Hop Gape

Hope Gap (William Nicholson, 2019)

Curiously, for a film set in Seaford in East Sussex, parts of this were filmed in Yorkshire. And this is just a couple of weeks after what may well be the same East Sussex cliffs stood in for East Kent. I look forward to Folkstone being the location for a remake of Wuthering Heights. Continue reading →

And Anything But the Truth

The Truth (La verité, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2019)

Tucked away in the credits is the detail that the film that veteran actor, Fabienne Dangeville (Catherine Deneuve), is making with starlet Manon Lenoir (Manon Clavel), Memories of my Mother, is an adaptation of a short story by Ken Liu, in which a space-travelling mother visits her daughter every seven years.

I’d quite like to see that film, which is not to dis this one.

Dangeville’s son-in-law, Hank, a struggling American actor who may have a drink issue, is played by Ethan Hawke, possibly best known for the Before … movies, made every seven years with Julie Delpy.

Well, actually, every nine years, but Juliette Binoche as his wife and Dangeville’s daughter, Lumir, is not that far from the Delpy role. Hawke, to be honest, does little, but be awkward about how much French he speaks or understands.

The two of them are visiting their mother on the occasion of the publication of her autobiography, called, natch, The Truth, although it is plainly nothing but. Noses have been put out of joint, pasts libelled, and there is a dark secret from decades ago involving a rival actress.

Deneuve is, as you’d expect, radiant, as she’s been since The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. You never quite know when her character is helpless or actually just artful.

Whistler’s Mother

The Whistlers (La Gomera, Corneliu Porumboiu, 2019)

I suppose I thought this was made under the spell of Tarantino, but possibly more Kubrick’s The Killing, but it is a shuffled narrative about a crime. It is beautifully choreographed to music — notably Iggy Pop’s The Passenger — and has some random moments of violence (an American in the wrong place at the wrong time is particularly amusing, a minor supporting character less so).

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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 →

The Lighthouse Keeper’s World is Round

The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019)

A curious psychological horror, which begins in the Empire Marketing Board zone of Drifters and goes via Knife in the Water to A Field in England, with the Total Bollocks Overdrive cranked up to twelve and then cranked up further.

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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.

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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