Kogonada is known to many a film student for his creatively edited video essays for the Criterion Collection. (You may recognise this one about Wes Anderson.) With ‘Columbus’, he steps behind the camera for the first time — which is quite surprising considering the film feels like it was handled by a seasoned auteur. I’ve never been on a yoga retreat but I imagine it would feel like ‘Columbus’ — it’s peaceful and serene, and I want to revisit it again and again.
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Much like a lot of Michael Haneke’s work, ‘Happy End’ basks in an amusingly ironic title. Unlike a lot of the prolific director’s films, however, his latest output fails to make much of an emotional impact at all, despite its overbearing bleakness.
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Polyamory is not a subject that is often tackled within fiction – much less in a way that portrays such a relationship as a multifaceted romance, rather than voyeuristic soft porn. ‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’, therefore, already excels from the offset purely due to its unique subject matter and the respectful tone in which this is addressed. The semi-biographical story follows American psychologist William Moulton Marston (played by Luke Evans), and his relationships with the two women who inspired his beloved creation: Wonder Woman. It is an exploration of the psychology of domination, submission, and sexual dynamics – but ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ this is not. Instead, ‘Professor Marston’ incorporates psychosexual themes into a fully rounded human story about power, love, and societal pressure to conform. Though the film brims with sexuality, the tastefully directed sex scenes are never exploitative of the queer love which the film represents.
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Like most people on Film Twitter, I first discovered ‘Call Me By Your Name’ after hearing its rapturous reception from Sundance and reading the flurry of tweets hailing it as a masterpiece. I was instantly dying to see it and the thought of waiting until the end of the year bothered me and refused to go away, like an itch that’s impossible to reach. I think I might just be addicted to good cinema, willing to go to any lengths to get another fix. So I did what any person without self-restraint would do — I bought plane tickets to Berlin, and dragged my friend to see the film on the last day of Berlinale, under the pretense of a mid-term holiday. She thought the film was fine, but it affected me far more than I ever anticipated. That very same week, I came out as bisexual.
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I have to start this review by admitting a shameful fact: I am not a huge fan of Jean-Luc Godard. I appreciate ‘Breathless’ as much as the next wanky film student, but the rest of his filmography is a bit of a blur. Hence, perhaps a huge fan of his work will get much more satisfaction out of ‘Redoubtable’ than I did. In all honesty I really hope so – because I didn’t get a great lot from it, and, far from improving on my limited knowledge, the film actually left me with an even more muddled perception of Godard than before.
‘Redoubtable’ is not a straightforward biopic, by any means. Hazanavicius uses the relationship between Jean-Luc Godard (played by Louis Garrel) and Anne Wiazemsky (played by Stacy Martin), who were married between 1967 and 1979, to frame Godard’s struggle between himself as an artist and himself as a revolutionary individual. Godard, in his late 30s at the opening of the film, is regarded with distaste by the youth of the time, and has to come to terms with this fact whilst remaining in total awe of a movement that loathes him. This story is told from a fairly comedic angle, incorporating elements of a distinctly New Wave style, imbued with a certain level of whimsy and quirk despite its occasionally weighty subject matter. For example, the film is split up into chapters throughout, allowing for quick movement between periods of Godard’s life and development and, at one point, the screen flashes with inverted colours, perhaps indicating an internal divide between art and the individual. These choices initially make for interesting viewing, as they reflect on the iconic nature of the protagonist whilst creating a light-hearted atmosphere. These techniques illustrate a backdrop upon which it is easy to make a mockery of Godard– self-absorbed, ignorant and ironic, and so often the laughing point as a wannabe revolutionary who longs to fit in amongst younger, more radical activists. In the end, however, these flairs fail to make the same artistic statement as their inspiration, and therefore are left looking like little more than banal tribute, rather than original output. Just as Godard cannot seem to find a way to portray the revolution without compromise, Hazanavicius cannot seem to find a way to portray Godard without cheaply replicating his style.
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Guillermo Del Toro’s latest outing, ‘The Shape of Water’, has been a much-anticipated hit in various film circles, and has been described by many as his best since the career-defining ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. Indeed, both films feature concepts that allow Del Toro to truly flex his aesthetic muscles, and the director has clearly been highly influenced once more by the darker realms of the fairy story. ‘The Shape of Water’ plays with many tropes of children’s fairy-tales, imbuing a well-trodden romantic plot with multiple new forays into the genre: a much more adult vision with regards to sex and violence, a mute female protagonist, wonderfully portrayed by Sally Hawkins, and the fact that the film’s love interest is…a fish. Indeed, much discussion around the film has revolved around this final element. Does Sally Hawkins actually have sex with the fish? How exactly does this work? Is this morally okay? Are we now attracted to fish people? Is social media going to start referring to the fish man as “Daddy”? Are we as a society prepared for this? Regardless of the answers to these questions, ‘The Shape of Water’ portrays a romance so sweet and odd that it’s difficult not to root for the gentle love between Eliza and her fish friend. However, in cultivating this romance, and the colourful, off-kilter world that the film takes place in, Del Toro neglects full development of virtually any other character.
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