Mother! (2017)

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Director: Darren Aronofsky

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer

House Party From Hell

With just six feature films under his belt, Darren Aronofsky is still one of the most innovative and striking directors working in Hollywood today. With his unique visual style he creates intimate stories which have the power to grip you by the throat until the very last shot. ‘Black Swan’ is probably my favourite film of the last decade so you can imagine my delight at discovering that Darren had been secretly filming Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem in a horror film for God knows how many months. It was a shock well worthy of the cheeky exclamation mark pegged onto the title. It looked as though Darren had returned to his melodramatic roots after spending years working on a forgettable biblical epic.

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Although ‘Mother!’ also has biblical overtones, it’s perhaps less obvious than watching Noah’s ark rock around a stormy ocean. It is interesting to note, however the almighty split of opinions on Aronofsky’s latest work of art. People talk all the time about ‘marmite’ films, where critics and audiences alike seem to adore or outright detest a film for equally valid reasons and ‘Mother!’ is exactly that. Some find it tedious and ridiculous, whilst others find it gripping and intoxicating in the best possible way. I must admit that when I first saw the film, it completely went against my expectations and I was left sitting in a rare state of shock trying to process what I had just seen. Suffice to say that after about 10 minutes, my opinion landed directly on the ‘love it’ side of the fence.

The less you know about ‘Mother!’ the better the experience will be so I won’t delve into plot points. The biggest surprise for me was discovering how funny the film is. The trailers make it out to be like some sort of hardcore horror movie in the vein of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ meets ‘Repulsion’ but I was amazed to find myself laughing so much, particularly in the first half. The preposterousness of the situations make for darkly comic viewing in a similar kind of way to ‘Calvaire’ a Belgian horror film with equally pitch-black comedy. It could be mistaken for bad writing, but it’s entirely intentional. It all comes from the fact that J-Law’s character is presented as the only sane person who the audience can relate to, whereas pretty much every other character is totally unrelatable.

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The film builds slowly but always intrigues. Just like Natalie Portman’s Nina in ‘Black Swan’ J-Law’s titular ‘Mother!’ character is always shown in tight close-ups with the camera intensely following her every move. It makes for claustrophobic and uncomfortable viewing at times, particularly as the action never moves away from the house, which makes the insane third act work even more effectively for it. The point of view is also very subjective, it’s made clear that Jennifer isn’t quite right in the head and we see all her strange and horrifying delusions as if we were in her shoes. It’s fantastically focused filmmaking (nice bit of alliteration there for you) which helps to build up the intensity.

The first half might seem more than a bit weird to most moviegoers but it isn’t anything compared to the hysterical second half which has to contain some of the most insane sequences ever committed to film. I won’t go into details but I was left feeling incredibly stressed and bemused which is exactly how the film wants you to feel. Visually it’s astonishing and some of the camerawork is dizzyingly terrific. It also contains some seriously shocking content which left my mouth agape and I’m someone who considers themselves to be a hardened horror nut. It’s the kind of big budget surrealism which is devastatingly lacking in Hollywood.

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Of course none of it is supposed to be taken at face value and there are plenty of metaphors to chew over after the film has finished. It’s just a shame that Darren and Jennifer have been so open about what the film is actually about as it means that the sense of mystery has gone already. The film could’ve and should’ve been left up to interpretation. Directors such as David Lynch and Michael Haneke would never dream of telling audiences what their films are about because every audience member’s ideas are valid and have meaning to them. Anyhow, although the metaphors and symbolism are a little heavy-handed in the film, they are no less brilliant and intelligent.

It’s also worth mentioning the excellent performances in the film. Although that really doesn’t come as a surprise when you have heavyweights like Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem and Michelle Pfeiffer starring all in the same film. Each role is very challenging though and the fact that they all pulled each part off and made it believable is a credit to them. The real star of the show though is Darren Aronofsky whose directing style manages to unequivocally sweep audiences away on a mad, horrifying journey which isn’t soon forgotten. ‘Mother!’ is a very special film. It’s divisive but most great works of art are. You will get a strong reaction, no matter who you are or what that reaction might be.

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The 7 Greatest David Lynch Movies Not Directed By David

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David Lynch is a director so distinctive that his style has been given his own term: “Lynchian.” Urban dictionary has the word defined as “having the same balance between the macabre and the mundane,” but it could also be used to describe a film that’s surreal or dreamlike. And while no one makes movies quite like Lynch, there are a few that bear a striking resemblance.

Audiences might feel a little Lynched out at the moment with Twin Peaks gleefully hitting our screens again every week, but when that’s over you know you’re going to need something bizarre to keep you sane. Below you’ll find seven films that all resemble a Lynch movie in different ways.

Read full article here:
https://moviepilot.com/p/greatest-david-lynch-movies-not-directed-by-david-lynch/4319510

Escape From Tomorrow (2013)

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Director: Randy Moore

Stars: Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez

Disney on Prozac

Disney World really is one of the best places on the planet. I spent the happiest days of my life there as a kiddy, at the tender age of ten and I’m desperate to get back there. Randy Moore’s disturbing vision is unlikely to convince Disney World virgins to go though! In this film, Disney World is more reminiscent of Banksy’s Dismaland. Whenever you read a review of Escape From Tomorrow you always get an essay on how the film was made rather than the film itself. The extreme guerrilla tactics are important to the raw and intimate atmosphere of the film (and are extremely impressive) but there’s much more to Escape From Tomorrow than ‘that film that was shot illegally in Disneyland.’

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It’s the American Beauty-esque tale of a man going through a midlife crisis, except it also sparks a total mental breakdown and it happens in the middle of Disney World. It begins with a ride on the Rocky Mountain rollercoaster which is sledgehammer foreshadowing of the rollercoaster ride we’re about to go on in our hero’s haunted head. What struck me was how funny most of the film was. The trailer would lead you to believe that it’s a full-on Lynchian horror nightmare, but in truth the majority of it is pretty hilarious.

That isn’t to criticise it because the humour worked very well. Roy Abramsohn is so amusing as Jim, the typical twat Dad. His acting is a little questionable but it did add to the humour of the whole film. The first hour is basically like watching a family’s home video of a trip to Disney with splashes of sinister surrealism (get a load of that sibilance!) but I mean that in the best possible way. It isn’t boring because there’s a strong dark humour layered throughout. It also feels extremely intimate and involving with a strong focus on characters to keep you interested.

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The film hits its stride once the gang enter Epcot and Jim starts to drink lots and lots. This triggers his descent into complete surrealism and the film abandons linear narrative. It’s loud, chaotic and absorbing but I was hoping for a little more Inland Empire styled directing, but perhaps I was hoping for too much. It could’ve been more surreal and dreamlike, but it was still suitably disorientating and inventive. There’s also very intelligent themes and symbolism buried underneath if you’re willing to dig hard enough. I like how a lot of it is open to interpretation.

Escape From Tomorrow might look a bit shoddy with its rough camerawork and dodgy acting, but that’s also part of its charm. I did find the black and white photography quite stylish and the searing Disney golden-era score is pretty brilliant. The low rating on Netflix and IMDb might suggest that I’m in the minority when I say that I enjoyed it, but I am definitely biased when it comes to these weird kind of films. Normal cinemagoers will see it as a curiosity piece, but us weirdos will be dazzled by the surrealist imagery, comedy and overall strangeness. It’s not as good as it could’ve been, but I still found a lot to like.

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Spring Breakers (2012)

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Director: Harmony Korine

Stars: James Franco, Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson

High School Musical meets Gummo

I remember when Spring Breakers first started rearing its head with its trailers and posters, and I was so confused. It starred these ex Disney channel girls and was written and directed by the same man who created Gummo, a film that I still dare not see due to how much the trailer and clips, I’ve seen have scared me*. Harmony Korine also did an even weirder looking film called, Trash Humpers which basically follows people wearing old man masks and dry-hump skips. Harmony’s films have never been mainstream. They instead appeal to the sick few of us, who are interested in the weirder side of film.

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Spring Breakers is definitely Harmony’s most mainstream film, and it makes me wonder how on Earth he was able to convince such high profile mainstream stars to take part in his experimental art film. Of course there is genius behind these casting choices. Spring Breakers was presented as a teen film with a bit of action in, when actually it’s a little experimental art-house film about our generation who follow celeb culture and have dreams of getting as much sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and booze as possible.

To my knowledge, Harmony Korine has never been one for too much plot and Spring Breakers continues this fashion. It’s basically about four girls who are looking to break away from their mundane lives and thus go over to Florida’s famous spring break, only to be arrested and bailed out by a slimy James Franco who leads them into a strange world of violence. There really isn’t much to the film, but that didn’t really bother me too much. Spring Breakers is all about the execution and atmosphere. There’s enough narrative to stop you from getting bored though.

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Every review that I’ve read (love or hate) has agreed that the film is pretty spectacular to look at. The neon-soaked images reminded me of the masterfully moody, Only God Forgives and the unnaturally bright daylight gives off an unnerving vibe. As with most art films, it will either click for you or it won’t. Spring Breakers clicked for me. I felt kind of swept away by the dreamlike images and unconventional editing. It’s executed in such a strange way with lines being repeated over voice-over, random shotgun noises, slow-motion nudity over dub step, I couldn’t help but feel sucked into its strange world.

The acting is pretty OK all round. James Franco is good, but not as great as people rave about. His performance is extremely over-the-top, which may impress some people, but to me it was just hammy. He did have a more than a bit of Bobby Peru in his character, and I think he must’ve taken notes from Willem Dafoe’s legendary performance in Wild at Heart. Spring Breakers becomes incredibly hallucinatory towards the end with a bizarre shootout, drenched in some beautiful colourful lighting and complete with glow-in-the-dark balaclavas.

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I’m not really sure what Spring Breakers means, but I think it’s definitely a film that you have to feel rather than understand. If you go along with its loony execution and lose yourself in the images, then you might find something quite special. It was an experience I quite enjoyed and one which I’d happily relive. I completely understand why most people hate it though. It appeals to the wrong market. Tweenagers aren’t going to give this film a chance, unless they’re into weird cult films like I am. I think that Spring Breakers is a very cool and colourful film, and one which makes you think too.

*Update: I have now seen Gummo. Please read my review here if you’re interested? 🙂

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