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 →

The Dead Don’t Do Subtext

The Dead Don’t Die (Jim Jarmusch, 2019)

Jim Jarmusch is evidently one of those low budget indie auteur who both builds an ensemble around him and persuades A-List stars in search of artistic credibility to work for him (presumably for scale). A couple of years ago he cast the divine Tilda Swinton in a misjudged vampire film, Only Lovers Left Alive and now he shifts to the zombie film to pastiche.

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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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All Pile On

Woman at War (Kona fer í stríð, Benedikt Erlingsson, 2018)

I get the feeling that the writer-director is here channelling the work of Aki Kaurismäki: we have Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir), is single, middle-aged choir leader who wants to adopt a Ukrainian child and incidentally is running a campaign of ecological terrorism against the aluminium plant owned by Rio Tinto.

Her movement around whatever Icelandic city it is and the astounding landscape is interrupted by two balanced trios — three male musicians and three female Ukrainians who shift from extra- to intra-diegetic. It is sometimes whimsical, it is sometimes threatening, it may even be Brechtian (with a dash of Mel Brooks). It gives the film a whiff of the fairy tale and one presumes that pulling down a pylon wouldn’t have the effect that is shown. There is a further shift into folktale territory as Halla is finally arrested and as the action shifts to Ukraine.

Whilst friends and foes are beautifully drawn — her sister, her alleged cousin Sveinbjörn (Jóhann Sigurðarson) and his dog (apparently called Woman) and a co-conspirator Baldvin (Jörundur Ragnarsson) — but I think a foot is put wrong with the comedy foreign tourist Juan Camillo (Juan Camillo Roman Estrada), whose role is to be cycling near the scene of each crime and be arrested. It feels a little too studiedly quirky — although I see that the same actor (and the person playing Halla’s sister with the same character name) is in the same director’s Of Horses and Men ([Hross í os], 2013) so I wonder if I’m missing something.

This was an unexpected pleasure — and I see that Jodie Foster wants to direct a remake, presumably with herself in the lead. See this before it gets buried.

I am Lazarus

Happy as Lazzaro (Lazzaro Felipe, Alice Rohrwacher, 2018)

This may be one of those films — like Border — that the less you know about in advance, the better. It is distinctly a film of two halves, edging around one kind of fantasy or another, and I will sound the spoiler klaxon before mentioning the second half.

In the isolated and dilapidated Italian village of Inviolata, fifty four men, women and children grow tobacco and other cash crops, and once a month their overseer works out what their crop is worth and deducts their expenses.

Oddly enough they are always in debt.

Every so often the village’s owner, Alfonsina de Luna (Nicoletta Braschi) comes down in a sort of royal visit, demanding more service. Her son, Tancredi (Luca Chikovani), dog in hand, comes down with her, bored with the countryside, bored with the lack of mobile signal, indifferent to the exploitation and utterly self-centred. He latches onto the titular Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) as Sancho to his Quixote.

Here we have a microcosm of capitalism — the Marquess de Luna exploits her workers who all exploit Lazzaro. He is happy to serve — fetching food, coffee or Grandma — apparently an orphan, always smiling, always ready to take over someone’s shift, even if this means staying up all night to watch for wolves. He is guileless and sinless, a holy fool. His wide eyes and floppy hair make him look perpetually at ease and relaxed, unafraid and unannoyed. He cannot see his slavery. He also has his moments of staring into the void — perhaps narcolepsy, but who could blame him for falling asleep on his feet?

The presence of cars, mobile phones and Walkmen puts us in the 1980s or 1990s, rather than the fairy tale time it could be — there is electricity, but they have to share a light bulb. There are hints of magic, of something more — the workers seem to be able to whistle up the wind, to threaten, to punish … but they never take the opportunity to escape or fight back.

And then…

SPOILERS Continue reading →

Don’t Go Hearting My Break

Rocketman (Dexter Fletcher, 2019)

I confess to not paying that much attention to Reginald Dwight — although there was no escaping his persecution by The Sun when he sued or his Diana anthem and he cowrote with Tom Robinson — oh and he had those photos at t’Tate. Although, curiously, I’ve always enjoyed his songs when I’ve heard them. I knew the brief outline of his life story and … Continue reading →

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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