Sunday, 20 April 2014


I was rather transfixed by the end of this short look at Mais Darwazah's semi-biographical doc, which showed last year at TIFF. A hybrid of documentary and experimental art piece, it's said to be as much a portrait of Palestine as of the works of artist Hasan Hourani, whose works serve as the inspiration for much of Darwazah's ambitions in this admittedly intriguing film. I look forward to seeing it.


Winner of the Audience Award at Locarno last year, Louise Archambault's drama about the struggles of a woman with Williams syndrome to live an independent life was on of the Quebecois hits of 2013. It has made many festival screenings since Locarno, including AFI Fest, but has only received mainland European theatrical releases to date. Hopefully, with an Australian release on the way, dates will soon be set for the UK and the US, because it looks rather deserving of that Audience Award, among the many others it has won.


The unthinkable (or unknowable?) has happened. Errol Morris has made a boring movie. And it's sort of not his fault. Who would have imagined that a series of interviews, conducted by one of the cinema's most incisive documentarians on one of world politics' most influential - and abhorrent, from certain perspectives - figures would be so unenlightening? The image is one of steely greys, a polished sight not of humble, austere truth and fact, but of the facade of that. It's too preened to be believed, literally, and so too is Donald Rumsfeld. His is a performance for the ages, so meticulously constructed is it, yet its impact is negated by that very thing - it's so meticulously constructed, it's obviously a lie. The Unknown Known is like watching a man on a screen tell you what he wants to tell you for 100 minutes, and believing none of it. In fact, that's entirely what it is. It'd be a fascinating reversal of fortune to see Rumsfeld hoodwink a man so astute and so knowledgeable as Morris, were it not for how little Morris seems to care. He presents Rumsfeld's sycophantic pontifications as reality, since they're largely the version of reality we have been fed over the decades, and treats his self-satisfied droning over history as sensational, groundbreaking testimony, when it's mostly just confirmation of what we already know. The film's most persuasive emotional pangs come as Morris turns to footage of Rumsfeld while in office in the Bush administration, addressing the press with an arsenal of callous hyperbole and terrifying ignorance that many of us had even identified then. Time has verified the truth, but has seemingly forgotten his lies. Rumsfeld sees the failure of Barack Obama to reverse many of Bush's most repulsive legislations as an endorsement of their potency. We see it as an endorsement of the everlasting power of evil. Did Morris not probe further on these matters? Or was Rumsfeld as calculatingly cold on them as he is on the few similarly difficult issues that he is faced with here? When he claims to not know even why he's taking part in this film, he lies again. And all generalisations are false.


It's not really a matter of what has been deprived of us, and what we have been offered as replacement. In every film, there will be elements of constancy, details which make only the most minute changes, if any over its duration. In Locke, it would appear that Steven Knight has reduced his thriller conceit to the plainest, simplest, most minimalist form possible, yet it's not a matter of what he has done to fill in the gaps left by what he has stripped back, since there are no gaps. The physical space remains unaltered, and so too does the one actor whose face we are granted sight of, but the film is by no means spare nor lacking for interest. Knight posits this as the natural setting for his narrative, and so it is; from here, he is able to orchestrate the machinations of his mind as normal. We have evolved into a digital species, as wired to one another as to the wires within these electronic contraptions - the telephone is the secondary character here, or the conduit for a range of other characters. Knight's man-with-a-plan may be conventionally 'flawed', but it's testament to his intelligence as a writer that we do genuinely empathise with these disembodied voices as much as Locke himself. The plot he constructs is dependent on our empathy, since there's little of it actually there; essentially, this is the story of a particularly stressful car journey, since the dramatic banality (relative to one's expectations, or to the atmosphere of tension Knight skillfully mounts) hasn't much of the quality of real, concrete narrative. One might wish, then, that the film had continued past its abrupt conclusion, since too much effort has been invested in becoming acquainted with Locke to just let him drive away, in the end. That natural setting was one of confusion, and in acquiring something approaching clarity, it only leaves you craving more. Instead, we're offered artificial resolution as replacement.

Saturday, 19 April 2014


This sure has been a long time coming. I'm wondering how much faith Warner Bros. has in Clint's latest - it's a departure for him, moving into the musical genre, but an even bigger departure for the musical genre, one with a very spotty track record at the box office in recent years. This first trailer yet hits just over two months prior to release, for an R-rated musical, no less. Add in Tom Stern's gloomy cinematography, the lack of big names in the cast and the absence of detail regarding upcoming international releases (both British and American screens will receive the film on the 20th of June), and this is a tough one to call. Still, I'm glad Warner have allowed their stalwart Clint to make this movie his way. John Logan worked on the screenplay alongside former Woody Allen collaborator Marshall Brickman, and Rick Elice, who adapted their musical book.


This looks like a rather more mature nature documentary than any of that Disneynature shite. Case in point: for such a niche product, it boasts exceptional sound design talents such as Erik Aadahl and Ethan van der Ryn. A modest hit at TIFF last year, it has yet to secure distribution.


Justin Kurzel's Snowtown caught the attention of critics and cinephiles the world over a few years back, even if the response was closer to that of a cult film than an instant classic. His film of Shakespeare's Macbeth is on its way next year, and it stars the promising pairing of Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard (has anyone ever been so perfectly cast as Marion as Lady Macbeth?!). I doubt I'm the only one looking forward to this.


You can't keep Marion Cotillard away from Cannes, it seems: as it stands, this will be her fifth film to screen at the festival in four years. The same could be said for the Dardennes, with Two Days, One Night being their sixth film in competition there. They've never come home empty-handed either, with a record-equalling two Palme d'Ors, a Grand Prix, a Best Screenplay award and an Ecumenical Jury Special Mention. Could they set the record outright with this, the story of a woman who is forced to convince her colleagues to refuse their bonuses if she is to save herself from redundancy. A British and Irish release will follow its Cannes competition screening on the 22nd of August; no US release has been determined at present.


According to IMDb, the only release date set for Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher atm is on the 19th of February 2015 in the Netherlands. That close enough for y'all? Even closer, though, is Cannes next month, where this will be Miller's first film in competition at the festival. It's only Miller's fourth film, and only his third narrative film, with the other two both having been nominated for Best Picture Oscars: Capote and Moneyball. SPC are being ballsy with this, then, with Cannes competition and awards season both on the cards, and for a film they postponed from last year! They were being ballsy then too, though, or so it seemed, having planned to largely bypass the festival circuit, a vital part of any Best Picture winners trajectory for the last nine years. This trailer gives off almost a horror vibe, which I love. Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller and, most promisingly, Vanessa fucking Redgrave star.


Amid the months-long confusion regarding what Steven Spielberg's post-Lincoln project will be, he's added another film to his upcoming schedule. His Lincoln and Munich scribe, Tony Kushner, is writing the screenplay for The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, from a non-fiction book by David Kertzer, about a jewish boy kidnapped by the Vatican and raised as a catholic in the mid-1800s. Most likely, this won't be filmed until after his most probable next film, the much-delayed Robopocalypse, which sounds like it could hardly be any different. Also on Spielberg's radar is a film from writer Steven Zaillian, who penned Spielberg's Schindler's List - Montezuma, another historical drama.