When Raw premiered at Cannes in 2016, it quickly became known amongst audiences as the ‘French, cannibalistic horror’ that led some to leave screenings in search of the nearest bathroom to relieve their nausea. To allow Raw to be talked about only as a shocking feature, for it to be remembered solely for the physical reactions it provoked in viewers, however, would be to disservice it hugely. Julia Ducornau’s daring debut is far more than an exercise in body horror. Rather, it is a truly unique take on a genre that has been done hundreds of times before: the coming-of-age drama. The story of a young woman forging an identity for herself is not exactly a new concept, for the Romantic and Victorian novels of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters were often centred around the same subject, but never has it been tackled in the way that it is by Ducornau. With Raw, Ducornau takes the moment in a teenage girl’s life in which she verges on womanhood and uses it to craft a truly horrifying piece, in which carnal desires are explored in the most unexpected of manners.
“you say isle of dogs we hear i love dogs” reads a tweet from the official Isle of Dogs account. Naturally, I repeated it over and over again — Isle of Dogs, I love dogs, Isle of Dogs, I love dogs. Wes Anderson’s latest is a touching love letter to our canine companions. It’s replete with the signature touches we know and love (or hate), a style that has been parodied a countless number of times. The delectable animation on display here is no gimmick though — Anderson imbues his film with a warmth and sincerity that affirms that his style can coexist with substance, with the breezy confidence of an auteur in full command of his craft.
In the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki, mayor Kobayashi has banished every dog to Trash Island — the titular Isle — to curb the spread of “dog flu” and “canine fever”. One of these dogs is Spots, the former bodyguard dog of the mayor’s orphaned nephew Atari, and the subject of a desperate search that is the heart of this story. Back in Megasaki, group of teenage activists attempt to rise against the corrupt government and find a cure for the dog flu. Isle of Dogs is thrilling and charming in equal measure — I even found myself tearing up a few times, but if the sight of a dog crying doesn’t make you feel anything then you definitely don’t have a heart.
There is something wondrous about Vladan Radovic’s imagery in Daughter of Mine, Laura Bispuri’s warm and well-intentioned sophomore feature. The bright pink of candy cotton, the light blue of the sea, the flaming red of a girl’s head and all the other colours let the setting brim with beauty and liveliness. Everything looks gorgeous, but there is no stylization felt, the island of Sardinia is alive in a way that makes you feel the sand beneath your feet, the taste of salt water in your mouth and the warm sun on your skin.
In this landscape defined by nature, a story is told, that is fittingly defined by human nature – the story of the young Vittoria, excellently played the by incredible child (and first-time) actress Sara Casu, and her search for her “real” mother. At first everything seems to be fine in Vittoria’s life – she knows where her place is. Under the wings of Tina, a woman who tries to raise the girl as she seems to think is right, and with the aim to make her a good and stable person, she is protected and safe, but also isolated, as her interactions with her classmates show.
Gone Girl is one of those films you wish you could watch for the first time again.
Masked as a typical murder-mystery, Fincher manipulates the audience into sympathising with Amy Dunne and despising her husband; Nick Dunne, thus shocking us when the screen cuts to black and the words: “I’m so much happier now that I’m dead”, are uttered. In a few seconds Amy’s ‘helpless victim’ persona is left behind, replaced by the reality of who she truly is; a villain. In one sentence our whole perception of her is changed and that’s how you do a plot twist.
Let me start by saying that Gugu Mbatha-Raw is one of my absolute favorite actors, male or female. So, it breaks my heart that I thoroughly did not enjoy Netflix’s latest original film. Directed by Stephanie Laing, Irreplaceable You shares Abbi’s journey as she learns she is dying of cancer not long after she becomes engaged to her life-long boyfriend, played by Michiel Huisman, and tries to find him a potential mate for after she dies. Along the way with treatment, Abbi encounters different people struggling with cancer as well, like Christopher Walken and Kate McKinnon.
Christian Petzold tells emotionally rich, often female-led stories, which he intertwines closely with the settings they are located in. But he is most of all known for the stunning conclusions of his narratives – these moments have often been considered the best parts of his work, films like Phoenix and Barbara seem to only come full circle during their last beats. The reason for that, is Petzold’s way of letting the temporal and spatial aspects of the narrative fade into the background for a moment, narrowing his gaze down on the humanist, universal and timeless truths that the characters are confronted with.
With Transit, a mainly Marseille-set story about a man that gets caught up in complications of love and identity while trying to flee Europe as a refugee, it seems like he wants to reshape the way he tells these stories – it is a logical and very bold step forward in the context of his body of work.
Franz Rogowski and Paula Beer in TRANSIT. All rights to Schramm Film / The Match Factory
The film is an adaptation of Anna Segher’s World War II novel with the same name, but while the narrative is similar in general plot points and dialogue, the film removes it from its original historical context and reframes it into a modern-day setting. One would expect Petzold to adjust the story to that new setting, but he doesn’t. It’s very strange and feels borderline kafkaesque, but it works immensely well. The narrative manages to comment on its real-life context by highlighting universality instead of being specifically descriptive – the refugees of today’s Europe get a part of their story told too, even though the book template is broadly based on the experiences of refugees more than 70 years ago.
Happy Women in Horror Month! As I’m sure many others would agree, the horror genre can often feel incredibly male-dominated. Violence against women within these films is usually prominent, and in a world obsessed with inflicting this same violence in reality, being able to reclaim such a powerful tool as the horror movie is a very great thing. Besides which, this is a genre which naturally links itself to feminist thought. Traditional aspects of horror such as vampire lore, the final girl, slasher film tropes and the revenge plot all revolve around feminist themes, and it is not surprising that much academic discussion in this area concerns gender. In any case, after watching as many female-directed examples as I can find, I’ve firmly decided that women make the best horror movies. Take a look at the nine films below, and I’m sure you’ll agree.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), dir. Ana Lily Amirpour
Dark, stylish and atmospheric, ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ is the Iranian vampire Western we never knew we needed. A sparse narrative cloaked in monochromatic tones illustrates themes of gendered violence, as the eponymous Girl hunts down villainous men. Vampire movies and feminist discourse have always gone hand in hand – the symbolic neck bite forming a transferal of agency – and Amirpour exploits this natural kinship whilst adding her own original mark to the genre. For ‘A Girl’ is a quiet, brooding movie, moving from character to character at a pace that some may find too sluggish. But this hesitance to over-embellish in a field that can so often be flamboyant is what gives the film its strength; the small moments form something so much greater, and it is the overall mood of the piece, rather than one scene or another, that marks it as a classic for feminist horror.