Social Sheffield Film Editor, Natasha Edgington, picks the top three films screening in Sheffield, Mon. 2 – Sun. 8 Oct. 2017
1. – Belle de Jour (1967) – – – (18) (Showing at Showroom)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: Luis Buñuel. Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Geneviève Page, Pierre Clémenti. Language: French/Spanish/Mongolian]
Mexican filmmaker Luis Buñuel made an eternal stamp on cinema with his works of surrealist magnificence, yet his masterful erotic study Belle de Jour remains his most widely acclaimed. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, see it on the silver screen at Showroom Cinema for a limited time. When matters of sexual liberation, dominance and masochism arise in film, most modern directors opt for lurid titillation than offer a cognitive examination of these impulses. Made in 1967, Belle de Jour triumphs in its discreet and innovative approach to the subject, employing visual metaphors and sharp cuts to imply risqué moments. After all, it’s not what Séverine does that makes the story so alluring, but why. Spectral beauty Séverine Serizy (Catherine Deneuve) exudes an almost-virginal purity and poise, who unbeknownst to her doting husband Pierre, escapes her staid and unfulfilling intimate life with dreams of debauchery. However in reality, Séverine has more deep-rooted issues to deal with. Her timid frigidity has her averting the touch of her Parisian surgeon husband, not to mention any compliments made by male friends, or worse, strangers. When Séverine learns that a woman from her bourgeoisie clique has been earning money at a high-class bordello, her curiosity is roused and goes in search of Madame Anaïs’ house of pleasure. As Séverine escapes life as a housewife and dips her toes into afternoon prostitution, her cathartic release from the shackles of social convention threatens to erode her demure façade. An undeniable pearl of cinematic perfection, Belle de Jour is deserving of its glory and so much more. Buñuel tackles the intricacies of perversion and fetishism with dreamlike surrealism, contrasted against humanist depictions of the brothel’s patrons and their compulsions. The film flows with an opulent array of set and costume designs, enriched tenfold by the glorious ‘60s Technicolor. Buñuel’s visual flair is proudly at work here, splicing together flashback and fantasy-induced vignette sequences with fluid, roving camerawork. A satirical portrait of a tainted upper-class, Belle de Jour is an intoxicating journey into escapism, deviant curiosities and pivotal childhood moments that scar our adult desires.
See the trailer: Belle de Jour (1967)
2. – Inertia Variations (2017) – – – (12A) (Showing at Showroom on Friday 6 October at 6:30pm)
[Genre: Documentary. Dir: Johanna St Michaels. Starring: Matt Johnson, Johanna St Michaels, Tim Pope, Jackson Ewald Johnson, Thierry Somers. Language: English]
Matt Johnson of the seminal English post-punk band The The offers an intimate gaze at his attempts to reconnect with the writing process in new documentary Inertia Variations. Formed at the turn of the ‘80s, the band enjoyed reams of success into the ‘90s with their particular brand of accessible, observant and politically-charged songwriting. However, when founding member Johnson made the spontaneous decision to retire from the industry at the peak of their success, procrastination and creative malaise has since overcome him. Directed by ex-wife Johanna St Michaels, Swedish artist and confidante, the title pays homage to John Tottenham’s poem which Johnson cites as searingly relevant to his predicament. Johnson’s affinity for shortwave radio ignites his creativity and Inertia Variations follows his endeavour in launching his first 12-hour broadcast from his station Radio Cineola. Comprising of live music, poetry, interviews and discussions with an array of guests covering geo-politics to spiritual thought, Radio Cineola strives to stimulate listeners in ways ignored by the mainstream. However, as the station comes into steady fruition, Johnson must keep his promise to St Michaels and write at least one new track to accompany the broadcast. A deeply resonating and contemplative portrait of an artist confronting his repulsion to the spotlight, Inertia Variations laments the pain forever preserved through creation.
See the trailer: Inertia Variations (2017)
3. – Raw (2016) – – – (18) (Showing at Film Unit on Friday 6 October on at 7:30pm)
[Genre: Drama/Horror. Dir: Julia Ducournau. Starring: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella. Language: French]
If you missed out on Julia Ducournau’s feature-length debut Raw the first time around, witness her coming-of-cannibalism feast at Film Unit for one night only. Tomboyish late bloomer Justine is about to embark on a new chapter of her life, following in her parents’ footsteps and attending the same veterinary college. Her family is strictly vegetarian, and when Justine is mistakenly served mashed potato with morsels of sausage in at a roadside diner, her body physically rejects it. Upon arrival at the college, its unconventionality soon transpires as the rookie hazing rituals commence. Freshmen are forced to crawl through corridors, dormitories are trashed and mattresses launched out of the window, and vats of animal blood are doused over rookies during their class photo. Amid the depraved initiation rites, Justine tracks down her older and much wilder sister Alexia. Once a vegetarian herself, Alexia has succumbed to college life as a meat eater and shows her disgust at Justine’s intelligent and well-meaning nature. When the next phase of rookie hazing presents Justine with a sample of alcohol-soaked rabbit kidney, a carnal desire is unleashed that ceases to abate. On the face of it, Raw may seem to lean into horror territory, yet Ducournau cleverly combines a wealth of themes that really separates Raw from the rest. The director charges her coming-of-age debut with dark satire, exploring one girl’s identity crisis and sexual awakening through a Cronenbergian lens. Star lead Garance Marillier is utterly sublime, communicating the frustrations of young adulthood with stunning resonance. There’s no doubt that Marillier is a face we’ll be seeing more of in French cinema in the coming years. Marking a wonderfully unique debut for the talented filmmaker, Raw is a coldly clinical and grotesque allegory on self-control and our need to fit in.
See the trailer: Raw (2016)
– – – PREVIOUS EDITOR’S PICKS – – – STILL SCREENING IN SHEFFIELD – – –
Borg vs McEnroe (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at Showroom)
[Genre: Drama/Biography. Dir: Janus Metz Pedersen. Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Sverrir Gudnason, Stellan Skarsgård, Tuva Novotny. Language: English/Swedish/French]
There’s something particularly compelling about sports rivalry on film, and Janus Metz Pedersen hurls us amidst the tennis court feuds of Borg vs McEnroe. Danish director Pedersen injects the slow nature of the sport with vigour and delivers a well-balanced depiction of the psychological profiles of the titular opponents. Inspired by real events, Borg vs McEnroe chronicles the days leading up to the climactic 1980 Wimbledon final. Pedersen effectively discerns the titular polar opposites by journeying into their upbringings to reveal attributes that have only been further amplified by the competitive sport. Widely considered one of the greatest players of the sport to date, steely Swede Björn Borg (played as an adult by Sverrir Gudnason) is shown as a youth barely containing his simmering fury. Young spoilt New Yorker John McEnroe (played as an adult by Shia LaBeouf) is a controlled and naïve beginner, who honours his idol Borg by adopting his signature sweatband. Through their chosen coaches, Borg under the guidance of Lennart Bergelin (Stellan Skarsgård) and McEnroe his father (Ian Blackman), the rivals gradually mould into the fire and ice personas that defined their iconic duel. Pedersen has made an excellent job with Borg vs McEnroe, a brilliantly-crafted and intriguing sports narrative that serves far beyond the game itself. The screenplay explores key aspects in competition; humiliation and endurance, discipline and sacrifice. Expert casting choices ensure it’s a believable watch for fans of the sport, and allows some clever duality between LaBeouf’s real life persona and his role in the film. While motorsports have been the hot topic in recent years, Borg vs. McEnroe has just given tennis its most incisive cinematic depiction thus far.
See the trailer: Borg vs McEnroe (2017)
Detroit (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at The Light)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: Kathryn Bigelow. Starring: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Hannah Murray. Language: English]
American filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) returns with latest socio-political docudrama Detroit. Bigelow’s sprawling saga chronicles the racially-charged uprising of 1967, a period in the city’s history that feels alarmingly relevant today. Amongst the many tumultuous events during the 5-day riots, The Algiers motel incident garnered significant press coverage, and understandably so. It’s this particular story that Bigelow and former journalist cum scriptwriter Mark Boal seek to portray with Detroit. The film opens with a sequence depicting the Great Migration of African-Americans in 1916, the movement which would fan the flames of disenfranchisement in largely black communities. Working chronologically from 1967, Detroit kicks off with the police raid on an unlicensed drinking establishment that would become the impetus to the chaos. The botched club raid sparks mass rioting and looting, with the citizen’s allegiances torn between authority and race. As conflict wreaks havoc into the third day, many seek refuge in The Algiers motel, including the group The Dramatics, whose concert has been cancelled. The predominantly black guests of the motel attempt to pass the time and socialise with each other in their rooms. However, when a small joke between friends results in Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell) firing his starter pistol, the authorities believe a sniper lay in their midst. The razor-sharp tension in the air throngs the National Guard, Michigan State Police and Detroit Police forces into the building with devastating results. Detroit will prove a difficult watch for many viewers, particularly in its harsh second act that features some deeply unsettling torture scenes. Detroit serves as a stark and harrowing reminder that fundamental facets of society have experienced little progression since the events of 1967. However, to comprehensively tackle this weighty moment in American history, Bigelow would require far more than the 143-minute runtime. This lack of time means vital chapters in the timeline are either omitted entirely or glossed over, and fail to provide sufficient context for those unfamiliar with the incidents. Detroit showcases some fantastic performances from its huge cast, including John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Imperial Dreams) as a security guard conflicted by his loyalties and Will Poulter (The Revenant, Son of Rambow) as the inherently racist tyrant fuelling the brutality. A powerful and gut-wrenching dramatisation of historical events, Detroit will leave viewers contemplating the barbaric tendencies of humankind.
See the trailer: Detroit (2017)
Dunkirk (2017) – – – (12A) (Showing at Cineworld, Film Unit, The Light, Vue)
[Genre: War Drama/Historical. Dir: Christopher Dunkirk. Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles. Language: English]
Christopher Nolan made his directorial debut in 2000 and went on to become one of the most successful directors of the century. His latest release, gargantuan war epic Dunkirk, marks an exceptional milestone in his career and unveils a craftsman really coming into his own. The ambitious creation is presented in a triptych of separate stories, spread across three locations. Seven months into World War II, Hitler’s Wehrmacht army have surrounded the Calais stronghold and overpowered the French port of Boulogne. Caught within the Nazi’s trap, the 400,000 Allied troops have nowhere to turn, marooned on the barren beaches of Dunkirk. Young and visibly startled from the horrors of war, Private Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) heads to the shore through the shower of propaganda leaflets and hurtling gunfire. As he wanders across the vast expanse of stranded souls, Tommy encounters a private by the name of Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) burying a fallen soldier. After they brace against another assault by the German Stukas, the pair seize the stretcher of a wounded soldier and head for the only rescue ship in sight. Elsewhere, civilian captain Dawson (Mark Rylance) charts a brave expedition to the titular beach, after his boat is enlisted as an evacuation vessel. Also commandeering the runtime are white-knuckle sequences of RAF Spitfire pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) defending ships against Hitler’s Luftwaffe bombers. Little can be said about the plot of Dunkirk without revealing too much, although its narrative simplicity is one of its greatest assets. For Dunkirk doesn’t suffer the complexities of the director’s previous works, the attributes that have long confused – and divided – fans and filmgoers alike. Nolan takes the reins of his uninhibited freedom in the film industry and creates one of the most immersive depictions of war for some time. Dunkirk is all about the experience of being in war, and the film achieves just that by the dizzying sound design alone. Hans Zimmer provides a suitably droning soundtrack, which proves a welcome departure from the all too familiar sounds of his earlier collaborations with the director. Instead, he charges the scenes with momentum, blending together clock-ticking, shredding strings and jarring diegetic effects. The restrained use of dialogue is duly effective here, relying on the beautifully realistic performances and Nolan’s sure-handed direction to do the storytelling. What makes Dunkirk so special is that quietly powerful moments are respected as just that, quiet. The camera never dwells on a scene for too long, refusing to succumb to the overt sentimentality of Hollywood storytelling. Fans of Nolan will be prepared for his trademark narrative structure, though it fits in well with the subject matter. The filmmaker cleverly plays with time to weave together the three storylines, forming a powerful conclusion. A visceral and unsettling assault on the senses, Dunkirk shines as one of Nolan’s most impressive spectacles thus far.
See the trailer: Dunkirk (2017)
Lady Macbeth (2016) – – – (15) (Showing at The Light)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: William Oldroyd. Starring: Florence Pugh, Paul Hilton, Cosmo Jarvis, Christopher Fairbank, Naomi Ackie. Language: English]
There seems to be an abundance of compelling period pieces this month, and Lady Macbeth makes no exception. Written by first-time screenwriter Alice Birch, Lady Macbeth is adapted from Nikolai Leskov’s novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. Director William Oldroyd transports its Russian origins to the remote planes of rural England. Set in the 19th century, the drama charts the tumultuous path of Katherine, a young woman sold into a loveless marriage. Procured by his colliery-owner father to continue a white bloodline, alcoholic heir Alexander is wed to Katherine, a meek young woman half his age. Imprisoned within Alexander’s estate, Katherine dwells in her solitude, finding little affection from her bitter husband. Miasmic dominance permeates throughout the family, who treat Katherine as a scant ornament. Yearning for fulfilment and affection, Katherine falls into a passionate affair with local farmhand Sebastian. Their forbidden love sparks an unrelenting thirst for revenge in Katherine, ending with cataclysmic results. Oldroyd has crafted a beautifully beguiling narrative which swells in its claustrophobic atmosphere. Somewhat extreme in its tone, the well-paced screenplay studies thematics from objectification to class convention. Although beginning as a feminist-driven tale, Lady Macbeth respectably gives way to an inclusive representation of good/evil regardless of gender. Cinematographer Ari Wegner (The Kettering Incident) captures the cold oppression through long solemn takes and static shots. The tactile sound design and unpolished gloom of the moorlands evoke Andrea Arnold’s realistic rendition of Wuthering Heights. Theatre director Oldroyd achieves a raw and captivating performance from starring lead Florence Pugh, who made her acting debut in 2014 drama The Falling. She is definitely a rising star to look out for. A stirringly subversive experience, Lady Macbeth is a powerful depiction of when the tables of tyranny are turned by caustic fury.
See the trailer: Lady Macbeth (2016)
Mother! (2017) – – – (18) (Showing at Cineworld, Curzon, Showroom, The Light, Vue)
[Genre: Drama/Thriller. Dir: Darren Aronofsky. Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson. Language: English]
The unexpected guest causes unease amongst even the most composed introvert out there, and yet Darren Aronofsky uses social inconveniences to near-suffocate the senses with latest release mother! From his early work with deranged math thriller Pi, addiction piece Requiem for a Dream, to his critically-acclaimed duality study Black Swan, Aronofsky’s vision has always been bold and highly cerebral. mother! is all of those things; it’s an intense, intrusive and wholly stressful experience that will put casual filmgoers to the test, but that’s the point. Married couple Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem (all characters remain unnamed) reside in a grand octagonal-shaped Victorian house that Lawrence has just finished restoring with her own hands. With children still looming on the horizon, Lawrence has gifted her husband a complete recreation of his creaky childhood home, which perished in a fire some years past. When a knock at the door presents doctor Ed Harris in search of a room for the night, Bardem – a poet battling through a persistent stint of writer’s block – ushers in the new source of stimulation, neglecting his wife’s consent. The strange visitor welcomes more parasitic arrivals to the home, steadily defiling Lawrence’s privacy and forcing her to the brink of claustrophobic breakdown. If there ever was a definition of cacophony caught on film, mother! is the perfect example. Aronofsky takes almost sadistic pleasure in bombarding viewers with disruptions throughout, but it’s these invasions that charge its climate of berserk frustration. The film explores a sea of themes which shouldn’t be disregarded by Aronofsky’s foolish decision to explain the plot since its release. The psychothriller reveals the dark sides of introversion and extroversion, creative plagiarism and entitlement. While audiences may need to adjust to the intense close-ups of cinematographer Matthew Libatique, his voyeuristic and over-the-shoulder camerawork is incredibly immersive. Amplifying the dizzying atmosphere are recurrent motifs, such as geometric patterns and jangly, glass-shattering sound design, which intuitively indicates the lapse of rhythm and order. With the strong significance of setting, it’s hard not to recall Roman Polanski’s ‘Apartment Trilogy’ (Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant) here, but there’s also a Jacob’s Ladder nightmarishness to it too. A delightfully disorientating allegory laden with anxiety, mother! is Aronofsky’s best – and most divisive – work in recent years. Not for the faint of heart.
See the trailer: mother! (2017)
Wind River (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at Cineworld, Showroom)
[Genre: Crime Drama/Mystery. Dir: Taylor Sheridan. Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Kelsey Asbille, Graham Greene, Julia Jones. Language: English]
Actor turned screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has been thriving behind the scenes for the past few years and now hops into the director’s chair for a second time with murder mystery Wind River. Having worked alongside Denis Villeneuve on the script for Sicario and David Mackenzie on Hell or High Water, Sheridan fuses together his directorial vision and skillful knack for storytelling with gripping results. As U.S. Fish & Wildlife agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Remmer) treks the snow-blanketed wilderness of Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation in search of a mountain lion predator, he uncovers the frozen body of Indian teenager Natalie. His discovery harkens painful memories for Cory, whose teenage daughter was raped and murdered three years prior. Vowing to deliver the justice he was unable to do for his daughter, Cory reports the body to local sheriff Ben (Graham Greene), who enlists FBI rookie agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to lead the investigation. As the team trudge deeper into their investigation, the desolate and unforgiving territory grows harsher with each development. Considering this is Sheridan’s first ‘real’ directorial effort, Wind River marks a strong and respectable debut. The stark Wyoming landscape is as essential to the story as the characters that drive it, permeating the atmosphere with disquieting isolation. Sheridan’s sure-handed direction and well-written screenplay ensures the film is engaging throughout, bolstered by his decision to live on an Indian reservation to carry out research. Billowing the tension and quivering the heartstrings is another exceptional score by music dream team Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Exploring the abandonment of Native American communities and the disparities that sadly persist, Wind River provides plenty to mull over long after the credits roll.
See the trailer: Wind River (2017)
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