Directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover (2011)), Joker is a latest, much-hyped movie starring Joaquin Phoenix (The Master (2012)) in the titular role of Arthur Fleck or Joker, a stand-up comedian fallen on hard times, who resorts to violence in Gotham City to avenge wrongs allegedly committed against him. Being supported by no other than Robert De Niro (a role reversal from The King of Comedy (1983)), Joaquin Phoenix gives the performance in Joker than can only be described as manically jaw-dropping in its brilliance. The character insight and portrayal are also bold, vivid, without holding anything back, as the film tries to explore the origins of Arthur’s homicidal tendencies through his early history and its revelations. However, unfortunately, if we then shift our attention to anything that is not Phoenix or the character study, we can see a number of problems in the film, including the inability to suspend disbelief regarding major plot developments, the sheer predictability of the plot, and the imbalance in the spotlight given to the minor characters vis-a-vis the main one. Joker is a kind of a film that is made up solely out of one character study and cannot show anything for itself apart from its character study and the brilliant performance. If Joaquin Phoenix is not there, there is no film (thankfully, Phoenix is virtually in every shot). Why should that be a problem? Building a film around a character study is one thing, but having a “film” that is nothing but a very “self-important” character study is something completely different (because, in this case, the film seems more like a shameful star-vehicle). There is no Joker, without the Joker, it is true, but when there is nothing but Joker and everything else (not much) in the film is either very awkward, very predictable, very questionable or very puzzling, then there is simply no great film. Continue reading “Joker” Review
L’Amant Double (Double Lover) (2017)
François Ozon (“Frantz” (2016), “In the House” (2013)) is a French director who is uninhibited when it comes to portraying sexuality/erotica on screen and was exploring it freely in his past films “Jeune et Jolie” (2013) and “Swimming Pool” (2003). His latest psychological thriller “L’Amant Double” is another testament to this director’s fascinating way of portraying psychologically interesting scenarios and sensuality/sexuality on screen. Based on a book by Joyce Carol Oates, “L’Amant Double” presents Chloé (Marine Vacth), a young woman who seeks help for her psychosomatic stomach pains from a psychoanalyst Paul (Jérémie Renier). It is not long before Chloé and Paul fall in love and move in together, and all is going well until Chloé becomes troubled by her lover’s personal secrets. This erotically-charged film is not without its problems, but it explores the nature of personal identity from an interesting angle, portrays sexually-charged romance unflinchingly, and plays with our beliefs, expectations and what-if questions. In the end, ‘L’Amant Double” becomes a film not so much about an obsessive romance and morbid fascinations as about the question of the extent to which one’s imagination can overrun one’s sanity and eventually completely undermine one’s perception of reality.
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This psychological thriller by Steven Soderbergh (“Side Effects” (2013)) has the distinction of being the first theatrical feature film shot almost entirely on iPhone cameras, and the result is impressive. Claire Foy (“Breathe” (2017)) plays Sawyer Valentini, a career-driven young woman who has just started a new job in a new city. We are invited to question her sense of reality when she becomes obsessed with the apparent stalking behaviour which is going on around her with her being the primary victim. When Sawyer is invited to spend a few days in a mental institution to rest and gather her wits, her apparent paranoia and delusions intensify. Soderbergh employs iPhone cameras very cleverly to both critique the provision of mental health help and to show Sawyer’s mounting psychological problems.
Continue reading “Unsane” Review
Yesterday, the Cannes Film Festival 2018 unveiled its list of films to be presented, and Asghar Farhadi’s “Everybody Knows” will be shown at the festival’s opening night. Why it has the the signs to be a great psychological thriller? It comes from the director who crafted Oscar-winners “A Separation” (2011) and “The Salesman” (2016) plus it stars such great actors as Javier Bardem (“Skyfall” (2012), “Mother!” (2017)), Penelope Cruz and Ricardo Darin (“The Secret in Their Eyes” (2009)). The story itself even seems to have something of an Agatha Christie-vibe to it; definitely something to look forward to.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
This film proved to be the most divisive at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and there was a good reason for the audience and critics to feel so confused and uncertain. “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” is a product of Yorgos Lanthimos, the director who is making his name as a master of original, unsettling and thought-provoking films; the director who is already an expert in crafting awe-inspiring settings which as much provoke as they disturb, and which the more mainstream audience could hardly even fathom. In “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”, a well-to-do surgeon (Colin Farrell) strikes an unlikely friendship with a fatherless boy, without even realising the possible negative consequences of their ever-closer union. A seemingly mundane plot here slowly transpires into something unimaginable, and with the excellent support from Nicole Kidman, and with impressive Barry Keoghan and Raffey Cassidy, this film becomes an almost brilliant interplay of the unusual, the menacing and the astonishing, while being totally effective throughout.
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It is that time of the year again: time for trick-or-treating, pumpkin-carving, witches-watching and party-going! To celebrate the tradition which may date back to some ancient rituals of Celts, here is my review of the film “Split” from one of the front-men of the modern horror/thriller genre – M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense” (1999), “Unbreakable” (2000), “The Village” (2004)). Also, to get you into the festive mood, you can check out my other reviews of horror films, all of them are listed here.
This film is M. Night Shyamalan’s latest creation, which exceeded everyone’s expectations. Here, a man Kevin (James McAvoy) abducts three girls and holds them hostage in a building. Kevin suffers from a multiple-personality disorder, one of the most serious and rarest of all psychiatric illnesses. He has twenty-three different personalities, who compete for attention in his head, and the captive girls must race against time to free themselves before the emergence of the most frightening and uncontrollable twenty-fourth personality called simply “The Beast”. “Split” is very well-made, with the outstanding acting, especially by McAvoy, and a fascinating plot and topic. What about Shyamalan’s penchant for unbelievable twists, one may ask? Well, there are simply no twists, in a traditional sense of this word, or none to concern oneself when watching the film.
Continue reading Halloween Special: “Split” Review
Charlene at Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews is hosting this absolutely amazing blogathon – The Medicine in the Movies Blogathon, and this review of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” (1945) is part of the race. There are many good movies out there which explore interesting, intricate aspects of medicine: from Wellman’s overblown, but entertaining “Night Nurse” (1931) to Soderbergh’s documentary-like, but fascinating “Contagion” (2011). Psychiatry in films has not been left too behind either. Many films here focused on a mental institution itself, such as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) and “Girl, Interrupted” (1999), while others touched on various psychiatric issues through their “serial killer” plots, such as Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (1960) and Mangold’s “Identity“ (2003). But, while these films often explored medical concepts and disorders indirectly, some movies really got to grips with the intricate details of psychiatry by focusing on the issues head on. “Spellbound” is one of them.
Continue reading The Medicine in the Movies Blogathon: Spellbound (1945)
The Neon Demon (2016)
“Beauty isn’t everything. It’s the only thing”, says Roberto Sarno in “The Neon Demon”. Director of this movie, Nicolas Winding Refn, seems to have taken this statement close to heart, and crafted a film where visual beauty is, indeed, the only thing worth paying any attention to, seemingly forgetting that, in film-making, visual representation is never the only thing that counts. Refn (also director behind critically-acclaimed “Drive” (2011)) is now here also the writer, and his story is about Jesse (Elle Fanning), an underage aspiring model, who comes to LA to try her luck in show-business. After gaining initial success, Jesse realises that the climb to the top is thornier than she had previously imagined it to be, especially when a group of fellow models start to covet her natural attributes and instantaneous success. Despite its outstanding visual effects and a promising premise, “The Neon Demon” is preposterous and misguided, that kind of a film which one can easily stop watching half way through, never really caring about the ending.
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The Handmaiden (2016)
“The Handmaiden” is an award-winning erotic psychological drama directed by Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy” (2003), “Stoker” (2013)). Based on/inspired by the novel “Fingersmith” (2002) by Sarah Waters, the film centres on a young maid, Sook-Hee, who arrives to the estate of an affluent book-lover, Kouzuki, to be a servant to his niece Lady Hideko. However, nothing is as it seems, because Sook-Hee’s main employer is actually a conman, self-named Count Fujiwara, who made a deal with the young maid to con Lady Hideko out of her inheritance. Fiercely intelligent and provoking, “The Handmaiden” does three things brilliantly: it toys cleverly with its audience’s imagination, and challenges its formed beliefs and visual interpretations; touches a sensitive nerve with its poetic and erotic imagery; and provides a stunning cinematic experience.
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