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…

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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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Oh Deeeerie Meeee

High Life (Claire Denis, 2018)

This is not alas the big screen version of the classic Alan Cumming-Forbes Masson-Siobhan Redmond sitcom, but Robert Pattison is no Alan Cumming and Juliette Binoche is no Forbes Masson. What we have is sf that suffers in the name of art, with Silent Running, Stalker and Sleeper wizzed in the blender with a crapper version of The Black Hole dribbling out of the jug.

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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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Hey Ho, Van Gogh

At Eternity’s Gate (Julian Schnabel, 2018)

If you need to know — I didn’t know — At Eternity’s Gate is a late painting by Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh, of an old man with his head in his hands, based on earlier designs. Van Gogh didn’t get to be an old man, having (spoiler) shot himself in the stomach whilst not in a fit state. He is the poster boy for artist as mad, tortured genius, seller of a single painting in his life time and now worth millions per canvas.
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