Tag Archive | Film

Film Review: Evil Dead

This review can also be found at the South West Londoner, here.

Despite my passion for the arts, there are gaps in my knowledge. The most salient ones are with film. I became interested in film after a lot of ‘cult status’ films made their rounds, and with my already huge backlog of films to see, a lot of them have gone unwatched.

So, although I know it was a major factor in forming its genre, I have not seen the original 1981 Evil Dead. Nor am I especially well-versed in the ‘slasher’ variant of horror films, aside from a regrettable evening where I was coaxed into watching all the Saw films back to back.

So I was entirely down for watching the 2013 reboot. The director is different – this new film is directed by Fede Alvarez instead of the longer-established Sam Raimi – but if it grabbed my attention, I was prepared to fall in love with a whole new genre.

Still, I hedged my bets; I made sure to not step into the screening alone (or sober). That decision turned out to be for the best, as Evil Dead thrives not on its own merit, but by bringing audiences closer through how shamelessly bloody and silly it is.

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Film Review: Out in the Dark

This review can also be found on Shadowlocked, here.

The BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival is something I truly appreciate. It warms my heart to know that there are actually plenty of films out there that star more than just straight white men as protagonists; and it’s a shame that they end up relegated to a single, yearly event.

There were a huge number of films showing this year, almost guaranteeing a wide range of experiences on offer – but I only got to watch one in particular. Out in the Dark, filmed in 2012 and directed by Michael Mayer.

The plot is something rather simple. Nimer (Nicholas Jacob) is a Palestinian student who, on a risky night out to an Israeli nightclub meets Roy (Michael Aloni), an Israeli lawyer. Their love blossoms rapidly, but severe social standards (and gun-happy police) get in the way. More on the plot later.

From a technical perspective, the film is incredibly solid. Film production norms differ from country to country, so one of the fun things about foreign film is seeing the different stylistic rules they go by.

The cinematography was nothing to hugely fawn over, but the wide shots of the skyline and city streets did wonders for a loser like me who is obsessively urban. The dialogue style definitely stood out – lengthy chats pierced with succinct one word sentences, in a blend of Hebrew and Arabic that’s sadly lost on my monolingual self.

The decision to have the plot heavily focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a harrowing, but well-researched one. It assumes you know the basics of the issue, and although you can understand all of the story without prior knowledge, being aware of the background definitely helps add context.

What it also adds is a marginally fresher angle on what would otherwise be a tired love story. Straight romances in films are rather rote, but gay (male) ones are more so in a slightly different way.

Star crossed lovers, one humble and sexually introverted, the other metropolitan and liberated have their love halted by the grim face of systemic oppression (feel free to imagine those two words in a 72pt font and on fire). It’s a valid story, but it’s one told a little too often.

As such, the racial conflict adds some flavour to the proceedings; juxtaposing cute intimate moments and longing stares with border crossers getting shot in the head.

It’s all a very well-produced reminder of the social injustices in the world, both sexual and racial – but we know this all already. That is, the people who would be inclined to see Out in the Dark in the first place. Dudebro McHomophobe would definitely benefit from watching something so well made (and with such impact, too), but you’d have a better chance of actually ending oppression than getting him into the cinema.

It’s all very ‘preaching to the choir’, really. That’s not the end of the world – we all like to have our political opinions re-enforced, but in the end I ended up not enjoying Out in the Dark as much as I could have done – I was holding out for something more experimental.

I continue to wait for the action blockbuster where Jake Gyllenhaal saves Ben Whishaw from an exploding building, and they make out to the sound of helicopter blades and gunfire. Now that would be progressive.

Film Review: A Late Quartet

This review can also be found at the South West Londoner, here.

Despite my constant burning need to see pretentious non-mainstream film (if it’s in a different language or about socio-politics, even better), my knowledge of the fine arts is actually not so great.

My initial interest in seeing A Late Quartet was, embarrassingly, because Christopher Walken takes a major role in it. He’s had a myriad of roles and cameos in films since the 60s, many of which ended up being cult hits. He even starred in some terrible video games in the mid 90s.

A large part of his popularity is his notably stilted speech, and since it tends to work best in comedies, I was interested to see how he would fare in something that looked to be so serious.

As it turns out, A Late Quartet is wonderfully human and moving, and Walken does a great performance by… largely not being there. It’s an odd situation.
 
Pete Mitchell (Walken) is the cellist in an internationally famous string quartet called The Fugue. He shares the spotlight with Daniel Lerner (Mark Ivanir) on Violin I, Robert Gelbart (Philip Seymour Hoffman) on Violin II and Juliette Gelbart (Catherine Keener) on Viola.

Recently Pete’s playing has been affected by his shaking hands. After a doctors appointment, he finds out that it’s Parkinsons, and bows out from The Fugue, asking the other members to find a replacement.

As it turns out, this upset sparks desires for change in the rest of the quartet, and emotional havoc ensues.

It’s all very melodramatic, but the way the script is written makes that not matter. All the narrative points are closely and expertly woven in with the films themes, in a way that you won’t need a degree in media studies to get (though a little knowledge about classical music will help).

The ideas are honestly clever, from the way that the amount of time Pete is on screen is related to how badly he’s suffering from his condition (though he’s arguably the protagonist, Parkinsons is very effective at taking away his agency, both as a disease and in the script), to how the emotional issues of the quartet match up nicely with the musical role they play.

The soundtrack was funnily enough, a mixed bag. There are some elegant and well timed cues of classical string pieces, including the one piece that the film is arguably ‘about’, that I won’t spoil for you. However, it’s matched with a general orchestral score that feels very generic. Although the two musical styles share instruments, the feel is very different. It made some scenes feel notably schmaltzy – though that may just be my jaded heart.

That said, the experience as a whole was touching. It manages to pull you along on an emotionally manipulative ride so well you’d think it was a Hollywood production, if it wasn’t for the quietly middle class subject matter.

Watch It: If you know your way around a string section, If you want to see a cult actor happily make peace with his age on film, if you want a talking point for your film discussion club.

Skip It: If the phrase ‘human drama’ makes you dry heave, if you’re not ready to make peace with your age, if you want something that doesn’t feature the American Middle Class.

Want more? Go and check out some live classical quartets! I promise, it’s a moving experience the first time. If you want to see Walken in something cheerier, he has a great supporting role in Catch Me If You Can.