davenport. Terry Pheto. Tom Felton. Laura Carmichael. I’ve met the man I want to spend my life with. -Ruth
In the late forties Prince Seretse of Botswana caused quite a political uproar when he married a white woman, Ruth Williams, a London typist. Last year the London Film Festival opened with a film about women’s rights Suffragette, and here we have a film about an interracial marriage and the political problems it may cause for Britain and Bechuanaland. Topical and controversial subjects in both cases. Based on a true story with pictures of the original couple appearing on the end credits of the film, the story is very moving and beautifully acted by Rosamund Pike as Ruth and Daniel Oyelowo as Seretse. Ruth is emotionally stirred when the women of Bamangwato come to accept her as one of their own and through song they praise her. And it is music again that brought Ruth and Seretse together in the first – their love of jazz: scenes which enliven the otherwise political machinations which entwine and sometimes throttle the narrative. The dance band craze of the forties is pure gold. It was the big bands of Glenn Miller that had couples jiving to swing. And in the two scenes aforementioned it works beautifully because it is the first common denominator that the couple share. The reaction by her family, excluding her sister Muriel (Laura Carmichael) who always has supported Ruth, is foremost from her father who is angered and shamed that she is going to marry a black man and he instantly tells her that he never wants to see her again, but though Ruth is deeply hurt by this, it does not deter her one iota in changing her mind in marrying Seretse. The rude reality soon sets in on the couple. Seretse has to return to Africa to assume his duties as King. Their interracial union is 54 www.moviesbymills.com
seen as an assault on their senses in the face of both Malan’s apartheid riven South Africa and to the royal traditions of Seretse’s own people. Seretse’s beloved uncle Tshekedi who raised him as a child is bitterly opposed to changes in fear of the implications of a European rule and he in fact is behind the machinations which causes the British Government to try to do everything in its power to the couple apart. And sure enough Alastair Canning, a spokesman for the Prime Minister Clement Atlee, becomes a constant worry and set-back to Seretse and Ruth. He refuses to let them see papers opposing the legalities of the marriage. Tony Benn (Jack Lowden) a rebel within the labour government sides with the couple and also they have the press on their side when Seretse tells them what is going on. Obviously, we the audience are rooting all will be good and believing that love really does conquer all. For this is a love story and should be remembered as such rather than an interracial love story, as the director Amma Asante and Rosamund Pike pointed out at the film’s press conference. The barriers and sacrifices that the couple have to face and overcome makes their union more significant. The film is a roller coaster ride of emotions but the dips are there and you may leave feeling somewhat disappointed that the ride could have be better. Parts if the story, though based on fact, seemed too politically correct and too eager to show that the African people were perfect and that the British politicians were seen to be constantly villainous. Perhaps the producers were unaware of this, but it was there and seemed obvious that they were trying to manipulate the audience just as in the story special papers were refused to be given to Seretse Kharma.
It must be mentioned that a highlight of the film was the magnificent cinematography of Sam McCurdy: the contrasting shots of London against those of Seretse’s homeland…yet juxtaposed in the romanticism. A United Kingdom as a love story is satisfying as long as one rules out the need to be so politically correct and was not worthy or entertaining enough to open the London Film Festival. However, though the film is at times splendidly visual, the story would I feel be better suited to television than the big screen of cinema as it seems lost in such ambiance.
Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) and Seretse (David Oyelowo) in A United Kingdom.
Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) and Seretse (David Oyelowo) in A United Kingdom. 56
Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) and Seretse (David Oyelowo) in A United Kingdom.
Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) and child and Seretse (David Oyelowo) in A United Kingdom.
UNA * Spoiler Alert *
Directed by Benedict Andrews. Starring: Rooney Mara. Ben Mendelsohn. Riz Ahmed. A controversial story based on David Harrower’s play Blackbird. I’m looking for Ray. Do you know him? - Una
What does he look like? He’s about my height, young and good looking, yeah? -Scott Australian theatre director Benedict Andrew’s controversially unsettling drama about child abuse as Una (Rooney Mara) revisits her past to seek answers to unresolved questions from the man named Ray, but now living under the moniker of Peter (Ben Mendelsohn), who sexually assaulted her when she was thirteen-years-old. Una’s confrontation with Ray, fifteen years after their first encounter and his conviction, is at first embarrassing, particularly for Ray, his facial features visibly sink when he sees her again, wondering why she has sought him out at the factory which he owns. But Una has travelled to see him not out of spite or to shame and embarrass him, she has a burning curiosity to know what happened to him and know what followed their relationship. The setting of this scene evokes the dullness of their lives, a cavernous space occupied by endless rows of metal and cardboard, fluorescent lights, and drab rooms. Una has a boring job and has a complicated social life which is occasionally enlivened with a bit of clubbing and a random sexual encounter in a bathroom. Ray is now a factory boss, married and a father of a daughter. There is a disturbing scene when Una goes to Ray’s home and meets his family and then sneaks off to go into his daughter’s bedroom and lays out on her bed…remembering. Then the girl walks in on her. 58
Throughout the film there are flashbacks to her younger self played by Ruby Stokes and the experience she had when she formed a relationship with her family’s next door neighbour, Ray. As the story unfolds, we watch how it developed, first with comments to Una at a barbecue, then at the local pool, and, finally, a poorly conceived plan to run away together, ending up in a small-town motel. Ray declares to Una his love for her. But when he goes out to get some cigarettes, he doesn’t return and Una, scared and confused, goes looking for him. What are the tracks left by abuse? For Una and Ray…they are never erased – and if Ray thinks they were then Una’s sudden appearance brings them to the surface once again. It is an open ended film, culminating at a party. With Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn as the leads it cannot help but be faultless in the acting department, but where it fails to deliver is when it talks itself into a rut and lets the dialogue take centre stage rather than let the images show it. It is a fault of films which have been adapted to the screen from stage plays which Una has. Rooney Mara is an extremely versatile actress and commands every role she plays. Her most complexed character was in The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. My favourite thing about acting isn’t necessarily the acting part. It’s that you never stop learning. You are constantly learning new skills and new things about people. To me that’s really interesting and fun. And two films on the horizon for Rooney are Weightless in which she plays a guitar, and Vox Lux where she gets to play a pop singer. Australian Ben Mendelsohn is an actor that is close to stealing every scene he is in. He can be seen in Spielberg’s Ready Player One and prior to that in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. See Ben in The Place Beyond the Pines which proves my point of him stealing a film. As for Una the coming together of these two great stars makes the film worth watching even if the story does not quite match their talents.
Una (Rooney Mara) in Una.
Una (Rooney Mara) in Una. 60
Una (Rooney Mara) and Ray (Ben Mendelsohn) in Una.
Una (Rooney Mara) in Una.
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A magazine for discerning cinemagoers and filmmakers. 60th London Film Festival Edition.