“Is God dead?” For some atheists he never lived, but our film idols did. And when the director you worship dies how do you begin to replace him? Like religion there’s a good deal of choice on offer: Romanek, Audiard, Haneke, Nolan, Ramsay, Tarantino, but one shouldn’t be hurried into making a rash decision. Their talents are undeniable but when your deity is Stanley Kubrick the problem becomes ever more complex; how do you substitute the one true cinematic God for one of his children?
Inside the charm and gentle wit of “The Wedding Video” is an Ira Levin satire trying to claw its way out. Set in the WAG safe-haven of Cheshire, Nigel Cole’s movie has all the right credentials to be a British version of “The Stepford Wives” or “Rosemary’s Baby” as it documents the run-up to the wedding of upwardly mobile couple Tim and Saskia.
Faster, higher stronger! The Olympics continue to deliver the most extraordinary tales of endeavour, victory and defeat against the backdrop of a resurgent London. Athletes and pundits litter their media bites with all the standards: dedication, hard work, sacrifice, agony, heartache, despair, elation and desire. We’re used to sporting comebacks; we love the tenacity and the heroism of them but where do world famous film directors retreat to when they have to lick their wounds?
Joseph is a rampaging shambles of a man, a wounded dinosaur looking for a tar pit to curl up and die in. His meteor hit long ago throwing up a black cloud of hate that blots out the Sun and the spectre of extinction looms large over his nameless Northern home. He wears the universal uniform of a dangerous nutter: tracksuit bottoms with boots and a donkey jacket.
He’s thrown out of everywhere and detests everyone. Vicious, unbridled rage leads him to kick his dog to death over a lost bet. For a nation of dog lovers it’s a hard scene to swallow, it’s even harder to fathom when we see Joseph place a loving hand on his dog’s dead paw. We now know that Joseph is fully committed to hurting the ones he loves the most and that Paddy Considine’s debut feature, Tyrannosaur will be a difficult film to watch.
Something dark, unseen and unspeakable is slithering in suburbia in the new British horror film Kill List (dir: Ben Wheatley). Invisible tentacles constrict a family home, throttling the life from a marriage, twisting a father’s relationship with his son. Hidden mouths half-formed and demented feed upon material wealth sucking money dry until only the vacant husk of a man remains to gaze into the abyss of his empty Jacuzzi.
Russian Film Week NYC, which took place from October 28th through November 4th in the (historically Ukrainian) East Village, opened, appropriately enough, with Slava Ross’s “Siberia, Monamour,” a feature of Chekhovian proportions. Ross’s bleak drama is grounded in the characters of a grandfather and his young grandson, unfortunate denizens of the Siberian village of Monamour, a no-man’s land where feral dogs run wild like a pack of Cujos, ruling the forest that surrounds and entraps the pair. As the two vainly await the return of the child’s father, other lost males – from a morally bankrupt soldier, to a cuckolded father, to a conniving thief – drift in and out of their lives, in turn finding their own subplots.
The thin veneer of middle class respectability is blasted apart in Roman Polanski’s midnight-black comedy “Carnage.” Based on Yasmina Reza’s stage play, “The God of Carnage” the film features two New York couples that try to settle a violent episode between their sons with urbane civility. Unfortunately good manners, coffee and cobbler soon make way for hatred, 18-year-old whiskey and good old-fashioned spleen venting on an apocalyptic scale.
Ralph Fiennes’ adaptation of Coriolanus has been dubbed “muscular” but all the upper body strength in the world doesn’t quite compensate for the skinny legs that buckle just shy of the climax. The film starts promisingly enough transplanting Rome to the Balkans in an exciting montage of grainy news footage inter-cut with some “Commando” style knife sharpening. IIan Eshkeri’s driving score pursues a single agitator as she joins fellow conspirators plotting a general’s death shot crisply by cinematographer Barry Ackroyd.
Drive is slick. Spy Hunter slick. Every frame oozes class, bleeds cool. Newman cool, McQueen cool, O’Neal cool. Ryan Gosling is their heir apparent, a silent human machine, driving gloves and satin jacket. His ice-cold protagonist is a grease monkey in the morning, stuntman in the afternoon and getaway driver by night.
His mantra is Eastwood, “If I drive for you, you give me a time and place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours no matter what. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down; I don’t carry a gun…I drive.”
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” is out now in the UK, December in the US
1973. The opening scene of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” tastes like a can of ox-tail soup washed down with whiskey and 40 fags. A dimly lit flat harbours a clammy conspiracy. Stacks of files list dangerously close to overflowing ashtrays and towering paranoia, “You weren’t followed?” rasps Control chief of MI6 British intelligence. The hooks are well and truly in.
Budapest. Two MiG fighters smash the tranquillity of the establishing shot. These are the swords of the Soviet Gods, rapiers of modernity, the very antithesis of the intelligence officers, scalp hunters, and pavement artists employed to steal their blueprints. Men and women trashed by years in the shadows. Men like Jim Prideaux to whom every bead of sweat, clink of a coffee cup, or creak of leather could be his undoing.
“A man should know when to leave the party.” It’s a very British coup at the cankerous heart of the “Circus” the higher echelons of MI6. Like a drowned rat Control leaves the sinking ship to his rival Percy Alleline smug and overbearing in his victory. Control has failed spectacularly; his attempt to unravel a mole has come apart at the seams. Slithering behind Control is the ophidian George Smiley inscrutable as he slides into his forced retirement.