Loveless (Nelyubov): Movie review


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I’m not familiar with the work of Andrey Zvyagintsev, although his previous movie, Leviathan, got a BAFTA nomination (as this has) for Best Film not in the English Language.

However, I’m reliably informed he has a ‘style’ consistent with that on display in Loveless that could most accurately be described as; bleak.

Shot in naturalistic (i.e. low) light in the depths of Russian winter it makes little or no concession to cinematic gloss.  Although the extremely sparingly applied soundtrack by Evgeny and Sasha Galperin is strangely brilliant.

Loveless is the story of a 12 year old boy in Moscow who disappears after hearing a vicious argument between his, very much, not in love parents, neither of whom want the responsibility of bringing him up once their impending divorce is settled.

It’s a slow burn after that as we follow the search for the young boy who has left no clues as to how, why or where he is.

It portrays Moscow in as bleak a light as any you’ll have seen since those gritty 60’s/70’s German/Polish dirges and yet it’s kind of compelling.  It’s actually quite engrossing, even as you reel at the circumstances that have led to his parents’ estrangement and weirdly unemotional connection with the situation they find themselves in.

Loveless is the perfect title for a movie that deals with intimacy, relationship and familial bonds without even a shred of real love being displayed.

Frankly, it’s horrible, but don’t let that put you off.  It’s a fine piece of art if not a multiplex filler.

 

Important TV that should be part of the school curriculum


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An outstanding performance by Maisie Williams as teenager Casey (I don’t know her from Game of Thrones but if she’s as good on that as she is here it must be  worth watching) is at the heart of this brilliant one off C4 drama.

She singlehandedly carries a one hour drama about cyber bullying drawn from real world examples.

It dramatically personifies the impact of trolling in teenage circles and turns Maisie’s own trolling on its head through the use of a hacker who communicates directly with her in her bedroom and plays the role of a modern St Peter at the pearly gates holding a mirror up to her misdemeanours.

The film has many twists and turns and can never be predicted. It’s a tough role for a young actor to carry off but she succeeds with flying colours.

The lessons are clear and powerful. That’s why it should be shown in social education classes to demonstrate the extremes that trolling can get to.

In the shadow of all the King’s speech “the British are coming” claptrap there are a couple of overlooked gems.


It’s actually an Australian/UK co production driven by the Australian See Saw Productions/Films but I don’t want to be a pedant here.

And it’s pretty good too.

In fact in some ways it has become something of a phenomenon with applause ringing out across the land after each screening.

But it’s not all that is good about British cinema right now.  Putting to one side NEDS let’s focus on two Oscar nominees that I have read not a jot about in the past two weeks; Banksy’s Exit through the Gift Shop which I have yet to see but rates very highly on IMDB and Silvain Chomet’s The Illusionist.

Edinburgh is the star of this delightful movie.

Closely followed by the Highlands of Scotland

Lovely period detail

Whilst I liked The Illusionist more in my heart than my head, the fact that it has garnered an Oscar nomination should not be overlooked.

From a selfish point of view I wish it well because I know the producer, Bob Last, pretty well as he was our landlord when we established my first company, 1576.

It’s a charming, whimsical tale by the director of Belle Ville Rendezvous and it was largely created in Scotland (Edinburgh and Dundee). However it’s deeply disappointing that of the 33 production partner companies listed not one of them is Scottish.  In fact of the 26 funders not one of them is British and yet it was made here.

It only faces two competitors; How to Tame Your Dragon and – bugger – Toy Story 3.

It’s already won best animated movie at The European Film Awards but it’s dissapointing that it did not gain any recognition at The BAFTAs.

Anyway, it’s highly unlikely to beat off Toy Story 3, but maybe we should take a moment on Oscar night to toast Bob and Sylvain.

Cheers chaps.

So Black Swan’s a Ballet film for chicks, right? Wrong.


And by the way, is this not the best film poster in years?

Black Swan is the most visceral cinematic experience I’ve had since maybe Raging Bull.  So, it’s about ballet?  So what.  Ballet is merely the structure on which this tragedy about mental breakdown, maybe schizophrenia is played out.

Using the metaphor of black and white (the swans) to portray, good and evil, right and wrong, strength and weakness director Darren Aranofski paints a picture of what’s going on in the head of Natalie Portman as she gradually falls apart under the pressure of preparing to dance Swan Lake; with a backdrop of a doubtful choreographer, an ambitious understudy, a jealous mother and a fallen Prima ballerina; all exerting pressure of one sort or another on the poor little virgin that is Portman.

Portman delivers a tour de force (Oscar certainty) performance as she wrestles with the devils in her mind and tries to prove all the doubters wrong.  It’s a remarkable performance in so many ways, so vulnerable (which could just have been fey) and yet so strong.  Surely the Academy can look no further.

But the real star of the show – notwithstanding powerhouse performances from Barbara Hershey (wonderful as the mother), Winona Ryder in a Mommie Dearest descent into her own madness, Vincent Cassel (as the unforgiving choreographer and philanderer) and Mila Kunis as the threat from the Corps de Ballet – is director Darren Aronofsky.  My God, another huge contender for Academy recognition.  His direction of Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler was eye opening, but this moves him onto yet another level.  He is garnering a reputation for bringing mental instability to the screen in a way that is eye opening and shocking.

And that’s another thing about this move, it’s a quite thrilling shockfest.  There’s a bunch of “gotcha” moments that have you ducking for cover (quite a few shreiks were let out in our relatively small audience) as he makes the most of the ability to confuse and wrongfoot his audience.

And then there’s the sex.  I’ll not go into detail here, but it is a central motif of the film (starting from the premise that Portman is a 24 year old virgin) and is certainly worthy of debate, but I don’t want to spoil it for you here.

All I’ll say is that sitting next to my 16 year old daughter as it played out made for a degree of discomfort!

All in all this is a truly outstanding piece of film-making.  In Darren Aronofsky we have one of America’s next great directors really cementing his claims for greatness and Natalie Portman never has, and never will, have a part this great again.

Go see.

Do NOT wait for the DVD, it will not be the same.

102 minutes that changed america.


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Channel 4 has absolutely surpassed itself in screening this moving and extremely challenging documentary. For two hours, image after image took one’s breath away as we saw real (but mostly very high quality) video footage of the twin towers collapse from 8.45 am until 10 29 am.  Played sequentially with views from all angles including actually inside the towers it was heart stopping television.

I think one thing that made it so powerful was its lack of commentary and opinion.  It was not a political film, simply an unfolding of an event in something like real time.  Some might say it was the extremest form of voyeuristic television but I thought it was a work of true skill and, indeed, art.  I should make special mention of the constant but very subtle musical underscore, by Brendon Anderegg, which was quite beautiful.  Someone call the BAFTAs. (And the Academy, and the Emmys.)

Truly magnificent TV.

Peter Bowker’s Occupation


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The BBC has pulled an ace from the pack with this brilliantly written, filmed and acted three-parter starring James Nesbitt (how good an actor is he becoming?) Warren Brown and Stephen Graham.  If you’ve not seen it watch again on the BBC iPlayer because it’s a class act.  Set in Basra (and back in rainy old Engerland) it charts the stories of three Yorkshire squaddies who each react very differently to their experiences in Iraq.

It’s heavily political, and critically so, not just of the “allies” but of the new regime that the US and UK groomed to create total havoc in Saddam Hussein’s wake.

“Do you still think it was the right thing to do?” asks Graham of Nesbitt.

“I don’t know.”  replies Nesbitt, the man who started out as loyal as they come.

Yes.  Me neither.

What a bloody mess.

I’ll tell you what’s occurin’


Gavin and Stacey.  That’s what’s ocurrin’.

We watched the last episode of  series two through tears of mirth and melancholy in almost equal part last night, only seconds after watching the show win two BAFTAs.

Like James Corden I was puzzled by the fact that it was nominated for most things that had a suggestion of funnines about the category, but not best sitcom, but, hey, that’s the BAFTAs for you.

After all, Coronation Street didn’t get a nomination for best Soap.  That’s a joke is it not.

Anyway back to the Gavster. This is a magnificent TV series and it all stems from the writing – in this case of James Corden and Ruth Jones. I don’t think the series has reached the critical mass it should have ,  But it will.  Oh yes it will. British comedy at its very, very best.

One further observation on the awards…C4 stuck it right up them.  Good on ya C4.  We luv ya!