Watching Paint Dry

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 →

Brief Natural Nudity

The Personal History of David Copperfield (Armando Iannucci, 2020)
Emma. (Autumn de Wilde, 2020)

There is nothing we seem to like better in the British Film Industry than a literary adaptation — and there have been great versions of Austen and Dickens in the past, so much so that it wasn’t until two hours and four minutes into Emma. that I felt we need another Austen on screen. Continue reading →

A Family of Charlatans

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.

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The Longest Take

1917 (Sam Mendes, 2019)

Once continuity editing became a thing, it was inevitable that directors would try and show their versatility by avoiding it with the longest possible takes limited by the amount of film a camera could load and thus disguising cuts in a way best shown in Hitchcock’s Rope which also has a number of very obvious cuts, as indeed does 1917 in which two soldiers walk, ride and fight their way through no man’s land in order to stop a doomed assault on the western front in which one of the soldier’s brothers will be risking his life and slowly the tension is ratcheted up with countering moments of beauty of cherry blossom and de Chirico illuminated ruined towns and Paul Nash canvases and distracting appearances from half the cast of Sherlock as we carefully balance the idiocy of the donkeys leading the lions with rather more smart generals who are aware of the deaths of the young men they are causing and so there’s a certain distaste in the distraction of formal skill from a subject matter in soldiers are trapped for nearly two hours and seemingly indestructible even at the cake and eat it assault that is over the top in at least two sense of the words as digital enhancements wear their effects on the sleeve to such an extent that one wonders if this is the dream of a dying man from a hundred minutes earlier whilst avoiding the discomfort of Atonement’s heavily augmented beach sequence.

The Incel’s MacGuffin

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.

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Per Aspera

Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019)

This is a bit spoilery in some of its gestures.

You know that you are going to be in for a bumpy ride when the near future setting epigraph to a film crossfades from a line about humanity’s future lying in the stars to the title Ad Astra, in case we can’t translate the Latin. Then the film goes into voiceover, wannabe Blade Runner, but the point of a voiceover is surely to mess with the visuals not to mesh with them. There is no point in him telling us that he is looking for a door and then showing us a door — later he tells us that he feels that he in the dark, holding onto a rope, as he is in the dark, holding on to … well, you get the idea.

Trust the audience.
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