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 →

Amirite?

Ammonite (Francis Lee, 2020)

Women are often written out of science.

In the nineteenth century, Charlotte Murchison (1788–1869) collected fossils and was somewhat overshadowed by her husband, Roderick Impey Murchison, who used many of her ideas and illustrations in his books. On one journey, to Rome in 1816, she contracted malaria and this would impact on her health for the rest of her life.

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Manic But No Dream Girl

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.

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Most Bogus

Bill & Ted Face the Music (Dean Parisot, 2020)

At the tail end of the 1980s was a science fiction comedy, which was just about silly enough — two Californian slacker dudes have to pass their assignment to guarantee the future and are aided in doing so by a man from the future with a time travelling phone box. Continue reading →

Sally Potter and the Deathly Allows

The Roads not Taken (Sally Potter, 2020)

Potter has produced some tremendous films over the years — Orlando and The Man Who Cried, plus Ginger & Rosa and The Party — and the initial success of the latter allowed her to make this deeply uncomfortable film, inspired by caring for her brother, Nic Potter, the bassist for the rock group Van der Graaf Generator. Continue reading →