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Showing posts from January, 2014

I will keep myself hardy 'til freedom is opportune.

12 Years a Slave (2013)
Steve McQueen’s third feature has been garlanded with praise from every quarter, so much so that its instant classic status seems unassailable. Tackling weighty subject matter (such as slavery, or the Holocaust) sometimes seems to invoke pre-programmed critical plaudits, so it’s as well that 12 Years a Slave deserves them. Yet I’m not sure it’s the groundbreaking film the kudos suggest. Perhaps what surprised me the most, given the director’s previous work, is how classical in structure and direct in manner it is.

I say that because McQueen’s great strength seems to be creating atmosphere and resonance that reverberates from the interior, close-quarter emotions of his protagonists (is it a nod to his reputation that the film begins with a Shame–summoning attempt at sexual congress?) And that element is consistently the strongest feature of 12 Years, as embodied by Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Solomon Northup. Solomon is a man whose reality is upturned, and whose grip on his…

Sometimes it's good to do what you're supposed to do when you're supposed to do it.

Frances Ha (2012)
Noah Baumbach’s films have a tendency to leave me a tad unfazed (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg). They’re just okay. He’s not the golden god of indie filmmaking some have made out. And his collaborations with Wes Anderson (who I do, ever so slightly, revere) elicited the latter’s weakest features (The Life Aquatic). So his most recent picture comes as pleasant surprise. For all its slightness, self-conscious quirkiness and French New Wave referencing, Frances Ha is an immensely likeable little film. Much of that may be down to the luminous presence of lead actress Greta Gerwig, who also co-wrote the script with beau Baumbach.

Gerwig also appeared in Baumbach’s previous film, Greenberg. Her presence underscores the much over-used but unfortunately most appropriate epithet for this director’s mode; quirky. Frances Ha reeks of quirk. At times the soundtrack choices are just too much, suggesting Baumbach’s is dead set on the picture spontaneously combusting with loveab…

I ain’t from this planet, y’all.

Spring Breakers (2012)
Harmony Korine’s latest has received a fair deal of critical fanfare. To be honest, it was the sole factor that eventually persuaded me to give it a look; I’m not an enormous fan of his oeuvre, but fair play to those who find his work rewarding and challenging. I probably should have trusted my better instincts, as this deconstruction of a youth culture transfixed and tranquilised by sex, drugs, and gun culture surprises only with quite how bereft it is of substance.

To be highly cynical for a moment, Korine’s decision to manufacture this critique through the medium of four actresses (including his missus, 13 years his junior) clad, at best, in bikinis for the duration seems like your classic opportunistic method of making an artistic statement. It’s about something really significant, you know. It just happens that the means of communicating this message requires prodigious amounts of ripe young flesh to be bared.

The plot, such as it is, involves four empty-heade…