Tilda Speaks

La voz humana (The Human Voice, Pedro Almodóvar, 2020)

Part way through this English-language short, I got a flash of memory of Law of Desire (1987) and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), and realised that Tilda Swinton was channeling Carmen Maura, once Almodóvar’s muse and favourite actor. What I’d forgotten was that Cocteau’s 1930 monodrama, on which this film is loosely based, was performed in Law of Desire and fed into Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Like Tom Stoppard, Almodóvar loves this kind of mise en abîme and the whole film seems to be filmed on a film set. Continue reading →

Water Dropwort

Minari (Lee Isaac Chung, 2020)

This has the feel of a fable — the Yi family move from 1980s California to Arkansas to live in a static caravan where Jacob (Steven Yeun) starts a farm to grow vegetables for Korean restaurants and Monica (Han Ye-ri) works in a chicken sexing unit to try and bring more money in. After a short period, they bring her mother Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung) across for childcare and Korean War vet Paul (Will Patton) helps out.

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Don’t Try This at Home. Or at Work

Druk (Another Round, Thomas Vinterberg, 2020)

Supposedly, the Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud suggests that humans are born with a blood alcohol 0.05% too low. In this comedy, four middle aged, jaded, male teachers decide to keep drinking to ascertain what the psychological effects are and whether it improves their work and personal lives. After initial success, they increase their intake.

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Sssshhhhhhh!!!

A Quiet Place Part II (John Krasinski, 2020)

I confess to a bit of a hazy memory of part one — there are some kind of aliens or critters who react to sound and are menacing an American family in the wilds of New York State. Alongside bearded Lee Abbott (Krasinski) and heavily pregnant Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt), there are various kids, including the hearing impaired Regan Abbott (Millicent Simmonds) who is, of course, used to communicating nicely. It seemed a bit of a back to basics one damn thing after another thriller, without the tongue in cheek of Tremors or the social commentary of Blumhouse horrors.

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Daddy, Daddy

The Father (Florian Zeller, 2020)

So Anthony Hopkins bags an Oscar for playing disabiity — Anthony (Hopkins) is an elderly man, suffering from some kind of Alzheimer’s, has fallen out with his carer, and now lives with his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) and her boyfriend Paul (Rufus Sewell). The film is moreorless — but insufficiently – focalised through Anthony’s eyes, as the flat changes subtly or less so and Anne turns into Olivia Williams and Paul into he’s-the-new-Tony-Slattery Mark Gatiss. At times it feels like he is being gaslighted — has his watch been stolen? has his art been sold? — and that would be somewhat more interesting.

Hopkins is ok, and I’ve not seen Boseman’s performance, but Ahmed was better in Sound of Metal. Meanwhile, Colman confirms her place on the list of actors I’d watch in anything — with here her astonishing ability to have to performances on her face at the same time.

What You Can A ford

Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2020)

This film is easy to love — Faye (Frances McDormand), recently widowed in a small Nevadan town ruined by the gypsum company which had owned it, buys a van and heads out into deep, marginal America, it what could be a feminist western (and clearly references The Searchers). Faye finds work in an Amazon warehouse, a burger bar, a trailer park and a sugar beet plant, along the way meeting other boomers who have lost homes and families and livid the nomad lifestyle. Many of these are based on real people, who play version of themselves — the exception being David (David Strathairn), who she meets en route and he forms a transient, tenuous, almost relationship. McDormand is in every scene — almost every shot — with only Patricia Clarkson coming close to her for this kind of unglamorous role in Hollywood. The scenes with Strathairn are especially strong.

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To Tie Firmly

Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca (1938)

Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

Rebecca (Ben Wheatley, 2020)

It may be, of course, that I read Rebecca years and years ago — I know I started it and I studied the opening paragraph, the dream of the Manderley mansion from years later, but I’m not sure I got much further. And when I bought two Du Maurier boxsets, I don’t think Rebecca was part of them. It took me a while to track down a copy — although naturally I found several since, as a battered paperback 1992 reprint got more battered as it got carried around.

The conceit should be familiar: lady’s companion Rebecca meets aristocratic widower Maxim de Winter in Monte Carlo and the two have a whirlwind romance, before returning to the ancestral pad in … where we take to be Cornwall but it isn’t named in the book. The new bride finds life at Manderley difficult and the ghost of the dead Rebecca hangs over her, especially through the behaviour of housekeeper Mrs Danvers. A ball would be useful, perhaps, but Mrs Danvers persuades her to wear the same costume as Rebecca had and then it seems as if a wedge has been driven between the loving couple. Then a body is discovered in a sunken boat… Continue reading →