Goodbye, fair friends

I’ve emigrated over to the dark side. That dirty underworld known as WordPress.

Really happy with the new look, plus I’ve started doing audio reviews. Have a gander: HERE.

106: Twixt (3D)

Twixt is quite possibly the worst and most peculiar film I caught at this year’s CPH:PIX festival. Surprising really, considering that it is the demented brainchild of the man who brought us The Godfather: Part 2.

Opening with ominous road shots of somewhere suburbia, we are nestled in with the welcome presence of Tom Waits doing a classically cryptic narration prologue. Maybe it’s just his brilliantly eerie ways, but Twixt has a confident, borderline arrogant opening which quite lovingly takes us on a rickety B-movie ride. Five minutes in, Waits has disappeared, the gloriously cliche TV movie charm seems to fade and it’s clear that Twixt is going to be a somewhat torturous affair. In 3D. 

Adorning a questionable ponytail and a familiarly square face, Val Kilmer stars as the ‘bargain basement’ Stephen King novelist Hall Baltimore. Touring up and down the country to promote his new, tweeny vampire thriller, he stumbles upon a real life murder mystery. After some intoxicated hallucinations with his literary hero Edgar Allan Poe (Ben Chaplin), Hall decides to stick around in the small town town and crack the case with the assistance of sheriff and aspiring fiction writer Bobby LaRange (Bruce Dern). 

Not just complacently unoriginal, the story is limp and one-dimensional. Without any sunglass supercuts, Val Kilmer spends the duration of the film wandering around the ominous woodlands looking for the murderer at large. The nowhere-pacing gives it the tautly packaged stylistic and cerebral quality of an RPG video game, like 1999’s Shenmue for the Sega Dreamcast, infamous for being the most boring game ever created. Twixt's roaming premise soon becomes a car crash when the presentation of the story is so matter-of-factly portrayed and devoid of tension that we are unable to muster any enthusiasm for this needy, pathetic character. Again, just like Shenmue.

Even worse is that Coppola seems to be aware of the fact. Dragging his knuckles and the film along with a threadbare narrative, retro-fitted 3D technology is latched on to two of the scenes, purely for saleable gimmick’s sake. Even if the stereoscopy is fleeting, it cements the film as being nothing more than a lazy, zeitgeist spectacle of modern times.

In trying to appease the masses, Coppola fails to entertain anyone. Not complex or adult enough for older audiences, not emotively gripping or accessible enough for younger crowds, on all levels, Twixt is equally tedious for all walks of life.


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105: Carré Blanc (2011)

Where would we all be without George Orwell’s pioneering Nineteen Eighty-Four novel? Well, we wouldn’t have that Apple advert, the Big Brother franchise, that Jam song, inescapable governmental surveillance…the list goes on. Along with Huxley’s Brave New World, it’s probably the most thematically significant and influential novels ever. Timelessly looking forward to a woeful future that is ever increasingly swirling in with the present. Oh hi, dystopia!

Jean-Baptiste Léonetti’s debut feature Carré Blanc has Orwell-light written all over it. Set in a indeterminable location and time, protagonist Philippe is a product of an unknown oppressive Capitol. Left as an orphan after his mother’s suicide, he is moulded into a ‘productive citizen’ of the state, a quotidian example of decorum, grace and unquestionable authority. Working as an employer for the totalitarian regime, Philippe struggles to see eye-to-eye with his doubting wife Marie who is desperate for the pair to break free from the ball and chain society, at whatever cost.

The Happy Couple

Elliptically assembled, Léonetti doesn’t bother too much with explanation nor plot drive. Instead, the filmmaker is committed to aesthetically crafting a world which blends the harsh and light dimensions of the sci-fi thriller with the greys of the existential avant-garde. The result is stunning, with organically subversive cinematography from David Nissen. Not forgetting the emotively vacuumed sound from composer Evgueni Galperine (who also worked on The Hunger Games, I’ll have you know).

So, Léonetti has the form of dystopia down, but what of the scathing satirical critique that goes along with it? This is the film’s problem. Although it may have the ability to bejewel our ears and eyes, and tips its hat to black Haneke-humor in places, Carré Blanc doesn’t actually have a lot to say, shout, or even mutter. Clocking in at a meagre seventy-seven minutes, the lack of substance is quickly forgotten, as are some of the film’s certifiably nutty moments.

Although it might not be a futurist classic, Carré Blanc is a defiantly confident and rewarding debut from an auteur in the making.


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104: Terri (2012)

Nominated for the prestigious grand dury prize at last year’s Sundance, Azazel Jacob’s Terri is a refreshingly candid take on teenage angst and irreverence to and in society.

The Terri in question is a middle-American school kid. When not caring for his surrogate parent and sick uncle, Terri spends his time teasing birds of prey in the woods and meandering in and out of high school classrooms dressed only in pyjamas;  undoubtedly becoming the brunt of the jock’s jabs, and going unnoticed by his class peers. As if life wasn’t enough of a burden for the adolescent, he is also alarmingly overweight, living on a steady diet of uncle Creed’s specialty - beans on toast. Super yums. 

His vast screen appearance virtually unavoidable, Jacob and screenplay writer Patrick Dewitt don’t rely on lazy stereotypes to garner our attention. Fortunately, Terri is neither a larger than life chubby funster, nor tormented binge eater. Terri is just Terri - a disenchanted high school kid that has difficulty connecting with anyone willing to step into his world. Sound familiar? Most probably, we’ve all been there.

The biggest (in all senses of the word) achievement one could grant Terri is the discovery of star Jacob Wysocki. Although his take on an overweight teenager might not be such a testing role on a purely superficial level, Wysocki embodies all tropes of the difficult character, living as an adolescent in real time whilst also adorning a level of wisdom and insight reserved for someone of more senior stature.

The good performances don’t stop there. Taking a break from Brule’s Rules awesomeness, John C. Reilly is relatable earnest as Terri’s assistant principal and only real friend Mr Fitzgerald. Befriending the larger than life misfit, their relationship is pleasantly refreshing; illustrating that being conventionally unconventional isn’t limited to snooty yoofs.

Not quite dramatic enough for some, and certainly not out and out comedic, Terri slots nicely into the burgeoning niche genre of ‘dramedy’ coming out of the mumble core America. Indie through and through, the film suffers from thematic dropouts and travels at  a snail-pace. If you have the patience to sit through all that, Terri reveals itself to be a delicately crafted and lightweight exemplar of journal filmmaking.


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103: Shelter (2010)

Hollywood’s favourite ginger superstar Julianne Moore stars in this box office flop-thriller which attempts to blend the realms of science and psychiatry with organised religion. The result is horrific, but for all the wrong reasons.

What happens when front-running, pious psychiatrist Cara Harding (Moore) starts delving into the complexities of a multiple-personality patient named David, or Adam….or Wesley…or someone else? You’ve got it, confusion.

Regardless of the unfathomable plot line and holes, Shelter’s biggest problem is that it’s virtually unclassifiable. Awkwardly blending supernatural horror trips, weighty religion vs. science debate and wafer-thin psychological thriller cliches, it manages to be unique but desperately formulaic and banal simultaneously.

Written by the man who brought us the enjoyable, bumper-casted Identity back in 2003, stepping into Michael Cooney’s psychosis ward for the second time isn’t all that rewarding. Unlike the 2003 film, Shelter carries the burden of religion heavily on it’s schizoid-shoulders, uncomfortably presenting that a devotion in god is the only way to conquer grievance, save lives and stop the bad guy(s).

As expected, Moore does a great job with the pony dialogue. Even more predictable is Jonathan Rhys Meyers putting in not one, but four terrible performances as the psychoanalytical subject in question.

Low on plot, shocks or anything else, the stale Shelter is destined to trawl through the multiple Sky Movies TV channels for the following six months desperately crying out for hundred minutes of your hard earned time. Just like religion, just say no.


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102: The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

Loosely adapted from the post-wartime Rattigan play, Terence Davies has another stab at the complexities of love, loss and contempt.

Carrying the heritage cinema baton on behalf of Good Ol’ Blighty, darling director Terence Davies has developed somewhat of a cult following across the globe; creating films which are unabashedly drenched in nostalgia and blitz-period romanticism. Such devotion is remarkable, not only because his films represent depressive themes, but also consider he has only realised five feature films in a career spanning three decades.

Stepping out behind his reclusive life, The Deep Blue Sea is Davies’ first feature film in over ten years. Is it the sea change, Gay Niggers from Outer Space sequel we’ve been crying out for him to make? Of course not. Instead, Davies continues onward through familiar means; tugging on the same old heart strings as usual.

Living passively in a passionless marriage, Hess (Rachel Weisz) gives up being the trophy wife of a high court judge (Simon Russell Beale) to pursue a new life with her fornicator, the hot-headed RAF pilot Freddie (Tom Hiddleston). Underestimating her fall in class, and overestimating Freddie’s love for her, Hess struggles to keep her hair perfectly coiffed, her smile still gleaming, and her sanity still in tow.

Even with such a conventional, melodramatic storyline, Weisz is nothing short of magnificent in the central role. As the film progresses, her rendition of Hess’ vulnerability and digression is almost palpable, creating unequivocal sympathy for a character that could have otherwise been considered trite. Hiddleston too carries the burden of this weightily emotional rollercoaster with his take on the stark, stalwart Freddie, a man fractured out of love by the harsh realities of war. Currently entertaining multiplex cinema audiences with his lauded take on supervillain Loki in Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, Hiddleston is proving himself to be one of Britain’s finest actor exports, with a dazzlingly bright future.

But back to our old friend Terence Davies, although he has the ability to muster up astonishing performances from his actors, his education as a director seems to be falling short. Although The Deep Blue Sea is an emotive viewing experience, it isn’t necessarily an enjoyable one. Very loosely adapted from Terence Rattigan’s 1952 stage play, Davies has failed to bring the pioneering British playwright’s rich grasp of vernacular to the film, resulting with fuddled dialogue and sluggish pacing. A few minor moments from Hess’ landlady aside (played by the ever-fabulous Ann Mitchell, the film is virtually devoid from any form of stiff-upper-lip post-Great Depression humor, which the storyline so gravely calls out for.

Narrative and thematic issues aside, one can not help but consider just how out of touch Terence Davies is within British society. Although his work as director may be less than prolific, his films have always been distinguished by their usage of a vintage aesthetic shtick. Although petticoats, excessively smoky parlors and Vera Lynn singalongs can be fun once in a while, it would be interesting if Terence Davies could use the medium for advancement of society and new audiences, not oppressive back-paddling.

After a long wait Terence Davies is back at his miserable best, portraying the irrationality of the human condition and its limits. A film that plays into the hands of critics, rather than the general, popcorn chomping public, it is nevertheless difficult to be ignored.


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Ever so big. Don’t forget to fondle the funk. 

This has to be the best thing I’ve seen/heard all year. Goodnight now.

101: The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Screened at the Danish Film Institute for the CPH:PIX film festival’s Banned in Denmark series, 1955’s The Night of the Hunter is a notorious, cruelly forgotten gem of post-war American cinema. Although Scandimanians are the most liberal, loushous people world over, they deemed this gore-less film too fearsome to sit through. Over sixty years on, the dark subject matter and menacing central performance from underrated Hollywood powerhouse Robert Mitchum is still electrifying today.

Based on the pulp novel from Davis Grubb, an unhinged and obsessively pious man marries a grieving widow only to find out where her children are hiding a $10,000 booty left by their imprisoned, criminal father. As his first and only time in the director’s seat, Charles Laughton creates a film that is remarkable even by today’s standards; controversially questioning the ever-important issue of piety and oppressive dominance that the church can obtain over society.

Stylistically, Laughton adopts german expressionism, surreal shadows and emotive score from Walter Schumann, Laughton generates great tension and anxiety which looms throughout the film, and over the head of Harry Powell, played expertly by Mitchum. As one of Hollywood’s nonchalant bad-boys, Mitchum is a formidable, yet enthralling screen presence. Adorning a devilish grin and cool composure, he manages to create one of cinema’s most captivating anti-heroes.

Somewhat expectedly for a hastily completed studio film of the bygone golden era, The Night of the Hunter has its fair share of problems. Although Laughton’s artistic flare is ever-present, his ability to self-edit and push a story along hits several bumps, with the film presenting four different endings and Powell being virtually indestructible. Unsurprisingly an influence on John Carpenter’s paragonic Halloween and Michael Myers character, regardless of what you throw at zombified Powell, he always seems to haunt, taunt, and trick the money-laundering children.

Elsewhere, TNotH has several outdated and overtly melodramatic performances, particularly from audacious Hollywood starlet Shelley Winters as the fragile mother and flamboyant Lillian Gish as her snooping employer. Worst of all is the unsatisfying (final) closing moments, which are trite and gloss over the character complexities Laughton has delicately displayed.

But all these criticisms are essentially footnotes to a film which is often heralded as a eternal classic. Idiosyncratically combining horrific and blackly humorous elements, this is a cult American artefact which should never be forgotten. Pick it up wherever you can, just be on guard, you never know where the ghost of Mitchum’s past could be lurking. Dude knows his way around.


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100: The Raid: Redemption (2011)

One hundred films so far this year. How do I feel? Fucking exhausted. Oh well, only another three quarters of the year to go, right? My, my, that’s a lot of popcorn.

Continuing my coverage of the excellent CPH:PIX film festival, I decided to get away from all the artsy fartsy indie stuff and see one hundred minutes of unabatedly gruesome, martial arts action from Indonesia.

Written and directed somewhat surprisingly by Welshman Gareth Evans, The Raid has the most elementary story of any film I’ve seen all year. In a nutshell, a police force invade a drug lord’s headquarters. Fists are thrown, guns are blown, almost everyone dies. Move along, nothing else to see here.

Although it might not reach the cumbersome body count of Stallone’s 2008 rehash Rambo (236 deaths, if you’re asking), The Raid can’t be too far off with the death toll. Luckily enough, it seems that the general population of Indonesia are all experts in extreme martial arts - it’s probably in the school curriculum - meaning that the action comes in thick, fast, and bruises like a peach. So much so that halfway through the film, with wafer light dialogue, it all becomes a bit banal, making even the biggest fan of the formulaic genre switch off. 

Sitting in a packed city cinema, I was surprised just how comical the 100% penis-adorning audience found the film. Although martial arts movies are brutal in subject matter, the battles are always so meticulously choreographed that they never usually border the fringes of shock-horror. However, with Evans deciding to make the action as graphic as possible, the increasingly ludicrous deaths are presented in a eerily comic light. Perhaps an example of Evans’ being able to rethink the tired genre, or maybe it’s incessant, mindless violence. Either way, this Glamorgan filmmaker looks set to be a prominent figure in this fighting field.

Anyway, I’m off to taekwondo classes now. This week we’re learning how to do this.


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099: Keyhole (2011)

I’ll come right out and say it from the off - I am somewhat of a Guy Maddin film-virgin. Known from a distance as ‘the Canadian David Lynch’, I’ve always been nervous about where best to launch into his monochromatic world. But hey, I’m at CPH:PIX and his first ever stab at fiction features is on, so I’d be silly not too, right? 

Endlessly perplexing, Keyhole is a loose adaptation of various greek tragedies, but with a noir edge. Ulysses (Jason Patric) is a charming gangster who returns home after rescuing young girl Denny (Brooke Pallson) from drowning. Filling the ground floor of his manse are his languid mobster cronies who drink, sleep and lust the night away whilst on lookout for the cops. Out of the parlor and into the hallway roams the rest of the houses’ reluctant inhabitants, namely some scantily clad or birthday suit-wearing poltergeists. Forcing his way past/through the ghosts that haunt him, Ulysses, along with the aid of Denny and his bound and gagged son Manners, trail around the house trying to pry open all the locked doors. Confronting his shrouded past and wife-in-hiding Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini) lurking within.

As if the afore mentioned story outline wasn’t telling enough, suffice to say that Keyhole is an absolute nut-bar of a film. It’s also a labour of love, with its influences spanning both literary and filmic tropes. Homerically grandiose, Beckett absurdity, Dali surrealism and Lynch’s ‘crazy clown time’ bewitchment – it’s all on show here, along with a fond take on the classic film noir productions of post-wartime Hollywood. Invoking the new ‘cinema of nostalgia’ term, which is constantly being thrown about (thanks to The Artist, of course), the stylistic and thematic fields with which Maddin immerses himself in don’t have a gimmicky, retro feel. Instead it’s completely organic, even if totally bonkers. And, by Jove, there’s a lot of bizarro moments; the ghost of Ulysses’ ball and chained father performing fellatio on a dusty, wall-mounted wooden penis, for example.

Although Maddin’s world is sincere, it’s not totally convincing nor does it make for a totally enjoyable film experience. Suffice to say, being strange and allegorically opaque doesn’t necessarily equate to successful filmmaking. Like some of Lynch’s work (although advocates wouldn’t like to admit it), Maddin has the tendency to throw everything onto the screen, hoping that at least half of it will stick. The result is muddy, and even some of the lovingly crafted lunacy is strained.

A phantasmagoric odyssey about attempting to rekindle a forgotten corrupted history, even as his first fiction feature, Keyhole is another personal work from Maddin. Forcing us to peek through into the dark hidden depths of the cult director’s cerebrum, even if we’re reluctant to do so.


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098: Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)

This debut from Canadian-Greek director Cosmatos is an incoherent, puzzling and astounding cinematic equivalent to tripping balls.

Using 35mm film, oversaturated coloring and a sinister synth soundtrack (from Black Mountain/Sinoia Caves dude Jeremy Schmidt, no less), at first glance, Beyond the Black Rainbow feels like it could have been lifted straight from the b-movie golden age. With over three years in production with only a limited one million dollar budget, Cosmatos’ labour of love adopts an amalgamation aesthetic. Blending Argento’s colour palette with Kubrick’s 2001 set design, Tarkovsky pacing and allegory, along with a smidge of Cronenberg lunacy. Instead of just paying homage to these lauded figures or relying on imitation, Cosmatos wears these influences on his sleeve and in turn creates something familiar yet completely fresh and inspired.

Set in a futurist 1986, Elena (Eva Allan) is a patient-cum-prisoner at a psychosis commune called Arboria. Heavily sedated, the brainwashed young prisoner desperately tries to escape the clutches of the clinic and its domineering patriarch, the demented ‘doctor’ Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers).

That’s about as far as the plot stretches for BtBR. Instead of being narrative driven, Cosmatos’ film is a cinephile’s take on psychedelia, minus the colour swirls and bad music. Meddling the line between reality and nightmare, the result is enthralling and organic, coming from the cerebrum of a self-confessed doobie brother (and the rest).

That’s not to say the film is overzealous mind. Cosmatos has his tongue forced firmly in his cheek, with the sparse dialogue being incongruously comic to the eerie visuals, particularly with Rogers’ authoritative character. Looking like a wig-wearing, unhealthy Christian Bale; his icy demeanor and doctor spiel is both terrifying and hilarious in equal measure.

Back on the drugs, BtBR is the perfect antidote to the trite free love, flower-power shtick. Menacing, uncomfortable and none more black, Cosmatos bridges a relationship between the audience and Elena who, even without muttering a single word, drives the film’s chillingly slow pace along, crawling around and longing for escape the asylum.

Coming from underrated film stock (his father is First Blood: Part 2 & Tombstone director George Cosmatos), the director clearly has an eye and ear for what works on the big screen. Although there is a bit of a seachange in the closing fifteen minutes where Cosmatos quite desperately attempts to tie up thematic loose ends, BtBR is a wholly hypnotic experience; sending you into a trance that is difficult to shake long after the gloriously trashy credits roll.

Refreshing the auteur style eighties b-movie which quite unabashedly merits style over substance, Beyond the Black Rainbow may be prove that, once again, the lunatics are taking over the asylum, with Cosmatos leading the pack. Totally bonkers and totally blissful. Watch the trailer here and prepare to go apeshit.


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097: The Invader (L’envahisseur) (2011)

It all starts with a close up of a pussy, labia and all. Nicolas Provost’s notorious opening for The Invader suggests that the next ninety minutes of film will be daring, defiant, and a trifle pretentious. Strap in.

After establishing his interest in genitalia, first-time, Belgian director Provost moves his lens onto two black men – one of whom is the domineering presence of Amadou (Isaka Sawadogo) - who both unwelcomingly wash up on the white nudist’s shore. Barebacked and breathless, Amadou looks deep into the eyes of afraid, but curious, Mrs Lady Tuppence. Escaping the turmoil of his indeterminable homeland and arriving in this new, alluring location, he is an unwelcome, perpetual outsider from the outset.

Loosely and stylistically formed, The Invader is a singular, existential drama about disenchantment with and in a metropolitan society. Moving off of the beach, illegal African immigrant Amadou struggles to find happiness in the cold harsh realities of Brussels. Sleeping on street corners and wandering aimlessly, he becomes besotted with beautiful art dealer Agnes (Stefania Rocca). Sparking up a conversation and a fleeting romance, the charming diamond in the rough Amadou is crushed when she stops returning his advances. Emotionally shattered and physically languid, he starts loosing grip of his life and alien surroundings right in front of our eyes; going to extreme lengths to win back her interest and that short lived sense of belonging.

Even with the harmonious pairing of Frank van den Eeden’s sumptuous cinematography and the beautifully menacing score from the Galperine brothers, the real star of the film is ‘The Invader’ himself. Good-looking, Burkina Faso born Isaka Sawadogo is a magnetic force on screen. Omnipresent throughout, he forms a character that is beyond good and evil, unsettling the audience who are unsure whether they are supposed to feel empathy or fear, or something else entirely for this flawed primal figure. From good-natured dreamer to unpredictable anti-hero, Amadou is simultaneously familiar and perplexing, but always enthralling.

Aside from being an art-house audience’s wet dream, Provost tackles familiar political themes of race relations and immigration. Not relying on trite filmic stereotypes, Amadou is presented as a strong, confident character, refusing to be ranked with the subordinated asylum seekers that make up the cities’ voiceless underclass. This rebelliousness makes Amadou a vicariously familiar character; adopting common problems of self worth and purpose that we all have to endure. Gaining our trust and attachment, it makes Amadou’s extreme actions feel all the more horrific and shocking.

With a name like The Invader, one expects the film to play out like a vigorous drama/thriller. Instead, visual artist Provost’s idiosyncratic debut feature unfurls like a solemn and reticent poem. Although the sparse story and pacing may be a chore for some, if you stick with it, The Invader proves itself to be an intrepid and impressive watch, which plucks on all the heartstrings and questions society’s hostility towards the other. 

Nominated for CPH:PIX’s New Talent Grand Pix award and set for indie distribution across Europe, with or without the fannies, Provost looks like a director that is destined for a bright future.


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096: Michael (2011)

Using the notorious news stories from his Austrian homeland as an impetus, Schleinzer creates a miasmatic film which domesticates the barbaric themes of human captivity and pedophilia; delicately tightroping between social commentary and exploitation.

Antagonist Michael is a balding, boring loner. Selling insurance by day, by night he returns home to his concrete block home and the 10 year old boy Wolfgang he keeps locked in the basement. Together they prepare dinner, do the dishes, and watch TV, all before Michael’s uncontrollable sexual impulses take over. 

Letting up on a profitable day job as a casting director for the likes of Haneke and Siedl, Michael is Markus Schleinzer’s first in the director’s chair. Unsurprisingly, his ability to find good actors for difficult central roles doesn’t let up here, with the eerily omnipresent but nondescript Michael Fuith in the difficult titular role, and David Rachenbauger as his young prisoner Wolfgang. The performances are discomfortingly fantastic, so much so that one can imagine it’ll be hard for the pair to ever shake off their involvement in this film with later work.

Michael is the antithesis of that infamous, superfluous character Humbert Humbert, from Nabokov’s Lolita. Instead of grandiose, deluded and over sensitised, Michael is a dullard, never giving us respite to his emotionally vapid exterior, as well as no skewed reasoning for his sadistic acts. Such a passive demeanour carries throughout the ninety minutes we have to endure. 

Thankfully withdrawing from extreme shock tactics and only ever implying the sexual acts occurring between the two, Schleinzer makes the egregious subject matter all the more terrifying and controversial by presenting it as clinically and borderline blasé. 

In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, Michael takes Wolfgang on a trip into the woods. Clutching the child’s back like a figurative ball and chain, the two walk passed another boy with a domineering adult figure alongside him. Although we initially assume this is a simple picture of a father and son enjoying a pleasant day out in the wild, the sadistic world Schleinzer creates makes us start to question the fidelity of the picture.

Unlike Lanthimos’ excellent Dogtooth, Schleinzer tries so desperately to normalise and satirise pedophilia and internment, that it becomes rather boring to watch in the process. Cold and acquiescent throughout, even the immeasurably tense closing scene doesn’t save Michael from being an insipid take on the omnipresent societal issue.


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095: Keep the Lights On (2012)

The new film from American director Ira Sachs is a sparsely scripted, simple take on love, loss, and addiction.

Erik (played by up and coming ‘Copenhagenite’ Thure Lindhardt) is a Danish documentary filmmaker with committal issues. After several promiscuous endeavours, he lands himself on the door step of his soul mate, the newly outed Paul (Zachary Booth, who was also in Dark Horse a couple of reviews back). Over the case of nine years, all played out in fluttering episodes, we see their turbulent relationship bloom, wilt and reinvigorate. 

Ira Sachs has always been a problematic filmmaker for me. Whether it’s Sundance winner Forty Shades of Blue or his failed shot at the indie big time with 2007’s Married Life, it felt like the biggest fan of Sachs’ films had been himself. Muddled, mumbled, and sluggish, the films are presented with an unmerited ostentatious streak which one has begrudgingly come to expect from a NY, upstate indie bod. Now into his fifth feature, Sachs’ decides to cut the crap with Keep the Lights On, a cathartic creation which centres around his own experiences within a drug-fuelled gay relationship and his inability to let go.

Although certainly more mature than his previous work, this personal film is testament to Ira Sachs being one of the most sombre, humourless directors in America today. Focusing so desperately on making Paul and Erik’s passionate relationship natural, and missing the rife potential for comic relief in the process.

Told predominately through Ira’s own eyes, i.e. Erik’s, the partisanship disables us to devote the strong emotional attachment which the characters are so longingly craving. Furthermore, aside from the graphic but graciously shot sex scenes and one surprise birthday party cliché, Sachs never really lets us see the relationship at the peak of it’s adoration and love. Instead, all the grimness is thrown at the walls with Paul going astray on drug binges and Erik wandering the streets like a little lost, camp puppy. The sorrow result is certainly affecting on the audience, but perhaps too incessant for some.


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PS - Say what you like about the film, but there’s a flipping marvellous use of Arthur Russell in the soundtrack. Gotta love that guy.