Friday 6 April 2018

Borderlines and the Snow Show

After all the grumbling about the snow and the films we missed, we thought it would be good to say something about some of those we did manage to see and so here goes:

Custody by Xavier Legrande was as unsettling as it was compelling. Comparisons to the Dardenne Brothers are certainly apt, especially their earlier works such as The Child. We agree with the review in Little White Lies that it is a film of two halves and the second half built to a fraught and nail-biting conclusion with the precision of the most effective of thrillers but not at the expense of its social commentary.
Lucrecia Martel's existentialist tale of colonial displacement, Zama, was beautifully framed. It made us think of Werner Herzog, especially Aguirre, The Wrath of God (definitely a good thing) but unlike Klaus Kinski's Conquistador, the central character sits as a relatively rational being which contrasts with the levels of crazy going on around him. A flawed character, yes, but Zama just wanted to return home to his wife and family but could not grasp how to be or what to do to achieve this whilst others, apparently being punished, seem to reap the rewards Zama seeks for himself.

The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water is not so much a remake of Jack Arnold's Creature From The Black Lagoon but more a second attempt at a sequel after Arnold's own Revenge of The Creature but it also so much more than that. A magical love story, set in the immediate post-Joe McCarthy era during which Hollywood produced many great films, Westerns, Melodramas and of course Film Noir with the screenwriters and directors un-credited and the anti-McCarthyite message cleverly cloaked. Conversely in The Shape of Water, nothing is hidden, and shows everything Guillermo del Toro and his team intended. It is a fable, a fairy tale about the beauty of otherness and as such reminds us of Cocteau's Beauty and The Beast, a mythic and stunning creation to which we would compare The Shape of Water. Guillermo del Toro, recently interviewed on Radio 4's Film Programme with Francine Stock, explained how he showed Sally Hawkins many silent films to study the use of expression in place of the spoken word, which she did brilliantly, and let us not forget that this is the woman who couldn't stop talking in Mike Leigh's Happy Go Lucky.

And thank you for showing Behind The Door - it was so worth seeing.

We came to The Wound, directed by John Trengrove, without any preconceptions but quickly found ourselves immersed in its questioning of what is manhood and why does it need to be publicly proven to other men via the traditional rites of circumcision? The principal character is gay and, if it were known, would not be treated as a man within the society he inhabits, and yet he submitted to the tradition in which he now oversees teenagers as they go through the same ritual. His treatment by his 'annual' lover, whom he has known and cared about for many years, is difficult to watch as we see the price paid by gays within deeply entrenched traditional communities. Some critics have questioned the ending and whether it was a mis-step but we felt his final action was still to protect the man he loves from being 'outed' rather than for his own safety. We found it both absorbing, educational and upsetting.

Lean on Pete, based on the book by Willy Vlautin, a great American storyteller in the vein of Raymond Carver and Denis Johnson, and a musician par excellence, was beautifully realised and so well researched as were the perfectly drawn performances from Steve Buscemi and Chloe Sevigny, who last appeared together, as Robin has pointed out, in Buscemi's directorial debut Trees Lounge from 1996 which we know he is not fond of but what can we say, we kinda love it.

Is Loveless a film where the message is also cloaked? It is certainly an important work from Andrey Zvyagintsev, a powerful and searing indictment of Russia under Putin where no lessons are learned as we watch the two main protaganists recycle their bitter and unhappy experiences together with new partners. The missing child, an innocent, is not even worthy of investment of time by the Police and it is left to volunteers to try and trace him. There are no questions about why he would go missing and this is in a country which is happy to erase people from its history in one way or another with no conscience on show.

And has the mobile phone ever been as prevalent as it is in Loveless? The lead female character is certainly obsessed with hers, constantly taking selfies and gazing longingly down into its screen. It is reflected in the windows of their apartment and in the windshield of the car. It is often the only source of light when it is dark but none of this is about communication which all fail to do face to face. It is the era of having many contacts and few friends.

We will see you next year.

Christine and Mark Renney from dull and flat Bedfordshire.