If it had been an eight minute short, with the electrical Charlotte Rampling, as Reverend Mother Mohiam, pain-testing the blank slate that is Timothée Chalamet, as Paul Atreides, to gauge his capacity for impulse-control, and the suitability for the job of a Messiah - I would have given it a five-star, no questions asked. However, as things stand, it is well over two hours long, and feels more like an obscure, scattered conversation overheard on a long train ride - all dense plot and mild tedium, a bounty of sensual imagery wasted on zero substance. ★★✩✩✩
Theatrical to a fault, and gorgeous to look at - a goth Norman Rockwell - yet hermetically sealed to any insight that would turn our gaze inward, away from its mesmerising scenery - its characters suffering the same suffocating fate in its dense nocturnal world. In a film noir a lack of air, light, or indeed insight into the internal universe of a character does not necessarily have to be detrimental, given the genres affinity for portraits of mysterious doom, but what it must have is undeniable chemistry between its leads – and here this intricately designed storyline strangely collapses. [read more] ★★★✩✩
It took a Bill O'Neal, an FBI informant, and a petty thief, looking for a way out of jail time, infiltrating the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s, to bring down a Fred Hampton - a genius orator and strategist, and a true revolutionary in his prime. Compensating in visual simplicity and narrative earnestness what it lacks in storytelling flair, what I credit this timely, meticulously researched endeavour with most, is its bringing into focus the burning question of the ways credible popular movements could be corrupted from within, external elements slowly introducing wrongful practices, sapping them of their righteous energy and heartfelt zeal – finally destroying the very voices which made them what they are. [read more] ★★★✩✩
The aspect of this pensive, heartfelt doc that is pure cinema – the footage, small triumphs, haunted encounters, Ostroy’s astonishing prison confrontation with Shelly’s murderer, all the sweetness, minutia, and regret of a life that was in full bloom before it brutally ended, is truly chilling and stellar in its rawness and fortitude. Its weakness, sadly, is the overwhelming element of testimonies and therapeutic digressions, which certainly have its place within the orbit of this doc, but perhaps should have been included as an extra feature, rather than weaved into the narrative thread, itself. [read more] ★★★✩✩
Enigmatic, dense, endlessly surprising, Campion's rendering of Savage's 1967 novel requires time to absorb and digest, and in that very quality it exhibits its excellence and extraordinary depth. In lesser hands, with this sort of tale, we might have been served a dry cinematic essay on toxic masculinity. In turn, we were gifted with a poetic, slow-burning, merciless narration on how evil nests in a dissatisfied, selfish soul, breaking its humanity, reducing it to a performative shell, which then seeks to destroy and diminish all that is beautiful, vibrant, and good in its midst. For the sheer pleasure of feeding off another's suffering, as it has no joy of its own. A long-awaited return to cinema of one of its greats. [read more] ★★★★★
Kristen Stewart‘s great capacity of completely inhabiting a character while remaining unchanged fits the narrative like a white silken glove. As Diana, she entirely embodies the fiercely independent soul submerged deeply into the archetypal, a place where she is thereby forever chained to all the other souls acting as vessels to a national storyline. Poetic, mysterious, and subversively cathartic, this cinematic miracle unequivocally makes clear to all watching why Diana mattered so much, to so many. It has something to do with love. [read more] ★★★★★
Lady Gaga as Patrizia truly did give it her all, and in a way, she is the only one on screen that actually fits the form, knowing how to spin deep emotion from what might seem like a lark. The sum of all the broad strokes significantly dampens the amount of pathos necessary for a drama of this grand opera scale - leaving us only with the giggles. Not enough to walk away with, when it comes to art - and just enough to get by, when it comes to entertainment. [read more] ★★★✩✩
An anthological expedition into the origins of machine-made sounds and the women who shaped the soundscape of our current simulacrum, this incredibly well-researched, hereto untold story of female pioneers who gave form to what is now electronic music, narrated by that icon of multimedia, Laurie Anderson, with her hypnotic voice, and steady pace, is absolutely brimming with Promethean insight, yet is also subdued in form, aiming for precision rather than panache. [read more] ★★★★✩
Written as if it were a collection of random ideas for characters, and directed at pace of a wellness seminar, it has all the makings of a film that imagines its audience unable to discern between life and a mindful soft drink commercial. McCarthy just standing in frame being the reason I give it a two star, instead of one, which it sadly deserves. [read more] ★★✩✩✩
Melancholic, world-weary, darkly funny, and strangely lovely, it gifts so much more than it promises, just like its heroine. Casting Michelle Pfeiffer as the femme fatale of her own derailed life – a stroke of brilliance. Something of a whimsy in terms of tempo, but written like it were liquid jazz. [read more] ★★★★★
There is a stark difference between the tragic story of Britney Spears, and the sensationalist stories told about Britney Spears. Trying its hardest to prove its admirable intentions, and hard it does try, this doc still veers towards the latter. And as such, unfortunately, it does not get any closer to the human being that lives behind that perfect smile than an upset, well-meaning article in a fanzine would. [read more] ★★✩✩✩
Regardless of Sir Ridley Scott’s iconic eye, a star-studded cast does not an epic make. Casting both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (also the two of the three screenwriters), was way too meta not to distract from the gravity of the tale. Marguerite's was a story well worth to be told on its own. It would had held up without the gimmickry. [read more] ★★★✩✩
High-octane director Antoine Fuqua reteams with an always fiercely committed Jake Gyllenhaal for a sombre, stoic, flawed but ultimately harrowing chamber piece dealing with, in essence, the moral dilemma of our times - how much of what we perceive to be going on is our own projection, and how much do we assume about others given only snippets of information, and someone’s subjective interpretation? [read more] ★★★★✩
Despite all the usual trappings of a Bond cosmology, it comes out a triumphant winner, treating all that incredible gadgetry and immaculate pageantry as an enjoyable but dispensable sideline, in favour of the absolute primacy of human touch. Craig redefined Bond, revealing a complex humanity beneath the exceptional achievement in the art of war. Sophisticated entertainment, as well as poignant reflexion on bioweapons, fallible heroes, and love. [read more] ★★★★★
There is no one closer to the enchantment of film than the film projectionist - a craft that is slowly disappearing, as celluloid itself, and should be cherished as cinema treasure. Film, in its essence, is its medium. And the projectionist, therefore, its magician in residence. So consider this an interview with a master, Paul Perkins. Full unedited interview with film projectionist Paul Perkins, first published in edited version for Picturehouse Spotlight, May 2018.
A well-crafted, moving, bittersweet portrait of a deteriorating psyche, and the way any human suffering can be transcended with an open heart. Cutting close to home for the filmmakers, this experiment in screen intimacy could have gone either way, given the personal stakes embedded in the material, but turned out to be a triumph. The birth of tragedy from an inherently comic juxtapose. [read more] ★★★★✩
A monochrome existentialist sci-fi essay on the unsustainability of the human condition in a genetically modified apocalypse is a mix of home movie and Brechtian theatre play, and a very 2020 affair. I would have preferred it less half its words, all a gritty solo act, rather than the acerbic two-hander it is, yet I did like its daring, lo-fi ethos, trippy, nasty twists, and its claustrophobic wayward wit. [read more] ★★★✩✩
An explosive device, bubble-gum-wrapped in vivacious rom-com feels, this is an ancient tale of womanhood desecrated - a female gaze extraordinaire, on men who abuse trust, and women who enable them, in a manner more belonging to Mesopotamian myth, rather than any sociopathic femme fatale trope in cinema. I am giving it a five-star, not because it is a faultless film, which it isn't, but because it is one of a kind. [read more] ★★★★★
Painfully intimate, beautifully clear-eyed, archival treasure of a documentary, set up as a tale of two women - the artist Billie and the biographer Linda, both their lives ending tragically. Billie Holiday, genius, and jazz legend, carried with her, and within her, a history abuse - yet she was determined to enjoy her life, with a vengeance, her voice still transcending her wounded womanhood and transgenerational trauma beyond the grave. Holiday, as avenging angel, unifying the voices of all the lives lived before her, and ones still listening, in the dual telling of this singularity that was Billie, proving a brilliant narrative choice. [read more] ★★★★★
Deserving of a viewing at least as a ravaged treasure of a narrative, hosted within its intensely saturated interior dreamscape one of the favourite stock characters of the contemporary mystery trade - a psychologist with mental health issues, a physician struggling to heal herself. But, half way in, it loses its way, turning a juicy plot into a procedural psycho-thriller, a devil in shallow waters where there should have been the deep blue sea. How it manages to fail, with so much going for it, is a mystery in itself. [read more] ★★✩✩✩
Oscars 2021 was a public exercise in reclaiming one’s own art from the hijack of a devouring billion-dollar entertainment industry, the scaling down from mass production to manufacture, a deliberate recalibrating and reframing in order to preserve cinema’s place in culture, in society, and in our individual lives. To make a film is to be able to capture light, and colour it from the inside. Cinema is the art of tirelessly attempting the impossible, and therefore, it will always seem just slightly out of reach. Therein lies its power. Oscar night, it was on full display.
Examining the dark heart of laughter and the symbiotic relationship film has with its audiences, how it wires us to think and talk in certain ways, its cultural impact, and its myriad semiotic and cinematic legacies - this was my MA dissertation (Birkbeck, 2005), a bungy jump into the Serbian (and YU) 1980s cinema scene, specifically, four films, and two filmmakers. One day I might programme this whole bonanza into a fest, the way I writ it - from YU Black Wave to Balkan 'Black Humour Brand', and screen the selection in cinemas (Belgrade to London). For now, please enjoy the words, deliciously.
When his early days come up in the reels, it becomes clear how much was hidden about Capote - the darkness seething underneath the glitz in Breakfast At Tiffany's, a gruesome passion that was In Cold Blood - underbelly of the America he knew, and left behind. Truman Capote lived many lives, and inhabited manifold identities, partied hard, betrayed rich people, and wrote elegant, sharp words for posterity. This doc, somehow, managed to tailor it all to size - an hour and a half of note-perfect jazz. [read more] ★★★★★
A flawed, but fascinating take on Rosaleen Norton, artist & dedicated occultist, notoriously active in 1950s Sydney, using all the tricks of the doc trade to conjure the self-declared witch in her nocturnal glory - showing fault only when it tries too hard to render her safer for the masses by confining her in feminist or archetypal tropes (however apt). An intoxicating brew, offering this truly unique counter-culture figure some posthumous justice. [read more] ★★★★✩
Lola On Film now reviews fine indie shorts in its Lola Loves Shorts series. Lost For Words is a meditation on both the current and metaphysical state of isolation, inner worlds imploding with the unspoken, the deeply entrenched, the painfully trivial, Elcid Asaei delivering a poetically political, quietly witty technicolour essay on just how much we are able to hate the people we love. [read more]
A post-Jungian reading, encountering feminine mysteries on celluloid, analysis of the veneration of the Hollywood film icon, tracing the blazing trail of cinema femme fatales, their imagery framed within portals, places where darkness and light meet, the heroines gazing back at us, in defiance, as permanent challenge to imposed authority, transforming, dynamically, into a new animus/anima fluid form of the femme fatale as action figure. [read more]
David Fincher's take on Herman J. Mankiewicz's life made for a story of authorship, fabrications, responsibility, public opinion, great talent, addiction, singing for one’s supper, screwing over of a popular progressive candidate by the Hollywood propaganda machine (before Sanders, there was Upton Sinclair), and finally, the making of Citizen Kane. A rare tribute to the importance of writing in film, and one of the most honest and subdued depictions of Hollywood that Hollywood delivered. Inevitably, shot in 1930s monochrome. [read more] ★★★★✩
As cinema, this is somewhat of a whimsy, anywhere between Drunk History, historical reenactment, and a 1980s Eurythmics video, but as conceptual portrayal of the man who invented the 21st century, the enigmatic, eccentric, and ultimately tragic genius that was Nikola Tesla, Michael Almereyda's sweetly bonkers mixtape of a film tribute is pure connoisseur delight. Full throttle meta, and, frankly, eerily accurate. [read more] ★★★★✩
A fan of Wheatley's work, I came into this wide-eyed and curious at what a filmmaker of his calibre and mercurial style would bring to the ur-ghost story of cinema, an intrinsically woven and menacingly erotic depiction of an entire narrative demonically possessed by a missing protagonist. And the answer is: nothing. With apologies to the superb Kristin Scott Thomas, apparently the only one on set who understood what film she's in. An attempt to deconstruct the institution of marriage, and the British class system, through rendering a passionately subversive classic entirely soulless, failing, epically. [read more] ★✩✩✩✩
Sorkin's ultra topical, traditionally rapid-fire narrative response to the current Molotov cocktail moment in US politics seems rushed and too close to the heart of the filmmaker to be more grounded in living history than in personal sentiment, but it has Mark Rylance to hold that balance, as saving grace. It also brings forth a worthy central premise - celebrating elements in US society, in the Vietnam War era, protesting America's imperial policies, as well as its internal injustices. And justice, like revolution, cannot be compartmentalised. [read more] ★★★✩✩
Powered by the fearless testimony of former Def Jam Recordings executive Drew Dixon, as well as other survivors and activists, mostly women of colour, this is an era-defining, incredibly well-crafted doc tracing not only the irreversible intimate, creative, and professional loss of the survivors of sexual assault, but the loss the entire culture suffers without the brilliant voices of these women, in power, shaping it. [read more] ★★★★★
Exploring the myth of the fallen woman in classic Hollywood melodrama, via Jungian framework, tracing her historical, religious and literary antecedents, delving into the archetypal realms of the dark, wild feminine projected onto the screen, and her impact on the spectator, male and female. What these femme fatales, gold-diggers, seductresses, fallen angels, and furious housewives subversively revealed was a hidden narrative current underneath the official one, women's own dispossessed femininity, debased, fragmented and demonised, yet so powerfully vibrant and creative. [read more]
Let's say the worst of what we heard of Julian Assange is true, and he is indeed the disreputable human portrayed in established media lore - the question remains, what does this have to do with indicting journalists for receiving classified material in which various nefarious deeds of powerful governments are exposed? Solid campaign doc, cutting out sensationalist debris, reminding us that justice is not a congeniality contest. [read more] ★★★✩✩
There is something in the nature of a recording that defies rational explanation. It is a replica of life, its twin and its double, and yet, it is also its deathly echo, preserving life by embalming it for eternity, or at least until the shelf life of the medium itself expires. Some images have the numinosity to affect us deeply, a capacity to both heal and destroy. They represent evidence of an alternate existence, glimpses of a double life, our twin in the archetypal world, skin in the game of immortality. Lynch evokes this quality perfectly in his work. [read more]
Glossy, but stylistically messy semi-real life tale of suicidal ambition, submerged emotional landscapes, gaslighting lovers, and encountering diamonds in the sky. Although too gung ho and erratic to go digging fully into the mud of the psychological dynamics it depicts, I enjoyed its inconsistent but witty digressions. Sometimes, the right type of prose elevates the turmoil of shoddy romance, too prosaic to encounter through poetic means. [read more] ★★★✩✩
A punk rock salute to the painful roots of the antisocial impulse, its tiny protagonist dressed in a shocking pink parka, chewing the scenery, racing against time and her own odds, seething with traumatised rage and frenzied wishful thinking. This is social drama that reads like a thriller, its shots crisp, its cuts sharp, with a humanism that is unrepentant, dividing the audience into jailers and jailbreakers, even before they get to grasp what their reaction to this explosive cinematic device reveals about their own psyches. [read more] ★★★★★
Shades of honey, earth and time, it unfolds as a liquid painting, absorbing details of the map that is the body and soul of the beloved, with a soundtrack burning off everything unnecessary. An Orphic hymn, both lamenting and celebrating the urgency of love, it has the beat, the feel, and the nature of the female cycle, each nodal point in a woman's life connected with its immediate opposite. But it is the universal depth of this unwavering masterpiece that transforms it into an ode to honesty in a world saturated with false appearances. [read more] ★★★★★
This bubbly Netflix doc reveals an exuberant, strange, bitter-sweet bit of astro pop history, celebrating a dazzling figure, one Walter Mercado, caped wizard of entertainment-led stargazing, icon of Latinx culture in the U.S., a gender-nonconforming Puerto Rican-born psychic & astrologer, with an audience of millions across the globe, and an ultra optimistic bejeweled vibe that wavered before no misery.
[read more] ★★★✩✩
Thrilling in moments, erratic in others, but passionately executed throughout, Marjane Satrapi's risky, moody biopic of Marie Curie, starring an intense Rosamund Pike, captures the woman, but is lost between worlds, perhaps like the protagonist herself. Yet it's both historically important and insanely topical, celebrating the cold heat determination of someone who knows her worth while facing down the establishment, no frills and no apologies for brilliance rendered. [read more] ★★★✩✩
In the year 2020 that brought us global quarantine, comes a doc about a 1991 experimental quarantine, timed to perfection by some chronological deity or a prophetic team of filmmakers and marketing experts, tracing a group of truly extraordinary individuals constructing and sealing themselves up in a self-engineered replica of the Earth's ecosystem, with earnest sixties commune ethos, quirky scientific eco-vision, pioneering determination, and free-spirited publicity feels for the zeitgeist. [read more] ★★★★✩
The kind of story that waits for you at a crossroads, innocently, like the devil, ready when you are. Full of pastel, cashmere, handwoven, well-spoken, First World problems. But Bernadette has a broken heart. And this turns out to be a moving actor's portrait of an artist's real anguish hidden and gift-wrapped within a Gap ad that is the film's scenery and style. [read more] ★★★✩✩
Roy Cohn, a man who at the very beginning of his legal career was Senator Joseph McCarthy's chief counsel, and instrumental in the brutal sentencing of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to the electric chair. An outrageously psychopathic political fixer now growing in posthumous infamy with each new month of Trump presidency, as he was Donald J.'s longtime lawyer and mentor, hence everything the 45th president of the Unites States learned about power came from Machiavelli himself (with apologies to the actual Niccolò). [read more] ★★★✩✩
The evolutionary 2020 broke us down into essentials: the flesh we are made of, the dreams we inhabit, the lives we lead within our beating hearts. The immovable end game that is our mortality. This film was made for this year. In the way scriptures were made for a particular time in history, and for all times, at the same time. It is a holy text of cinema. And if you have never crossed paths with it, this is your moment at the crossroads. [read more]
Sofía Quirós Ubeda's feature debut is the kind of hyper-real magical tale that seems to exist in a parallel dimension to ours, fully ripe and present in its vivid majesty, but never tipping into saturation. A story of the cycle of life, of growing up motherless into womanhood, both your living and your dead intertwined as dancing branches of a serpent tree. Learning how to kohl your eyes seamlessly in the face of all this love and decay. [read more]
Such a ruin can a love of luxury be. It turns otherwise endearing people astray. Makes pending sociopaths of ambitious folk with a bone to pick and a taste for the delicious. In other words, the path to self-betterment can lead to the largest public school embezzlement in American history. This is a true story. [read more] ★★★★✩
Controversial doc, veering towards eco fatalism, executive-produced by Micheal Moore, sees environmentalist Jeff Gibbs ponder the effects of climate change and perpetual growth, while taking on sainted big guns of the eco-movement. Bluntly unpacks the extent renewable energy giants seem to depend on fossil fuels, how corporations rebrand green to access government subsidies, downsides of renewable energy, and as Vandana Shiva puts it, the way we allow ourselves to be hypnotised. [read more]
Episodically brilliant, it has too many stitches in the narrative quilt, its often rushed sentiment suffocating the genuine moments of resonant emotion. But it does have a thing or two to say about love. What an undoing it can be, what a triumph it is. Just watch a spirited Saoirse Ronan, as author’s wild alter ego, gaze upon her published work. Or a wise Florence Pugh, as the pragmatic younger sister, gaze at her man. [read more]
Sam Mendes’s thespian 'single take' virtuoso stunt, a high-wire homage to his WWI veteran grandfather, highlights two things extremely well – film is a director’s medium, and its key ingredient is light. Only celluloid has that required esoteric quality, the materia to absorb and select. Filter reality. So, in a way, 1917 is also Roger Deakins's film. His digital Arri Alexa mimics the medium almost perfectly. Almost. But it has heart. Following one glorious golden thread. Fighting for the next breath. [read more]
Deep down Frank Sheeran, mob hitman, was just one empty room after another in search of a person. As most sociopaths. That’s the gist of this magnificently made film about the boredom of thug life. Peggy, one of Sheeran’s daughters, and the highlight of the saga, does not speak a word until the very end. And although there has been some controversy about this, I can get it. What’s there to say? Really. [read more]
A bonkers, beautiful, radical & drop-dead intelligent dark satirical tale of social inequality, mock egalitarian weirdness of late capitalism, class arrogance vs. monetary desperation, the perversity of the state of poverty, and all that without being up its own moralistic agenda. Amazing cinema, ending as epic daydream, twisting the social-commentary knife some more, like a pro. [read more] ★★★★★
David Lynch, as hard-boiled noir detective, interrogates a fugitive monkey suspected of murder in a crime of passion. As if fished from a hypnotic opium dream, yet fitting the P. Marlowe canon perfectly, it takes a Lynch to restore one’s faith in film as medium, and its capabilities as an art form to once again transform into something mysterious, illuminating, and worthy of awe. [read more] ★★★★★
The human need for a pedestal is to look up to something that is desired, and ultimately, to be achieved. That particular social contract breaks when the chosen begin to look down at the rabble in complete disdain. If in doubt, read up on the French Revolution. And have some cake. The tyranny of being special purely for being wonderfully presentational. Suddenly, who makes that (free) speech begins to count again. [read more]
It took a grassroots revolution to demand a change in an entrenched way of dealing with sexual harassment and assault, especially on women, something that would always make victims feel exposed and grasping for shelter, as it diminishes their softest, and therefore most vulnerable space. Their intimate realms. The only way forward was to rebel furiously, collectively. Thus #MeToo was born. With all its contradictions. And what a curious gestation place it had, the very epicenter of bullish conservatism – Fox News. [read more]
The exposure of the personal in public, when love becomes war, always carries within it a fundamental indecency, the prosaic dissecting the poetic. And the prosaic usually wins, as nobody outside a couple can really accurately assess the intimate space between them, least of all people hired to separate them, with benefits. But Baumbach, through Johansson and Driver, achieved the almost impossible. An intimate public display of regret that actually works both ways. [read more] ★★★★✩
The fundamental premise of faith as a fortress of dogma to defend vs. a vast river emerging from one source, but open to all that need its waters, has been the key demarcation line in the two millennia of Christianity. Deferential, yet honest & investigative is a tough line to keep. But this is intelligent filmmaking, with two powerhouse performances, telling a difficult, highly sensitive tale in a low-key, old-fashioned way, through the prism of two excellent minds, in opposition, yet still talking.
[read more] ★★★✩✩
Although I mostly write spoiler analysis, due to the nature of these reviews, I won't here, for the sheer pleasure everyone should have while watching this most enjoyable of cinematic experiences. An antidote, if you will, to the nasty landscapes it depicts, with extreme wit and a big heart. Go see it. It's an all-star murder mystery about inheritance. And yes, I give it five stars, without explaining why. My blog, my rules... etc. [read more] ★★★★★
Guy Nattiv's raw, yet subdued take on one man's redemptive arc is somehow more a love story than an examination of white supremacist groups in the US. What we do get is a precise headshot of a vile but limited menace, which we know is part of a much more widespread disease, with cult-like Viking-obsessed Vinlanders in the background, spread like a particularly repulsive smorgasbord of beer, puke & gloomy sexual encounters, every frame steeped in human misery and pointless rage. [read more]
This might be a gold standard Hollywood biopic, with the melodrama sentiments & fan mail, the pale devastation of the flesh smoothed over by flashbacks re-visioning studio corruption and blanket emotional abuse as a technicolor Oz nightmare. But, at its center, is a performance so raw, tender, and gut-wrenching that all the glitz only serves as a mere proverbial curtain. [read more] ★★★★✩
Lee Israel wrote her forgeries perhaps better than the originals would write their own correspondences, her survival depending on the content being interesting enough for collectors to buy. Lee's downfall was her insurmountable bile, stemming from a deep-seated cowardice and envy - a cornucopia of foul blocking every living cell of her own creativity. Yet, this ends up somehow a breeze of a tale about hardship and friendship, a perfect couplet, made beautiful by actors that can tell a human from a forgery. [read more] ★★★★✩
Like many children of malignant narcissists, Robert spent his life redeeming beauty back from the devil. As collateral, he gave the horned one some of his best tunes – his astonishing, impeccable images, and his body, confirming that the only difference between the sacred and profane in art is perspective. Or, to quote Dylan on this – you gotta serve somebody. Not sure whom this film serves, but it does try to honour Mapplethorpe. It also provides a space to think about him. [read more] ★★★✩✩
Joaquin Phoenix burns like an archangel on heroin, a contorted otherworldly presence that under a different constellation of stars would have ended up a saint, but turns to the demonic, discovering within it that creative spark he searched for all his life spent as a non-entity. Intellectually dangerous cinema, telling the truth, and lighting a match. Too potent as art to ignore or dismiss, and highly flammable politically to treat lightly. [read more] ★★★★★
So much pain, hubris, ambition and damage to draw upon, the entire publicity farce a perfect profile of the times – the avatar being more important than the author, yet we get a breezy, well-lit tale, all persona, glossy surfaces, and tiara tears. No matter that Laura Dern is fiercely up for it, and Kristen Stewart seems perfectly cast. [read more] ★★✩✩✩
It sets its sights high on its thorny way to Neptune, but it seems to lack soul material, an obscure alchemical element. Namely, generosity. Even with a core intent that is honourable, and a story that is conceptually beautiful in its severe simplicity – it’s a selfish story about selfishness. A love letter meant for a particular other, or group of others, but perhaps truly written only to oneself. Pushing aside all that does not belong in its elegant narrative. [read more]
Penny Lane’s crafty, arch entertaining doc on a growing group of US Satanists almost got me thinking backwards, like a spell on a Black Sabbath vinyl. There’s no denying that separating church and state is always a good idea. Then, playing the devil’s advocate to the devil’s advocate, and why not – one must remember that Lucifer finally fell from grace due to hubris, not (just) because he was otherwise cool. [read more]
Gutsy, bruising, viscerally disturbing take on a woman imploding in slow motion, developing an artistic obsession with a five-year-old poet prodigy. Gyllenhaal as Lisa possesses space like a ghost of a person she has once been, an ancient curse of the female condition, one that unresolved leads to a special kind of parasitism – a living through the creative world of another, with ferocious intensity of reclaiming one’s own. [read more]
A true gift gives you tenacity. It's a well that never dries. Colette was on fire until the very end of her days, and she lived long, blessing us with that rare example of an artist that did not allow the world to shut her down. It seems that a wild spirit is crucial when it comes to creative survival. Remaining untamed is ultimate protection. [read more]
A showreel glorifying the industry of canned dreams, in a backhanded kind of way, it does that pimp thing where it tries to sell you the very stuff it mocks. Its one redeeming feature - Brad Pitt's actual acting chops. The crack in that eternal sunshine that let the light shine through. [read more]
Taking on the irony of love lurking underneath the strangest arrangements, this double chocolate & cream cherry cake of a film, served on the finest cinematic lace, is chock full of arsenic. And, like all life's tragedies, it starts off as a joke. [read more]
In Alison Klayman's new gutsy fly-on-the-wall doc, Trump's ex-chief strategist comes across as a charismatic, amoral, but unfortunately pretty brainy Hollywood via Harvard player, who spotted a niche in the political market for disenfranchised white man rage, and grabbed it. Bannon knows he is the Pied Piper of Hamelin. [read more]
The only way to look at Chernobyl is through a rear-view mirror, the complex ocular shield of the camera. Otherwise, we'd be staring at Medusa's face, unprotected. An open nuclear reactor core burning our synapses through sheer magnitude of existential incomprehension. An apocalyptic serialised memento mori. [read more]
Leonardo DiCaprio opens his new climate change doc offering a view of the last 250 years of humankind as the longest science experiment in history. An apt take on the magnitude of human impact on the entirety of our planet - and the unhinged way we've been unleashing ourselves on our environment. [read more]
Glenn Close as Joan is a magnificent melting iceberg, an environmental disaster long in the making, the wife of a soon-to-be Nobel laureate in literature, and a woman that signed a Faustian deal which has now reached its inevitable conclusion. [read more]
Short and sweet weekend ride through a cinematic landscape that is very slowly moving from niche to broader in the Balkans, yet with quality that never drops a beat. Merlinka is a bold and bright festival of good humour and defiance, with a sophisticated programme, a growing audience, and enough maverick charm to face both friend and foe in society with the sage knowledge that, in the end, love conquers all.
Squeezed between the baby-boomer dharma sell-outs and the millennial hordes of tattooed accountants, the throwaway lettuce in a generational bacon sandwich of aspiring corporate drones, sits Gen X, i.e. my generation, sulking mascots of McJobs, deifying burning time creatively doing nothing.
Enter our isolation chamber, Steven Soderbergh‘s 1989 Palme d’Or winner, the tipping point. [read more]
It manages to nail the intricacies of emotional abuse in such terrible detail, while muted by pastel colours of Akhavan's narrative zaniness, that all the twisted soul demolitions of the young hearts being forced to 'pray the gay away' suddenly creep up on us - spinning into one heavy gasp of rage.
Essential new mainstream doc on PSY research, a much denigrated fringe topic, one that, perhaps, should not have been left solely for the military to explore. Chock-full of top-tier scientists, high-grade spooks, plus a Nobel laureate and an Apollo astronaut thrown in, for good quantum measure.
Behold my cursed ancient academic proposal I aimed at studying how we are enchanted by film, using early film theory, post-Jungian analysis & anthropology of ritual, examining ways the moving image could potentially be employed as transformative tool in art therapy. One day I might write about the text's strange travels, good stuff I got out of it, publish a book, or reboot my bid for title of film doctor. For now, please feast on its faded glory, and feel free to cite & link. Yours might be the kiss that revives it. [read more]
The 1987 campaign story of disgraced Colorado senator, and Democratic Party front-runner, Gary Hart, is as tough as aspirin compared to what we now digest daily. What it did make me do is rethink the Clinton presidency, four years later, and how the pragmatist philanderer made it to the White House, while the idealist one became a pariah. [read more]
There is an element missing here, the key component to any story of conflict and passion - namely, the passion. It does not bode well for a story of a tumultuous affair if the only performance with conviction, in a love triangle, is given by the betrayed husband. So the entire construction falls apart as if dismantled by a sensible family therapist. [read more]
A sun-scorched, store damaged, furious street rant on the ways we destroy others, but more on the ways we let ourselves be destroyed. Detective Bell's hollow glare serves as an extraordinarily well executed hook - each time we look at her face, we compare it to our mental image of Kidman. And the emotional mayhem done locks us in. [read more]
The devil mistakes aesthetics for art, has an innate disdain for the body, and in close-up - he's one dull mofo. Lars Von Trier grabs your head and shoves it into the vortex of any subject he chooses to examine. It's never a pleasant journey, but he delivers the goods. I gave it four stars, rather than five, although in its way, it is perfect. Because a film about evil should always be missing something. [read more]
All you need to know about the state of publicity today is that the 2019 Oscars ceremony, the hottest gig there is, did not have a host, probably because no one wanted the hassle. The global equilibrium of self-promotion vs. self-censorship seems to have reached a screeching deadlock somewhere in the outer layers of our stratosphere, taking all the creative oxygen out of any public concept.
This could have been a film on forbidden love, but it was way smarter than that - it's a story of self-love, the love of life that is in our nature, the blessed disobedience of flesh. The wild card in a tapered deck.
[read more] ★★★★✩
An experience of profound beauty and real heartache, one that maybe should have been left untouched. It has that defiant spirit of divine intervention hidden beneath a beautiful, silent, terrible mistake. Hope I did Zula and Wiktor justice, their story, it's a diamond and a dagger, in one. [read more]
You know this is a race against time, and that the time in question might not only be diegetic. So informed we are of our world, it seeps into this story, uninterrupted - history hiding underneath its own frayed repeats. Fascism as collective narcissism. Narcissism as ultimate isolation from life source. This is esoteric Christie, avenging angel, her agent, screenwriter Sarah Phelps, at the steering wheel. [read more]
Suddenly my eye aligned with the camera. The way Rourke framed it, and Ronan and Robbie fleshed it out, and flamed it, helped me understand what it must have felt like to have a female form and nature at the time, full of ripe wants and infinite prohibitions. Competing with men for a place of power, while at the same time being a place of power. By virtue of the royal womb. [read more]
If it had been more artistically rigorous with the slapstick, it could have arrived at Arendt's 'banality of evil', and taken that point home with guns blazing. It might have been brilliant. But it turned out to be merely a sledgehammer to the rusty nail, painting its point across like a shiny billboard. [read more]
Viola Davis is relentlessly on point, a woman who loves, grieves, is terrified, and confused, and yet is steely in her newfound awareness. All the widows' performances are honed to perfection, achieving something truly miraculous nowadays - exhibiting agency without arrogance. [read more]
Elegantly cutting through Cold War politics, slippery metaphors on masculinity, the now archaic technologies yet still very raw societal injustices, an actual insane audacity of the venture building up as monumental ego trip of a nation - this is a story that finds its heart in a silence, mystery of the inner cosmos. There are things we do because we must. The micro and the macro are aligned. [read more]
It lands on a piece of me that is yet to accept loss – the devouring of a chunk of my life, of many lives, by the gods of lesser value. This is why I could not take it in any other way than lightly. Giving it my full attention meant giving in to a lack of meaning. A blank canvass of a memory of a home(land) that invites everyone to draw in their own conclusions. All of them true and entirely wrong. [read more]
A testament to the inexplicability of mourning, and the therapeutic nature of art. In this case, the art of the moving image, the most conjuring art of all. The camera becomes a dignified way to navigate the grieving process, to share it. There is a great generosity in One More Time With Feeling. This is film as communion, echo of a longing, an evocation of love in that eternal painfully human quest to transcend death. [read more]
It was the humanity in the delivery of divinity that was the key to Callas's impact - the way she knew, by some uncanny ability, just how to channel an archetype. Seeing her in Pasolini's Medea, even just for a few screen seconds, shook my soul, if not my world. [read more]
Camille emerged fully formed, a she-shaman forged in the era of the return of the witch, expanding the liminal space between traumatic events, taking the silver bullet of all audience assumptions and projections in a tale of female rage - of women hurting other women - all those dark vagina dentata materials blooming a venemous crimson red in the patriarchal dollhouse. [read more]
Now, and with a fresh set of goggles, the ill-fated relationship seems to be merely the departure not the destination, the anti-climatic tryst itself making way for a rather sombre study of cultural prejudice and misogyny, one that still could be taken as relevant a hundred years plus change fast-forward. [read more]
Everyone feels they know much of Oscar Wilde, the ultimate prophet laureate of pop culture, but no one can really come close to grasping a micron of that man's life until they understand Clapham Junction. [read more]
A sexual damage mentally packaged as a taboo love affair – an irreversible seduction interpreted as consensual in the imaginings of a 13-year-old girl determined to preserve the right of her passage to womanhood. [read more]
It swept me like high tide, in the end, much as a windfall of good luck can disorient us when we are deep in mourning... this painful, beautiful, essential meditation on isolation, how we get there, and what gets us out. [read more]
If the Sex Pistols, Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, and X-Files had a threesome and spawned one single entity, you'd get John Cameron Mitchell' s zany, lovely, but weirdly ordinary love story. [read more]
If you've ever been pushed off a cliff, this is the film for you. Once you transcend the gore, the sheer originality of its dynamics, the ingenious transgression of its point of view, which happens to be a according to a woman's frame, makes it a thrill ride of mythic proportions.
A Colt 45 of a film, silver bullet of dark erotica, fertile pathology, a sunlit & soiled mystical union of shadows & light... Beauty and beast in one.
This is no comedy - not that it isn't darkly funny, in a Bretonian 'gallows with lighting rod' kind of way, depicting humour not as a relief, but at the centre of the disease, a punctured ulcer reeking of that which it could not any longer contain. [read more]
The remedy to all life's ills lies in Wes Anderson films. I finally found it in the character of the Oracle dog, and you will find yours too. Keep watching. [read more]
There is no horror quite like the murderous rage of someone you once loved. If you ever had anything similar in your life, then consider Xavier Legrand's explosive separation drama as homeopathic remedy. [read more]
Soderbergh's new twist on his road to revolutionising craft, if not necessarily art - a looming premise of gold-standard corporate totalitarianism. [read more]
Zvyagintsev’s eulogy to humanity lost, the severing of connections in the fetishisation of the material – an absence, rather than a presence, a dark jewel, which, when observed against the light, shows no reflection. [read more]
It nourished me like a long-lost lover, a soul-mate found when all hope is lost, but it left me pining for a certain perfection in life that is impossible to conjure, a dark fairy-tale with a happy ending... An illusion of the light. [read more]
What I reckon the aftermath of Oscars 2018 will be is what I see every day - the sheer hypocrisy of an industry built on appearances will soak in all the good intentions, appropriate the sentiments, and pretty much do the same thing as always - profit, pander and exclude. But it will have a dent in its side, a vulnerability in its veneer - a slightly less relaxed attitude about being called out for what it does every day. Precisely. [read more]
A love story for narcissists, deceptively tender to the touch, an exquisite cashmere cardigan concealing its cold, cold heart. [read more]
Take two of Berlinale is that, organisationally, it is a festival of extremes. Gliding between its seamlessly sewn edges, sometimes one gets the forgotten sharp pin. [read more]
Social exclusion has many faces, the most obvious ones are the ones least discussed. For example, why is the audience cordoned off so that the performers and informers can pass by? Are they to serve the public, or to rule it? If they say they are inviting you in, walk in. See what happens. [read more]
Shifts the eternal war between sexes in one tiny scene - explaining, in what is essentially a high standard courtroom drama, something preciously true, if you know where to look.
A glossy millennial ghost story that wants to take itself seriously and not seriously at the same time. But I did dig its soul. [read more]
Saying NO to the devil after walking through the valley of the shadow of death for two hours should get a bit more love.
Frances McDormand is an Old Testament act of God in Three Billboards, all wrath and unrelenting righteousness, avenger of womanhood desecrated, mother archangel of lost causes. [read more]
This should have been a masterpiece. It has it in its genes. But it's not. Because it was rushed. No one gets away with bullying the muse. [read more]
There's great heart in Margot Robbie taking on a national joke, a second-hand villain, and turning her into a quiet hero, in all her vulnerable garishness, her terrier posture, her awkward dignity. [read more]
Lola On Film is designed to deconstruct the spectacle, measure empty calories, offer nutritional insights on films newly released, as well as archival treasures, assess the state of contemporary film culture, explore new formats, and hopefully, illuminate cinema's place in society, as well as in our individual psychology. To follow Lola On Film, please enter your email address below, and press subscribe. [read more]