Stone Me, Would You Beleaf It?

Leaning Into the Wind (Thomas Riedelsheimer, 2018)

Andy Goldsworthy is a sculptor who works with — and in — nature. More to the point, he worked as a farm labourer in his teens.

He was in one of the Folkestone Triennials, on the Old High Street, smearing mud on the interior of a shop window and allowing it to crack and dry out. There was also a film of one of his rain shadows — lying on a street as it starts to rain, leaving a ghostly impression of his body. And he has works at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park — a sheepfold with dead tree — and Jupiter Artland — including lumps of coal in trees, Stone Coppice.

We see him almost absorbed into landscapes — South American forests, Cumbrian and French hills, Scottish woodland, climbing across blackthorn coppices, through bushes, between roots. We see him maneuvre trees into mud-lined buildings, draw lines with leaves on steps in Edinburgh, decorating a tree with narrow branches pinned in by pine needles. Sometimes he is working alone, especially with a fallen elm tree, sometimes with his apparently more-talented daughter Holly, sometimes with a team of labourers, cutting rock into open sarcophagi. It is site-specific artwork, even if he has half a dozen schticks.

He is most clearly moved when talking about the fallen elm — someone has removed some of the branches in his absence — and when he is about to cut into bedrock.

(Spoiler: he doesn’t. Quarrying is one thing, but disturbing the geology is another.)

And somewhere in here is his former wife, who died after their divorce.

It’s hard to grasp how startling his work is on a large screen, let alone a tablet, but the camerawork and the drone shots do their best. You get a sense of his empathy and shared knowledge with a Spanish-speaking old woman, who shows him a clay, dung and straw floor, and that he is clearly learning from her — not quite appropriating. Whilst you hear from her, his daughter, some of his assistants (one of whom he compares scars with, in a presumable unintended homage to Jaws), there are no vox pops, nor curators, nor art histories. We don’t know who commissions the works. We do hear Fred Frith’s quasi-indigenous soundtrack, which is frankly irritating pastiche rather than enriching.

And the wind and the lean? We see that as his penultimate work — you might not spot the one in the closing credits — where it is him and the wind. Whilst Antony Gormley’s works are sculptures based on his body, they are monumental and solid, whether iron figures in the sea or giant above the road to Gateshead; here Goldsworthy’s body is more fragile, more self-effacing..

Don’t Call Me …

Shirley (Josephine Decker,  2018)

The first rule of biopics is that they are not biographies of their subjects — in this case we have Shirley Jackson (1916-1965), best known for the inexplicably thought to be frightening “The Lottery” and the twice-filmed The Haunting of Hill House. She clearly had some issues with smoking and barbiturates and other meds and an unfaithful husband.

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The Talented Herr Georg

Transit (Christian Petzold, 2018)

The estrangement is strong in this one. In Paris, Georg (Franz Rogowski) is persuaded to deliver two letters to a writer, Franz Weidel, but finds that the latter has died, by suicide. Narrowly escaping the police, Georg tries to smuggle his friend, Heinz, to Marseille, but the latter dies en route and Franz narrowly escapes the police. Georg has to break the news of Heinz’s death to his family and of Franz’s death to the Mexican consul – but he is mistaken for Franz, who has a visa that will allow him to escape the Nazi occupiers who will soon be cleansing Marseille… Continue reading →

Imagine there’s no Beatles, It isn’t hard to do.

Benjamin (Simon Amstell, 2018)

Yesterday (Danny Boyle, 2019)

 

I’d not knowingly come across Joel Fry before, but here he is, playing essentially the same role of kooky and tactless best friend in two romcoms.

 

Back in the late 1970s, Brian Henderson suggested that the romcom was no longer possible – two broad schools of the genre divide into two questions. Continue reading →

Oh my baby, baby, I love you more than I can tell

Only You (Harry Wootliff, 2018)

For a good half an hour, this film feels too good to be true. I knew it was an unlikely love story, but I immediately assumed that the bear shown in the first few shots was the lover. In fact, settled status Spaniard and arts administrator Elena (Laia Costa) is pipped to a taxi in the early hours of New Year’s Day by DJ and PhD marine biologist Jake (Josh O’Connor) and after arguments over who saw the cab first and her deciding to walk home and he offering to walk her home, they end up going back to her flat to listen to Elvis Costello. The attraction is immediate, even though she’s 35 (but won’t admit it at first) and he is 26.

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Immaterial Girl

In Fabric (Peter Strickland, 2018)

Remember when the 1970s was the decade that taste forgot? Thirty years of Tarantino pastiche have summoned the visuals back, and it has been embraced by a generation of British horror directors, including Peter Strickland, whose Duke of Burgundy left me indifferent. There’s a mix here of Dennis Wheatley and Spearhead from Space and Don’t Look Now and Hammer and God help us Are You Being Served?. And Dario Argento, although this film is more rosso than giallo. It can’t be present day, because blind dating is committed via newspapers rather than apps, and money is sent through airtubes in department stores, but not all the of the phones are rotary dial. And there isn’t any racism, despite the position of the Black British heroine.

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Gonna be, Gonna be, Gonna be, Gonna be, All Right

Gloria Bell (Sebastián Lelio, 2018)

So Chilean director Sebastián Lelio made a well-regarded film called Gloria (2013), about a middle-aged divorcée’s tribulations whilst dating. Julianne Moore saw it and liked it and decided she wanted to star in a remake.

There’s an ambiguity to this film and my response to it — in part the double standard of how we (I) react to no-longer-youthful women in films compared to men of the same age. Here’s she’s a divorced mother of two trying to find a new partner or at least some fun in the Californian disco scene. Isn’t she brave to let herself not be glamorous, we (I) might think, in a way we wouldn’t for costar John Turturro. And yet there is an A-list glamour she hasn’t shaken off here and she is in pretty well every shot. She’s had an interesting line in troubled wives already — Far From Heaven, The Hours, Savage Grace — so this is hardly a stretch. We’re carried along by her boogieing to the music, we cringe or empathise at the troubled women in her family and circle, we wonder when Turturro got middle aged…

There is hope — in her daughter’s long distance relationship and in her ex-husband’s new marriage, although he seems estranged from his children. Turturro’s character, whom Gloria meets at a disco, ought to set alarm bells off earlier than he does and presumably it is her sense of this being Her Final Chance that means she ignores them. But she in part condemns faults in his relationships she has in her own. Meanwhile, his military background would have had a more sinister implication in the Chilean original than it does here.

Meanwhile, the film putters along, incident after incident, with minor cameos (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chris Mulkey) promising more than their characters have screen time to deliver. There’s a moment of crisis that offers catharsis, but doesn’t quite deliver, which feels like the film as a whole.

Hat Trick

Sunset (Napszállta, Nemes László, 2018)

I saw the start of this film twice, as the Curzon screwed up the subtitles: a painting of the kind of four or five storey streets we associate with nineteenth century Vienna or Budapest or Paris, with the light fading to night and electric interiors coming into view. To be precise, it is 1913 Budapest, the other capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire and a young woman is trying on hats, barely acknowledging the helpers, staring indifferently into mirrors. Again, with sound — the newest model, the oldest, the most à la mode — and then she announces she’s there for a job.
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Nobody Cares

Todos lo saben (Everybody Knows; Asghar Farhadi, 2018)

This was the second time in a week I’d seen a psychological thriller which was frankly a soap with famous actors. Laura (Penélope Cruz) returns from Argentina for a wedding to her home village with her children, but not her husband, and is reunited with Paco (Javier Bardem), a former lover whose family had worked for her family’s vineyard and had bought it some years before. At the reception, everyone gets drunk, and the daughter, Irene (Carla Campra), retires to bed early and is kidnapped.
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Impeccably Liberal

On the Basis of Sex (Mimi Leder, 2018)

This is the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) struggling at Harvard Law School because of discrimination against her even by those who admitted women to the university, struggling to get a job as a attorney or lawyer because she might get pregnant or make her colleagues’ wives jealous and then struggling to bring a sex discrimination case that could uncrack the whole canon of sex discriminatory laws. At one point Dorothy Kenyon (a cameo from Kathy Bates) tells her it will take a generation.
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