Review: The Survivalist

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DIR/WRI: Stephen Fingleton • PRO: David Gilbery, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones • DOP: Damien Elliott • ED: Mark Towns • DES: Dick Lunn • CAST: Olwen Fouere, Mia Goth, Martin McCann, Andrew Simpson

Stephen Fingleton’s debut feature The Survivalist follows his award-winning short SLR and Magpie. Indeed, the feature is set in the same post-apocalyptic world of the latter short in which oil dependency and food supplies plummeting create a cut-throat world that is nearly impossible to survive in. Like Magpie, The Survivalist takes place in an ambient forest which is luscious in its green colour yet haunted by death.

A young man’s body is buried in the woods by a mysterious figure in a thick green anorak. We follow the figure to the cabin in which he lives and intrigue continues to grow as we see his everyday means of living. The film evokes much Western iconography in its initial focus on the lone hero, his wooden cabin, the referencing of The Searchers in alluding to its famous doorway shot, and the deserted wilderness setting that surrounds the Survivalist. This first section of the film contains no dialogue and Martin McCann (My Boy Jack, Swansong: Story of Occi Byrne) is subtle and assured in his performance of the leading unnamed character. Our hero is efficient at making fires and growing food, even using his own bodily fluids so nothing goes to waste. However, he is lonely and constantly fearful as can be seen when he anxiously looks around him while he hastily washes some distance from his cabin retreat.

The film’s universe is characterised by paranoia, which continues when two women come to the Survivalist for help. The older, mystifying Kathryn (Olwen Fouere), offers her teenage daughter, the quiet but tough Milja (Mia Goth), to spend the night with him in exchange for food and shelter. They gradually become accepted into the Survivalist’s cabin and his way of life but the women plot to get rid of him so that they can have his crops for themselves, and there are further dangers in store for all three.

Fingleton, who also wrote the script, paints a brutal landscape of hardship and violence. Without giving too much away, its stand-out scene takes place in the rushes when the Survivalist goes in search for Milja, who is missing. Damien Elliott’s cinematography captures a gripping moment and will have you holding your breath in anticipation.

The Survivalist is a raw film and fairly difficult to watch at times. The graphic imagery includes full frontal (male and female) nudity, rotting flesh, maggots, masturbation, periods, and bloody internal organs. It is one of the more original post-apocalyptic films to be released as of late and is a curiously thought-provoking one at that, but its bleakness will not appeal to all audiences.

Deirdre Molumby

 18 (See IFCO for details)

 103 minutes

The Survivalist is released 12th February 2016

The Survivalist – Official Website

 

 

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Review: Spotlight

Spotlight

DIR:Tom McCarthy • WRI: Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy • PRO: Blye Pagon Faust, Steve Golin, Michael Sugar • DOP: Masanobu Takayanagi • ED: Tom McArdle • DES: Stephen H. Carter • MUS: Howard Shore • CAST: Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo

Modern history has been forever dirtied, tarnished by organised, uniformed mortal sin. Fifteen years of worldwide media coverage has revealed the horrific experiences of what is understood to be hundreds of thousands of victims of clerical abuse, inflicted by members of the Catholic Church. And now, one of the world’s most powerful institutions, bewildered and suspended in the spotlight, finds itself a very uncomfortable position. In spite of the many words humans use to apologize, the Church’s reluctance to admit any wrongdoing has served to underscore how alien it has become to modern culture, and in turn, this is how our culture has come to represent it. As frozen out Florida priest John Gallagher poignantly pointed out this week, they are an organisation “so far behind that they think they’re ahead”.

These phenomenal events of the past number of decades have been captured before in cinema: The Magdalene Sisters, Song for a Raggy Boy, more recently in Amy Berg’s shocking documentary Deliver Us from Evil and Alex Gibney’s Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God is to name but a few. Cinema has been a medium used to honour these victims; by listening to their stories it has offered empathy and compassion where there was none, and a culturally truthful response to something that originated in hurt and deceit.

That is one of the most prominent features of Tom McCarthy’s latest bidding, Spotlight. Joined by acclaimed ‘real-life to screen’ writer Josh Singer, the film tells the remarkable true story of a team of investigative journalists at the Boston Globe newspaper known as ‘Spotlight’, who broke the story on clerical abuse in the Boston diocese in 2001. The opening scene, set in 1976 in a Boston police precinct is glimpse at what was to come: a priest has been brought in on allegations of abuse, the victim and their mother are cajoled, arrangements are made for secrecy, said priest is collected by his superior who sweeps while the judiciaries hold the rug. This was the process, until a number of these stories reluctantly found their way onto the pages of the Globe newspaper, only to disappear again, almost unnoticed.

Fast forward to 2001 when a new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) arrives at the paper and almost overnight the disappeared stories of reported abuse are back on the table. Encouraged by the first non-Bostonian editor in chief, the Spotlight team comprising of Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Keaton), Mike Rezendes (Ruffalo), Sasha Pfeiffer (Mc Adams) and Matt Carroll (D’Arcy James) start to dig, and with the surface barely scratched, cases of abuse, payoffs, smear campaigns, stolen documents and cover-ups begin to emerge. As the investigation quickly progresses, the sheer scale of what had happened in the Boston diocese became apparent – with the help of senior Catholic officials, in both the US and the Vatican, the most devoutly Catholic city in North America had been plagued by paedophile priest for decades, a sum of over 90 in total, whom had knowingly been shipped from parish to parish, given predatory free-reign and a thumbs up to sexually and spiritually abuse at will.

Visually, the films authenticity is marked by the somewhat non-descript decor, having shot much of the office scenes at the Boston Globe. Great efforts were made to ensure the production design and costume were reflective of the time, and succeed in being unobtrusive – you wouldn’t necessarily imagine a film set in 2001 as being a period piece but alas, ‘the times, they are a changin’.

The four leads have been hailed by their real life counter-parts for their adopted characterisations – dozens of trips were made by cast and crew to Boston to meet with victims, journalists and lawyers involved and it is apparent throughout, authentic to the bone. The ensemble is formidable and above all, the performances and McCarthy’s direction convey the importance of investigative journalism which is all but obsolete in a world of bloggers, and the vitality of a free press whose fundamental action is to keep our institutions in check. From a decidedly disadvantaged position, they took on world’s oldest government – whose corruption is unique to itself – and won. Before the credits roll, presented on screen are over two hundred countries which have had cases of a similar scale, ensuring we know the ugliest phenomenon imaginable is actually bigger than we can imagine.

Definitely worth catching, this one, even if you just want to kick back from a place of knowing and relish in the excavation of damning truth, which by now we are all familiar with. A harrowing story has been recounted here, and you’ll probably be pissed off for most of it but you’ll leave feeling a little ping of triumph, a pride in humanity, and maybe even a little further compelled in the great divide between the Catholic Church and everyone else.

P.s. It’s never graphic so the faint-hearted are catered for.

Grace Corry

15A
118 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Spotlight is released 29th January 2016

Spotlight – Official Website

 

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Review: The Assassin

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DIR: Hsiao-Hsien Hou • WRI: Cheng Ah, T’ien-wen Chu, Hsiao-Hsien Hou, Hai-Meng Hsieh • PRO: Wen-Ying Huang, Peter Lam, Ching-Song Liao • DOP: Ping Bin Lee • ED: Chih-Chia Huang, Ching-Song Liao • DES: JWen-Ying Huang • MUS: Giong Lim • CAST: Qi Shu, Chen Chang, Satoshi Tsumabuki

Set in 8th century China during the Tang Dynasty, The Assassin follows the story of a woman named Nie Yinniang (Shu Qi), a highly-skilled and talented killer. It emerges over the course of the film that she was kidnapped as a young girl and subsequently trained to be an assassin. However, Yinniang is turned away from her master, a nun named Jiaxin, when she refuses to kill a target in the presence of his family. Now she must prove her worth by taking out another target, military governor Tian Ji’an (Chang Chen), who happens to be Yinniang’s cousin, and who she was once betrothed to. The target resides in the province Yinniang once called home, Weibo, where peace is under threat arising from Tian’s desire for war and expansion.

The film is loosely adapted from a late 9th century martial arts and wuxia fiction story by Pei Xing. The titular character, played by a stunning Shu Qi, brings a deep intensity to the role, her eyes and face set, determined and fierce. At the same time, when her objective becomes less resolute, Qi subtly indicates these character changes without a need for the extraction of dialogue. As Lord Tian, Chang Chen is also alluring to watch in his role. His face will be familiar to Western audiences following his role in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon as the lover of Zhang Ziyi’s character, known as ‘Dark Cloud’, and he also starred in Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046.

There are some truly beautiful moments in The Assassin, such as when the titular character hides from her victim and stalks him behind a narrow, colourful curtain. Initially in black-and-white before bursting into colour (think Kill Bill rather than The Wizard of Oz), and utilising enigmatic fade-outs in between scenes, director Hsiao-Hsien Hou accomplishes a distinct look and style in his feature that goes a long way for explaining his win as Best Director at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

For this feature, the plot is far less important than the visuals. Slow and contemplative, there are several moments in the film in which essentially nothing happens. This can be quite frustrating if one was expecting an action-filled martial arts film. With a title like The Assassin, in fairness, one may feel a little deceived that what is actually on offer here is not an action movie but an arthouse film, although of course one could argue that if the film won an award at Cannes, it was hardly going to be a mainstream feature.

Deirdre Molumby

12A
105 minutes (See IFCO for details)

The Assassin is released 22nd January 2016

 

 

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Review: The Revenant

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DIR: Alejandro González Iñárritu • WRI: Mark L. Smith, Alejandro González Iñárritu • PRO: Steve Golin, Alejandro González Iñárritu, David Kanter, Arnon Milchan, Mary Parent, Keith Redmon, James W. Skotchdopole • DOP: Emmanuel Lubezki • ED: Stephen Mirrione • DES: Jack Fisk • MUS: Carsten Nicolai, Ryuichi Sakamoto • CAST: Tom Hardy, Leonardo DiCaprio, Domhnall Gleeson

 

In 1823, at the edge of the new world, frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) swears vengeance when one of the men of the hunting party he’d been tasked to protect abandons him alive but mortally wounded after surviving a brutal bear attack. If revenge is a dish best served cold, Alejandro G. Iñárritu offers one better, serving up a frost-ridden western that only copious amounts of blood and testosterone can cool in a riotous and riveting ode to survival.

In the uncharted wilderness of the Americas an expedition of fur traders and trappers is cut short when a tribe of Native Indians ambush their camp to plunder their precious pelts. A melee of arrows, tomahawks and bullets fly as a dizzying long take follows the carnage from foot and across horseback to capture every hack and slash in grisly detail. The up-close and personal approach of unbroken shots provides for a shell-shocking opener and a spectacular warning of the dread ahead.

The weary band of survivors escape across the water by boat but the hot-headed, half-scalped Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) is fast to point a finger at Glass and son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) for failing to pre-empt the attack, sowing seeds of discord among the men. Glass remains focused and resolute, despite the doubt cast upon his abilities as a man and a father. It reveals his virtue as a character that will avoid a fight if and when he can with the gauntlet of punishment ahead laying credence to the theme that survival is a requisite of one’s strength of mind and spirit as much as body. Even when Glass is reduced to a bloody pulp after several rounds of merciless mauling by an angry mother bear, in another unrelenting long shot, his will to survive is his greatest weapon (with a little help from a well-aimed bullet and his trusty bowie knife). It betters the beast and even when left for dead drags him back to the land of the living like some vengeful ghost with unfinished business.

Henceforth, it’s a down and dirty ride fuelled by blood, sweat and tears both in front and behind the camera as Iñárritu and co. reportedly tackled harsh conditions across perilous locations, relying upon natural light alone to capture the myth and the mayhem. DiCaprio triumphs in an absorbing to-hell-and-back-again performance that may just snag that elusive Oscar. The supporting players rise to the challenge and excel in their own right, with Domhnall Glesson’s duty-bound Captain Henry and Will Poulter’s impressionable and conscience heavy Bridger adding leverage to the one-man show. The unscrupulous Fitzgerald is embodied by another wide-eyed and wild Hardy performance but the beast is cleverly kept at bay before the inevitable showdown.

At times, Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography recalls the majestic vision of a Terrance Malick film (lessons learnt on The New World no doubt), such as in the slow track over a waterlogged forest as Glass and Hawk creep, rifles drawn, towards drinking elk. Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with in The Revenant, a character of its own that adds to the formidable level of realism, and the camera showcases its beauty and its brutality in equal measure. The whispery voice-over of Glass’s wife cheering him on in spirit owes again to the aforementioned oeuvre and excels in complementing Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto’s hauntingly alluring score.

Iñárritu’s Oscar follow-up is a punishing watch that pays off with captivating visuals of realistic action and adventure. The trek may tire some but fortune favours the bold after all.

 

Anthony Assad

16
156 minutes (See IFCO for details)

The Revenant is released 15th January 2016

The Revenant – Official Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: Creed

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DIR: Ryan Coogler • WRI: Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington • PRO: Robert Chartoff, William Chartoff, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin King Templeton, Charles Winkler, David Winkler, Irwin Winkler • DOP: Maryse Alberti • ED: Claudia Castello, Michael P. Shawver • DES: Hannah Beachler • MUS: Ludwig Göransson • CAST: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson

Creed is the latest film in the Rocky series, and manages to do the impossible: redeem Michael B. Jordan for that god-awful Fant4stic movie. The film was written and directed by Ryan Coogler, the writer-director behind 2013’s excellent Fruitvale Station, and this film proves, once and for all, that Mr. Coogler is not a one-hit wonder, he is an amazing up-and-coming talent and I for one cannot wait for his upcoming Black Panther.

As our story starts, Adonis is in a boxing match in Mexico. After winning the fight, he goes back to his comfortable office job, then hands in his notice so that he can pursue a career as a professional boxer. Unfortunately, this proves more difficult than it would seem, as all of the coaches he encounters refuse to train him because… well, that’s never really explained. The coach mentions it’s because he’s the son of Apollo Creed, although that really should be a reason to train him, seeing as he literally has the blood of a champion in him. Anyway, all the trainers in L.A. refuse to train him, so he goes to Philadelphia to find Rocky Balboa and get him to train him, kick-starting a heart-warming journey of redemption, friendship and becoming your own man.

Now the first thing I want to mention is the cinematography courtesy of The Wrestler D.O.P. Maryese Alberti. This film looks absolutely amazing, capturing the dirty, grimy feeling of Philadelphia in a way no Rocky movie has since the original film from 1976, and the boxing scenes are best that this franchise has ever had. The camera moves, swings, dodges, and ducks with Adonis himself, making you feel like you’re the one in the ring dodging those punches, and throughout every boxing scene my heart was pounding so hard I was expecting it to leap out of my chest like Ridley Scott’s Alien. One fight in particular, halfway through the film, is executed with a three-minute tracking shot and is easily one of the best one-on-one fight scenes I’ve seen in a long time.

Creed also boasts great performances. From The Wire, through to Creed, taking in Fruitvale Station and Chronicle along the way, Michael. B. Jordan is proving himself again and again to be one of the best actors Hollywood has to offer. Sylvester Stallone proves that no matter how many stupid Expendables movies he appears in, he’s still a fine actor, giving his best performance since Copland, and Tessa Thompson is excellent as up-and-coming musician Bianca, while the rest of the supporting cast also give it their all.

Creed successfully recaptures the feeling of the original film, being about the characters more than it is about the boxing. Adonis isn’t fighting just for the money and glory, he’s doing it because he wants to get out of his father’s shadow. He doesn’t just want to use someone else’s name and reputation to live comfortably, he wants to forge his own name and reputation, similar to this film as a whole, which makes sure to forge its own identity with its new characters and the hip-hop infusions which it blends seamlessly into the old Rocky OST.

Rocky, as well, is more broken and damaged than he’s ever been, as his wife and most of his friends are dead, his son is in a different country and barely keeps in contact with him, and he’s feeling less and less motivated to keep living, and Bianca is slowly going deaf, which, naturally, is detrimental to her music career. Like the original Rocky, Creed understands that characters who are undergoing personal struggles are a lot more interesting than characters fighting roided-up Russian killing machines. The reason this film works so well isn’t because of the boxing, which admittedly is excellent, it succeeds because the characters are so well-realised and their arcs carry so much emotional weight.

However, that isn’t to say this film is perfect. For one thing, the fight in the middle is so good that the end fight, the climax of the film, ends up being less exhilarating than the fight which ultimately doesn’t matter and makes no difference to the over-arching plot. For another, I didn’t fully buy into the romantic sub-plot between Adonis and Bianca. It seems like they meet, get to know each other for a bit, and before you know it they’re suddenly madly in love. As Hank Moody would say, it’s not really settling for Mrs right so much as it is settling for Mrs right in front of you.

However, these are the petty nit-picks of a critic trying  hard to find something to complain about. The bottom line is that this is one of the finest films to come out this year. Go and see it.

Darren Beattie

12A
132 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Creed is released 15th January 2016

Creed – Official Website

 

 

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Review: Joy

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DIR/WRI: David O. Russell • PRO: John Davis, Megan Ellison, Jonathan Gordon, Ken Mok, David O. Russell • DOP: Linus Sandgren • ED: Alan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy, Tom Cross, Christopher Tellefsen • DES: Yohei Taneda • MUS: David Campbell, West Dylan Thordson • CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro

When an award-winning writer/director and an A-List cast work together on a good old rags-to-riches tale inspired by self-made millionaire Joy Mangano’s life, what could possibly go wrong? What indeed?

Alas, there was no joy in David O. Russell’s Joy for me.

The movie centres around Joy (Jennifer Lawrence), a washed-out separated Mom struggling to keep on top of her job and take care of three generations of her family in a very unattractive home.

So downstairs we have Tony (Édgar Ramírez) the Venezuelan crooner of an ex-husband below in the basement who, within minutes, is engaged in an acrimonious turf war with his ex-father-in-law Rudy (Robert de Niro) also in the basement having being returned as ‘damaged goods’ by his third wife.

On the ground floor, we have Joy’s dysfunctional mother Terry (Virginia Madsen), whose lifelong addiction to a particular daytime soap along with a bad case of agoraphobia prevents her from getting off the bed or engaging in conversations outside the comings and goings of the show.

Upstairs, we have her two children and Grandma Mimi (Dianne Ladd), the only person that both supports and believes in her potential having noticed what a dab hand Joy was at Origami as a child. Next door we have the nasty half sister Peggy (Elisabeth Röhm) and soon enough we meet Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) – Rudy’s latest squeeze who is instantly absorbed into this Italian American family.

For fear the audience don’t do nuance, we’re presented with way too many examples of just how harried poor Joy’s life is, which include flashbacks to her glory days of childhood origami, a very nasty divorce (during which some Origami gets damaged) and some dream sequences involving both her family and the cast on the set of mother’s favourite daytime show.

And that’s all before Joy starts her own business with and taking some particularly poor business advice from the very same circle of people that have been running her ragged for seventeen years. The blow-by-blow product design, inner mechanics and 300 feet of continuous loop cotton of her miracle mop were lost on me but was soon awoken by the hard knocks of zero sales. Enter snake oil salesman and QVC executive Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), who promises to raise her back to life but not before a few more knocks and a second mortgage on the house.

I must have been taking off my coat at the beginning of the movie and missed the timeline but it was only in this first scene at the QVC shopping channel set was I given an indication of the era. Neil the futurologist made some predictions about the future of retail and home computing whilst giving Joy a tour of their very shabby premises.

You have to be tough for business is a key theme of the movie but you too join the club with a bad hairdo, a raised voice and some finger pointing.

So, anyway, Joy does make it, there’s no spoiler as it’s a biopic of a self-made millionaire but not before encountering more stress and disappointment.

So what’s not to like?  I’m not quite sure what went wrong. Any-rags-to-riches journey to the top is always a good yarn, the acting solid, the characters and their side stories quirky and fun yet together it hung uncomfortably accentuated by the inane voiceover from Grandma Mimi with platitudes like ‘that day Joy was not to know that in ten years …’

The closing scene sort of sealed the deal for me with the present day successful Joy now ‘arrived’ in her mock tudor mansion replete with very bad hairdo, dressed and behaving like Princess Diana offering alms to peasant inventors that had been waiting their turn for an audience with Joy. The happy ending was the silent reappearance of her son who must have been abducted as a toddler only to be returned as a teenager in the final scene, having been cut out and upstaged by his big sister throughout the movie.

Watching interviews with the real Joy Mangano about the movie, she hopes it will be an inspiration to other women and people out there with ideas to just do it. As a Joy myself and self employed, I couldn’t agree more and first on my not to-do list is to spend 124 minutes watching inferior quality movies. From the crew and cast behind classics such as The Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, we’d expect a little more joy,

Joy Redmond

18
167 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Joy is released 1st January 2016

Joy – Official Website

 

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Review: The Hateful Eight

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DIR: Quentin Tarantino • WRI: Quentin Tarantino • PRO: Richard N. Gladstein, Shannon McIntosh, Stacey Sher • DOP: Robert Richardson • ED: Fred Raskin • DES: Yohei Taneda • MUS: Ennio Morricone • CAST: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Channing Tatum, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Quentin Tarantino hates you. He really hates your guts. His hatred for humanity is all too clear from this hateful film The Hateful Eight, coincidentally his eighth feature film and by far his worst. He feels no shame for this utterly brazen and immense hatred. He is proud of it. This film is his best expression of contempt for his audience and indeed life itself.

Do you agree with Danny Boyle’s rule-of-thumb that there’s rarely a good reason for a film to be longer than two hours? Quentin Tarantino loathes you. He will punish you with a pace slower than the melting of glaciers for more than two and a half hours for a story easily told in half the time. He will draw scenes out as long as they can be with over-written repetitive dialogue bereft of any charm it had in his other films.

Do you love the characters he and his collaborators have brought to life on-screen before? Tarantino’s had enough of that for now. The clue is in the title. Every character in The Hateful Eight is hateful in a literal sense, so despicable that there is no reason to be invested in what happens to any of them. When a mystery unfolds surrounding the poisoning of coffee, that could still have been an interesting dynamic to see play out, had it not taken almost two hours of tedium for the film to reach that point.

Do you invest in his reputation for writing strong female characters? Among the male-dominated cast of characters, the outlaw Daisy Domergue has tenacity and roughness in the hopes that these superficial traits hide that she is a damsel-in-distress and a plot device. She is also loathsome in every way, giving you no reason to wish her success in overcoming the captors bringing her to justice. At the same time however, you have no reason to enjoy the really distasteful and repeated violence inflicted on her.

Do you appreciate his attempts at writing strong characters for people of colour? He wants you to shove it. Sit back and watch Demián Bichir wasted on a stereotype of Mexicans so egregious, that even Robert Rodriguez would surely reprimand him and that’d be coming from a director who once cast Willem Dafoe in brown-face. Hear so much about the vivacious shack-owner Minnie and then discover an outdated black mammy caricature when she shows up. Assume Samuel L Jackson’s character is an upright bad-ass who walks the path of the righteous man, as it were. Turns out he’s a lying scoundrel who rapes people as punishment.

Oh yes. In what has to be one of the film’s most bizarrely misjudged scenes, of which there are far too many to choose from, he recounts to the father of a man he murdered that he had forced the man to fellate him. This man was a racist confederate so that might make one less inclined to care about his well-being. If, however, Samuel L Jackson’s character reveals that he considers rape a fitting punishment, hilarious in its symbolism, one also cares significantly less about his. As you should any character who considers rape appropriate in any circumstance ever.

But perhaps you like it when Tarantino pushes limits? Well just because a film is “challenging” does not make it good and the circular logic that anyone who doesn’t enjoy a film like this is either a baby or a prude is such a lazy strawman defence. Tarantino still hates you though and he seems intent on making you regret what you wish for. It’s not just wounds and severed limbs that gush with obscene amounts of blood; poisoned characters vomit blood in such ludicrous quantities that it passes beyond the cartoonish fun of his previous films and just becomes obnoxious.

Did you like how brilliantly Pulp Fiction played around with chronological order? Tarantino hates that you did, so very much and this time around, he is going to have a clumsy, snail-paced flashback entitled “Earlier that morning…” more than two hours into this bloated mess.

Do you care about film in general, as a medium for visual storytelling? Tarantino despises you. This brings us to the moment where he atrociously fails as a filmmaker. There are several scenes of characters talking about each other’s back-stories. We do not see these past exploits; we see characters sitting in a coach or a shack talking about these past exploits even when they sound like more interesting stories to see than the film we got. Characters are not revealed through action but through other characters talking about them. This is not how film as a narrative medium works and it is astonishing that a seasoned filmmaker with Oscars and a Palme D’Or needs this explained to him.

The truly unforgivable lapse in competency comes long after the film’s half-way point when we hear a narrator’s voice that had not been introduced previously, explain additional details about what different characters are doing. Rather than conveying that information visually. LIKE A FILM. Who is the narrator? Quentin Tarantino himself, of course. This is basically a filmmaker of iconic status, openly admitting that he has failed as a filmmaker. The film got to the point where his footage was no longer good enough and he personally stepped in to fill in the gaps. That this voice-over is established so late in the film is what makes the crutch so glaringly obvious.

This, along with so many other baffling decisions, amount to such an abject failure in basic, fundamental, visual storytelling that it could only have been deliberate. It is as if Tarantino is intentionally, purposefully trolling the world by setting out to frustrate audiences as much as possible. And the only defence flimsier than “you just didn’t like it because it was challenging” is “I don’t make films for audiences; I make films I want to see”. This is a new low for him and you can absolutely afford to skip it.

Jonathan Victory

18
167 minutes (See IFCO for details)

The Hateful Eight is released 8th January 2016

The Hateful Eight – Official Website

 

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Review: Bolshoi Babylon

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DIR: Nick Read, Mark Franchetti • PRO: Mark Franchetti • ED: David Charap, Jay Taylor • MUS: Smiths & Elms • CAST: Maria Alexandrova, Maria Allash, Sergei Filin, Anatoliy Iksanov

Winston Churchill once called Russia “A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. It is this mysterious place, and specifically the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, that this documentary is set.

Bolshoi Babylon follows a year in the life of this Russian institution in the immediate aftermath of an acid attack on its ballet director Sergei Filin, for which one of Bolshoi’s dancer’s, Pavel Dmitrichenko, was arrested for the crime.

The world of ballet is a fascinating place, the dancers need supreme discipline and their careers are short. There is fierce competition and jealously throughout. Where better to delve into this world than in one of the oldest and best established ballet theatres in the world, in the home of ballet, Russia – The Bolshoi Ballet Theatre?

The story doesn’t disappoint, co-directors Nick Reed and Mark Franchetti use the scandal of the acid attack as a window into this intense organisation. We see the dancer’s working day; how they train and perform every day. These dancers feel privileged to work at the Bolshoi as they see it as a sacred place, a shrine to ballet.

There is also the political connotation of the Bolshoi. It has always been aligned to the State where it is an item on the national budget. It was one of Russia’s best assets to show off the country during Stalin’s reign and the Cold War.

All of this contributes to the culture of the Bolshoi which the directors capture beautifully. The film focuses in part on Filin, his recovery from the attack and his return to working in the Bolshoi, but it is not simply his story – I would say it is the story of the theatre as a whole and its link to Russian society. A fascinating character in the film is Vladimir Urin, who joined the Bolshoi as the general manager; he is domineering and rules the Bolshoi with an iron fist – however, he also wants to improve the Bolshoi by being more transparent and a champion of the dancers. His chats on camera are probably the most interesting part of the film. Bolshoi Babylon is a glimpse into this passionate world and is a very accomplished documentary.

Ailbhe O’ Reilly

PG
86 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Bolshoi Babylon is released 8th January 2016

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