Saturday, 28 November 2015


Maiwenn le Besco's Mon Roi likely began its existence as a promising conceptual work, an intense and intensely-focused depiction of a relationship from conception to culmination. I mean, I don't actually know that this is how Mon Roi's existence began, but how else to justify the film that it eventually became? Formally, thematically, artistically, this is an entirely rote relationship drama, with few signs (if any) of whatever conceptual impetus ever begat such a work. Something must have gone wrong somewhere, right? Observing this couple from conception to culmination is surely the more satisfying the more invested you are in said couple. That's a deeply subjective process; for me, I felt intrigued about and frustrated by Emmanuelle Bercot's Tony, though at least I felt something constructive - I felt passionate disdain for Vincent Cassel's Georgio, and le Besco's apparent assertion that we're bound to forgive his immense shortcomings due to his charming good humour and joie de vivre is misplaced. From there, Mon Roi develops quickly into one of the year's most bizarre, baffling stories, as Tony is submitted to extraordinary levels of emotional abuse by her partner, and barely bats an eye! I kept willing her to sue the cunt, until I finally recalled that... she's a lawyer, a detail which both I and, seemingly, le Besco had forgotten. You could impose upon Mon Roi that it is a film about our ability as human beings to put ourselves through unconscionable punishment for the sake of others, or an opaque comment on the opacity of a woman's heart - good for you if that's what you take away from it (truly, good for you), but I'm not so keen to give the filmmakers so much credit. If the character development is shaky, it's far from the actors' fault, though, as Cassel impresses (in a role that he could do just as well in his sleep, albeit), and Bercot astounds, misjudging not one miniature moment in a highly demanding role.

Friday, 27 November 2015


Many excellent titles from this year (and last) on Cahiers du Cinema's Top 10 of 2015... and Mia Madre. In a decision that would be inexplicable for most critic polls, but which is almost predictable for the ever-independent Cahiers critics, Nanni Moretti's film beats titles from Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Miguel Gomes and, of all people, Larry Clark. Get your daily wtf fill below:

Cahiers du Cinema's Top 10 of 2015
1. Mia Madre
2. Cemetery of Splendour
3. In the Shadow of Women
4. The Smell of Us
5. Mad Max: Fury Road
6. Jauja
7. Inherent Vice
8. Arabian Nights: Volume 1 - The Restless One / Arabian Nights: Volume 2 - The Desolate One / Arabian Nights: Volume 3 - The Enchanted One
9. The Summer of Sangaile
10. Journey to the Shore


Hou Hsiao Hsien's The Assassin may not have picked up the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival in May, but it has gained another prestigious accolade - the honour of being named the best film of 2015 by British publication Sight & Sound. The film joins other Cannes award winners (it won Best Director there) Son of Saul and Carol on the list, which features female leads for its top three titles and for seven of its top ten. Check out the full 20 below:

Sight & Sound Top 20 of 2015
1. The Assassin
2. Carol
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
4. Arabian Nights: Volume 1 – The Restless One / Arabian Nights: Volume 2 – The Desolate One / Arabian Nights: Volume 3 – The Enchanted One
5. Cemetery of Splendour
6. No Home Movie
7. 45 Years
8. Son of Saul
9. Amy
Inherent Vice
11. Anomalisa
 It Follows
13. Phoenix
14. Girlhood
 Hard to Be a God
 Inside Out
19. Horse Money
 The Look of Silence


You'll forgive Rick Alverson's Entertainment, in the end, for having so little to say about society. It poses as a reflection upon society, and ends up commenting more upon itself than upon anything else. Its sad self-reflection is manifested in scene after scene of melancholic despair, the morose mood accentuated by Lorenzo Hagerman's astute cinematography. The effect is subtle and insidious, beguilingly so in that it's achieved via such overt means - Entertainment is an unashamedly, essentially caustic film, an anti-comedy with so sharp a sardonic streak it even seems to cut into itself. Little wonder all it can do is navel-gaze, as it spews bile, blood and shit out of self-inflicted incisions. Formally, the film is surprisingly well-crafted, though it lacks the depth of purpose that similarly-composed films take upon themselves; Entertainment is necessarily shallow, but such serious shallowness never feels like it amounts to much. As the screenplay progresses, it becomes ever more apparent that it's merely hitting all the expected targets en route to a typically bleak, desperate denouement - hitting them with precision and panache, targets that at least bear a callous, offbeat quality, the whole enterprise satisfyingly strange in the simplest way. Gregg Turkington has the tics of his comedian character down to the tiniest tee, and convinces with his creation, which may be the principal reason that Entertainment doesn't wither away entirely. He's a fragile figure, but Turkington's single-minded strength turns him into a cohesive force for the film. You'll forgive it all its flaws, in the end - there's fine work on display here.

Thursday, 26 November 2015


One of Japan's most recognisable film stars is no longer with us; it has been announced that Hara Setsuko died on the 5th of September 2015 at age 95. Her death was due to pneumonia. Aida Mase took up acting in the mid-1930s, changing her name for her career, and worked prolifically for the following three decades, despite health problems and some societal controversy. During this time, she worked with some of her home nation's most popular filmmakers, including Kurosawa Akira on No Regrets for Our Youth, and became one of the faces of Japan's post-war cultural revival. Her best-known roles were with Ozu Yasujiro, including her moving, memorable performances in Late Spring, Early Summer and Tokyo Story, known as the Noriko Trilogy. Her connection to Ozu over their six collaborations led to Hara quitting the industry after his death; her final film was released in 1966. Audiences around the world will continue to enjoy her sensitive work in some of the most seminal films of her era for years to come, ensuring that Hara may be missed, but never forgotten.


La Nouvelle Vague comes to Mexico, only it's not so nouvelle any more. Gueros is a hipster's dream, and a perfect hipster's dream. It's so hyped up on its metatextual referentialism, so indebted to a form of filmmaking whose influence was understandably strong, that it's not just pretentious - it's actually quite good. The familiarity of Alonso Ruizpalacios' film, that deflating feeling that you're watching just another quirked-up, black-and-white tale of teen ennui, subsides once Ruizpalacios even begins to employ these borrowed techniques. The scenario is old hat, but the screenplay develops its revolutionary fervour with insight and its characters with perceptiveness. The static shots and close-ups are mostly mere aesthetic decoration (to say nothing of the monochrome), but Ruizpalacios permits a welcome objectivity to be superimposed upon his most subjective images, thus letting his audience form a connection with these characters, one that all this fluffy formality would normally repel. And if his disaffected youth storyline is brimming over with the usual ideological optimism and romantic defeatism, he at least convinces that these notions are legitimate, that they have roots in reality and applications in it too. Gueros is shot through with many missteps - a byproduct of the process of artistic appropriation when applied this liberally - Ruizpalacios isn't entirely set on whose story he's actually telling here, and he never finds a compelling argument for the grandiosity that his narrative seeks to transmit. But these are, frankly, expected - La Nouvelle Vague is dead, after all. What's unexpected is how much life Gueros shoots back into it.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


The process of artistic creation - the sculpture and the film. Artisans alike both before and behind the camera lens, their techniques documented by the objectivity of the unyielding, unthinking materials employed in this process, examined by the subjectivity of the ever-thinking people who employ those materials. Hand Gestures is no less about those before the camera lens than those before the cinema screen, observing and consuming, completing the process of artistic creation by interpreting the nature of this art in its intended habitat. Francesco Clerici intends us to understand the detail, rather than any kind of identifiable intention - Hand Gestures is about movement and manipulation, materials and their qualities, their essential artistic value that allows them to be manipulated at all. Rough, unformed substances in shabby surroundings, that value brought forth in Hand Gestures' sumptuously clear sound design and in the simplicity of Clerici's direction. He captures these processes with a candour that makes them transfixing to behold - transfixing, entrancing... you may fall into a trance yourself, so slight is this unassuming documentary, so resolute is Clerici never to stress the innate profundity of what he documents here. It's a film that may not stay with you, though one's memory of what Hand Gestures represents may just, nestled in the depths of one's mind. It's certainly not a film that you'll want to forget.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Look out for this to be a recurring theme this awards season: Todd Haynes' Carol leads the nominations for the Film Independent Spirit Awards for 2015. Traditionally an early announcer of nominees, the group actually waits until the eve of the Academy Awards to hand out its main prizes. Last year, they mirrored Oscar with their choice of Best Feature, which has also been more common in recent years than in those gone by. But if Film Independent's choices of winners aren't especially inspiring come February, they'll at least likely be deserved. And we can enjoy a rich feast of surprises and smart decisions today: true independent spirit celebrated in the likes of Tangerine and Songs My Brothers Taught Me, the latter of which also represents for female-directed films like The Diary of a Teenage Girl. International fare shows up with films like Mediterranea, and innovations in filmmaking (Anomalisa) and production (Beasts of No Nation) are given prominent Best Feature slots. The ceremony will take place on the 27th of February 2016.

Best Feature
Beasts of No Nation

Best Director
Sean Baker (Tangerine)
Cary Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation)
Todd Haynes (Carol)
Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman (Anomalisa)
Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
David Robert Mitchell (It Follows)

Best Female Lead
Cate Blanchett (Carol)
Brie Larson (Room)
Rooney Mara (Carol)
Bel Powley (The Diary of a Teenage Girl)
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (Tangerine)

Best Male Lead
Christopher Abbott (James White)
Abraham Attah (Beasts of No Nation)
Ben Mendelsohn (Mississippi Grind)
Jason Segel (The End of the Tour)
Koudous Seihon (Mediterranea)

Best Supporting Female
Robin Barlett (H.)
Marin Ireland (Glass Chin)
Jennifer Jason Leigh (Anomalisa)
Cynthia Nixon (James White)
Mya Taylor (Tangerine)

Best Supporting Male
Kevin Corrigan (Results)
Paul Dano (Love & Mercy)
Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation)
Richard Jenkins (Bone Tomahawk)
Michael Shannon (99 Homes)

Best Screenplay
Charlie Kaufman (Anomalisa)
Donald Margulies (The End of the Tour)
Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer (Spotlight)
Phyllis Nagy (Carol)
S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk)

Best Cinematography
Cary Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation)
Michael Gioulakis (It Follows)
Edward Lachman (Carol)
Reed Morano (Meadowland)
Joshua James Richards (Songs My Brothers Taught Me)

Best Film Editing
Ronald Bronstein and Ben Safdie (Heaven Knows What)
Tom McArdle (Spotlight)
Nathan Nugent (Room)
Julio C. Perez (It Follows)
Kristan Sprague (Manos Sucias)

Best Documentary
Best of Enemies
Heart of a Dog
The Look of Silence
The Russian Woodpecker

Best International Film
Embrace of the Serpent
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Son of Saul

Best First Feature
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
James White
Manos Sucias
Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Best First Screenplay
Jesse Andrews (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl)
Jonas Carpignano (Mediterranea)
Emma Donoghue (Room)
Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl)
Russell Harbaugh, Myna Joseph and John Magary (The Mend)

John Cassavetes Award
Christmas, Again
Heaven Knows What
Out of My Mind

Robert Altman Award


Constructed using only the finest of materials, cut to perfection and figure-flattering in all the right places. The dresses, not The Dressmaker. Jocelyn Moorhouse's Aussie orgy of a film is a most compelling oddity, compelling not because of everything it gets right but because of, well, everything, both right and wrong. The talented editor Jill Bilcock produces her most talentless display of editing yet: The Dressmaker is a decidedly simple enterprise with a decidedly shambolic result. Miike Takashi would be jealous at the sheer messiness, and ashamed at the fact that this messiness appears entirely unintentional. If you can bear to sit through a film where the plot literally ceases two-thirds through, where liberally-employed ADR sounds like it was recorded on another continent, where we're supposed to judge the oscillating character of a person by... the position of the sun in the sky (I don't know)? If you can, then The Dressmaker offers a lot in return for your patience, from spirited performances from an excellent cast excellently used, to dazzling dresses by Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson. And sit through it once, and you might be tempted to sit through it again - it's the kind of film that's so unyielding to expectation that you'll need that first viewing to adjust them; it'd no doubt be better consumed when you know what it is you're about to encounter. Affable and sporadically successful, but blighted by wild tonal issues and bizarre narrative slackness.

Monday, 23 November 2015


So this is it... sort of. The Producers Guild of America is one of the most prestigious film industry guilds in the world, and they unofficially kicked off awards season 2015-16 today with the announcement of their Documentary Theatrical Motion Picture nominees. Acclaimed titles all five of them, with some high profile names among them. They'll reveal their nominees for other categories, alongside the specific credits for this category, on the 5th of January, and their awards ceremony will take place on the 23rd of January. All the deets below:

Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Picture
The Hunting Ground
The Look of Silence
Something Better to Come