September 26, 2017

At home in the world

mother! (Darren Aronofsky, 2017). In a conversation with William Friedkin (yes, the directors of two of the great religious movies, just talking it over), Aronofsky described this hallucinatory horror/unusual Biblical adaptation/domestic nightmare as a “howl into the world”, written from a place of “fury”. The feeling stayed intact throughout a hothouse rehearsal process and the result is something that seems utterly uncompromising and highly personal, but that still manages to communicate a dark, absurdist humour. The first half is all about a mood of intense nervousness, claustrophobically shot, with Jennifer Lawrence followed closely as she walks the halls, rooms and stairs of a strange house in the country; the second half escalates, dream-like and unceasingly, into something closer to apocalyptic panic. It is easy to assume that Aronofsky has married the deranged, intensely subjective style of Black Swan (another horror movie about the terrible burden of being creative) with the conventional Biblical storytelling of Noah and its meditations on the Old Testament God and the problem of evil – meaning this is every bit as misanthropic as that Bible story. Again, there is a loathing for creation and the urge to keep trying, but for what? The creator’s ego? To prove something? All of human history passes by in a flash like a bad dream of married life, or perhaps the reverse. Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel is in here, Aronofsky says – there is also the Lars von Trier of Antichrist and perhaps even Children of Men, which is a more hopeful and less overwhelming version of some roughly similar ideas. Call it a masterpiece. 

September 20, 2017

Imaginary double bill

The Innocents (Anne Fontaine, 2016) and The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017). Communities of women at the end of wars, with stories about the sidelines of war and their lasting damage. 

September 16, 2017

From another century

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (David Lowery, 2013). David Lowery’s A Ghost Story sent me back here, to a sad, sweet crime story set in a timeless, semi-mythic Texas, featuring the same actors (Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck) who get to do more. Like A Ghost Story, it is a love story, with love notes, love letters. There are Malick influences but it’s more of an actors’ film than anything post-Days of Heaven, and the romantic mood and textures feel both authentic and fresh, as does its deep sense of being in and from some past we cannot access.  

September 15, 2017

Exterminate all the brutes

Kong: Skull Island (Jordan Vogt-Roberts, 2017). B-movie monster nostalgia is expected (and delivered on), but Vietnam war movie nostalgia? (Specifically Apocalypse Now.) That opens up a whole other multiverse of possibilities. Meaning it is a welcome idea.  

September 4, 2017

At 50

The Trip to Spain (Michael Winterbottom, 2017). The food, once the focus or at least the official reason for the part-documented, part-constructed journey, has became almost irrelevant and even the impressions now seem secondary (although Rob Brydons long Roger Moore/Moor thing is inspired), which has pushed Winterbottom, Brydon and Steve Coogans middle-aged ruminations to the fore. Youth, it passes. Genuine, lasting achievements are out of reach. Vanity is all folly. You might find yourself stuck in the desert of your own self-absorption. What should you have done differently?

September 2, 2017

Epic neediness

Dog Eat Dog (Paul Schrader, 2016). The best thing about this lurid post-Elmore Leonard/Tarantino nihilistic guns-and-drugs black comedy is Willem Dafoe in what would normally be the Steve Buscemi part – epic, debased, painful neediness. He makes co-star Nicolas Cage appear restrained and Paul Schrader fans might see him as a version of the infamous pre-Taxi Driver Schrader. The second best thing is the hallucinatory ending with its overtones of religiousness and sudden innocence, as though (let’s cut him some slack) Schrader was trying to make amends for the sometimes hilarious, often depraved filth we all just waded through. 

September 1, 2017

Pure hell

Pure hell. You don’t joke around about this. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is (still, more than 40 years later) like an artefact or fragment of something even worse than what you see, something buried or obscured or hidden. Which means I’m much more likely to rewatch the late Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist or (why not) Lifeforce than Texas Chainsaw, while still admiring it more than almost anything else in horror. The legend is probably part of that, but not all of it.