Cristian Mungiu’s Bacalaureat (2016) (or Graduation, as it is called in English-speaking countries) is firmly rooted in realism, but manages to turn some of its characters paranoid. Somewhere around the movie’s middle mark, I turned slightly paranoid, too. It’s entirely possible that this paranoia might be intentional, and that it might refer to the fact that this is a Romanian production, with its subtle hints to the Ceausescu regime which had the whole country in its grip until 1989, but it doesn’t have to be. We could also just witness a system that works with favoritism and secret handshakes, but the thing is: the favoritism in the movie, while not legitimate, does not increase the elite’s power, but helps single individuals overcome their problems. It’s a film about morals without wagging its finger at you. Continue reading
Remember that film that followed a boy growing up in an economically precarious environment, that took us from the boy’s childhood through adolescence to early adulthood? The film about a boy whose father was (largely) absent and whose mother struggled with her situation, with getting older and feeling that she hadn’t done a good job of being a parent? That was told in relatively plot-free, naturalistic episodes that mostly began and ended in medias res? The film that most critics loved and that was nominated for most major awards?
In your mind, what colour was that boy?
Silence is almost not a Scorsese movie. His camera watches from the middle distance; it doesn’t cut away, but keeps watching, standing still, but far from unmoved. There are no extra-long scenes, no musical cues, no freeze frames, no siren call for a life of crime. Every movement has its reason. This is a mostly quiet film. Nature sounds can be heard – the waves, the wind, footsteps, fire burning. There is some voiceover narration, and there are dialogues, all of them necessary, but silence is the point. The louder the movie gets, the more disquieting things are going on. Silence is not entertaining in any superficial way, but it’s definitely intriguing. Continue reading
White God is a good movie, but it’s unnerving to get glimpses of an even better movie in there. All the ingredients for a better story are there, but somehow it gets lost on the way, and then still finds some sort of ending all the same, like a dog on its long way home. This might explain why there was once so much talk about it, and then it never even made it to the cinemas, at least not near here. And please note: dogs will seriously be harmed in this movie. Humans, too. Continue reading
Years ago, I went to see the stage version of The Lion King in London. As the lights went down and people stopped talking, knowing that the show was about to begin, a kid one or two rows in front of me piped up. “I don’t like lions!” Well, tough, kid, you’re going to get lions, whether you like them or not.
Most people like lions, if they keep their distance and don’t attempt to eat you or your loved ones. What many people don’t like? Musicals. Some people don’t like action films, others aren’t really into horror movies, but I don’t think there’s a single genre that as many people claim not to like as musicals. To be honest, though: until a few years ago, I would have said the same, though I may have qualified it a bit more – I don’t like the Platonic ideal (i.e. the pretentiously formulated stereotype) of a musical that people may think of when the genre comes up. At the same time, some of the films I liked best growing up were musicals, such as Hair or Jesus Christ Superstar. I’ve even rewatched some musicals that didn’t click for me when I was growing up, like West Side Story, and I’ve come to greatly enjoy them. Similarly, “Once More With Feeling” is one of my favourite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Killer, and I’d defend its artistic merits as much as I would those of my favourite less jazz-handy episodes.
Richard Curtis, I’ll happily admit: your 2013 film About Time made me smile, laugh and shed a manly tear. Okay, not quite, but I found myself touched and moved. It also made me want to shout obscenities and throw things at the TV, and not in good ways: About Time can be witty in one scene and trite in the next, it has moments of poignancy and others that are saccharine, and it manages to come off both charmingly self-effacing and smug under the disguise of glib humility.
Perhaps it’s difficult to imagine how such an overtly inoffensive film could leave me so angry when I’d actually say that I enjoyed a lot of it. About Time is that most common of genres, the time-travel rom-dram-com, and the way it brings together its outlandish conceit may be one of the things I liked best – like all the men in his bloodline, the main character Tim (played by Domhnall Gleeson) can travel back in time within the limits of his own life, making changes as he sees fit. Why? Dunno. How? He just needs to go and stand in a dark cupboard, clench his fists and concentrate. In one of many lovely father-and-son scenes, Tim’s dad (Bill Nighy, as charmingly odd as ever) basically gives his son a Curtisian version of Looper’s diagrams-and-straws speech which boils down to this: shh, it’s silly, let’s have some fun with this, okay?
Damien Chazelle’s La La Land harks back to another era of moviemaking, but it stands entirely on its own two feet. Sometimes those feet jig and hoof and skip and jump, but they are also able to stand completely still while the head looks at someone else across a crowded jazz bar. It’s a musical, but it is much more. It starts as an exuberant fantasy, and when the romantic bits or the musical numbers run the danger of getting too much, real life comes crashing in, rooting the whole dream in firm ground, only to take off again later. It’s over two hours long, but there are no boring bits. There is funk, soul, jazz, tap-dance and waltz, there are vinyl records and live bands, there is beer and coffee. There is love, and there are kisses, and there are fights. Continue reading