THALA MOUAWAD surveys the different versions of A Star is Born and their place in the history of Hollywood. Since its release in 1937, William Wellman’s romance A Star is Born has been re-interpreted three times. The premise for each rendition has remained constant: an aspiring female entertainer is discovered by a tortured musician who helps her skyrocket to fame. Meanwhile, his own career nosedives because of his alcoholism. Despite a formulaic plot, the four films are more than a stereotypical love story. In fact, each one of these adaptations reflects important aspects of the period in which it was produced. The 1930s marked the starting point of one of the most prolific eras of Hollywood. Despite a period of recession that began in 1929, the film industry reached new heights with the advent of technicolour imaging and talking pictures. The financial slump actually helped the film trade. Demand for…Continue Reading

(Re)making history since 1937

NIAMH O’NEILL reviews Wild Nights with Emily as part of SAVAGE’s coverage of Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Festival.  Completely subverting the clichés surrounding its eponymous poet, Madeline Olnek’s witty comedy about the life of Emily Dickinson holds an important feminist undertone. Wild Nights with Emily is an entertaining albeit outlandish film, which highlights the much-needed rebranding of the famous literary figure. Mabel Todd’s (Amy Seimetz) fairytale-esque narration provides a continual reminder of the prevailing view of Emily, as a social hermit ‘who never went out and saw no one that called’. Todd reminds us to challenge any presupposed ideas we may have of the renowned poet. This quirky and unexpected film makes for an increasingly enjoyable watch, as the audience familiarises itself with the eccentric performances from the main cast. Wild Nights with Emily begins with jaunty violin music, which announces yet another period drama – a genre to which…Continue Reading

Wild Nights with Emily

ESME MILLER reviews The Whisper of the Jaguar as part of SAVAGE’s coverage of Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Festival. In the context of Jair Bolsonaro’s recent victory, a man with an unashamedly hostile attitude towards women, homosexuals and indigenous Brazilians, The Whisper of the Jaguar is desperately needed in the current socio-political climate of Brazil. In opposition to the conservative values promoted by president-elect, the film serves both to express LGBTQ+ pride and to highlight the beauty and current endangerment of the Amazonia. Within this framework, directors Simone Jaikiriuma Paetau and Thais Guisasola explore a myriad of dichotomous themes: the indigenous vs the colonial, the expansion of industrial capitalism vs the preservation of the Amazon rainforest, and sexual emancipation vs historically ingrained female oppression. The plot is introduced by the voice of Ana, a punk musician from the inner city. She is retracing the steps of her late trans sibling, Sebastian, an…Continue Reading

The Whisper of the Jaguar

BEATRICE KANIKA TECHAWATANASUK reviews Birds of Passage, a postcolonial take on the South American drug trade. Going beyond drug warfare and blood splattering, Birds of Passage is a true story about the Colombian narcotics trade that refuses to follow the established formula of the mafia genre. Unlike Narcos (the hit Netflix show on the same subject), the film does not employ glitzy caricatures, artificially fast-paced rhythm nor contrived dialogue. Instead, Oscar-nominated director Ciro Guerra and co-director Cristina Gallego have crafted a nuanced portrayal of the indigenous Wayúu people as they grapple with the challenges of the drug trade. The resulting product is a distinctly postcolonial story – it is refreshing, intriguing, and will not be easily replicated. Birds of Passage is foremost about family and bloodlines. At the start of the film, the Wayúu people chant: ‘if there is family, there is respect. If there is respect, there is honour.…Continue Reading

Birds of Passage

HEATHER DEMPSEY reviews Been So Long, Tinge Krishnan’s glistening London musical.  Bold, neon-bathed, and utterly unashamed, Tinge Krishnan’s Been So Long is great big Camden kiss round the chops. A rose-tinted exhibit of London life, the musical follows a budding romance between well-armoured single mother Simone (Michaela Coel) and ex-prisoner Raymond (Arinzé Kene). Set in the heart of the city that has shaped each of their identities, their liaison catches both of them off guard. Fresh and frenetic, the film hums with promise, if not always hitting every note. Beginning early morning on Camden High Street, with its bustling market-set opening number, Been So Long nails its London settings. To the tangible joy of the audience, local landmarks are carefully utilised so as to engender authenticity rather than cliché. From the corner kebab shop to eclectic-as-ever night buses, these staples of city life are bound to warm the cockles of…Continue Reading

Been So Long

SOL DIÉGUEZ reviews Dogman, a bleak crime story set in the streets of southern Italy.  Set in Magliana, a dingy suburb of Rome, Matteo Garrone’s Dogman is a skilfully crafted tale of drama and crime. Loosely based on a real story, the film follows Marcello, a good man in desperate need of acceptance and validation. Garrone’s take on such universal themes is soaked in brutal realism. This allows Dogman to fully immerse the viewer in a tense but powerful narrative. Marcello – performed spectacularly by Marcello Fonte – is an amicable but weak figure, who runs a dog-grooming business. His fondness for dogs is exceeded only by his love for his daughter, Sofia (Alida Baldari Calabria), whom he sees only occasionally. He is a well-liked member of his community and lives out his days pampering his pets and playing football with his friends. His nights, however, are spent dealing cocaine. Through…Continue Reading

Dogman

KRISTIE LUI discusses what Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians gets right, but mostly what it gets wrong. Jon M. Chu’s grand cinematic adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel Crazy Rich Asians provides American cinema with a portrayal of East Asians that it so direly needed. It is the first movie from a major Hollywood studio in twenty-five years to feature a full Asian cast – the last being the adaptation of Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club, a novel focused on the lives of eight Chinese American immigrants. Crazy Rich Asians is a romantic comedy starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding and Michelle Yeoh as leading roles. The film topped the U.S. box office with a jaw-dropping $35 million in returns in its first five days in theatres. The figures speak for themselves – in fact, they act as a powerful cry, demanding more Asian stories and representations on the big-screen. ‘Please let this…Continue Reading

Crazy Rich Fairytales

WIKTORIA WROŃSKA reviews Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War, a feverish romance on political themes. Paweł Pawlikowski’s latest feature tells the story of two passionate lovers fighting tooth and claw to survive under the communist regime of mid-century Poland. The director of Academy Award-winning Ida delivers a visually striking and musically delightful film that manages to avoid the Hollywood trap of joyful yet predictable eucatastrophe. Because, of course, in such real political tumult, love rarely conquers all. Cold War opens on composer Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and producer Irena (Agnieszka Kulesza) as they tour across Polish villages to scout singers and dancers for a new music group, ‘Mazurek’. From the crowd of candidates stands out a temperamental, confident town-girl called Zula (Joanna Kulig), who sees joining the group as a gateway to a better life. While Irena is unimpressed with her, Wiktor immediately becomes fascinated and takes her in. Pawlikowski goes on to capture the fickleness of their relationship through a non-linear…Continue Reading

Cold War

MO-JAI MCKEOWN reviews Steve Loveridge’s biographical documentary about the life of rapper and artist M.I.A. The title of Steve Loveridge’s astute take on the intermittently eminent singer M.I.A. reflects the film’s approach. MANTAGI / MAYA / M.I.A. offers a fairly standard look at the rise to stardom and the ill consequences which accompany it, much in the vein of 2015’s Amy and this year’s Whitney: Can I Be Me? The film shines, however, in the incisive observations it makes on the formation of the star’s identity, tracking her — and her sense of self, divided between those three monikers — from youth up until the mid-2010s. MANTAGI / MAYA / M.I.A. opens on an elusive figure and seems set on understanding the opaque character of this intriguing pop star. Matangi’s journey is sprawling: from experiences in her South London home, to her exploits on her way into the music industry; from her…Continue Reading

MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A.

IMOGEN GODDARD explores the complexities of translating from book to film, and the ways in which these media can work in tandem. Books are always better than their screen adaptations, right? This is what the literary world tells us, but perhaps the answer to that questions should be: well, maybe. The effectiveness of this intersection has always been an interesting topic of discussion, but has become more and more relevant in recent years with the increasing prominence of films and television in our culture.  There are some terrible films created from brilliant books, but is this immediate (and in all honesty, slightly snobbish) reaction always valid?  Let’s properly examine whether too much of a book is lost in its screen version, in which case we can toss it aside without a second glance, or if successful adaptations really can be created.  Of course, there is a degree of subjectivity in this…Continue Reading

Page to Screen