Wednesday, October 26, 2022

GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY***** - BFI London Film Festival - Closing Night Gala

I was not the world's biggest fan of KNIVES OUT - Rian Johnson's closed-house murder-mystery starring Daniel Craig as the detective with the broad southern drawl. I sat stony silent in a packed London Film Festival screening with the rest of the audience having the time of their life.  I thought the mystery wasn't complex or interesting and the performances fell flat for me. I just didn't get it. As a result, I had zero expectations for its high-budget sequel, GLASS ONION, and was cringing at the thought of its two-hour twenty minutes running time. 

Well reader, I can happily report that GLASS ONION is one of my favourite movies of the year!  It flew by its running time in a haze of laugh-out loud comedy; brilliantly-acted outlandish characters; and a proper mystery that's both tricksy, meta-textual and politically biting!

The movie stars Daniel Craig, once again returning as Benoit Blanc, and leaning even further into the camp of a fussily over-dressed and anachronistic famous detective in the Agatha Christie style. The new villain of the piece is Ed Norton's tech billionaire Miles Bron, clearly based on Elon Musk. He's a vainglorious fake-hippie who invites all of his old college friends to a yearly retreat, this time on his supervillain island lair.  As the movie unfolds, in good detective tradition, we realise that each of the characters needs Miles for his money or connections and has a motive to kill him. There's even a MacGuffin - a piece of a new renewable energy-producing crystal widget that is also - oh no! - rather dangerous!

The heart of the piece - or maybe its moral compass in a sea of characters that are more or less self-interested and despicable - is Janelle Monae's Andi Brand.  As the movie unfolds we discover that Andi was in fact the brains behind Miles' big invention and they haven't really spoken in years. So why has she shown up on the island? And who invited Benoit?

The first half of the movie explores the connections between the characters and leads us to the murder. The second half of the film goes back and reveals what was really happening. This might sound tedious but it's so damn clever, smart and involving I promise you it won't feel like a rehash. But I can't tell you exactly why it works for fear of spoiling the plot - so I'll just encourage you to watch.

GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 139 minutes. It played Toronto 2022 and will be released on Netflix on December 23rd.


THE GOOD NURSE is a quietly brilliant investigative drama about the real-life prolific serial killer Charles Cullen. He was a nurse in New Jersey who probably murdered hundreds of patients by contaminated their IV bags. The good nurse of the title is Amy Loughren, who worked night shifts with Cullen, and helped bring him in despite struggling with severe illness, being a single mum, and the obstructions of yet another hospital's administrative team trying to palm Charlie off.

The result is a film that is focussed on Amy and her battles, in a screenplay of deep empathy and subtlety from Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917, LAST NIGHT IN SOHO). It's also a film that focusses on the flaws in the hospital system that allowed Charlie to be detected - or at least suspicions raised - but for those hospitals to merely sack him and allow him to move on to his next set of victims. It reminded me of the Catholic Church, where sex offenders were knowingly moved on to new parishes rather than being dealt with openly for fear of (among other things) the legal and financial implications. 

What we don't get from this film is Charles Cullen's life story. There is no attempt to explain why he became a prolific serial killer or what his motivation was. He remains a mystery.  That may irk some of the more sensationalist viewers, but it's the right angle I feel. It also echoed another recent Netflix film, SHE SAID, in not shying away from what it means to be a working mother, and focusing on the toll that child-rearing takes on professional women. This seems like a new and welcome trend. 

I also love how the director, Tobias Lindholm, avoids any sensationalism in a film that exists in muted night-time tones of blue and grey, and where the actors barely speak above a whisper. The restraint that Lindholm shows reflects some of the ways in which he directed his episodes of the TV show Mindhunter, but with performances even more dialled down.  Jessica Chastain, fresh from her Oscar-winning larger-than life performance as Tammy Faye Baker, couldn't be smaller and quieter and gentler as Amy Loughren. And Eddie Redmayne is incredibly contained as Cullen, reminding me of his quiet and almost vanishing performance as a murderer in the seldom-watched and even less well-reviewed SAVAGE GRACE.  This makes the moment when Cullen does lose his temper in an interrogation room the more forceful.

The result is a film of slow but mounting dread and tension. A film that moves quietly and deftly to its conclusion, and provokes us to ask not what makes a serial killer, but what makes the system that protected him.

THE GOOD NURSE is rated R, has a running time of 121 minutes, played Toronto and the BFI London Film Festival, and was released on Netflix today. 


Director Olivia Newman has turned Delia Owens best-selling southern gothic thriller into a frustratingly dull, bloodless that fails to truly interrogate southern poverty, prejudice or sexual tension. 

The heroine, Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is abandoned by her mother and siblings and left with her abusive father living in rural poverty in the North Carolina marshes. The book makes us feel the indignity of her poverty and the cruelty of the townsfolk that forces Kya to live as a hermit. But in this film the rough edges are smoothed over and her shack is expansive, sun-dappled and picturesque even before the make-over she can afford when her nature book is finally published. We never feel her hunger or otherness. 

The same goes for her interactions with the two men in her life.  Tate (Taylor John Smith) is the kind-hearted kid who teaches her to read and develop her interest in wildlife before leaving her for university - yet another betrayal in a life where everyone leaves her. Chase (TRIANGLE OF SADNESS' Harris Dickinson) is the local jock who uses Kya for sex and ends up dead with Kya defending herself in the courtroom drama framing device. In neither relationship is there any hint of sexual chemistry or emotional depth. It's all so.... plastic. 

As for the rest of the film it's so cliched it borders on offensive. We have David Strathairn phoning it in, in a pastiche of the earnest southern lawyer made iconic in To Kill A Mockingbird. And a lot has already been written about Delia Owens' treatment of the two thinly-written and earnest black shopkeepers who take Kya under their wing. It's a shame that screenwriter Lucy Alibar didn't give Michael Hyatt and Sterling Macer Jr more to do in these paper-thin roles.

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING has a rating of PG-13 and a running time of 125 minutes. It is now available to rent and own.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

TILL - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 11

TILL is a handsome and earnest film that is beautifully produced, acted and lensed, but that feels so freighted by grief that it becomes almost hermetically sealed and strains at its two hour, ten minutes running time.  This is perhaps because we never know a time before grief. Even in the early scenes where Emmett Till (Jalyn Hill) and his mother (Danielle Deadwyler) are happily living in middle-class Chicago, she is on the verge of tears and paranoia that something is going to happen to her teenage son when he goes to Mississippi to visit his cousins.  The foreboding is so heavy and persistent it never lets daylight in on the family, and makes us wonder why on earth she sent him if she was that convinced her happy-go-lucky charming child was going to be met with racial violence. I am in no way blaming the character, to be clear, I am just saying that this is a film about grief from minute one. Maybe that's an accurate depiction of the black experience in 1955, or today for that matter, but it makes for a film that doesn't seem to progress. It's trapped in amber for its entire running time, and its characters are trapped with it, never evolving or progressing. Mamie Till-Mobley is a strong, weeping mother for the entire film.  Her family are supportive.  The activists and community who rally round her are fully formed and ready to spring into action.  They are all good, decent people. This is a film where the good are good and unchanging. The bad are bad and unchanging. Racism is unchanging.

So the conclusion I have come to is that this is not a feature film in the conventional sense that is dealing in the currency of plot and character development. Rather this is an event to which we bear witness. It is the literal open-casket viewing at a funeral. It must be viewed and judged in those terms, rather than as a conventional film, because it is so freighted in history that it rejects those terms.

We bear witness to the affluence of the post-war middle class black America of the northern cities.  We bear witness to the still insidious but more muted racism that pierces the affluence. We bear witness to black Americans moving out of the first class train carriages as they cross into the South. We bear witness to southern black America still picking cotton in the fields. We bear witness to Emmett Till's disfigured, mutilated body. We bear witness to a southern courtroom packed with white men in white shirts. We bear witness to the casual way in which the prosecution team dismisses Emmett Till's mum.

Bearing witness is of value, if a depressing reminder of the ages long struggle for civil rights, and this film provides a sombre historical lesson told with care and skill. 

TILL has a running time of 130 minutes and is rated PG-13.  It was released in the USA this weekend and will be released in the UK on January 23rd.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

GIULLERMO DEL TORO'S PINOCCHIO - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 11

It feels as though the theme of this year’s  BFI London Film Festival is coming to terms with the death of a loved one. Maybe with a side order of humanity versus religio-fascism. If you don’t believe me, remember this is the second film I’ve watched in the last twenty- four hours that takes a children’s story and recasts it with added violence in the midst of early twentieth century European fascism. The result is a film that is strangely full of childish enthusiasm and hope but that does not shy away from the reality of mortality, death and war. Del Toro was straightforward about its agenda when he introduced the film at today’s world premiere: it’s a film about disobedience as a virtue. And as Christoph Waltz said, there’s something worthwhile in a film about a wooden puppet who wants to be a boy, at a time when humans are being made into puppets. 

The film is depicted with the most beautifully rendered stop-motion animation that has texture and vivid colours and the most wondrous attention to detail. Our narrator is Sebastian J Cricket - never referred to with his pejorative nickname. He’s voiced by Ewan MacGregor as a rather vain but ultimately lovely little insect, and he provides much of the comedy of the film. 

We are treated to a prolonged prologue that tells us about the beloved son that Gepetto (David Bradley) lost, and after whom he fashions Pinocchio. One of the themes of the film is that one should never have to change to be loved. The narrative journey of Gepetto is that he has to learn Pinocchio for himself rather than trying to make him a good little Carlo. 

The world around our trio is one of Italy falling into fascism under Mussolini. And we have a lot of fun with innocent Pinocchio mocking "Il Dolce" and inspiring others to disobey laws that are unjust. Gregory Mann gives a sensational voice performance as the puppet - full of energy and fun and heart.  In one of the most moving scenes of the film, Pinocchio passes on the advice given to him by Sebastian - that fathers may say mean things when they fall into despair, but they don’t mean it. As in all totalitarian societies, there is no room for the personal in this Italy and poor little Candlewick (Finn Wolfhard) struggles to be the son his Fascist father wants him to be. 

As with Pixar’s SOUL there’s a fair amount of time spent in the afterlife, or underworld or whatever you’d like to call it. And this is a subtly radical world insofar as it shows that the Catholic Church is quiescent to fascism. The imperative to obey moves easily from Church to State in this film as in UNICORN WARS - also playing in this year's festival. But in Del Toro’s universe it’s the spirits of nature that have real power, and it’s a pagan elemental world that we’re living in. This is depicted in the guise of two feminine powers, both voiced by Tilda Swinto..

So the subject matter is grown-up but as with all the best childrens' films it will appeal to the adults and to the children, who have always been aware of the horrors of this world. As Del Toro said in his introduction, this is fine for children to watch, so long as their parents talk to them about it afterwards.

GIULLERMO DEL TORO'S PINOCCHIO has a running time of 113 minutes. The world premiere is at the BFI London Film Festival 2022. It will be released on December 9th.

This is not a review of DECISION TO LEAVE - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 10

If DECISION TO LEAVE were made by anyone other than Park Chan Wook would it have been programmed in the BFI London Film Festival?  Because let's be clear, name recognition of a former icon aside, there was precious little in the first hour of this film to indicate we were watching a film of note.

As the movie opens we discover than old Korean functionary has had a deadly accident while mountaineering.  His young Chinese widow (Tang Wei - LUST, CAUTION) is under surveillance by Korean cop (Park Hei-Il). She doesn't seem to grieve and isn't surprised by his death as he was apparently being blackmailed.  She also murdered her own mum and is on the run from the Chinese authorities.  She claims it was a mercy killing.

For the first hour of the film that's all we get. Her being opaque and him becoming obsessed with her. But zero sexual chemistry or suspense. The only actual entertainment is from the cop's comedy sidekick who suspects the widow for xenophobic reasons and literally does drunken pratfalls. 

Maybe it turned into a masterpiece of VERTIGO like plotting and LUST/CAUTION style sexual chemistry in its final hour. I didn't stick around to find out. And reading reviews I feel like this film is the Emperor's New Clothes. No matter how good the final hour was or wasn't there's no excuse for the indulgence of the first. 

DECISION TO LEAVE has a running time of 138 minutes.  The film played Cannes 2022 where Park Chan Wook won Best Director. It also played Toronto. It was released in the USA this week and will be released in the UK the following week.

SHE SAID - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 10

SHE SAID is a Tab A into Slot B journo-procedural that's basically a worthy TV movie.  It stars Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan as the real-life New York Times investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey who broke the Harvey Weinstein scandal by convincing some of his victims to bravely go on the record.  This in turn helped trigger the Me Too movement.  Their story is clearly important, and this film straightforwardly shows the tenacity and courage - not to mention supportive husbands/fathers - needed expose a powerful rapist.

The question is whether a feature film is the right format to tell this story. Or whether THIS feature film made by this director and writer. My view is that Maria Schrader's direction is so workmanlike as to be banal, and uses a script from Rebecca Lenkiewicz that is faithful to the book, but is never gripping and doesn't move. In fact, the only truly moving part of the whole film is when they use actual real life audio of a very frightened young woman being goaded and harrassed by Harvey Weinstein into an entering a room with him even after he acknowledges that she feels uncomfortable that he touched her breast the day before. That is absolutely chilling and says more about this scandal than any re-enactment. Having seen it, I became convinced that this story would have been better told as a documentary.

As it is, we have a film that will educate those that did not read the original reporting or the book, and that has value I suppose. But this is NOT an award-worthy film except if virtue-signalling.  It's very much a made-for-TV film.

SHE SAID is rated R and has a running time of 128 minutes. It will be released in the USA on November 18th and in the UK on November 25th.

UNICORN WARS - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 10

Alberto Vazquez' UNICORN WARS is essentially a one-gag film, but what a gag! Cuddly Care Bears-adjacent teddy bears are fighting a brutal war against innocent looking unicorns, inspired by religious zealoutry and the belief that the unicorns have stolen the Magic Forest. Conscripted into the army, poor Gordi has body image issues and a heart of gold.  But his twin brother Azulin, resentful at being born second, is a vainglorious pyschopath whose true nature is unleashed during an army expedition into the Heart of Darkness.  While Gordi makes friends with an injured unicorn and wants peace, a brutalised Azulin becomes a tool of the religio-fascist regime. 

This is not your childhood's care bear animated series.  Vasquez makes that clear in the opening scenes that show a bear washing his balls and taking a piss.  There's a kind of infantile pleasure every time we see a bear doing something vile, like beating another bear up, or the iconic heart-design used in care bears bent to a more evil purpose.  There's also a more serious commentary on - I guess - the Spanish civil war, and every other example of religious nutters inspiring endless war and strife.  You could argue this film has the same subject matter as THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN.  The most sinister character is the Catholic priest teddy bear who sends the cannon fodder teddies off to war, and watching Azulin eventually take his place as an icon of nihilistic violence.

All this takes place amidst animation that's genuinely beautiful to behold. Acid bright pinks and blues and greens - a stunning depiction of the magic forest, and a true understanding of colour and form.  I can't wait to discover more of Vasquez' work.

UNICORN WARS has a running time of 85 minutes and played the BFI London Film Festival.

Friday, October 14, 2022

INLAND - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 10

Fridtjof Ryder's debut feature is a slow-burning, intimitately drawn rural thriller featuring a haunting performance from Rory Alexander as an unnamed man.  He has just been released from residential treatment for mental illness and seems to be haunted by an incident when his mother left him as a child. He re-enters life living with "Dunleavy" (Mark Rylance) who seems to be a father figure who knew his mum, but not actually his dad.  As much as Dunelavy wants to tether the protagonist to the real world, his slow drip of revelations makes for increasing tension and mystery cultimating in a stunning piece of acting with Rylance' face captured, claustrophoblically filling the screen.  This is just one example of really bold and assured directorial choices from Ryder, not limited to but including stunning landscape photography, the willingness to create haunting Lynchian visuals, and a truly creepy audio track. I cannot wait to see what Ryder and Alexander do next. I haven't been this excited by a British directorial debut since Ben Wheatley. 

INLAND received its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival 2022. It has a running time of 82 minutes. 

BANSHEES OF INISHERIN - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 9

There is much to admire in Martin McDonagh's THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN, but I left the screening feeling that the movie was less than the sum of its parts. I think what McDonagh is trying to do is to show us the consequences of a mental health crisis on a friendship, and to make an allegory of seemingly pointless violence to the Irish Civil War and consequent Troubles. But while beautifully shot, acted, scored and designed - and full of real belly-laughs and poignant moments - this film felt rather too casual and clumsy in its use of allegory. Indeed, at a pivotal moment of violence, I felt it had jumped the shark. I was brought out of the film and its project, and only the heart-breaking performance from Barry Keoghan brought me back in.

The film starts in media res, with Padraic (Colin Farrell) going to call for his best friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) for their daily pint, and being rejected with seemingly no explanation. The rest of the film covers the consequences of Colm's decision to unilaterally withdraw from what he describes as Padraic's dullness to focus on his music. But we know the music isn't the point because of what he then does to himself when Padraic fights for his love. In fact, the truth of the matter is hinted at in the confessional box at Church. Colm is in despair.

Maybe despair is the appropriate response to living on a windswept, bleak, gossipy island off the coast of Ireland in the midst of a civil war. But Colm's targeting of the warm-hearted Padraic seems cruel and unnecessary. This is probably McDonagh's point. Only Kerry Condon's literate and no-nonsense sister cuts through both men's escalatingly maddening conflict. Her honesty is a characteristic she shares with Padraic, who has no trouble in pointing out what's happening with the village idiot Dominic (Keoghan) who is actually the most sensitive and observant and heart-breaking character in the whole piece.

The movie is set on Mykonos, which brilliantly doubles for Western Ireland, and is shot beautifully by Ben Davis. Carter Burwell's score adds to the air of melancholy. The performances are uniformally strong with Keoghan and Condon arguably better than the already brilliant lead actors. I just feel that when we get to "that" moment, the movie never recovers, and the vast themes it raises are never properly interrogated. As with EMPIRE OF LIGHT, I felt that the theme of mental health was done a disservice, particularly in the character of Dominic.

In fact, I felt that a lot of the accusations thrown at Aronofsky's THE WHALE are better thrown against this film: that it's too stagey, too claustrophobic; too exploitative of physical extremity; picks up issues of mental health too lightly; is a weak film containing great performances. I felt THE WHALE was a perfect, deeply affecting whole, whereas this was to be admired but also frustrated by.

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN is rated R and has a running time of 109 minutes. The film played Venice and Toronto 2022 and is playing the BFI London Film Festival. It will be released in the UK and USA on October 21st.

EMPIRE OF LIGHT - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 8

I'm not going to waste too much time on this review: I've already lost two hours of my life to this horrendously misjudged and borderline offensive film.  I believe writer-director Sam Mendes had earnest good intentions to make a film that explored mental health, racism and the healing power of the arts but he fails comprehensively.  This may be because he'd bitten off too much, or just because he has a tendency to the banal and twee in all his films.

On the mental health front we have Olivia Colman playing a middle-aged woman in a British seaside town in the early 80s. She works in a cinema, and the action of the film will take place among the people who work there. We soon discover that she has just come out of residential care for schizophrenia, and that she's in a pretty exploitative relationship with the cinema's manager (Colin Firth). All of this is good fodder for serious drama, but I can't emphasise how unreal, fake and performed Colman's character feels.  It's a rare mis-step, and maybe it's the writing because we know Colman is a great actor. But this feels to superficial and mishandled. To quote my husband, "do NOT get me started on the mental illness, which appeared to come and go entirely for the convenience of "the plot"."

On racism, we have the displeasure of Sam Mendes trying to tell us what it was like to be a young black man during the rise of the National Front in the character of Stephen (Micheal Ward).  And to add insult to weak writing, Mendes then proceeds to photograph Stephen as an object of desire (fair play I guess, it's from Colman's character's perspective), but the way in which we have a really extended shot of him naked, running into the ocean, made me feel uncomfortable with just how he was being objectified. To quote my husband once more, Mendes' handling of racism was "crass, simplistic and condescending and worse than GREEN BOOK by a long way."

Okay, so to the healing power of the arts, something that descriptions of this film make a big deal of.  The film may be set in a cinema, but it's no CINEMA PARADISO.  The films seem pretty incidental to the action, and the "healing power" consists of Colman's character asking to finally see a film in the final 10 minutes of the movie. It feels so cheap and tacked on and lazy. If you're going to use BEING THERE, then truly use it. And if you're going to cast Toby Jones as the projectionist, then give him something to do worthy of his talent.

In the words of my husband, EMPIRE OF LIGHT ends up as a "half-baked, pretty-looking mess. Deakins made it all look lovely though, and Mendes seemingly going for lots of Kubrickian symmetical framing with slow camera pushes. Edit to the right scenes (without people or dialogue) and you have a nice screensaver."  

EMPIRE OF LIGHT is rated R and has a running time of 119 minutes. It played Toronto and Telluride 2022 and is playing the BFI London Film Festival. It will be released in the USA on December 9th and in the UK on January 13th 2023. 

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 7

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS is an hilarious dark political satire directed by Ruben Ostlund of FORCE MAJEURE and THE SQUARE fame. You know its going to be good not because it won the Palme D'Or at Cannes this year, but because it's so rare for comedies to get any awards that they have to punch so far above their weight to get recognition.

The film falls into the category of post Global Financial Crisis films where - I guess the normal people? - mock the super-rich for being greedy, selfish arseholes.  It's a category that includes the phenomenally successful White Lotus and this year's surprise film THE MEAL. As a reviewer for the blog formerly known as Movie Reviews for Greedy Capitalist Bastards, I am of course one of the super-rich and thus the target of this humour. As such the film resonates differently but just as powerfully!

As the film opens we meet male model Karl at a casting, being assessed like stock at a cattle fair. There's a laugh-out-loud hilarious moment when we are told that the more expensive the clothes, the more miserable the models look. It's so clever, and true, and funnily portrayed you know you're in good hands in this film.  We then move to meeting Karl's model girlfriend Yaya, over a rather difficult meal where he comes to the realisation that she's in a relationship of convenience. They're both beautiful and it's great for instagram followers. Hey, it scores them a free holiday on a luxury yacht.

This is the meat of the film - the cast of rich rogues being ministered to by a vast staff of pretty white servers and brown people behind the scenes. There's so much truth to that, and to the entitled behaviour - for sure exaggerated here for comic effect, but not by much, in my experience.  The pivotal event occurs about two thirds of the way through when have the chance to see society upended in a Lord of the Flies type social experiment that ends in a fairly predictable but still darkly hilarious finale. 

Kudos to everyone in this ensemble cast for creating such a brilliantly macabre film. But most of all to Ruben Ostlund for his script and direction. The message is depressing and cynical but resonates: that all relationships trade sex for money; that equality is a childish fiction; and that anyone would oppress the weak if they had the chance of power. 

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS is rated R and has a running time of 150 minutes. It played Cannes where Ruben Ostlund won the Palme D'Or. It is currently playing the BFI London Film Festival and will be released in the UK on October 28th. It was released in North America last week.

LAST FLIGHT HOME - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 6

LAST FLIGHT HOME is a deeply moving documentary about a wonderful man and the love and strength within an ordinary family.  That man happens to be the father of documentarian Ondi Timoner. When we meet him he is bed-ridden with a poor quality of life, but his mind is still sharp. We learn that he was an incredibly successful businessman who founded and ran a regional airline and gave his family an affluent life, until a stroke left him partially paralysed.  The "T team" of mother and kids rallied round to give him the care he needed, but he clearly feels shame at not being able to provide for them after that, and for a being a burden on his beloved life. Much of this film is about him coming to terms with his life, releasing himself from any misplaced guilt, and truly seeing and hearing the wonderful love that surrounds him. In the words of his daughter, a Rabbi, "you were not perfect, but you were a good man". We really feel that in this film.

For the family, the  pain and sadness is in coming to terms with their father's decision to end his life rather than moving into residential care. Speaking from personal experience, they are incredibly fortunate to have end of life laws that allow a person, in specific circumstances, to commit euthanasia. It's so brave to show this on screen, but hopefully influential. We see Eli Timoner say good bye, receive love, dispense advice.  We see his kids and grandkids in such emotional pain but also able to release him for his last journey.  This is a film that is so moving I felt I was in the room with the family and was openly weeping as this man - thinking of others to the last - thinking of how to fix social injustice - passed away.

I cannot express how much I admire the entire Timoner family for allowing cameras into this most intimate experience - especially Eli Timoner. The result is a documentary that is so full of humanity and honesty that it is one of the most profoundly moving documentaries I have ever seen.

LAST FLIGHT HOME has a running time of 101 minutes It played Sundance and Telluride 2022 and is currently playing the BFI London Film Festival. It was released in the USA last week.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

THE WHALE - BFI Lndon Film Festival 2022 - Day 7

In all my years of attending the BFI London Film Festival I have experienced three standing ovations. The first was joyous, riotous applause for WHIPLASH. The second was, I felt, performative, and was for 12 YEARS A SLAVE. The third was last night for Brendan Fraser, in Darren Aronofsky's THE WHALE

To be sure, the audience cheered wildly for him even before the film. Perhaps this reflected an acknowledgement of everything he has been through over the past decade, and a warm gratitude that he's simply back.  Perhaps it reflected anticipation for a performance that has been widely and warmly reviewed. But I've never seen anything like the flood of warmth that rolled over the auditorium and toward Fraser before a single scene had been shown. His humility, gratitude, and awkwardness was evident.

Once the film was done, the audience stood and applauded Fraser, who alongside director Aronofsky and playwright Samuel D Hunter, had been watching with us.  Fraser moved slowly through the hall toward the stage once again, evidently moved to tears, as he had moved us to tears. He shook hands with members of the audience and when he reached the stage he took a long, deep, bow.  This is a profound moment for him, and one that is richly deserved.

I say all this to explain what happened last night - the shared communal experience of intense emotion - as an example of cinema at its finest. When a work of art can profoundly move.  I did not cry during the film, though many did. I cried seeing Fraser's reaction to our outpouring of love. 

This film is one that is so full of humanity it can feel overwhelming. A film so full of hope and empathy and persistent attempts at connection that it is incredibly uplifting. And the entire cast is outstanding.  Brendan Fraser wears heavy prosthetics to play Charlie, an online university teacher who is dealing with grief by over-eating to the point of being close to death.  He is clear-sighted, sure of his intentions, and even when confronted with crass attempts at religious redemption retains his calm patience.  Charlie is trying to reconnect with his daughter Ellie - a whipsmart, angry, fierce teenage girl portrayed by Stranger Things' Sadie Sink in what surely must be her breakout cinematic performance.  This attempt at reconciliation is eventually rumbled by Ellie's mother Mary (Samantha Morton) - a woman we think is going to be angry and mean, but is actually kind and hurt and damaged but still full of love, just like her daughter and just like Charlie and just like his best friend, Liz.  How wonderful to see Hong Chau back on our screens in a role befitting her talent, so far from the caricatured role in DOWNSIZING.  Liz sees herself as Charie's protector and guardian from anything that might cause pain in his final days, not least a young missionary played by Ty Simpkins.

What follows is a film that is raw, honest, darkly funny and thought-provoking.  Its subject matter is the hypocrisy and cruelty of religion; the way in which people self-medicate to handle rejection, anger and grief; and the need for authentic, honest, brave communication. Every character is using some form of drug to cope with life, whether Charlie's compulsive eating, Liz' smoking, Mary's drinking or the kids smoking pot. This is a film that says life is rough, but better to face it truthfully and to have the courage to let love in.  All of that is encapsulated in the performance of a liftetime from Fraser - a performance of bravery, nuance and good humour - and one that deeply connected with the audience. 

THE WHALE has a running tie of 117 minutes It played Venice and Toronto 2022 and is playing the BFI London Film Festival It will be released in the USA on December 9th.

Monday, October 10, 2022

AFTER SHERMAN - BFI London Film Festival - Day 6

AFTER SHERMAN is a stunning new documentary from director Jon Sesrie Goff that's insightful, provocative and often visually stunning. His camera roams through the landscape of coastal South Carolina looking at the rural areas where his ancestors were slaves, and where after emancipation they were promised freedom on their own newly acquired plots of land. It's rare to find a film that feels so rooted in the land, and so well understands how our cultural and racial roots can be so liminal for those of third, fourth, fifth generations that somehow the rootedness of property - even property in a land that enslaved or colonised you - can become hyper-important and symbolic.  I see that same search for a physical representation of belonging and birthright in the Asian diaspora too.

What is shocking for a British viewer, not as well versed as one might be in contemporary and historic race-relations in the South, is how far the relationship to a particular state might remain fraught. We see it again and again in this documentary, with people discussing their decisions to leave the South and head North for jobs - their experience of comparative racism in either place - and sometimes, in their decision to head back "home".  One of the most powerful moments is a casual conversation among contemporary young black Americans discussing where to live, and you just realise the weight of politics that sits within that conversation.

The documentary is also powerful for showing us how the fight for civil rights is intertwined with the black church, and its central role as a rallying point, community builder, and truly self-owned institution in a world where few if any institutions are open to the black community.  To see some members of the church express faith, deep faith, and the ability to forgive, is humbling - if perhaps baffling - to a person of no faith.  That centredness on the church stems from Jon Sesrie Goff using conversations with his father, a minister, as a framing device and through line for his film.  That I left this film feeling a sense of hope and understanding, despite the fact that it frankly discusses racially motivated violence, is a tribute to all involved. 

AFTER SHERMAN has a running time of 88 minutes. The film played Tribeca 2022 and is playing the BFI London Film Festival.


Andrew Dominik is a director of rare talent. THE ASSASSSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD remains one of my all-time favourite films, and its worth considering BLONDE in that context. Because as with that film, BLONDE is about exploring the reality behind an avatar, a myth, an icon, and about trying to find some kind of emotional truth in a story that everyone thinks they know.

It is also worth stating, given some of the criticism that has been levelled at this film, that neither the film nor the book by Joyce Carol Oates upon which it is based, are meant to be straight biographies. Oates states very clearly in her prologue that if you want a factual, historic book about Marilyn Monroe, then this isn't what Blonde provides. Instead, she and Dominik are creating broad categories of experience, inspired by the known facts, and partly by speculation, to interrogate the myth of Marilyn Monroe and the lived emotional experience of what it could have been like to be Norma Jeane. If you approach both the book and film from that perspective, you will reap dividends.

The film is faithful to the book but adds something further thanks to a sensitive, vulnerable, brave performance from Ana De Armas as Norma Jeane, and Dominik's deep knowledge of, and visual invention around Monroe's iconic films, looks and performances. There's a moment where we see Armas' character in tears facing herself in a mirror and putting on the megawatt smile of Marilyn. It's a masterclass in acting the part of a woman who feels alienated from her own creation. Behind the lens, Dominik's use of black and white versus colour and different shooting techniques adds to the impression of a woman so divorced from her own image that the centre cannot and does not hold.

We begin with Norma Jeane's horrific childhood in Hollywood - at first at the hands of a mentally ill mother, then in and out of foster homes, and escaping early into a marriage. We then fast forward to Marilyn in Hollywood, a pin-up star who is raped by Mr Z at her first audition. This movie does not shy away from the sexual empowerment of Norma Jeane and the sexual exploitation of Marilyn Monroe. She isn't always a victim. She chooses her first polyamorous relationship and her two marriages. She also chooses to leave The Former Sports Star (Bobby Cannavale) when he beats her. And in her professional life, as in that aforementioned scene, Norma Jeane is able to put on Marilyn the character for her own financial advantage and is also able to out argue The Writer about his plays. We see her negotiating pay with her agent. Norma Jeane has agency and control.

But as Marilyn, she is serially exploited on and off screen, by producers who rape her, directors who condescend to her, and finally by the President who rapes her, then aborts her child. This last flight of imagination is the most controversial in reviews of the film, but I feel gets to the emotional truth of how the inspiration for The President treated the women in his life, and how powerful men treated Marilyn. Did JFK actually knock her up then abort the baby? I have no idea. What this film is saying is something truthful about power-relationships then and now. I also found it painful to watch how graphic the scene with the President was, but it felt it was absolutely right to show it that way. The film shows the reality of sexual exploitation. It does't cut away. But it also doesn't frame it in a way that is fetishising the actor's body. It focuses on her face, her reactions, her internal monologue as she's experiencing the abuse. How can you tell a truthful story about this woman without showing that?

As you can tell, I both really admired this film and got really frustrated by the reactions to it. I feel that people aren't judging it on its own terms but as something that it isn't: a truthful by the numbers biopic. And in doing so, they are missing out on a vital, provocative and incredibly well-acted account of a woman who attempted to wrestle Hollywood to the floor and got stomped on in the process. 

BLONDE has a running time of 166 minutes and is streaming on Netflix.


SIDNEY is a beautifully constructed documentary about the life and career of the iconic black actor Sidney Poitier, directed by Reginald Hudlin, produced by Oprah Winfrey, and featuring a candid and moving interview with Poitier himself in the year before he died.

The film begins with Poitier's childhood in West Indian poverty - he describes with relish the first time he saw a car in the capital, or the first time in New York he took the subway.  We also see him come to New York and work in a diner before realising he could take acting workshops and then join a local theatre group. His career is interwoven with that of his long-time friend and sparring partner Harry Belafonte. Poitier's big Hollywood break comes from taking a part that Belafonte passed over. But once he got that break he didn't look back, transforming small parts into mesmerising performances and radically challenging Hollywood ideals of male beauty and black power. He became a bankable headline actor in a period when black men were not accorded respect or civil rights. No-one who has ever seen it will forget Poitier slapping Rod Steiger in IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT.  

In his personal life, we hear of Poitier's two marriages and many children. He seems to have taken the business of being a father and breadwinner seriously and it's moving to hear how he felt he couldn't go home until he had money, something that will resonate with a lot of migrants whose remittances are so important. 

But clearly it's Poitier as activist who is of most interest to the contemporary audience and this film benefits from interviews with his contemporaries who were also active at that time - notably Belafonte but also Streisand and Redford. It's also fascinating to see how Poitier was outcompeted by later cinematic trends, most notably Blaxploitation, and was accused of being an assimilationist Uncle Tom by naive fools who had no appreciation for the context in which he was operating.

The best thing about documentaries like these is that they make you wonder how much has really changed.  One of the key provocative questions it sparked in me was how far Poitier would've become a star had he not had his break in the era of black and white film. It does rather feel as though colourism remains rife, and standards of black beauty still tend to be centred on "white" features. Think Beyonce or Will Smith's face, hair, colour. It makes you realise just how unique and strong and talented Poitier was to make it, for decades, in this industry.

SIDNEY is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 111 minutes. It played Toronto 2022 and was released on Apple TV.

LIVING - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 5

LIVING is a delicate, quiet, deeply affecting and faithful adaptation of Kurosawa's 1950s film Ikiru, brought to the screen by screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro and director Oliver Hermanus.  How ironic that a Japanese-British writer and South African director should make a film that so piercingly investigates what it is to be that most English of things - an elderly, middle-class civil servant - an English "gentleman" of a certain period - perhaps epitomised by our late Queen - of English decline, of the stiff upper lip, of just getting on with it and not causing a fuss.  Then again, one could argue that this kind of investigation has been at the heart of Ishiguro's stunning oeuvre from the start, and what better writer to take an iconic Japanese film and inject it with Englishness.

Bill Nighy gives the performance of his career - the kind of award-worthy performance that makes you wonder why he wasn't offered more challenging dramatic roles decades ago - as the stiff, near silent civil servant whose entire job seems to be blocking action in a Kafka-esque byzantine bureaucracy. As Mr Williams shuffles another manilla folder into a pile on his desk his guiding principle seems to be that "it can do no harm" to rest there for a few more weeks. 

The news that Mr Williams has mere months to live jolts him into self-reflection. He attempts a seaside jaunt to live it up, being guided with care by Tom Burke's roué. But this seems out of character and tacked on. The real enlivenment comes from his relationship with a young former colleague played by SEX EDUCATION's Aimee Lou Wood in a break-out role of real warmth, honesty and gentle humour. Mr Williams envies her vitality, and unable to communicate with his son, as much of a procrastinator as his father, he confides in her, and finds the inspiration to now make what small difference he can - to actually do his job by shepherding the building of a children's playground.

The resulting film is tender, beautifully observed and shown with quite some directorial flair.  As with the best drama, it's all about what isn't said, and the pauses between the words.  There's also some excellent, dryly comic set piece passive-aggression when Mr Williams turns the bureaucracy on its head by effectively sitting and making people feel awkward. Credit to Oliver Hermanus and his team for beautifully capturing the look and feel of post-war London - not least Sandy Powell's costumes. There's real panache in the way Hermanus depicts the seaside episode in particular, set to music, with little dialogue but everything expressed in glances and responses.  This is very fine film-making indeed.

LIVING has a running time of 102 minutes and is rated PG-13. The film has played Sundance, Telluride, Venice, San Sebastian,Toronto and the BFI London Film Festival. It will be released in the UK on November 4th and in the USA on December 23rd. 

Sunday, October 09, 2022

I LOVE MY DAD - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 4

I LOVE MY DAD is an absolutely cracking dark-comedy directed with a deft hand by writer-actor-director James Morosini. It is based on his father's real life attempt to reconnect with him by catfishing him on Facebook.  In this fictionalised version Morosini plays Franklin as a shy, fragile but warm-hearted twenty-something who has just emerged from recovery after a suicide attempt and has blocked his flaky, serial liar father from his social media. So his dad, Chuck (Patton Oswalt) creates a Facebook account in the shape of Becca - a waitress he happend to meet at a diner - and befriends his own son, using the avatar to plea the case of his dad just trying his best and worthy of a second chance. The problem is that Franklin falls for Becca, and Chuck is unwilling to "dump" him because it's the one way he can actually talk to his son.    

Morosini has a deft hand and cleverly decides to intersperse Chuck with Becca in frame with Franklin for maximum cringe. A four-way sexting chat where Chuck is using dialogue his actual girlfriend is sending him to turn on his own son in the guise of Becca is truly the most appalling, hilarious watch I've had all year. But the real skill in this film is keeping Chuck sympathetic even when he's doing terrible things. Thanks to Oswalt's natural amiability we always root for him, and believe he's genuinely trying to be a good dad. I was surprised at just how involved I was with both father and son, and how much I wanted their relationship to work. The final scene is a stunning payoff, and genuinely moving. This film really is a hidden gem.

I LOVE MY DAD is rated R and has a running time of 96 minutes. It played SXSW where it won the audience award. It was released in the USA on the internet in August. 

BARDO - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 4

What a pile of narcissistic pretentious wank this film is! And what a waste of talent! What a waste of Inarritu and Khondji's kinetic, fluid camerawork and mastery of cinema! What a waste of a chance to truly explore the relationship of celebrity to art, and of Mexico to America!

It must be said that I have never been a fan of these sorts of masturbatory solipstic films about film-making. Everything that needed to be said about this was said by Fellini in 8 1/2 and even that film strains at my sympathy. But with BARDO, Inarritu has truly gone through the looking glass.

The film opens with a visually ravishing and playful scene of an unseen man - presumably the director's avatar Silverio Gama (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) taking massive leaps over the Mmexican desert. It had a fantastical feel similar to BIRDMAN and I thought, okay, this is going to be fun!

We then transition into a scene where the director is now waiting for his wife to give birth, but apparently the baby decides the world is too fucked up and instructs the doctor to pop him back in. This we see. It's surreal, darkly comic, and I was still thinking, okay, this is going to be fun!

But we then move into the main body of the film which sees the director move through contemporary Mexico in preparation for a high profile American award. He seems disengaged and childishly refuses to co-operate with the people preparing him for the ceremony. He has a fractious relationship with his son who has been raised largely in America. And he has a fractious relationship with his homeland, which he sees as being conquered again, but this time economically rather than militarily.

It all meanders along with surreal scenes interspersed with banal family drama. At one point his wife is running around the flat, tits out, for no apparent reason, and Inarritu delights in showing us the aforementioned baby hanging out of her for no reason other than to provoke? It all felt rather childish and indulgent and pointless, but of course lensed beautifully.

I feel that within this three hour pointless dream-world there's a really taut 90 minute political satire about the commercialisation and erosion of journalistic values and the economic dependency of Mexico on America. But that's not the film Inarritu wanted to make.  What we end up with is the feeling of a director who is in a zipless fuck with his Mexican heritage. He doesn't actually want to engage with its colonial past or present. He wants to safely skate upon the surface of things. The result is an utterly superficial, uninvolving, unengaging meditation on ego.

BARDO has a running time of 174 minutes and is rated R. It played Venice, Telluride, Busan and the BFI London Film Festival. It will be released on Netflix on December 16th.

Saturday, October 08, 2022

A SPY AMONG FRIENDS eps 1 and 2 - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 3

The first two episodes of Nick Murphy's adaptation of Ben MacIntyre's A SPY AMONG FRIENDS were screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival last night. It's hard to judge the direction of a miniseries on two episodes alone, but so far it comes across as cleverly constructed, beautifully acted and largely faithful to Macintyre's scrupulously researched book.

The book investigates the "mystery" of why the British intelligence service apparently let Philby - finally exposed as a Soviet spy - escape to Moscow in 1963, rather than bringing him in to face charges of treason.  The common answer, and one I share, is that there is no great conspiracy or mystery at all. As with Burgess and Maclean, it was far less embarassing to the SIS and the British Establishment to have Philby fuck off behind the Iron Curtain to pretty much silence in the western press, rather than to stand trial and expose just how lax security vetting was, and just how far Philby had "pulled the Circus inside out" for decades on the basis that no decent chap who went to a private school could ever be a wrongun'.

Still, TV demands drama, so this miniseries posits that a man as clever as Nicholas Elliott - who volunteered to go to Beirut to bring Philby in - would not have let him escape without getting something in return. And this is pretty much the state of play when we leave episode 2.

Guy Pierce seems to nail something of Kim Philby's notoriously mis-used charisma, arrogance and ruthlessness.  Despite his latter day alcoholism, there's a superb scene when the Soviet spy is on a train to Moscow and for a moment - just a moment - when he tells his handler how he murdered a Soviet defector who would have blown his cover in 1951 and reminds said handler not to patronise him - it's just pure ruthless muderous condescension. This is the heart of Philby's egomania.  I believe he became a spy out of ideological idealism, but stayed a spy because he got a kick out of being the smartest person in the room at any time.  It suited his vanity.

Damian Lewis is rather harder to pin down as Nick Elliott and that's probably the point. One understands how Elliott believes in his best friend right up until the point when Burgess and Maclean defect in 1951. But from then on, when it has been categorically proven that "one of us" can be a wrongun', why does someone as intelligent as Elliott remain loyal and credulous - even getting Philby his job in Beirut? Friendship?  Believing he might - like Blunt - just stop? Or trying to get him out of the way? I am looking forward to seeing what the miniseries does with this but so far - nada. 

The final lead actor in this production is Anna Maxwell Martin as the fictional character of Lilly - an MI5 interrogator who debriefs Elliott on his return from Beirut, and provides the framing device for the show.  I know why the writers felt the need to create Lilly. And to beef up the role of Flora Solomon, the real woman who shopped Philby, and Litzy Friedmann, Philby's first wife.  They want to let some women into what is basically an all-male story because frankly that's how the Establishment operated at the time, and this is nothing if not a story about a failure at the heart of the Establishment.

Maxwell Martin is brilliant as always and her character does well to show the rivalry and class antagonism between MI5 and the SIS - security versus intelligence - working class strivers vs the effete adventurers of the upper classes.  I really liked her character. But when the writers make her married to a black doctor you just think okay is this telling us something about Lilly or about appealing to contemporary audiences? I say this as a person of colour - don't add us as bit parts to make a point - give us proper characters that propel action if you must anachronistically include us. That said, I appreciate the earnest good intentions. So let's move on.

The only thing that really worried me was that they seem to be hyping up the role of Litzi Friedmann as not just an instigator of Philby's move to spying but also as someone who kept him there, actively, after the war. Not sure where they are taking this but it just makes me nervous that they're going to go off piste from the facts to make a female character more important.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that other than the great performances I also really love that this show has decided to make post-war Britain look as poor and grey and grimy as it was.  This is the real world of espionage as depicted by Le Carre rather than the glamour and glitz of Fleming. The lensing and lighting and production and costume design are all punching well above the weight of a TV show. And the delicate use of make-up and CGI to age down and then age up the lead actors is first rate.

A SPY AMONG FRIENDS will be streaming on ITVx later this year.

Friday, October 07, 2022

THE ETERNAL DAUGHTER - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 3

Joanna Hogg's THE ETERNAL DAUGHTER is a quietly powerful, emotionally devastating film that effectively continues the mother-daughter-film-maker triangle depicted in Hogg's previous films SOUVENIR parts one and two. Honor Byrne's young film-maker from those films has now grown up into Tilda Swinton's Julia and Tilda Swinton's Rosalind is now the more elderly mother of the film-maker. And of course, Julia is still a thinly veiled autobiographical expression of writer-director Joanna Hogg. And if you think that's all too meta, remember that Honor Byrne is Swinton's real life daughter.

Okay so back to THIS movie. It's late at night and a taxi pulls up to a country hotel wreathed in mist. My kind of horror film plays out: the surly lone receptionist can't find Julia's booking and makes a fuss about giving her a first floor room even though the hotel appears to be empty. Still she makes the best of making her mother, Rosalind, comfortable. The next day Julia struggles to work on her new script about her relationship with her mother, and seems to be hyper-sensitive to any discomfort her mother might feel. It emerges that Rosalind actually grew up in the house when she was taken in my her aunt during the Blitz.  And in successive visits over the decades, Rosalind's memories are sad as well as happy.

Rosalind seems to have that phlegmatic no-nonsense, self-effacing character of her generation, as epitomised by our late Queen. But Julia is so desperate for everything to be perfect for her mother that she breaks down at the slightest bump in the road. We realise that their relationship, while loving, does not in fact rest of mutual understanding and intimacy. 

As for the rest of the plot I am not sure we needed it. The references to ghost stories, eery bumps in the night, amd self-proclaimed mystery seemed to me to cheapen the whole affair and provided very little actual suspense.

THE ETERNAL DAUGHTER is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 96 minutes.  It played Venice, Toronto and the BFI London Film Festival 2022.

CORSAGE - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 3

CORSAGE is a stunning piece of imaginative film-making from writer-director Marie Kreutzer, featuring a memorable performance from Vicky Krieps (THE PHANTOM THREAD) as the iconic Austro-Hungarian Empress Sisi.

Kreutzer's approach is to take a bold ahistorical approach to get to the emotional truth of an incredibly famous, beautiful woman, trapped in a loveless marriage and burdened by the obligations of her public role.  It is similar in approach - though bolder in its leaps of imagination - than Sofia Coppola's MARIE ANTOINETTE - far more successful than Pablo Larrain's hysterical SPENCER, though less honest in its treatment of Sisi's eating disorder.  The key difference is that in both of those movies, the central women were depicted as passive victims, whereas Krieps' Sisi is the architect of her own liberation.

The movie opens with Sisi about to turn 40 in 1870s Vienna, the mother of a teenage Crown Prince and a precocious and dutiful daughter. She is obsessed with her weight, skin and youth, starving herself and riding, fencing and doing gym exercises to maintain her figure. She doesn't want to have sex with her husband, but is also jealous of a young girl that he flirts with. At first we think she is in love with her riding instructor but then realises she just gets off on him (and her husband) looking at her adoringly. As with Princess Diana, we get the impression that she is both trapped by society's superficial and unreal expectations of her, but that she has also internalised these misogynistic expectations of beauty and turned into a narcissist. Certaintly, her treatment of her confidante and lady in waiting speaks to her putting her own happiness before that of all others. 

The wonder of Krieps performance is that Sisi never seems passive or a victim even when she is: she's actually spiky, bitchy, rebellious and wild, to the point of neglecting her duties with her indulgent cousin Ludwig of Bavaria. She's also incredibly athletic and not lying when she says she's a better rider than her instructor. It helps that Kreutzer chooses not to show us the excesses of Sisi - her absurd hair and beauty regimen - her more waspish comments about fat people - her serial infidelities. This is a much less extreme and yet more extreme Sisi - less fat-shaming and more feminist -  one more palatable to contemporary tastes. 

As to the rest of the film I love that Kreutzer shows us people in full costume dress with retinues of obsequious servants but places them in derelict locations filled with anachronistic props. It sounds too on the nose, but it actually works really well to underpin how rotten the edifice of the central European monarchy was at that stage, and the sham of these great imperial monarchs with their rotten teeth and fake beards.  Kreutzer's Sisi just takes that fakery one step further. 

CORSAGE has a running time of 113 minutes. It played Cannes, where Vicky Krieps won an acting prize. It is playing in Official Competition at the BFI London Film Festival. It will be released in the USA on December 23rd and in the UK on December 24th.

This is not a review of WHITE NOISE - BFI London Film Festival 2022 - Day 2

Noah Baumbach's adaptation of the Don DeLillo academic / western proseperity satire is mystifyingly opaque and uninvolving. We are presented with a central couple that are spoiled, self-involved and unlikeable. The dad is an ego-driven college professor who teaches Hitler studies but can't speak German. He's married to a woman, Babette, who is numbing herself to the inevitability of death with pills. They have a gaggle of precocious kids who all seem to be obsessed with death and calamity while all the while being surrounded by the detritus of American consumerism and endless layers of meaningless conversation and noise. There's no-one to like. That's probably the point. But then it makes it harder to care about their reactions to the Airborne Toxic Event that happens when a lorry crashes near their home town.  They're evacuated. The dad is exposed to toxins. Or is he? Is the evacuation real or a simulation or a simulation that takes advantage of real events?

It's all very clever but I feel reality has moved beyond what this movie was satirising in the mid 80s.  Academia is now so far up its meta-textual Critical Theorised arse that the de-contextualised lecture duel between Driver's Hitler professor and Don Cheadle's Elvis obsessive seems pale meat compared to the BS that actually takes place now. (I should explain I am academe-adjacent IRL).  

And yes, the film is making a point about late-stage capitalism and misinformation and misdirection but I feel that in a post-Trump world this is all stuff we a) know and b) get bigger darker laughs from on the Colbert Late Show each night.

So I walked out after an hour.

WHITE NOISE has a running time of 137 minutes. It played the Venice and BFI London Film Festivals and will be released on Netflix on December 30th.