What Transpires Within: Self-realisation and Trans Narratives in ‘Dead Ringers’

This essay is by our guest writer, Levin Tan.

You could say that David Cronenberg is something of a Freudian fanboy.

His body of work is frequently dissected by esteemed film critics and scholars using psychoanalytic approaches, particularly with his early career horror films that plunge you into the visceral and the venereal. This is no surprise – after all, psychoanalysis carries a heavy emphasis on images and metaphors relating to sex and the body. However, when considering psychoanalysis from a modern day perspective, it is clear that it has its issues. We currently live in a time where sexuality and gender allow for fluidity, making Freud’s rigid adherence to the male-female binary appear rather stale. For Freud, the “male” is always antecedent to the “female”; as if consulting the story of Eve being born from Adam’s rib, so, too, did Freud view the female as a derivative of the male.

Continue reading “What Transpires Within: Self-realisation and Trans Narratives in ‘Dead Ringers’”

‘Dogman’: A Nuanced, Unexpected Anti-Hero Origin Story

Dogman, starting from its title, is structured like a superhero origin story: the protagonist’s humble origins, the humiliations endured, the evil antagonist and the desire to vindicate and prove himself, are all elements that Marcello (Marcello Fonte) and the average superhero share, except the results are dramatically different. If anything, Dogman proves how harmful the superhero rhetoric can be. Marcello is, and remains throughout the story, a little man. He works as a dog groomer in the shop that he owns and that he has called “Dogman.”

Director Matteo Garrone carefully constructs this story in order to elicit maximum sympathy: it is essential that Dogman be likable, in order for the film to work as it does. So, he presents Marcello to us as a loving, caring, and pathetic person, but never pathetic enough for us to make fun of him. In fact, in the way in which he presents him, Garrone achieves an unlikely, but ultimately, successful balance between ironic detachment and empathy. In the opening scene, Marcello is visually ridiculed by the comparison between his tiny, slouched body and the size and violent energy of the dogs to which he is completely devoted and which he calls diminutive, cutesy nicknames. In another scene, this devotion is exposed in light of his loneliness, as Marcello is shown sitting alone in the darkness, watching TV and sharing his meal with one of his dogs, which is eating from the same plate as him. This, along with the scenes with his daughter, are the moments in which Marcello ceases to be a caricature and becomes an emotionally charged character that the audience can feel for.

mv5bzmi1nzuyodatngm5ys00njdjlwi5yjqtnjk4ytm3m2m2ngq4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntc5otmwotq-_v1_sy1000_cr0013851000_al_.jpg

Continue reading “‘Dogman’: A Nuanced, Unexpected Anti-Hero Origin Story”

Cannes 2018: Soviet Rock Biopic ‘Leto’ Finds Parallels with Russia Today

This review/interview is by our guest writer, Redmond Bacon.

Leto (Summertime) is a combination of the traditional rock biopic and arthouse film; an auteuristic tale of love, optimism, melancholy, and loss told against the backdrop of a rapidly developing musical scene. It’s as if Almost Famous met Walking The Streets of Moscow. Set in the early ’80s, the star of the show is Viktor Tsoi (played by Teo Yoo), who would later become Russia’s most iconic rock star. Dying at the young age of 30 in a car crash in 1990, he carries in Russia the same kind of counter-cultural weight as Kurt Cobain does in America.

b2e05c565d336bd3e5820f3af2033972.jpg

Roman Bilyk plays his mentor Mike Naumenko, the lead singer of the less famous Zoopark, while Irina Starshenbaum plays Mike’s wife Natasha. Based upon the memoirs of the real Natasha Naumenko, Leto is a story characterised by its naivety, optimism, and the very real belief that, for one brief moment, music could change the world. This message of rebellion comes at a time in Russia in which many artists feel their artistic freedoms imposed upon. This is especially true in the case of the director of Leto himself.

Continue reading “Cannes 2018: Soviet Rock Biopic ‘Leto’ Finds Parallels with Russia Today”

‘In Darkness’ Review: Natalie Dormer Shines in the Engaging Thriller

This essay is by our guest writer, Grace.

Natalie Dormer returns to the big screen as Sofia McKendrick, a blind pianist who overhears what the police dub to be a suicide in the apartment upstairs. The deceased is Veronique (Emily Ratajkowski), daughter of accused war criminal, Zoran Radic (Jan Bijovet). Set in London, the modern day thriller pulls from familiar tropes to create something new. The project was borne out of Dormer and director Anthony Byrne’s mutual frustration with the “landscape of female characters” in the genre and succeeds in producing an imperfect, complex, and three-dimensional female lead. This is a landscape that since evolved, but one that continues to be in need of growth. It also reveals itself to weave in the theme of violence against women, which is incredibly relevant in our society today with the rise of the #MeToo movement.

indarkness2
Emily Ratajowski and Natalie Dormer in ‘In Darkness’ © XYZ Films

With an increase in popular psychological thrillers following the phenomena of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it’s a shame that this one should be swept under the rug. While the film would certainly have been improved with the aid of a larger budget (it was shot on-location in 25 days), it still prevails with the little that the overall project has been afforded. Nearly a decade in the making, Dormer (who co-wrote and produced) and Byrne have created an engaging and entertaining addition to the genre.

Continue reading “‘In Darkness’ Review: Natalie Dormer Shines in the Engaging Thriller”

Coming of Age to Coming Full Circle: An Essay

This essay is by our guest writer, Maddy Lovelace. 

MV5BNWY3MTRiN2UtZTU3Yi00MTI5LTkzMTQtODdhYjY4N2M3ZmU0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1_
Amira Casar and Timothée Chalamet in Call Me by Your Name (2017) © Sony Pictures Classics

It is evident in the way Elio Perlman’s entire psyche is altered by mature graduate student Oliver within the summer of 1983 that there is a new funk hidden in this archetype we’ve seen before, possibly a homage to film in previous times that mirrored life and love and sensuality. Director of 2017’s Call me by your name Luca Guadagnino’s direct view of these themes can be attributed to similar work such as James Ivory’s 1987 film Maurice, revealing just how impactful an insightful reception of a cinematic journey can be upon a wandering eye. There is a direct link between the lovers in the two films, how they carry their heavy consciousness regarding love around like a summer coat. Coming of age continues to carry this magnified burden of life through the generations, consequently allowing itself to unfold through emerging artist’s diverse and retrospective lenses. In Guadagnino’s usage of Elio’s ambiguous yet direct understanding of his sexuality, he plays to this new medium that audiences of cinema have come to love because they parallel the undertones of the self that linger within the events at hand. Elio is not shocked by the way his love for Oliver takes place so hauntingly because he knew, as audiences come to feel in the film’s soft essence, Elio knows of his truth long before Oliver arrives. Oliver in this sense serves as the catalyst for Elio’s subconscious desires that have been there since the beginning yet remained dormant. Guadagnino captures the fire and flame of Coming of age cinema in his perceptive parallelism to reality. Could this be the new standard for films based on
a shifting point in life?

Continue reading “Coming of Age to Coming Full Circle: An Essay”

The Florida Project: Don’t Let Moonee’s Fortress Deceive You

This essay is by our guest writer, Nina Liang.

As a dweller of this hellhole state, I can assure you that The Florida Project is the only saving grace to come out of Florida since Publix’s BOGO deals. This film truly sets you up for a party-of-one crying fest and leaves you feeling so frustrated, heartbroken, and helpless. At least for me, those were the three most profound emotions I felt during the movie, which is one of the reasons why this film stood out to me. As filmmakers and storytellers like to say, there’s always a truth in every story; however, in a much deeper sense, The Florida Project is more real than you could say about most films because of the subject the film tackles. Many of us can’t say we know what it’s like to really empathize with Moonee’s childhood and yet, somehow it feels as if we’ve lived through it; the struggles of  poverty, an unstable home life, young motherhood – themes that are strongly prevalent in today’s society.

MV5BM2ZmYjMyM2EtMDdkNS00NmI3LWE1M2MtMDNkOTc3N2NjYjEzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDg2MjUxNjM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,744_AL_
Willem Dafoe and Brooklynn Prince in The Florida Project (2017) © A24

Moonee (Brooklyn Prince), a precocious six-year-old, is a court jester disguised as the princess of the Magic Castle Motel. During her summer break, she and her little groupie go out of their way to cause mayhem for the residents and even manage to light an entire house on fire. However, while Moonee and her friends are off on their crazy adventures, the adults are left to pick up the pieces. At first glance, Moonee seems to only be a force of destruction but we soon realize that she’s learned to mirror this behavior from her young troubled mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite). Bobby (Willem Dafoe) the overseer and protector of his royal pink castle acts as a faux guardian to Moonee. He tries to keep everyone in check, but more importantly plays the main father figure role not only to Moonee but to Halley as well. While Moonee seems to be oblivious of the hardships around her, we see the adults dealing with unstable finances, implied drug use, and prostitution.

Continue reading “The Florida Project: Don’t Let Moonee’s Fortress Deceive You”

Sculpting in Time with Andrei Tarkovsky

This essay is by our guest writer, Vikram Zutshi.

When people first encounter the cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky, it can feel akin to a religious experience. Time seems to stand still and one beholds the world as if through new eyes. “My discovery of Tarkovsky’s first film was like a miracle. Suddenly, I found myself standing at the door of a room the keys of which had until then, never been given to me. It was a room I had always wanted to enter and where he was moving freely and fully at ease“ rhapsodized Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman. “I felt encountered and stimulated: someone was expressing what I had always wanted to say without knowing how” he said, adding that “Tarkovsky is for me the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.”

MV5BMjQwOTM0NzI3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjU3NTg2MjE@._V1_
Andrei Tarkovsky on the set of ‘Stalker’ © Sergey Bessmertniy

Born on April 4th, 1932 in the Yuryevetsky district of Russia, Tarkovsky made only seven films over the course of his career, cut short by terminal cancer on 29th December, 1986. Tarkovsky’s works Andrei Rublev, Solaris, Mirror, and Stalker are regularly listed among the greatest films of all time. After his death, some former KGB agents testified that the director did not die of natural causes but was poisoned to curtail what the Soviet authorities saw as production of anti-Soviet propaganda. The allegations were backed up his doctor.

Tarkovsky came of age as a filmmaker in 1950’s Russia, during a period referred to as the Khrushchev Thaw, during which Soviet society grew more accepting of foreign films, literature and music. He was able to see films of European, American and Japanese directors, an experience which influenced his own ouevre. He soaked up the films of the Italian neo-realists, French New Wave, and of directors such as Kurosawa, Buñuel, Bergman, Bresson, Andrzej Wajda and Mizoguchi.

Continue reading “Sculpting in Time with Andrei Tarkovsky”