Film can be such a literal medium at times that the more subtler forms of the fantastic – those stories that do not rely on overwrought special effects – can divide viewers. This was the case with Yorgo Lanthimos last film, The Lobster, set in a dystopian spa for lonely hearts, which blended black comedy, fable and Bunuel-like surrealism. The film took audiences and critics into a world that looked familiar, but one reflected back to us in dreamy fragments. Enough viewers understood The Lobster to make it a breakout film. Lathimos continues to transcend expectations with The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which audaciously draws inspiration from Kubrick, particularly 2001, The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut, for much of its first half.
Time waits for no one and for an actress in Hollywood this adage has a cruel pathos. At the peak of her fame in the 40s and 50s, Gloria Grahame was the quintessential “femme fatale” in films like The Big Heat, In A Lonely Place and The Bad and Beautiful, for which she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Married four times and considered too old and unpredictable by Hollywood, Grahame was reduced to often unflattering and underpaid secondary roles in the theatre, television and film (her most notable late period role was as John Heard’s accident prone mother in Chilly Scenes of Winter) in her fifties. No more difficult or vice prone than the average male actor, her career suffered because she committed the cardinal sin of getting old.
Adapted by Michael Almereyda from Jordan Harrison’s 2014 play, Marjorie Prime is a gently haunting and deeply affecting tale which deals with themes relating to what separates human beings from artificial intelligence and whether holding on to someone’s memories, even after their death, is an essential part of who we are. Set in a near-future, the film offers a thought-provoking look at humanity’s acceptance of AI despite all the obvious pitfall attached to it.
Veteran stage and screen actress Lois Smith is Marjorie, a widowed octogenarian struggling to keep the memory of her dearly departed husband Walter alive. To keep her mind occupied and loneliness at bay, Marjorie’s daughter Tess (Gina Davis) and son in-law Jon (Tim Robbins) offer the old woman the company of a “ Prime”, a computer simulated much younger version of her late husband, played with a mesmeric precision and majestic stillness by Jon Hamm. Programmed to interact with Marjorie by listening to second-hand accounts from the old woman and her relatives’, Walter is able to quickly pick up whole chunks of history as inaccurate as they are, and then retelling them as ifs they were cast iron truths.
A boy dies in an awful, nightmarish accident – likely caused by his mother, Gemma (Jasmine Hyde); his parents struggle with the aftermath, each in their own way. The father, Will (Richard Flood) mourns openly, while Gemma becomes almost blank, and overly pragmatic. She hastens to move on, but suddenly develops a disconcerting condition: at times of heightened emotion, her vision blurs and she becomes temporarily blind. A stranger, Paul (Simon Cotton), presumably a neighbour, takes her to hospital, when she has her first attack. Paul, from a distance, looks like Gemma’s husband – similar build, hair, clothes. Even more so at times when Gemma’s vision blurs. The camera, at those times, shows what Gemma sees; a hallucinatory view of the world which then cuts to black.
The good feeling and box office success generated by the first Paddington film, released in 2014, will likely continue thanks to Paul King’s return to the director’s chair. King co-writes the script with actor/comedian, Simon Farnaby, who he worked with on The Mighty Boosh TV series and his indie debut, Bunny and The Bull. Together, King and Farnaby maintain the balance between visual invention and comic dialogue that made the first film a welcome surprise. Michael Bond’s beloved children’s books about the accident prone, but kind-hearted talking bear from Peru have not lost their gentle humour in the two films to date and King’s sympathetic film transformation uses action and special effects with rare precision and wit.
Setting a movie on a train is a brave move – films in claustrophobic settings are hard work for a screenwriter. Often claustrophobia works because of the focus on the dynamics of a small group, but Murder On The Orient Express does not have this option either, as Michael Green has elected to include everybody from a complex book. Director Kenneth Branagh made it clear from the outset that he was going to rely on cast and production to jump these hurdles, and chose to shoot on 65mm film for bonus marks.
Joan Didion, the subject of this moving documentary now available on Netflix, is one of America’s greatest living writers. Her unsentimental, yet lyric vision surfaced in the essay “On Respect”, when she was a young sub-editor at American Vogue in the early 60s. Her voice was shaped by a child-hood spent in her birthplace, Sacramento, California, with its ethos of small c-conservatism, a West conquered by heroic pioneers and a distrust of self-pity. Yet Didion also took that bedrock of values and made a fascinating political shift – from the kind of eccentric Barry Goldwater supporter who would take down JD Salinger and Kerouac for The National Review to blossoming into the one of the Republican Party’s fiercest critics in legendary think pieces for The New York Review of Books. By the mid-70s, she became arguably the only woman who could justly claim, along with Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe, Terry Southern and others – that she invented a new kind of journalism.
Trendy is the directorial debut from Louis Lagayette and successfully channels American Psycho into hip East London. Immigrants, hipsters, and cockneys meet gentrification, big-city loneliness, and violence in this psychological thriller.
The film follows Richard, a 30-year-old maths teacher who moves to East London. Richard is meticulous, drawing diagrams of the pokey flats he’s shown around by estate agents, donned in an extremely uncool waterproof jacket and walking shoes. He soon finds himself getting to know the locals, heading to underground parties with booming techno music with an art-gallery manager and making friends with the owner of the kebab shop across the street from his apartment. This all soon changes when his new acquaintances find out about his past.
One of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history receives a thorough examination and analysis in Alexandre O. Philippe’s intriguing yet overlong documentary 78/52. The film’s title refers to the 78 camera set-ups and 52 cuts which Alfred Hitchcock used to capture the infamous shower scene in Psycho. Assigning a full 7-days of a 30-day schedule to filming the short sequence, Janet Leigh’s brutal murder in the shower at Bates Motel is renowned as one of the most bold, shocking and influential scenes dedicated to film. 78/52 extensively explores every aspect of the sequence from its context, construction, and impact.