2019 Film Reviews – 57: Joker [dir. Todd Phillips; 2019]

There is an almost palpable truth at the core of Joaquin Phoenix’s detailed, jittery, utterly mesmeric central performance in Joker — an account of the ‘birth’ of Batman’s arch-nemesis, set in a New York heavily influenced by Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and King Of Comedy. Refusing to fall into any potential genre traps, Phoenix plays the increasingly unwell and put-upon Arthur Fleck with what feels like … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 57: Joker [dir. Todd Phillips; 2019]

2019 Film Reviews – 56: For Sama [dir. Waad al-Kateab & Edward Watts; 2019]

There are many moments during For Sama – a first-person documentary account of the recent history of Syria, with a particular focus on the siege of Aleppo – when you feel you have no right to be watching the events portrayed on screen. The intimacy is almost overwhelming – the unflinching portrayal of horror, of death, of birth, love, betrayal, anguish, the bravery (or folly? … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 56: For Sama [dir. Waad al-Kateab & Edward Watts; 2019]

2019 Film Reviews – 55: Live Flesh [dir. Pedro Almodóvar; 1997]

It’s interesting to revisit Live Flesh now that we have enough perspective to see it as representative of the middle phase of Almodóvar‘s career: it mostly dispenses with the high camp of the likes of Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, yet it possesses a quirkiness that sets it apart from the man’s recent, quieter fare, such as Pain & Glory and Julieta. … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 55: Live Flesh [dir. Pedro Almodóvar; 1997]

2019 Film Reviews – 54: The Souvenir [dir. Joanna Hogg; 2019]

The stars aligned when Joanna Hogg made Archipelago: her 2010 examination of a middle class family’s oh-so-politely angst-fuelled holiday on the Scilly Isles. With a deceptively simple, unforced style, she allowed her characters to reveal themselves in slow, carefully-charted steps, never over-emphasising any particular incidents or slipping into navel-gazing. Sadly, I can’t say the same is true of The Souvenir, although I gather many critics … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 54: The Souvenir [dir. Joanna Hogg; 2019]

2019 Film Reviews – 53: Pain & Glory [dir. Pedro Almodóvar; 2019]

It’s a testament to Almodóvar’s skills as a storyteller – and to the trust he places in his team – that one of the most memorable sequences in Pain & Glory was written a mere day before it was filmed, in response to the director seeing how a particular actress played her character. The scene in question – wherein Antonio Banderas’ frustrated movie-maker confronts his … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 53: Pain & Glory [dir. Pedro Almodóvar; 2019]

2019 Film Reviews – 52: Persepolis [dir. Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi; 2007]

Using high-contrast, non-photo-real, black-and-white animation to tell the story of a young woman growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution may not seem like an obvious artistic choice to make, and yet it works. Beautifully. With charm, wit and a commendable refusal to allow even the most horrific events to be presented sentimentally, Paronnaud and Satrapi’s episodic tale (based on the latter’s … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 52: Persepolis [dir. Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi; 2007]

2019 Film Reviews – 51: Embrace Of The Serpent [dir. Ciro Guerra; 2015]

Returning after a few years to a film with which you were originally impressed is always an interesting experience, not least because it gives you a chance to test your memory of it. In the case of Embrace Of The Serpent – Ciro Guerra’s account of a couple of explorers undertaking a dangerous journey along the Amazon in different time periods – I found myself … Continue reading 2019 Film Reviews – 51: Embrace Of The Serpent [dir. Ciro Guerra; 2015]