So, having disinterred a list of films what I watched in 2020 (minus those I kept no record of), an alphabetical top ten. I struggled — there are a few here I admired but didn’t like. Poor stamina didn’t help.Continue reading →
Pixie (Barnaby Thompson, 2020)
There is a great film in here trying to get out — but it just throws too much into it. This isn’t the first two men and a woman crime caper movie — it’s a long time since I saw it, but Shooting Fish springs to mind — and its rural Irish/Northern Irish location gave it a feel of some of the films Channel 4 made in the 1980s. Musically, it wants to be a western, especially of the western variety, but the caption Once Upon a Time in the West of Ireland gag is a one off and risks being mistaken as the film’s actual title.
Babyteeth (Shannon Murphy, 2019)
Based on a stage play by Rita Kalnejais, this is a black comedy and a coming of age story and a Fault in Our Stars cousin. It is by turns hilarious and scary and moving, although it skips over something at its heart. Continue reading →
Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma, 2019)
Some point after 1725, the artist Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is commissioned by a Milan-born countess (Valeria Golino) to paint the portrait of her daughter Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), whom she intends to marry off to a Milanese nobleman after the death of her elder daughter. Héloïse, formerly a novice at a nunnery, has other ideas and has already worn out a (male) painter. Marianne must pretend to be a companion, and paint in secret. Continue reading →
Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
This was on my list to see since I first caught the trailer – a narrative of a young working class student becoming a tutor to an upper middle class girl which was clearly going to take a right turn into horror territory. I caught up with it after the Oscar win (a win that apparently means a broken system has been fixed) and it was surprisingly or unsurprisingly full.
The Farmer’s Wife (Alfred Hitchcock, 1928)
Over the years I bought various Alfred Hitchcock boxsets and this one brings together most of his surviving silent films. I’ve caught Number Seventeen, The Manxman and The Ring on the big screen, and enjoyed, but I’ve been slow in catching up with the rest.
Jake Gyllenhaal has a strange look in his eyes for the first half hour — “I was nominated for a Oscar,” they say, “I used to do low budget quirky cult hits.” He’s a superhero from a parallel dimension, here to do battle with four Elementals that want to destroy this Earth as they destroy his. And it just so happens Water hits Venice when Peter Parker is on his school trip.
The Bookshop (Isabel Coixet, 2017)
Sometimes the gun over the fireplace in Act One is a paraffin heater.
This film works really hard not to be liked. It’s set in and around a bookshop in a small Suffolk village set up by widowed Emily Mortimer, and everybody loves a bookshop. Well, not everybody, because Patricia Clarkson, channelling Glen Close as Cruella de Vil, would rather have an arts centre, for reasons which need not detain us and clearly don’t detain the film. Meanwhile, Bill Nighy, who increasingly leads me to poor viewing choices, is a misanthropic widower who likes books and likes Emily Mortimer. In particular, in turns out he likes Ray Bradbury.
What’s not to like?
Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)
Remember, if there’s a gun over the fireplace in Act One, then…
Early on, we learn that little Charlie Graham needs an epi, and despite the fact that she could die at any point from anaphylactic shock, this always gets left behind. So, obviously, when her mother forces Charlie’s brother Peter to drag her to a party, she’ll make a beeline for the walnut cake. And things then take a turn for the worse, as stoned Peter tries to get her to casualty.
I’d very nearly given this a miss, but somehow I’d been convinced that this was Quality Horror, presumably on the grounds that Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne wouldn’t appear in something which was pants. How wrong whoever that was was.
Annie is an artist who makes miniatures of her life, including her family and her Nasty Dead Mother. For example, she makes a model of Peter failing to get Charlie to hospital.
The family is haunted, perhaps by guilt, perhaps by something supernatural, and there is a room in their huge house that used to be her mother’s and they now keep it locked, because…
One day she attends a bereavement session, but Annie lies about going to it, claiming she was at the cinema. Hubby, whose job is not entirely clear but involves reading large manuscripts and sitting at a big desk, has clearly never asked her about what she has seen. Personally, I think a bereavement session is more fun than movies. This allows her to bump into Joan, similarly bereaved, and get to know her. Joan introduces her to the wonderful world of seances.
This cannot end well.
Before long, we’re deep in Rosemary’s Baby territory and the only question is who is in on the conspiracy and who is disposable. This film could have been made in 1968 and frankly Lucifer hasn’t caught up with Second Wave feminism yet. The One must be prepared for. And so we get some risible low key special effects and some embarrassing nudity and you’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh.
No wonder Gabriel Byrne looks so miserable throughout.
There’s some neat uncanny stuff, and Annie reminds me of Frances Glessner Lee’s crime scene models, but the ironies of Annie creating fake world whilst herself being a puppet never really pays off. The director likes tracking shots, but even these seem a little haphazard.