Category Archives: Cinema releases

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Seen at Fantasia International Film Festival 2017, Montreal (Canada)

Format: Cinema
Release date: 2 August 2017
Distributor: Lionsgate
Director: Luc Besson
Writer: Luc Besson
Based on the comic strip ‘Valerian and Laureline’ by: Pierre Christin, Jean-Claude Mézières
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke
France 2017
113 mins

Dopey, dumb and delightfully loopy in all the right ways, Besson’s movie is eye-candy of the highest order.

’Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles
I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much, she knows’

– David Bowie, ‘Space Oddity’

Savant-auteur Luc Besson must have known all too well he wouldn’t have a dry eye in the house during the opening minutes of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. A moving montage details several hundred years’ worth of cordial diplomatic greetings twixt a multitude of interstellar species. Not only is this all presented by the candy-coloured clown they call Besson with his trademark kino-eye of dreamy, fertile, Eurotrash fancy-pants nuttiness, but it’s set to the haunting strains of the late, great David Bowie crooning his immortal ‘Space Oddity’.

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God Knows Where I Am

God Knows Where I Am

Format: Cinema

Screening date: 14 April 2017

Venue: Bertha DocHouse Screen (Curzon Bloomsbury), London

Directors: Jedd Wider, Todd Wider

USA 2017

99 mins

Tickets are on sale via the DocHouse website

***** out of *****

There is plenty of drama in the directorial debut from noted producing brothers Jedd and Todd Wider, but make no mistake, this is a documentary.

There is a deep mystery that unfurls in God Knows Where I Am – sometimes scary, often creepy, but eventually giving way to something much deeper than the surface details. Like most evocative whodunits, the picture becomes a whydunit and exposes, not unlike great film noir (and modern neo-noir), something far more desperate and downright insidious. There is plenty of drama, but make no mistake, this is a documentary.

Sadly, too many filmmakers forget about the power of poetry in cinema. This is especially endemic in documentary work that’s limited to imparting facts, and/or becomes so wrapped up in ‘story’ (demanded by narrow, vision-bereft commissioning editors) that no matter how proficient the films are about the issue and/or subject matter at the centre of the work, they are ultimately bereft of genuine artistry.

God Knows Where I Am opened in the US on 31 March 2017 and is released nationwide by Bond/360.

There is no such problem plaguing God Knows Where I Am. The picture is an absolute heartbreaker and a good deal of its success is directly attributable to its pace, style and structure, which yields a film infused with all the qualities of the sublime. I challenge anyone to not weep profusely at several points within its elegiac 99-minute running time.

The picture reimagines the last weeks of Linda Bishop, an intelligent, sensitive middle-aged woman found dead in an abandoned New Hampshire farmhouse. Existing only on rainwater and apples from a bountiful tree, she felt trapped by dangers which threatened and frightened her to such a degree that she was unable to leave the comfort and shelter afforded to her by this lonely enclave. Eventually, as the apples ran out and the unheated house was battered by one of the coldest winters on record, comfort gave way to agony and agony gave way to grace.

Directors Todd and Jedd Wilder have constructed their film using a seemingly endless series of gorgeously composed and lit shots (gloriously mastered on FILM by cinematographer Gerardo Puglia), with many of the dolly and tracking shots moving with the kind of slow beauty Vilmos Zsigmond employed in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. These haunting images, many of which are so stunning they’ll be seared on your soul for a lifetime, are accompanied by off-camera readings from Bishop’s journal by actress Lori (Footloose, Trouble in Mind, Shortcuts) Singer. Singer’s performance here is astonishing – she captures the pain, desperation and even small joys in Bishop’s life during these sad, lonely days with a sensitivity and grace linked wholly to her ‘character’. This is no mere narration or voiceover – this is acting.

The aforementioned sequences are interspersed with actual 8mm home-movie footage of Bishop as a child, who was once bright, happy and full of promise. The filmmakers also wend interviews into the film’s fabric with such figures as Bishop’s adult daughter, various friends and relatives, and a local police detective and medical examiner – all of whom contribute to the mystery that unfolds with spellbinding dexterity.

In addition to the cinematography, the key creative elements in the picture are simply astonishing. Editor Keiko Deguchi creates a gentle, yet always compelling pace that contributes to the poetic nature of the film (and a few dissolves so powerful that each one knocks the wind out of you) while Paul Cantelon, Ivor Guest and Robert Logan have created one of the best scores I’ve heard in any documentary. Elements such as sound, art direction and visual effects are on a par with the best cinema can offer.

This is great cinema and certainly a contender for one of the best documentaries of the new millennium. It captures profound poetic truths about homelessness, mental illness and loneliness, which are rendered with such artistry and sensitivity that this is a film for the ages.

Greg Klymkiw

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Under the Shadow

Under the Shadow

Format: Cinema

Release date: 30 September 2016

DVD release date: 23 January 2017

Distributor: Vertigo Releasing

Director: Babak Anvari

Writer: Babak Anvari

Cast: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi

Iran, Jordan, Qatar, UK 2016

84 mins

This Farsi-language maternal horror film was one of the great discoveries at this year’s Horror Channel FrightFest.

Opening with an explanatory text that places the film within the context of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, Under the Shadow firmly grounds its horror in the doubly terrifying realities of a conflict zone and a harsh authoritarian regime. Slowly building up the tension, the film initially centres on the frustrations of Shideh, a young mother banned from continuing her medical studies because of her past political activism. The grinding down of women takes many forms in post-revolution Iran, from the active repression of the authorities to the incomprehension of her generally kind husband, who seems unable to sympathize with her ambitions.

When he is drafted and sent to the front, Shideh finds herself alone to care for their young daughter Dorsa, stubbornly refusing to leave the city to go and stay with her in-laws. As the bombardments intensify, a missile falls through the apartment above, and superstitious neighbours begin to whisper that it has brought something sinister with it. Rational and modern, Shideh initially dismisses the claims, but soon she is forced to take her daughter’s mounting fears seriously.

The realistic start and slow-burn narrative make the terrors that follow intensely affecting. Shideh is a character out of place in her country, in her apartment block and in her own marriage, and her feelings of inadequacy wildly erupt once the missile has broken through the familiar ordering of reality. The cracks in the ceiling it has caused cannot be closed up, the irrational forces it unleashed now out of control. Maternal anxiety, at odds with Shideh’s longing for a medical career, poignantly seeps through the second part of the film, her conflicted love for her daughter making every scare horribly meaningful.

After A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, this is the second Farsi-language horror film that uses the chador in a menacing way, but where in Ana Lily Amirpour’s film it took on a positive meaning, here it has negative, frightful, oppressive connotations. The use of the chador in Under the Shadow is one example of how the film successfully manages to be both a serious reflection on the position of women in Iran and an intensely creepy horror film. Intelligent and effectively chilling, it wisely avoids providing any facile resolution in its climactic ending.

Virginie Sélavy



Seen at Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto (Canada)

Format: Cinema

Director: Ivan I. Tvedovsky

Writer: Ivan I. Tvedovsky

Cast: Natalia Pavlenkova, Dmitry Groshev, Irina Chipizhenko

Original title: Zoologia

Russia, France, Germany 2016

87 mins

Ivan I. Tvedovsky’s second feature film is a bold fable about non-conformity that is not always successful at blending genres.

In Zoology, his second feature film – the first was Corrections Class (Klass korrektsii, 2014) – director Ivan I. Tvedovsky confirms his evident predilection for films about non-normative bodies. While his debut was about a wheelchair-bound girl with myopathy, his new film takes the theme a little further.

Zoology is about a lonely and rather frumpy middle-aged woman, Natasha (Natalia Pavlenkova), who lives a rather mundane and uneventful life and seems to have no social contacts save for her superstitiously religious mother, with whom she lives. Her desk-bound job at a local zoo offers little human respite as her colleagues dislike her and tease and bully her. At one point, they fill one of her desk drawers with rats and mock her as she screams at the unexpected swarm of rodents. It seems her only solace is in wandering around the zoo and nurturing the caged animals – one of a number of sometimes stretched metaphors the filmmaker employs in this near-fable. The realm of the fabulous kicks in when this solitary, ignored, and it seems, defeated woman makes a curious discovery about her body: she has grown a tail. At which point I must take note of the impressive, touching and brave performance of actress Natalia Pavlenkova who carries off this difficult role with such aplomb and charm. She has definitely earned her Best Actress Awards at European festivals.

Natasha is at first horrified and embarrassed by her new-found appendage and seeks medical advice. The scenes at the clinic, however, present the first inklings of a problem that hampers the film somewhat. As the visits to the medical clinic are of a serious nature and are shot in a very realistic style (Tverdovsky cut his teeth on documentaries), a satire on the indifference of the Russian medical establishment ensues, which obfuscates the film’s deeper intentions. And therein lies one of a rather lame group of satirical commentaries parachuted into the film, which distract, and even divert from the plot. Now this may be a case of failed national comedy cross-overs, but they operate much more as awkward plot digressions, and this contributes to the fact that the film doesn’t entirely succeed as either fable, moral lesson, curious romantic comedy, parable or fairy tale.

As Natasha becomes less embarrassed and more empowered by her ‘difference’ and uniqueness she encounters a younger, handsome medical assistant who becomes fascinated with, and enamored of, her. They commence a beatific erotic liaison as both parties, in a romantic bubble, come to accept and love the tail (a persuasive if uncanny special effects prosthetic and CGI motion appendage) until it soon becomes evident, in a strange tail-fellating scene, that the young man loves her in the main for this part of her body. Talk about chasing tail!

As this realisation becomes clear to Natasha, her hard-won confidence and newly found ‘mojo’ begin to crumble. Understanding that her unusualness does not bring happiness she decides that she has to finally resolve the situation – an outcome that will not be spoiled in this review.

A film about romance, fragility, the fabulous, the courage to stand out from the crowd and the pressures of conformist society, Zoology is a brave film in a cinematic world of realistic or frothy and formulaic offerings. Not wholly successful in putting a narrative foot firmly down in any of the several genres introduced into the story, and not always clear in several motives and occurrences – there are a few plot holes and unconvincing happenings – Tvedovsky is definitely to be applauded for an audacious, interesting, arresting film – however curious and at times un-persuasive. Long may the spirit of independent visions last. Recommended viewing.

James B. Evans

Zoology screens at the BFI London Film Festival on 6, 8, and 11 October 2016.

We Are the Flesh

We Are the Flesh
We Are the Flesh

Seen at Fantasia 2016, Montreal (Canada)

Format: Cinema

Release date: 18 November 2016

DVD/BR release date: 13 February 2017

Distributor: Arrow Films

Director: Emiliano Rocha Minter

Writer: Emiliano Rocha Minter

Cast: Marìa Cid, Marìa Evoli, Diego Camaliel, Noé Hernandez

Original title: Tenemos la carne

Mexico, France 2016

79 mins

Emiliano Rocha Minter’s extreme theatre of the flesh was the climax of Fantasia.

Rituals and rebirth, libidinous excess and transformative violence: in his spectacular debut, Mexican director Emiliano Rocha Minter creates his very own Theatre of Cruelty, in a direct line to Alejandro Jodorowsky and Antonin Artaud, but with a fully formed personal vision. In a similar spirit to his illustrious predecessors, incest, cannibalism, orgy and slaughter are used to build an extreme sensory experience that brutally shakes up audiences’ aesthetic and moral preconceptions, forcing them into new forms of perception.

In what seems to be a post-apocalyptic world, a grubby middle-aged man goes about the business of survival in a derelict building. His solitary, wordless existence changes with the arrival of two ragged, starving young people. The older man, Christic, diabolical and off his head, feeds them eggs along with subversive thoughts, which recognize no conventional moral boundaries, until the boy – reluctantly – and the girl – readily – let go of all inhibitions and interdictions to descend into a lawless, frantic, primal state of blood and lust.

It is a film that fully, messily embraces the body, all gore and genitals, mucus and menstruation, sex and slime. Many of the acts performed take place in a psychedelically coloured womb-like, subterranean space, creating a world that is carnal and hallucinatory, crude and oneiric, explicit and artificial at the same time. It is an intense, confined performance of the flesh that reduces everything to the physical, in what is both a retreat and a rebellion. The shock of the flesh is a liberation from the rule (and in that, it is a very Sadean film), but it is also a withdrawal from the world, a refusal to engage with the outside reality. Indeed, despite initial appearances, We Are the Flesh is elliptically, obliquely about Mexico, with its distortion of Catholic rituals and its perverse rendition of the national anthem, and its final revelation of what lies above. A stunning masterwork, visually and sonically accomplished, radical, fearless, and nourished by an irrepressible, lush, dark energy.

Virginie Sélavy

Sid and Nancy

Sid and Nancy
Sid and Nancy

Format: Cinema

Release date: 5 August 2016

BR/DVD release date: 29 August 2016

Distributor: Studiocanal

Director: Alex Cox

Writers: Alex Cox, Abbe Wool

Cast: Gary Oldman, Andrew Schofield, Chloe Webb, David Hayman

UK 1986

112 mins

Alex Cox’s retelling of the Sex Pistols bassist’s doomed junkie romance with an American groupie still packs a punch.

Alex Cox’s Sid and Nancy is 30 years old and looking pretty damn fly for its age, well turned out in vintage bondage trousers and handsome Roger Deakins cinematography. Age changes a film, and in this case the years have been kind. It tells the true tale, you must surely know, of the utterly ill-starred relationship between Sid Vicious, the under-rehearsed bassist in the second line-up of The Sex Pistols, and Nancy Spungen, an American groupie/prostitute. It is a romance written in gob and heroin, mostly heroin, through which the couple ‘meet cute’, after a fashion, and through which they will both spiral, over a couple of years, towards a wretched murder/overdose in New York 79.

Being punkily inclined as a teenager, a decade or so after the movement’s heyday, I bloody loved Sid and Nancy, partly because it was one of the few and far examples of what could be termed punk cinema that could be found in the local video outlet, together with Cox’s Repo Man and the early works of Penelope Spheeris. I wore out my VHS copy with over-use whilst at the same time being fully aware that many lairy old ex-punks ‘who were there at the time’ had a bit of a downer on the film for its many transgressions,* and they had a point. It is, to be sure, a travesty of history, if you care about that sort of thing. The actual events are compressed, blended, shaken and stirred to fit a clear narrative arc. Anachronisms abound, and wrong notes are struck. But to criticise the film on grounds of accuracy seems wrong-headed. Cox sets out his stall early on: he puts ghosts in the Chelsea Hotel’s corridors, and fills London’s streets with St Trinian’s-style hockey-wielding little thugs. He has mounted cavalry trot past, drapes the punks in vintage Vivienne Westwood and covers the walls in Jamie Reid art and spray can graffiti. This, it is clear, is not aiming for realism. This, at least in its London scenes, is a ‘print the legend’ portrait. He fills his frame with background artistes and makes sure they have stuff to do, unleashing a three-ring circus of anti-social activity. He lets his set dressers and costume designers have a field day, and always one to prefer the idiosyncratic to the functional, he allows his actors to go broad to the point of caricature, a risky strategy that (as with Repo Man) continually draws memorable performances from even minor characters. So we have David Hayman delivering a winningly saturnine Malcolm McLaren, the cherishable Kathy Burke stealing scenes in Clockwork Orange get-up, and Debbie Bishop doing great work as Pistols secretary Phoebe, amongst a cavalcade of sharp little turns.

The film belongs to Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, though. this was Oldman’s first man-sized role ( he was in Mike Leigh’s Meantime in 84, but not much else of note), and he grabs it with both hands. His Sid is an endlessly watchable blend of swagger and style and clumsy naivety, a likeable fool who’s won the lottery and landed his dream gig without having to do any heavy lifting. He plays up to the sneering, v-flicking, violent role the tabloids have created for him, but deflates the image with moments of sweet politeness and vulnerability – witness him begging Nancy to help him with the washing-up ’round his mum’s flat dressed in leopard print underpants and socks. He’s essentially a big, clueless kid who’s been given all the toys but doesn’t understand the game, and watching his descent to the snot-bubbling wreck on the NY subway is heart-breaking. Webb has the harder task of imbuing ‘nauseating’ Nancy with any qualities that would make her worth going to hell for, and does a fine job. Her Nancy is, for sure, an appalling human being, a leech whose every utterance is a whine or a scream or a shrieked insult when she hasn’t gotten her way, but she’s also possessed of a brash, ballsy energy and a lopsided devotion. Her horrified realisation that, dressed in Sid’s mum’s floaty scarves, she ‘looks like Stevie Nicks!’ is hilarious. Her quiet admission that the reason the couple have been thrown out of her grand-parents’ house early on, in a disastrous visit home to her folks, is simply that ‘they know me’ a quietly unnerving moment of self-awareness.

Together they form a tight little bond, immune to the truth, where he is a star for the ages and she is his soulmate and manager. This is emphasised by the sequences that punctuate the piece like dream interludes: slow-motion scenes where all noise drops away apart from the pretty, yearning music composed for the film by Pray For Rain and The Pogues, The first shows the couple walking in blissful drunken serenity away from the Pistols Jubilee boat party as all around them are brutally collared by the cops; a later one has them snogging in a New York alleyway as trash rains down around them. Both emphasise the bubble that the young lovers have built around them. In many ways it’s a film of two halves, taking a definite turn when we get to New York and the Chelsea hotel. The colourful burlesque drops away, the frames become less and less crowded, grim reality seeps in, until we’re left with two helpless people in a shrinking room. Junkie etiquette takes hold, a life of endless empty promises and all conquering need, where the world shrivels and the detritus accumulates.**

Cox and co-writer Abbe Wool’s most egregious sins against the facts of the case have all been in the service of making the film a love story, and I can see how its fanciful ‘taxi to heaven’ confabulations would seem like so much appalling bullshit to anybody involved with the actual squalor of gutter-level smack addiction. Within the film, all the Christiane F stuff sits a little uneasily with the earlier Carry On cartoonery. Other duff notes are the scenes with ‘Rockhead’, a thinly veiled and thinly conceived Iggy-esque*** creation inserted into the Soho sections of the story, whose appearances and purpose are a little baffling. And it has to be said that Andrew Schofield just doesn’t land Johnny Rotten, coming across decidedly more clownish Captain Sensible than malevolent Mr Lydon, and flatly underselling his ‘ever had the feeling you’ve been cheated’ moment.

All told, viewed today it’s an inventive and energetic raggedy thing, made with a wide screen chutzpah rare in British film, and held together by a committed charismatic lead couple. The music sounds fine, the photography is superb, it’s generous and inclusive and wide-eyed, and like most of the director’s work, feels just a little out of control. I wish Alex Cox had a longer purple patch, I lost track of his work after Highway Patrolman, but he made some damn cinema when he could raise the money. The Moviedrome seasons he curated and presented for BBC2 were a cinema education for a generation. Give the man some appreciation.

Mark Stafford

* The most obvious being that yer actual punk rockers of a certain vintage will never believe that Sid actually killed Nancy, much has been written, and at least one full-length documentary (Alan G Parker’s Who Killed Nancy, 2009) made, on the case for the defence, if you will.

** It’s jarring when Courtney Love turns up in a small role as a friend of Nancy’s later in the film, bringing to mind parallels with another smack-addled rock’n’roll horror show.

*** The real James Osterberg pops up later as a prospective Chelsea guest.

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Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon
Barry Lyndon

Format: Cinema

Release date: 29 July 2016

Distributor: BFI

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Writer: Stanley Kubrick

Based on the novel by: William Makepeace Thackeray

Cast: Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee

UK, USA 1975

184 mins

An appraisal of the merits of Mr Stanley Kubrick’s considerable film essay on ambition and ruin.

It is the unenviable lot of every human being cast into this busy and brutal world that we must at once learn how to live life while at the same time living that very life we are attempting to learn how to live; and so it is perfectly possible, if not in fact probable, that the lessons that are the most important to our happiness, the invaluable realizations on how to get along in the world, on how to be content, on how to succeed, are bound to be worthless: for they come too late to be of any palpable use. It is for this reason indeed that we have modal verbs and the third conditional: I could have… should have … would have… etc., being essential adjuncts to our wistful condition. The great novelists tell us the same: Voltaire in Candide; Dickens in Great Expectations. And William Thackeray’s picaresque account of the rise and fall of an Irish rogue Barry Lyndon is a tragi-comic treatment on the same theme.

The erstwhile director of a series of remarkable moving pictures, Mr Stanley Kubrick, took on the novel following the collapse of his long planned epic on the life of Napoleon. Employing the research, he created one of the most authentic renderings of the Eighteenth Century, with characters who lived outside, exposed to the imminent weather, or huddled in candlelit rooms, poised and pinioned in their beautiful regalia. To speak of the film, one must first address its beauty. If Mr Kubrick were a painter, we would have to enquire as to where he procures his canvases, his pigments and oils, for all his films seem to be painted on a rich vellum with a wide range of nuanced colours apparently unavailable to other filmmakers. There is a peach-coloured tinge to the sky, his fires are pumpkin orange and the range of his palette – the spectrum of greens for instance – is simply breath-taking. ‘I do like the way the artist uses the colour blue,’ Barry Lyndon comments. Quite so, Mr Lyndon, quite so. Not to mention the framing – from the very first shot, which shows the duel that killed Redmond Barry’s father – the scene is composed so well, so finely structured – the diagonal run of the dry stone walling, the depth of vision – and so pleasing to the eye that the director rarely requires more than a single cut to tell his whole scene. The slow zooms are employed to reveal the world around his characters or to move in on a particular detail or individual, and later, in the second half, to reveal adultery and despair. But Mr Kubrick is varied in his means; a ruffian handheld syle suits a brawl and an almost documentary feel imbues a battle with immediacy and danger.

The story is simplicity itself. A young Irishman, Redmond Barry of Barryville (an outstanding performance from Mr Ryan O’Neal, best known for the sentimental drama Love Story), is forced to leave home after a romance with a cousin leads him to duel, he thinks fatally, with an English officer, an excellent and concise comic turn from the superb Mr Leonard Rossiter of Rising Damp fame. His journeys lead him from highway robbers to the English army, the Prussian army, a career as card player and conman and finally the successful seduction of a woman of wealth and station and the securing of his position in society. This is but part one and the second half of the film shows the other side of the hill, as Redmond Barry, now styled Barry Lyndon, is unable to hold all he has attained secure in his grasp, and through a combination of his own fecklessness and the unforgiving nature of the English upper class, his financial, social and familial standing are reduced to disaster and ultimately a sad mess of grief and tatters.

Over the years, the films of Mr Stanley Kubrick have acquired the reputation of coldness and Barry Lyndon is often posited as an example, but on rewatching the film such arguments appear wrong-headed. Barry Lyndon is a remarkably moving and humane piece of work, about a man in desperate search for love who fails to appreciate it when he finds it. A fatherless child who is to become a childless father to the sound of Sarabande, the triple timed dance that becomes a reminder that all marches are funeral marches in the end. It is a hard lesson, and like all lessons on how to live life it is learned only once life is over.

Mr John Bleasdale

Gimme Danger

Gimme Danger
Gimme Danger

Seen at Cannes International Film Festival 2016

Format: Cinema

Release date: 18 November 2016

Distributor: Dogwoof

Director: Jim Jarmusch

USA 2016

108 mins

Jim Jarmusch’s film strikes a fine balance between a serious and comprehensive appraisal of The Stooges’ career.

Gimme Danger is the second film by Jim Jarmusch to be premiering at this year’s Cannes festival, and it’s a different beast entirely: an affectionate, loud, and thoroughly entertaining tribute to The Stooges and their universal, ever-lasting dirty, gutter-glam influence.

From their ambitious Michigan beginnings to their ironic Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction, Jarmusch passionately details the legendary band. With frontman Iggy Pop’s distinctive voice infusing the film from beginning to end, Gimme Danger reveals the band’s tumultuous birth in late 60s Detroit, their flirtation with stardom in the early 70s, their battles with critical and record company indifference and their descent into a drug-fuelled chaos and eventual implosion.

It’s true, much of this story has been documented before, but one way or the other Jarmusch manages to make it his own. Given the director’s close relationship to the subject at hand, the film strikes a fine balance between a serious and comprehensive appraisal of the band’s career and a somewhat bizarre and original representation of the their image and attitude. And while a lot of the focus is, of course, on the living legend that is Iggy Pop, Gimme Danger also shines considerable light on to the other founding members Scott and Ron Asheton, original bassist Dave Alexander and later guitarist James Williamson.

Witty, loving and fuelled by some of the finest rock n’ roll music, Gimme Danger is unashamedly nostalgic, yet it also makes you leave the cinema with a lump in your throat that there’s just no one quite like the young Iggy in music anymore. At least not for now.

Pamela Jahn

This review is part of our Cannes 2016 coverage.

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The Neon Demon

The Neon Demon
The Neon Demon

Seen at Cannes International Film Festival 2016

Format: Cinema

Release date: 8 July 2016

Distributor: Icon Distribution

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Writer: Mary Laws, Nicolas Winding Refn, Polly Stenham

Cast: Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Abbey Lee, Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendrix, Bella Heathcote

France, Denmark, USA 2016

117 mins

The Neon Demon is a hollow, surface-level satire that is pretty to look at, but little else.

The latest offering from Nicolas Winding Refn, following his brilliantly accomplished Only God Forgives, was no doubt one of the hotly anticipated films of the festival – sadly, it failed to deliver.

Set in L.A. in the ruthless world of fashion, The Neon Demon centres around young Jesse (Elle Fanning) who arrives in the big city determined to work her way up in the industry by covering herself in blood and gold for an endless string of bizarre photo shoots. And things seem to be going well: first she meets make-up artist Ruby (Jena Malone), who takes her under her wing, then she lands a modelling agent (Christina Hendricks), and it doesn’t take long before she bewitches every man that crosses her path. However, being the small town ingénue she is, Jesse seems totally unaware of the competition and jealousy that is beginning to mount around her. And what starts as an overly stylised 1980s thriller slowly transforms into surreally morbid horror.

The Neon Demon appears to utilise the contrast of darkness with flashing bright neon lights to develop a somewhat mystifying atmosphere, which is maintained for the majority of the film. And it must be said, with its glitter showers, pulsing coloured lights and hazy sunsets, the film does look every bit as polished as the world it points its finger at – if only to fall victim to its own charms. If anything, Refn has created an aesthetic experience, a hollow, surface-level satire that is pretty to look at, but little else.

Pamela Jahn

This review is part of our Cannes 2016 coverage.

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The Wailing

The Wailing
The Wailing

Seen at Cannes International Film Festival 2016

Format: Cinema

Release date: 25 November 2016

Distributor: Kaleidoscope Entertainment

Director: Na Hong-jin

Writer: Na Hong-jin

Cast: Kwak Do-won, Hwang Jung-min, Chun Woo-hee

South Korea 2016

156 mins

A tense blend of genres, The Wailing succeeds at combining a mood of deep unease with visceral gore.

Na Hong-jin emerged on the scene in 2008 with his accomplished feature debut The Chaser, and two years later established himself as a talent to watch with his follow up, The Yellow Sea. Both films are dark thrillers involving lone, lost men caught up in events far beyond their control and, on the surface, The Wailing seems to follow a similar path.

The film tells of a small suburban village that is quickly overshadowed by a wretched sickness. The focus is on the beleaguered police sergeant Jong-Goo, played by Kwak Do-won with a brilliant mix of exhaustion, indecisiveness and fear, who is baffled, along with the rest of the local police force, by the onset of a series of horrifically violent and inexplicable murders. The killers all show the same zombie-like symptoms and as the bodies pile up and Jong-Goo’s own daughter is affected by the strange curse, he decides to team up with a mysterious woman and a spiritualist in a desperate attempt to break the cycle of hell.

A tense blend of genres, The Wailing succeeds at combining a mood of deep unease with visceral gore, buddy cop comedy, and a hallucinogenic mix of horror tropes, and in this sense the film becomes a unique creation of its own, setting its terrible events against the gorgeous landscapes and mountains of South Korea. And although overlong and not without flaws, there is enough in The Wailing to warrant a viewing, and the subtle force of the film confirms Na Hong-jin’s reputation as a director to be reckoned with.

Pamela Jahn

This review is part of our Cannes 2016 coverage.

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