Kelly Reichardt meets Richard Linklater in Harry Macqueen’s blessed debut ‘Hinterland’

Hinterland film stillDirector: Harry Macqueen
Original Title: Hinterland
Country of Production: United Kingdom

British ultra-low budget independent film is firmly back on the map with a stroke of the near impossible landing itself on big screens across the country. The stroke of this impossibility is achieving what Harry Macqueen has just shown by producing, writing, directing and starring in his own work: a mature and heart capturing piece of drama. Forgetting the thorny logistics of low-budget film production and inevitable few blemishes that struggle to hide themselves, the film stands alone as an incredibly well thought out and paced exploration of friendship and undiscovered love. It is lyrical and enchanting every step of the way. The few imperfections only serve to bolster the quality of this tender portrait that inherently blurs the cinematic boundaries and makes for a truly singular indie outing.

Harvey (Harry Macqueen) picks up his old friend Lola (Lori Campbell) from a pals burnt out apartment and sets forth on a road trip in the old reg. handed down from the parents. Cornwall is the destination and warm Dartmoor ponies, cliff-top panoramas, and melodies around the fire are just some of the delights that await the couple. However, a couple they are not to be even if such thoughts riddle under the surface. What plays out is a wonderful exposition of a beautiful friendship occurring between two members of the opposite sex.

Harvey and Lola enjoy each others company and are visibly in need of one another, but their agendas, and means of searching for something in life that seems to be missing, emerge as slightly quailed. The truth might be that even if they were so fortunate as to open their arms in love, the complications of being in your twenties and finding one’s grounding in a strange world would quickly offset things. It creates a complex of existential angst that can be felt in the running commentary of what feels like a critique of the new generation, the ennui and complexity that we have been left to face. However, such ideas are never forced in the film and given ample space for reflection.

Nostalgia beams from nearly every interaction in this film. In particular, Harvey looks to spend a great deal of time in a state of intense reflection. Scenes will fall off and be carried in a different direction by dialogue that arguably is too well intended for its own good. It’s as if we are overhearing a real conversation, yet cinema has a spell of rendering such realism superficial. Drama needs some drama, to speak in too simpler terms. I can’t articulate an answer for this explanation, as it would need to involve a dissertation on the art of the actor in some way or another! As evidence from this writing, one can take this film any which way. The beauty of such effortless moments is that there can be no definite answer to what a character believes or is thinking at any given time. We don’t all possess the skillset of a wizard like Darren Brown. In a film like Hinterland, you decide how to imagine.

 4/5

 

Love – joyous, playful, tearful, fearful and deeply melancholic filmmaking

LOVEDirector: Gaspar Noé
Original Title: Love
Country of Production: France

The first thing to note about this film is its 3D format. I hate 3D. However, I am biased towards my distaste due to 3D’s primary association with blockbuster spectacles, but after witnessing a burning love story on the 3D plane, I can only succumb to complete fascination.

A love story for Gaspar Noé is a story of overflowing passions, plenty of sex and affinities of addiction. It is also a story about Noé, filled with his philosophies on life and the special ingredient of love – love is clearly the meaning behind many of life’s prospects. Not to mention, for a bit of riotous dramatic irony, the newly born baby of Murphy carefully named Gaspar and the ex-lover of Electra also named Noé, the owner of a famed art gallery.

The film plays like a masterclass in the thought of its auteur. Electra replies to Murphy’s question, “what is the meaning of life?” with the simple answer, “love”. The film is a treatise of love and perhaps a nostalgic love that not all of us are familiar with. Love is different in every circumstance, an attribute that makes love the complex sensation that it seeks to be. Love is the foundation of our desires and heartaches as emotional human beings; no one learns these lessons harder than the character of Murphy.

There is rarely a brighter side to the films of Noé. His films swelter under a lantern of scorched memories, split grief and sunken yearnings of the human soul. On this dark side is arguably where we can find life’s most beautiful moments, at least that is what Noé’s Love attempts to achieve. Watching this film you may cry and lust over the images before being held in a state of far-reaching intoxication, unsure of all predispositions in the mediation of the cinematic image. Those magical moments of first love and the first night with a new partner are overwhelmed by the futilities of life’s needs and complications. The expression is bountiful and sticks to one like the pain of an ingrown ulcer.

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The first criticism of this film will be without fail the sexual content. This is unfortunate, as previously articulated, the film is far more than a sexual meeting. Why is the sex important? Sex is natural and so very natural to any loving encounter. Noé clearly sees no reason not to indulge in the fantasies of a young couple, in what is an honest attempt at the intricacies of the sexual relationship amidst the hunger of love. These scenes can be explicit on the eye, but they are without doubt the most thoughtfully and breathtakingly crafted sex scenes I have ever had the pleasure to face.

Murphy himself is an aspiring film director and has his own philosophy on the medium that he wishes to share with Electra. Why has no one made a film of partners in love having explicit sex? Of course, the twofold irony of this is such that we are witness to Murphy’s own desires through Murphy himself. He also believes that blood, sperm and tears formulate the essence of life and can’t understand why movies don’t reflect this. These facets of the human certainly stand true to many manifestations, notably the tears pair with one’s outward suffering, the sperm with an essential private pleasure, and the blood as the component fuelling the interior toxins of life. We can expect an explosion of such fluids pumping across Love.

When a film has such a strong vision and an abundance of things to say, it is challenging to confine the art to a film review. It is no wonder the critics have had to dismiss the film as some form of talky soft porn; they won’t find the time to invest the thought that the film deserves. It’s as if the film spreads like a book and reads like Nietzsche or Kafka, perhaps Noé should write a novel or thesis on love instead. Yet, such lines are insults, the written word cannot reveal every frame a painting and expose moving actions stapled with the intelligence of a provocateur.

On a final note, do not be dispositional to images of a natural cause. There is no gratuitous violence in this film. Is the sex gratuitous? One could argue that sex cannot be so; it is a different category to violence and should be accepted as justified for a story that focuses on the trials of young love. Either way, I like to consider any well-dressed image that creates a memorable or thought-provoking experience as a worthwhile one. Our lives are made up of these memorable experiences; our memories stipulate what makes up a large part of our reality. This is where cinema excels again at proving to be such a powerful medium.

5/5

International sales by Wild Bunch. UK Premiere TBA by Artificial Eye distribution.

Enough Said – It is quietly brilliant

enough-said

MOVIE REVIEW

Enough Said
Likely Story, Fox Searchlight, US
93 Min
1.85:1
Release UK: 18th October 2013

DIR Nicole Holofcener
EXEC Chrisann Verges
PROD Stefanie Azpiazu, Anthony Bregman
SCR Nicole Holofcener
DP Xavier Pérez Grobet
CAST Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini, Toni Collette, Ben Falcone

This movie falls under the widely insufferable romantic comedy genre, yet it is so much more than that (otherwise this review simply would not exist). This film is a touching and wonderfully composed love story of a newly found middle-aged couple. Of course, there are various complications, but they are largely unforeseen. The writing is intelligent and the humour is pleasantly subtle and entertaining. Likewise, the social commentary is thoroughly engaging whilst being highly perceptive; this film almost becomes fascinating to watch.

The director, Nicole Holofcener, explores relationships in a mature and authentic manner providing a territory in a world that we wholly recognize. Enough Said is no exception, and may be her best work to date. This is held together by the two brilliant and fresh performances from James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Gandolfini retires from playing a hit man or a mobster and delivers a delicate performance of a middle-aged man (Albert) falling in love. Meanwhile, Louis-Dreyfus is utterly compelling as a middle-aged woman (Eva) who is unsure of a lot of things, including love. Albert and Eva are funny, smart and weary of the world around them. Therefore, they discover unexpected pleasure when they find themselves merging in a world where romance seems dead.

The scenes in which Albert and Eva get to know each other are delightful miniatures of emotional familiarity. They strike a cord; a cord that has clearly been twisted and bruised in the past, but has now sprung to life. They are on the same wavelength. It is joyful to watch.

Ultimately, this movie simmers down to a message of love: it shows us how rare love is and that we need to grab it and not let go.

4/5 stars

Watch the trailer below:

The Spectacular Now – Teenage Years of Wonder

the-spectacular-now-shailene-woodley-miles-teller

MOVIE REVIEW

The Spectacular Now
21 Laps Entertainment, US
95 Min
2.35:1
Release US: 13th September 2013

DIR James Ponsoldt
EXEC Scott Neustadter, Marc Shmuger, Michael H. Weber
PROD Michelle Krumm, Andrew Lauren, Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty
SCR Scott Neustadter, Tim Tharp, Michael H. Weber
DP Jess Hall
CAST Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller, Brie Larson, Kyle Chandler

This film is surprisingly powerful. You’d expect a love story on the big screen to be full of cringe worthy gimmicks, cheap sex scenes and ironic stupidity. On the contrary, here is a lovely film about two high-school teenagers who speak, behave and love like two real human beings. There’s a great deal of sentiment at work in this film, I mean this in a positive way. The story requires the two to make love, but it isn’t manipulative and the scene becomes one of the most beautiful ever put on film. The two are smart and arguably understand a great deal about life, yet they continue to make some unwise mistakes. They are on the verge of entering full-blown adulthood; they are both serious about life, despite certain efforts to conceal this to each other.

Sutter (Miles Teller), the boy, is living with his mum; his dad is a divisive case who left the family years back (a sub-plot that evolves effectively). Sutter is a cool kid, he struggles at school, and he is full of energy and social vivacity. One morning he wakes up sprawled on the lawn of a house he’s never seen before with a mighty hangover. This is the moment Sutter and Aimee (Shailene Woodley) meet. We are instantly greeted by a concerned and innocent look of a kind, real person – Aimee. They start talking and go for a stroll in search of Sutter’s car he managed to misplace the previous night. Aimee’s warm smile soon lures Sutter in and he is wide-awake, clearly enjoying an exchange he’s not used to.

The_Spectacular_Now

Aimee has never had a boyfriend before and Sutter isn’t really looking for a girlfriend, but the movie progresses and simply looks at these two characters in a naturalistic way as their relationship develops harmoniously. What makes this film so intriguing is that the couple don’t necessarily fall madly in love, they just strongly enjoy one another’s company.

The relationship reaches a stage where the two become engaged with aiding each other’s personal life. Aimee has a restrictive mum and Sutter has a dad he hasn’t seen in years. So, they agree on overcoming these obstacles together. Kyle Chandler brilliantly plays Sutter’s dad, he is a dad who just doesn’t care for his son. It is a very sad affair. Aimee is a strong character with a soft manner and Sutter is receptive to this. We see Sutter for the character he really is, a fractured teenager with the capacity for great love and a desire to accomplish life.

This film is far more than a coming of age tale; it is a breath of fresh air on teenage life and a portrait on the innocence and freedom of being young. It is fundamentally a love story of impartial measure. The message of this movie is that we are all living in The Spectacular Now, every moment that we live and breath, and we are all heading towards a life (and beyond) of wonder. What a beautiful film.

5/5 stars

Watch the trailer below:

A Beautiful Film, a Special Day, and the Perfect Cinema

carluccios

My girlfriend and I had a wonderful day out for our first year anniversary, which was to be concluded with a trip to the cinema after a romantic dinner (also a very large dinner!). We headed for the Everyman cinema, a luxurious and substantially expensive picture house. It was, frankly, the most enjoyable cinema experience I’ve ever had. This, of course, is due to a number of things: the film, the cinema seats (sofas!), the screen, the sound, the date, the wine, the milk and white chocolate raisins, the vintage posters (which I later discovered to be just wall paper) and even the toilets (where each cubicle had its own hand dryer, soap, towels, art and mirror!).

everyman_cinema

So, everything was flawlessly in place, the day had gone really well, but now my anxiety was hanging entirely on Richard Curtis’ new film About Time. It would either make me wince and cringe throughout and I just wouldn’t be able to grasp the films nature, or I would love it. I was sure my girlfriend would love it either way; after all it is the man behind such triumphs as Notting Hill and Love Actually.

About Time trailer - video

So, for the review… Richard Curtis is close to his best with About Time, although he’s said it will be his last film as director. Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), our protagonist, is an anxious minded 21 year old who yearns unsuccessfully for girls. On Tim’s 21st birthday his Father (Bill Nighy) reveals their bizarre family ability to travel back in time, which Tim soon learns to use countless times in order to overcome his generally embarrassing mistakes. However, in the end, it is clear that mistakes don’t matter anymore to Tim, as he falls in love with the charming Mary (Rachel McAdams) who he can feel totally comfortable and natural with. It is raised again, the question of what true love really feels like and Curtis has depicted this brilliantly through Tim.

On the Film 4 Programme Richard Curtis says he “Spends a lot of time worrying about things that don’t happen.” This shows through Tim’s character. The theme here is, therefore, to try to live our lives without the worry of achievement and what might happen (easier said than done!) – the time travel is symbolic of this; it acts as a safeguard to anxiety. Curtis wants us to act naturally and cherish everyday as though it’s our last.

Of course, the film is full of Richard Curtis elements – his style is impeccable. His vision on the world stays parallel, as a snug instrument netted with love. There is a tremendous depth to the characters who are all infused with Hugh Grant channeled sparkle and witty dialogue. We are also greeted, once again, with the white, middle-class, though a large part of the film is actually set outside of London, in Cornwall. This setting is a refreshing element to the script, but one can get tired with the way the loafing middle-class are represented. Curtis says, “You have to write about things you know about” to ultimately write well. Richard Curtis was brought up a middle-class citizen, but I’m sure by now he has enough life experience to probe outside this tapered package.

“The simple things emerge as the most important,” says Bill Nighy in an interview. This seems another reference to not overthinking foundations of life and maintaining clearly led relationships; relationships are the most important aspect of life. The principle relationships in the film (Tim and Mary, Tim and his Father) are frankly heart wrenching, but at the same time deeply warming and vital to all the characters in the film. Mark Kermode describes the film as “a big warm hug.”

So, in conclusion, step lightly into this film, accept Richard Curtis’s aptitude and enjoy it. It is a film to change your life. It’s one step further to understanding love. It’s one step further to forgiveness and approving your actions. Go and see it. Also, if you get the chance, check out the Everyman cinemas too!

My problematic rating system:

Entertainment – 5

Craft – 3

Intellect – 3

Originality – 4

Score – 15 out of 20

4 stars for About Time