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Le jeune Karl Marx (2017)
It is what it is; bringing the young Marx to life though people wanting more may be disappointed
'A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of communism'. These are the opening lines of the Communist Manifesto which ironically is the film's conclusion. We learn that the purpose of the opening paragraph in the manifesto was to be simple and straight to the point, while saying so much. That's what this film is and what it did so well, draw the viewer into a simple world of major importance and complexity. "Substance, but no style!" Is what I heard people say as they left the cinema. Hmm, I'm not sure if I agree...well, fully. Indeed the film had its flaws and yes, it lacked urgency to go read Marxism but what we did get was the man himself and his 'world'. The title using 'young' is realistic; a man most known for the 'birth' of communism is the premise of the film and it was super compelling. This film could have had more style sure, but what is style if there is no substance. Communism has a collaborative process so it was great to see its collaborative side through a fantastic supporting cast ushered by an intelligent screenplay, though the film may be overwhelming for some with its excessive discussion of 'Marxist' philosophy. You never see Marx in a room by himself which ignores an independent or 'hero' image that he may be associated with because he was honestly a family man who liked to chat and have a good laugh. A family man, with the help of his friends, produced the product (The Communist Manifesto) that the film ends with in its final scene and is ultimately what the film is about.
Extremely investing analysis but underwhelming commentary to a beloved classic
A 91-minute analysis of the famous shower scene from Hitchcock's 'Psycho' and how it changed the course of cinema. The first of its kind, a feature length documentary on one scene. The film gets its name '78/52' from 52 shots in a 78 second sequence. It's very entertaining and incredibly rich with goodies you never considered went into the making of the famous scene. I loved the archival Hitchcock commentary they recovered. Though, as I personally feel the movie horror scene has drastically changed (you can decide for the better or for worse), to have young horror film makers (of some damn awful films) and irrelevant actors interviewed to share their thoughts in quite enthusiastic ways suggests that Hitchcock's achievement is less pioneering than the film makes it seem. That aside, I'm surprised they pulled it off, you can tell the director (who is obviously a massive Hitchcock nerd) adores the content and it really shows.
An often uncomfortable drama with great central performances
A tough, psychological drama about the trauma caused by pedophilia. A directorial debut by the Australian theatre director Benedict Andrews adapting the critically acclaimed stage play. A cinematic technique to parallel the real-time storytelling of a stage play of this nature is to have a curious camera voyeuristically track action. This serves as a plus but also a problem for this particular, sometimes hard to watch film. As a spectator 'spying' on such disturbing subject matter made me think twice about what I thought was morally right about the situation. I also would have liked to have seen more of the characters that had little screen time. That aside, extraordinary central performances by the emotionally cold Rooney Mara and unflinching Ben Mendelsohn.
A heartwarming film that had the potential to be better
A heartwarming, tranquil ode to the simplicity of art and life. Based on the true story, Sally Hawkins is wonderful as Maud Lewis, the housewife turned folk artist who escaped her imprisoned family life to live freely and become a beloved figure in her isolated Canadian community. The film was effective in showing the serene lifestyle of the country but spent too much time delving into her love life when it could have fittingly and effectively expressed Maud's love for art in order for us to fully embrace her character.
Happy End (2017)
Not Haneke's best but still manages to engage with cultural relevance and authenticity
I'm a fan of Michael Haneke, so I was looking forward to his latest film. From his previous films and now this one, he is clearly a filmmaker interested in surveillance; the film opens and closes with shots from a phone screen surveying 'crime' in one way or another. A filmmaker also concerned with social issues, this film is about a disjointed family in crisis with a backdrop of the European refugee crisis. Join that with the modern way to keep everyone 'connected' with technology (social media or smartphones) you can perhaps read what Haneke is trying to say about European Identity. There are a lot of scenes that drag and the narrative is unfortunately disconnected forcing the audience to join dots so 'Happy End' had the potential to be a lot more.
Ingrid Goes West (2017)
So refreshing and extremely funny
An off-beat, often hilarious comedy/drama about a girl (Plaza) who believes her world has gone from bad to worst until she stalks a seemingly perfect 'influencer' (Olsen) on Instagram and moves cities to try live like her and be a part of her life. The obsession genre has been over done but what this film does to stand out from the rest is not take itself so seriously and is able to pull off using Internet language without you looking for the exit sign. It's great fun even if its flare dwindled a little in the final act as the narrative changed course. It will make you laugh out loud but also reflect on how you use social media to present yourself.
The Wall (2017)
Disappointing from a great action director
Two American soldiers trapped by a sniper with only a wall for cover in this not so intense, action/war thriller. I admire the effort been put in but when the narrative requires the intensity to be maxed out for the duration of the film, there's only so much to prevent that from happening. It fails simply on the terms to make me want to care. For the majority of the film you have to sit through tiresome 'you're the enemy' 'no you're the enemy' mind games to reach the short run time of a completely unoriginal film.
Axolotl Overkill (2017)
An uninspiring nightlife film made with stylistic authenticity
A hugely stylised character study of a German teenage girl who, after struggling to cope with family issues, resorts to Berlin nightlife. The film is so in the moment though that when it is all over you ask yourself 'oh wait, what was that about again?' Winner of the Sundance cinematography award, it has a keen visual feeling and the main character Mifti is somehow endearing despite her bad behaviour. It sets the scene nicely through Mifti's confrontations with people too caught in the moment to really have a grasp on life but the story line is so convoluted that it spoils the film's charms.
Cate Blanchett and the intelligent art direction make the film with an unconventional premise work
Cate Blanchett once again displays her vast array of talent as she plays 12 different characters in 12 different settings decontextualising some of history's famous manifestos, bringing humour and new meaning to them, or perhaps no meaning, to stress a view of meaninglessness to them. There is no conventional narrative here but the film still has urgency to keep you watching through its compelling art direction and wit.
I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
Best documentary I've seen in a long time
A documentary that adapts James Baldwin's unfinished book 'Remember This House' recounting the lives and assassinations of Martin Luther King Jnr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. Not much to say other than this one of the best documentaries I've seen in a long time. Powerful material delivered like a story with the aid of archival footage, photographs, newsreels, Hollywood film clips, debates from the civil right era all to suggest Baldwin's writings. Nominated for the Best Documentary Academy Award, 'I Am Not Your Negro' is a rare cinematic achievement about an issue that is still so relevant today. You can't take your eyes off it nor your mind.