Given the times in which we live, making jokes about mail bombs to a postman could be seen as rather a poor show. Equally, telling your elderly mother you’ve taken on a new job moonlighting at an old people’s home, scaring residents to death (literally) for €50 a pop is borderline immoral. But such is the perceptive, compassionate, humanist skill and darkly comedic wit of German writer-director Maren Ade that her latest film, Toni Erdmann, is a deliciously morbid, frequently awkward, raucously funny critique of modern life’s senseless bullshit and a surprisingly affecting look at the love between a father and his daughter.
The understatement of Jeff Nichols’ Loving is conversely both its strongest asset and weakest link. Continuing an eclectic genre-hopping tour in the early stages of what will undoubtedly be a tremendous career in filmmaking, the writer-director moves away from the visually inventive psychological drama of Take Shelter, the gritty, poetic realism of Mud and the darkly Spielbergian sci-fi of Midnight Special to a story of racial and historical import; the lifelong love and struggles of Mildred and Richard Loving against discrimination as a mixed race couple through the Civil Rights era.
Does a picture really paint a thousand words? When something is written down, does that make it true? With an increasingly spellbinding command of cinema’s visual language and capability, placing him firmly in the rarefied air of the most gifted filmmakers of our time, Chilean director Pablo Larraín muses upon these ideas in new offering Jackie, sifting them with an unwavering hand through one of the most horrific events of the 20th century.
It’s hard to find the words to adequately describe the breathtaking magnitude and harrowing brilliance of Son of Saul. More than seventy years have passed since the liberation of the death camps but in that time cinema has struggled to ascertain how the worst atrocities of the Holocaust be portrayed on the big screen. The works of Spielberg and Lanzmann are now joined by one of the most impressive debut features of all time.
Dheepan, the seventh feature from French director Jacques Audiard, opens in a jungle with a long shot of men piling palm leaves onto a fire. As the camera moves closer it reveals a hastily arranged funeral pyre, corpses set alight, crackling in unerring close up. The eponymous Tamil Tiger rebel-turned-refugee, whose plight to escape his past begins at this point, looks on as the uniform he has exchanged for civilian clothing burns with the flesh of his former comrades.
After only a few moments of contemplating Charlie Kaufman’s existential musings in Anomalisa do we all but forget that the characters inhabiting the screen are stop-motion animations. Such is the quality of the writing and miraculous attention to detail that an assembled cast of puppets can teach us as much, if not more, about the human condition as any flesh and blood performers. Seven years on from his directorial debut Synecdoche, New York, new film Anomalisa sees the one and only Charlie Kaufman at his spellbinding, beguiling and perceptive best.
2015 saw something of a Krays craze. Amid the brouhaha surrounding the Tom Hardy double act that was Brian Helgeland’s Legend, a plucky contender sought to muscle in on the red carpet turf of its glitzy, all conquering adversary. Everyone loves an underdog story but sadly there would be no fairytale victory for the lightweight B-movie challenger. Evidently working from a shoestring budget compared with his fellow American director, Zackary Adler brought The Rise of the Krays to the big screen – and DVD bargain bin shortly thereafter…
Cold War espionage-thriller Bridge of Spies (2015) is ‘inspired by true events’, which allows legendary Hollywood director Steven Spielberg a welcome and well-used degree of artistic license. In an eerily quiet opening sequence a quarter worth far more than 25 cents appears, affixed to the underside of a park bench. Wading through the murky waters of a conflict where opposing sides fought to obtain an informational, rather than territorial, upper hand, misdirection and ambiguity is the name of the game.
The start of the 40th Toronto International Film Festival is just two days away. Featuring a characteristically diverse array of offerings, TIFF will again demonstrate some of the finest cinematic voices the world over. I am extremely lucky to have the opportunity to help cover the festival for the superb UK-based film publication CineVue and will be teaming up with Ben Nicholson, the site’s editor who is hopping on a plane from Jolly Old England, over the 10 days of madness set to launch this Thursday.
A young man runs after a streetcar along a snowy Moscow street. Seen through the rear window of the moving car, he struggles to catch up but is determined to do so. He jumps on and finds a seat behind a woman whose face is mostly concealed by a thick black scarf, revealing only her piercing blue eyes. Their gazes, which do not converge, turn in unison to watch a child running by in the street below – he smiles with his mouth, she with her eyes. As they each stand to get off the car they brush past one another, the camera cuts to power lines above where sparks fly, they go their separate ways.