Nocturnal Animals (2016)

0

nocturnalanimalposter

Director: Tom Ford

Stars: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson

This animal deserves to be seen in daylight

Tom Ford’s brilliant new thriller, ‘Nocturnal Animals’ had a release date primed just in time for Oscar season. When I first saw it, I was sure that it was going to get nominations for every major category because it deserved them. When the Golden Globes were announced I was surprised to see that it was only up for three gongs (Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor) despite all being deserved, I would’ve liked to have seen noms for Best Actor and Actress as well. Thankfully the BAFTA awards came and recognised the film’s fantastic efforts by nominating it in 8 categories. Surely that means that the Oscar noms will come flooding in? Apparently not as #NocturnalAnimals is up for one measly award for Michael Shannon as Best Supporting Actor.

nocturnal-animals-movie-review-2016-jake-gyllenhaal

Whilst I’m glad that Michael Shannon has finally been recognised for his sensational performance in the film, a film as visually gorgeous and stunningly complex as Nocturnal Animals really should be recognised for more awards. In my opinion it’s better than Best Picture nominees #Arrival and #Lion, more competently directed than Mel Gibson’s #HacksawRidge and has a screenplay more dazzling than any film nominated in the Best adapted screenplay category.

Let’s also not forget just how incredible the cast is. #AmyAdams always seemed to be Oscar-nominated but in the year when she pulled out not one, but two career-best performances (the other film being Arrival) the Academy completely snubs her. Her performance in Nocturnal Animals is so brilliantly subdued and intricate, she could’ve single-handedly stole the whole film if it wasn’t for the equally strong supporting cast. #JakeGyllenhaal can always be relied upon for giving a role his all and that’s exactly what he does here. Playing two characters (the author and the book’s character) Gyllenhaal is up for the task of playing two different characters, one a love-struck author and the other a weak father on the quest for vengeance which is no mean feat as seemingly both characters are different; however Gyllenhaal still has to stay true to his author character whilst in the role Edward Sheffield as he is essentially the author’s manifestation. Jake pulls it off exquisitely.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson rightly garnered a lot of recognition in his supporting role as the slimy villain of the story. The Kick-Ass star is often known in likable roles, however here Taylor-Johnson boasts his versatility by playing a vicious and animalistic character that you can’t help but hate. However, it’s the previously mention Michael Shannon who steals the show for me. He plays Bobby Andes, a stone-faced detective with a Southern drawl and a troubled past. He chews up just about every scene he’s in and still proves himself to be one of the very best actors of our generation.

nocturnal-animals

It isn’t just the acting that makes Nocturnal Animals so great though, if anything it’s the screenplay. Adapted by Tom Ford himself, the film beautifully weaves and winds around a dual narrative reminiscent of David Lynch. Not only does it manage to be entertaining and gripping on the surface, but if you dig a little deeper you’ll find a rich smorgasbord ripe for analysis and interpretation. Each character is fantastically realised and fleshed out, and both stories are handled with a precision which is close to perfection. Let’s also not forget about Tom Ford’s gorgeous directing. Pretty much every shot could be framed and placed in an art gallery, it’s that beautiful.

So where are this film’s much-deserved Oscars? It does everything a great film should do and more. Its intelligent ambiguity means that the film never quite leaves you. I was left wondering about the events and characters for weeks after which is more than can be said for a few of the films nominated this year.

nine-out-of-ten

Advertisements

The Wailing (2016)

0

image
Director: Hong-Jin Na

Stars: Do Won Kwak, Jung-min Hwang, Hwan-hee Kim

A wailing delight

Anyone who follows South Korea’s horror film output will be unsurprised to hear that Hong-Jin Na’s (of The Chaser fame) latest film is yet another K-horror classic. If there’s one country you can count on for producing innovative, gripping and unpredictable horror films then it’s South Korea. We’ve had countless high quality horror from them including: Oldboy, I Saw the Devil, Bedevilled and even the recent Train to Busan. The Wailing can now be added to that lovely long list.

image

It’s labelled as a ‘horror’ movie but really The Wailing is an exciting mix of comedy, thriller, mystery and supernatural horror. For the first time in quite some while, I had no idea where this 150 minute journey was going to take me. It begins as a Memories of Murder style crime drama. We’re introduced to our lovable bumbling hero, played by an enthralling Do-wan Kwak, who is a policeman investigating a string of strange incidents in his small town. Mass murder seems to being some local folk’s mind and they’re also turning into red-eyed, mindless zombies for no apparent reason. Does it have anything to do with a mysterious Japanese recluse who has recently resided in the nearby forest? Or perhaps the talk of ghosts and goat-eating loons play a part in this mystery?

From the get go, The Wailing effortlessly draws you into its enigmatic story. What surprised me was how funny the film was, particularly the first half. Honestly, The Wailing has to be one of the funniest films of 2016, I was howling with laughter every five minutes. It never takes itself too seriously and always finds the comic side to its bizarre situations so nothing ever seems overly silly. A lot of what makes the dry humour so effective is down to Do-wan Kwak’s comic timing. His performance is so endearing and he makes his character so likeable that you can’t help but get sucked into the story. The film also cleverly takes its time to explore his home life as well as work, so we’re fully involved in every aspect of our protagonist.

image

Once the film hits around the halfway point though, it ceases all comedic aspects and segues into much darker territory. The change is seamless within the story though and only adds to the edge-of-your-seat unpredictability. It’s difficult to talk about the film without giving away any plot twists (of which there are many) and I don’t want to do that. Just be assured that you’ll be surprised and thoroughly absorbed by our main character’s journey. In the hands of a less skilful director and screenwriter then the twists would come across as implausibly silly and tonally distracting, but Hong-Jin Na makes every turn seem fresh and exciting.

The Wailing only gets more gripping as the film progresses. When the horror gets close to home, the film becomes a dizzying tale of a desperate father rather than a police drama. A big shout-out has to be said for Hwan-hee Kim who plays Kwak’s young daughter. Her performance is nothing short of mesmerising. A lot of the time I forgot that I was watching a film with actors and started to really believe about what was happening on screen, which is no easy task when you’re dealing with themes involving the supernatural. Perhaps the film is a little longer than it needed to be, but not once did I find myself feeling bored or uninvolved.

image

The Wailing is a real showcase for Korean cinema. It has such an ambition and originality which is sadly lacking in most Hollywood productions. No doubt they’ll get their hands on remake rights, but it’ll never be as authentic as this one. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film and had absolutely no idea how it was going to end. The Wailing builds itself up to such an unpredictable and intense finale that it’s bound to become a deserved cult classic. I also liked how the film is so ambiguous and unforgiving in its lack of exposition that you can’t help but think about it long after the credits have rolled. Don’t read any reviews, don’t watch the trailer, just watch it and then watch it again. The Wailing is a brilliant highlight in a year that has been full of them.

nine-out-of-ten

Lost Highway (1997)

0

losth

Director: David Lynch

Stars: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty, Robert Blake

Dick Laurent may be dead, but long live David Lynch!

I make no secret about David Lynch being my favourite ever director. He makes films like no other by building dark worlds which draw you in by putting you in some sort of spell. I love him so much that I put off seeing Lost Highway for over a year because it was the only David Lynch film I was yet to see. I was even considering not seeing it at all just so I could always have that one new David Lynch film, but then I thought that would just be ridiculous. Also, the revival of Twin Peaks was enough to pique my David Lynch anticipation meter to breaking point so I finally gave in and stuck in Lost Highway.

losty

Firstly, I don’t think it’s as grossly strange as some people make out. Yes, it has all the trademark bizarreness you come to expect from David but the majority of the film is surprisingly linear. I was expecting some next level INLAND EMPIRE stuff the way some folk bang on about it! The first 40 minutes are like Michael Haneke’s Hidden in dream form. It’s probably some of the best stuff our David has ever done due to the inexplicably tense and hellish atmosphere. A lot of the scariness is down to the terrifying music which ranges to ominous drones to extremely loud strings. There’s one seriously nightmarish image near the start (which I’ve never heard anyone talk about, surprisingly) which sent chills up my spine. It’s a full-on Lynchian assault on the senses which takes you down some dark and enthralling corners. The atmosphere is chock-a-block full of mystery.

There are endlessly beautiful scenes including Fred playing the saxophone, the unsettling meeting with the Mystery Man and extremely frightening dream sequences. I think it’s also important to note the expert positions David places the camera. There always seems to be too much space surrounding the characters and it makes for seriously eerie viewing. There’s also that fantastic Francis Bacon inspired colour scheme of dark purples/pinks and shadows. He really does direct the hell out of the first forty minutes of this film.

Suddenly the film changes into something entirely different as soon as Fred Madison randomly transforms into a young mechanic called Pete Dayton and takes on an entirely new life. No one seems to bat an eyelid about Fred Madison disappearing and the sudden change is quite jarring. In my opinion, this is when the film goes down a gear. I think because the first story is so strong, this second one pales slightly in comparison as the suffocating atmosphere somewhat dissipates and the overall strangeness ceases. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot to love it just feels less Lynchy and more straightforward, and the Pete Dayton story is the biggest chunk of the film.

lost-highway-photos-9

There are still some spectacular sequences though, including a mysterious gangster getting road rage and Patricia Arquette’s intriguing Alice character. There’s also a strong feeling of everything not quite being what it seems and it gives you time to ponder over exactly what the heck you’re watching. Thankfully for us weirdos things do start to get extremely strange towards the final half hour of the film before breaking down into total chaos until your mind finally explodes.

Lost Highway is extremely puzzling in a similar way to Mulholland Dive. All of the clues seem to be there as well as a few abstractions to throw lots of spanners into the works (what does this Mystery Man have to do with it all!?) but there is a complex and very intelligent story buried underneath all the bizarreness. It feels like a warm-up exercise before Dave finally broke the mould of film with Mulholland Drive. Everything in Mulholland feels like a perfected version of Lost Highway from the more passionate love story to the unrelenting dreamlike atmosphere.

lost_highway_08_dvd

Lost Highway is still a film to cherish on the Lynchian canon though. It’s very much its own thing and I felt a strong urge to see it all again once it had all finished. Unlike Mulholland Drive there doesn’t seem to be a universal theory to Lost Highway which makes it all the more interesting to watch again and again to dig for clues. However, as with all Lynchy films the best thing to do is just sit back and let your intuition drive you rather than your brain. It’s not an IQ test but a piece of art which is designed to take you on a journey. No one makes films that make you feel quite like David Lynch does. Let’s hope that the Twin Peaks revival encourages our Dave to get back into more regular filmmaking again. I couldn’t bear to wait another ten years!

nine-out-of-ten

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) [The Yellow Kubrick Road]

2

EWS

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Stars: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack

Will leave your eyes firmly wide open!

Over ten years later Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut is released to the world. I was only four years old at the time, but I could imagine the hype. The final film of arguably the greatest film director to have ever lived. The final cut of Eyes Wide Shut was delivered to Warner Brothers four days prior to Stanley’s mysterious death. Stanley called the film his “greatest contribution to the art of cinema” but it was greeted with hostility and it’s easy to see why. Eyes Wide Shut is arguably his most impenetrable film. The average cinemagoer can appreciate the horror of The Shining and the comedy of Dr. Strangelove without digging deeper into them. However, Eyes Wide Shut is very difficult to enjoy without unlocking those hidden meanings and symbols.

eyeswide

It’s possibly his most enigmatic and mysterious film, arguably even more so than 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining. The eye-popping finale to 2001 has more or less been unlocked, but the secrets that lie within Eyes Wide Shut still remain closed and debated upon just like The Shining still is today. However, whilst The Shining is universally lauded as a masterpiece, Eyes Wide Shut is still yet to receive the recognition it deserves. I remember when I first saw the film one night, on my own and finding it incredibly slow but intriguing. I also remember finding a lot of it very frightening.

Last night I gave it a re-watch with my sister and mother by my side. My sister switched off about twenty minutes in and started playing on her phone, whilst my mother said once it finished “Well, I’m not surprised he died after making that shite!” which of course makes no sense, but you don’t know my Mum. I definitely found a new appreciation for it though. There’s so much going on in the film that it’s impossible to take it all in on your first viewing. You’ll probably end up disliking it, but give it a few days and you’ll find yourself pondering over it. You may even find yourself becoming haunted by it like Dr. Bill’s guilty conscience.

Eyes-Wide-Shut-320

At its core, Eyes Wide Shut is a Lynchian mystery set in a dreamy New York City. Most know all the bizarre plot twists and turns now, but the less you know the better. Like most Stanley films, Eyes Wide Shut is more of an experience that can’t be put into words. It’s not the type of film you can dip in and out of, you have to watch it all the way through and give it your full attention. Watching Tom cruise walking down the street shouldn’t be interesting, but something about it keeps you inexplicably transfixed to the screen. Similarly, the seemingly never ending monologues carry a hypnotic grip on your senses, such as Nicole’s dreamy drug-fuelled confession which kick starts the entire story.

The film holds the record for the longest continual film shoot at four hundred days so the directing is of course beyond masterful. Every single shot is carefully considered and the trademark tracking shots are as dizzying as ever. The mise-en-scene in each scene is also extremely important to consider. There are so many things hidden in the background, such as the recurring multi-coloured Christmas trees which disappear once Tom Cruise enters the mysterious cult. Could this relate to the ‘end of the rainbow’ as stated earlier in the film? It’s little details like this which make Eyes Wide Shut endlessly fascinating to analyse. Only until you analyse the film can you appreciate the painstaking details and intelligent intricacies.

EWS2

Stanley’s final film is often claimed to be a limp ending to a phenomenal filmography, however I’d strongly disagree. Any true Stanley lover will recognise the obscure genius of Eyes Wide Shut. Conspiracy theorists will thrive off the illuminati and Satanist symbolism, but I think there’s more to it than that. It’s a wonderfully mysterious film with a brooding dreamlike atmosphere. I also have to mention the brilliantly creepy (yet incredibly simple) piano score which has to be the scariest use of a few notes since the Jaws theme tune. Whilst the film isn’t quite up to the impossibly high standards of 2001, A Clockwork Orange and The Shining, it isn’t miles off. Maybe after some repeated views I might hold it in even higher regards.

nine-out-of-ten

Travel down the Kubrick road by clicking here