RICHARD SANSOM reviews Gaspar Noé’s latest about a dance troupe’s macabre descent into a psychotic hell. Climax is the most recent work in a series of disorientating horrors from the Premier of New French Extremity, Gaspar Noé. Following on from 2015’s penetrating 3D porno Love, his fifth creation is yet another fantastic, woozy nightmare seemingly dreamt up in the menacing glow of Quartier Pigalle. In a grotty Parisian suburb, a troupe of young dancehall glitterati drink sangria in celebration of a successful final rehearsal for an upcoming US tour. Unbeknown to them, the punchbowl has been spiked with acid. As the drug kicks in, the jubilant youths, who had hitherto been krumping and waacking so gracefully, descend into chaos. Over the course of the night, they are contaminated by the substance in a sequence of events that echoes the indelible cruelties of Greek tragedy. We bear witness to homicide, suicide,…Continue Reading

Climax

LYDIA DE MATOS reviews The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos’ unruly take on the period piece. The Favourite is an intense deconstruction of what audiences have come to know as the typical period film. Despite its 18th-century English setting, it comes much closer to Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette than to Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice. There is a distinct sense of anachronism emanating from the modern overtones of this film – characters forgo any sense of formality in favour of screams, swears, and temper tantrums. But what else could be expected from a film whose credits include ‘Nude Pomegranate Tory’ and ‘Wanking Man’? The Favourite is undoubtedly Yorgos Lanthimos’ most accessible film, immediately recognisable as his doing but at the same time an obvious departure from his previous works. This is most likely due to the fact that the director had no hand in the writing of the script, instead working with an…Continue Reading

The Favourite

MAEVE ALLEN reviews Widows, an unnerving heist thriller with feminist overtones.  When four career criminals are killed in an attempted robbery, their widows take up the task they could never complete. Harry (Liam Neeson) and his gang owe two million dollars to grassroots gangsters on the brink of political ascendency. The Mannings brothers are angry. They want their money back. Fulfilling Harry’s plan for a final heist is the only way for the widows to satisfy these malevolent men. In Widows, Director Steve McQueen reinvents the traditional heist movie by plunging these average women in the criminal underworld their husbands operated in. He infuses the film with female power, squeezes in social criticism and sensitively explores grief. Co-written with Gillian Flynn, Widows fizzes with the same tension that made Gone Girl a white-knuckle, lump-in-throat thriller. Brace yourselves for a masterful ride through inner city Chicago. Widows is explosive from the…Continue Reading

Widows

THOMAS NGUYEN reviews M/M as part of SAVAGE’s coverage of Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Festival.  Drew Lint’s M/M is a modern-day tale of obsession. It follows Matthew (Antoine Lahaie), a lone man living in Berlin. Disillusioned with city life, he spends his days scrolling through dating apps, hoping to break free from his monotonous reality. That is until he meets Matthias (Nicolas Maxim Endlicher), a mysterious love interest who does not shy from his attraction for our protagonist. There begins a game of seduction, as Matthew becomes vehemently drawn towards this young man whom he knows nothing about. The plot comes to life through a vista of ethereal shots of various places in the city, which are the only elements one is likely to remember from the film. A lack of directorial vision makes M/M a lethargic watch, as Lint lazily attempts to scrutinise a worn out concept. Berlin provides a…Continue Reading

M/M

THEO MERTEN-MANCER reviews The Accountant of Auschwitz, a documentary about the recent trial of Oskar Gröning, a surviving member of the SS. A study released on Holocaust Remembrance Day this year found that two thirds of American millennials are unaware of what the Auschwitz extermination camp was. Survivors in their late 70s or older may remember experiencing the Second World War as children, however it seems that details of the conflict and surrounding events are fading from living memory. Matthew Shoychet’s new documentary serves as a contemporary reminder of the dreadful atrocities committed in the concentration camps of World War Two. Beyond this, The Accountant of Auschwitz explores crucial questions of justice and accountability. The documentary revolves around the 2015 trial of Oskar Gröning, a 94-year-old former SS officer who was charged as an accessory to the murder of over 300,000 victims in Auschwitz. His defence is one of moral disengagement:…Continue Reading

The Accountant of Auschwitz

HEATHER DEMPSEY reviews The Daughters of Fire as part of SAVAGE’s coverage of Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Festival.  In The Daughters of Fire, Albertina Carri reimagines the road movie through a daydreamy prism of eroticism. An unflinching take on female sexuality and desire, the film follows an ever-growing group of women on a cross-country trip through Argentinian Patagonia, and the making of a porn movie along the way. Expanding from core couple Violeta (Carolina Alamino Barthaburu) and Agustina (Mijal Katzowicz), the group can be loosely described as polyamorous lesbians, but the iridescent sexual identities of the women elude restrictive definition in Carri’s radical and intimate investigation of onscreen sensuality. A trip in every sense of the word, the plot veers indiscriminately from reality to fantasy, and through hazy amalgamations of both. Shunning the traditional trajectory of the classic road-trip narrative, it offers no distinct endpoint beyond a half-planned visit to a…Continue Reading

The Daughters of Fire

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