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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Scandifantastique

Border (Gräns, Ali Abbasi, 2018)

A couple of times I’ve taught Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of John Avjide Lundqvist’s Let the Right One In, an intriguing vampire film with a nod to The Tin Drum. There’s been a remake and a TV series and now a short story has been adapted, billed as horror but maybe is better seen as a fantasy or a dark romance.
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Mary Queen of Poppins

Mary Queen of Scots (Josie Rourke, 2018)

Having just seen a rather mixed version of Richard II, with Simon Russell Beale, this felt rather theatrical, albeit without the poetry. There’s the Meaningful Looks from ensemble dignitaries, many of whose names escape me, brandishing of papers, condensation of time (oh, is that the same day or twenty years later?)… the climactic encounter between the two two leads which seems to be staged amidst indoor washing lines. And there’s Simon Russell Beale, in a brief cameo. There’s also race blind casting — yes, there were people of colour in Elizabethan England (and presumably Marian Scotland), but Bess of Hardwick (Gemma Chan) and the English ambassador (Adrian Lester)? It comes as no surprise that Rourke comes from the theatre — the Donmar Warehouse — and is better at tableaux than action.
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Certain Histories Have Been Taken With the Liberty

The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018)

Among the trailers before this film was one for a new Mary Queen of Scots/Elizabeth I movie, clearly framed around the sizzling moment when they met — accept, of course, in real life they didn’t and Mary spoke French and Scots as far as I recall. Sometimes this kind of historical accuracy bothers me, along with fluid geography, but don’t learn history from a film without a dollop of scepticism.

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Shelf Indulgence

The Bookshop (Isabel Coixet, 2017)

Sometimes the gun over the fireplace in Act One is a paraffin heater.

This film works really hard not to be liked. It’s set in and around a bookshop in a small Suffolk village set up by widowed Emily Mortimer, and everybody loves a bookshop. Well, not everybody, because Patricia Clarkson, channelling Glen Close as Cruella de Vil, would rather have an arts centre, for reasons which need not detain us and clearly don’t detain the film. Meanwhile, Bill Nighy, who increasingly leads me to poor viewing choices, is a misanthropic widower who likes books and likes Emily Mortimer. In particular, in turns out he likes Ray Bradbury.

What’s not to like?

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