Social Sheffield Film Editor, Natasha Edgington, picks the top three films screening in Sheffield, Mon. 9 – Sun. 15 Oct. 2017
1. – Chasing Ice (2012) – – – (12A) (Showing at Film Unit on Monday 9 October at 7:30pm)
[Genre: Documentary. Dir: Jeff Orlowski. Starring: James Balog, Louie Psihoyos, Jeff Orlowski, Svavar Jónatansson. Language: language]
Coming to Film Unit for one night only is Jeff Orlowski’s award-winning climate change documentary Chasing Ice. The director sought to raise awareness by presenting audiences with the work of National Geographic photographer James Balog and his Extreme Ice Survey Project. Following his wildlife photography depicting our interaction with endangered species, Balog moved on to his next endeavour, chronicling the physical impact climate change is having on the landscape. Setting up the Extreme Ice Survey Project in 2007, the photographer recorded hourly snaps of Alaska, Iceland and Greenland and compiled them into astonishing time-lapse videos, showing the glaciers receding by the mile. Orlowski’s film captures Balog’s spirit and passion, showing his determination against the innumerable hurdles in his mission to present his findings. It must be noted that while Balog’s footage concerns itself with global warming, Chasing Ice is still very much about Balog and his journey. Elevated by its hauntingly beautiful and visually-arresting shots of environmental decay, Chasing Ice is a simple and effective warning of what lies ahead.
See the trailer: Chasing Ice (2012)
2. – Loving Vincent (2017) – – – (12A) (Showing at The Light on Monday 9 October at 7:00pm with Q&A and Showroom from Friday 13 October)
[Genre: Animation/Biography. Dir: Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman. Starring: Douglas Booth, Josh Burdett, Holly Earl, Robin Hodges. Language: English]
Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s Loving Vincent is cinema’s first fully painted film, a patchwork effort between 125 professional oil painters. Paying the utmost homage to the Dutch artist, Loving Vincent layers the artist’s iconic works against animations in his signature impasto style, and follows a slightly lacklustre murder mystery centring around his death. The story begins one year after the suicide of Vincent van Gogh, as Armand Roulin (voiced by Douglas Booth) delivers a letter on behalf of his postman father (Chris O’Dowd), the last ever to be penned by the artist, addressed to his brother Theo. When Armand makes his way to the provincial town of Auvers-sur-Oise, he discovers that Theo too is now deceased. Panging the notion that something’s awry, Armand finds himself embroiled in a personal investigation to reveal the mysteries of the painter’s death. If there’s any reason to experience Loving Vincent on the big screen, it would be its stunning synergy between collaborative artistry and technical design. Collated from a hefty collection of 65,000 oil paintings, the film utilises the inverse rotoscoping process to forge a mesmeric visual journey. Disappointingly, the hollow story may do little to enlighten avid fans with more facts about the artist, instead padding the film out with trivia and adhering to a cliché murder mystery formula. Despite its faults, the technical and visual feats of Loving Vincent is enough to provide an immersive escape from the dull tones of reality.
See the trailer: Loving Vincent (2017)
3. – Blood Simple (1985) – – – (18) (Showing at Showroom)
[Genre: Crime/Drama. Dir: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen. Starring: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh. Language: English/Spanish]
Seize the moment and catch the Coen brothers’ incredible debut Blood Simple on the silver screen at Showroom Cinema for a limited time. The filmmaker duo have forged the path for American indie cinema over the past three decades, yet their debut remains their finest; a serpentine noir bursting with the creative ambition of fresh film school grads. If you pride yourself on being a Coen brothers aficionado, but have not yet seen Blood Simple, there will be bountiful surprises in store for you here. The entwined mystery unfurls with a meeting between Texas bar-owner Marty (Dan Hedaya) and the facetious private detective Visser (M. Emmet Walsh), whom Marty has hired to spy on his wife Abby (Frances McDormand). Scorned by the news of his wife’s infidelity with bartender Ray (John Getz), Marty enters into a slippery deal with the private eye to bump off the two lovers. Fuelled by his wounded ego and cheated heart, Marty’s hasty decision ignites a complex chain of events that reap disastrously miscalculated results. Blood Simple is one of those truly astonishing feature-length debuts that’s stood the test of time since its 1984 release. It has all the eccentricity and wry satire that would later come to define the brothers’ work, but it’s wonderfully pared down in comparison and triumphs on every level. The screenplay is excellently written, weaving together a gripping noir story that grows ever more intricate with each unfolding scene. There are no saintly characters here and the Coens know that, taking full advantage and pulling the rug underneath our feet when we least expect it. The film’s cinematography is arguably its most impressive aspect, incorporating artistic tracking shots and splashes of colour that embody the film with mystery and visual allure. In fact, Blood Simple showcases many motifs characteristic to David Lynch’s aesthetic, and considering it preceded Lynch’s iconic film and TV work, sparks the notion that Blood Simple was a source of great inspiration for the visionary. With this in mind, Blood Simple is a firm must-see for hardcore Lynch fans. It’s a delight to have Blood Simple resurrected from the shadows of the Coens’ sprawling oeuvre, a classic piece of neo-noir cinema enriched by its crossed-wires confusion and hypnotic imagery.
See the trailer: Blood Simple (1985)
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Baby Driver (2017) – – – (15) (Showing at The Light)
[Genre: Action/Crime. Dir: Edgar Wright. Starring: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Eiza González, Jon Bernthal, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm. Language: English ]
From the writer-director behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz comes Edgar Wright’s latest release Baby Driver. Ansel Elgort leads the tune-pumping carnage as getaway driver Baby, whose mixtape playing masks his droning tinnitus problem. Fast-footed Baby is one of the sharpest drivers around, and is currently working off his debt for criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey). Despite facilitating bank heists and hold-ups, Baby has a charming innocence ill-equipped for his criminal tendencies. When he meets diner waitress Debora (Lily James), the pair are drawn to one another through their shared passion for music. In his attempt to start anew, Baby agrees to one final job for Doc, a local post office heist with the potential to reap millions. Wright has once again devised another unconventional action-comedy with Baby Driver. The director has achieved a refreshing approach to the heist genre, whilst also honouring classics such as Michael Mann’s Heat. Music is integral to the momentum of the story, cleverly choreographing action to the rhythm of each track. Though his earlier films are typically spoof genre pieces, Baby Driver is more serious in tone. Rampant action courses through the film from start to finish, featuring some intense and viscerally violent moments. The character-driven plot allows Wright the room to explore the protagonist’s backstory, making it his most emotionally complex release so far. The film boasts a solid supporting cast from Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm, and an excellent central performance from Elgort. Wright’s distinctive brand of filmmaking makes Baby Driver an adrenaline-fuelled joyride worth hitching on to.
See the trailer: Baby Driver (2017)
Donnie Darko (2001) – – – (15) (Showing at Curzon on Tuesday 10 October at 9:00pm)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: Richard Kelly. Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mary McDonnell, Jena Malone, Patrick Swayze. Language: English]
As the year draws to a close, there is no better time to catch noughties cult classic Donnie Darko on the silver screen. Richard Kelly’s aesthetically-charged debut continues to attract new generations of viewers with its tale of time travel and impending doom. In one of his first starring roles, Jake Gyllenhaal plays an introverted high school pupil who starts receiving prophetic messages from a menacing-looking rabbit called Frank. Donnie takes heed of Frank’s warnings and begins to follow his commands, although Frank could very well be a figment of his imagination. There are a whole host of cinematic elements that have given Donnie Darko its cult status. Set in suburban Virginia awash with archetypal residents and dialogue steeped in eccentric ambiguity, it is evocative of the worlds of David Lynch. The most iconic sequences are gloriously choreographed to ‘80s hits, such as ‘Head over Heels’ by Tears for Fears and ‘Notorious’ by Duran Duran, enriching these sequences with a pop aesthetic that still feels fresh and original today. Solid casting choices have preserved its awe over the years, Mary McDonnell and Holmes Osborne are convincing as Donnie’s parents and Drew Barrymore as his stimulating English teacher (who was also an executive producer on the film). It was also the launchpad for the acting careers of both Jake Gyllenhaal and sister Maggie Gyllenhaal. Shining just as bright since its first release, the mysterious and mind-bending formula of Donnie Darko is an intriguing spectacle that begs to be experienced.
See the trailer: Donnie Darko (2001)
Dunkirk (2017) – – – (12A) (Showing at 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)
Gifted (2017) – – – (12A) (Showing at Odeon)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: Marc Webb. Starring: Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer. Language: English]
American filmmaker Marc Webb departs from his superhero foray and returns with heartfelt indie drama Gifted. Starting out as a music videographer, the director is most known for his feature debut 500 Days of Summer. Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a motorboat repairman living in a Florida trailer park with his 7-year-old niece Mary. Frank has been a guardian to Mary since his mathematician sister’s suicide, and values Mary’s happiness, security and upbringing above all else. Mary is exceptionally bright for her age, having been home schooled so far by Frank, with whom she has formed an inseparable bond. Afraid of squandering her intellectual potential, Frank enrols Mary at a public school, much to her dismay. When Mary starts to correct her teachers and solve complex equations, it dawns on them that they have a prodigy in their midst. As the education system becomes involved, Mary’s future hangs in the outcome of an impersonal court case. It is a delight to see Webb revert back to small-scale humanist dramas after his The Amazing Spider-Man duo. Although the story may seem similar to other genius narratives such as Little Man Tate and Good Will Hunting, Gifted still manages to put forth a tender and important debate on nature vs. nurture. Tom Flynn’s somewhat sentimental screenplay delves into abandonment, perception and the power of familial support. The performances truly elevate the film from its made-for-TV counterparts. Mckenna Grace is absolutely astonishing as Mary, exuding a raw naturalism in her performance. The film also finds Chris Evans in a role he rarely receives, allowing him a welcome reprieve from the Marvel blockbusters he is most known for. Webb renders a moving and life-affirming experience with Gifted, highlighting the moral and ethical challenges of childrearing.
See the trailer: Gifted (2017)
The Handmaiden (2016) – – – (18) (Showing at Film Unit on Sunday 15 October at 3:30pm & 7:30pm)
[Genre: Drama/Mystery. Dir: Park Chan-wook. Starring: Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo, Jo Jin-woong. Language: Korean/Japanese]
From the director behind Stoker and Oldboy comes Korean director Park Chan-wook’s eleventh feature-length, The Handmaiden. The erotic drama has been highly anticipated since its debut on the festival circuit last year. Chan-wook brings his adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith to Korea and Japan, while still retaining the gothic essence of the Victorian source content. The film opens with the introduction of Sookee, an esteemed Korean pickpocket who uses her soft-faced charm to navigate through her life of poverty and hardship. Currently living with a group of thieves running a black market operation sending babies for Japanese adoption, she is desperate for way out of her squalor. A swindler known as the Count approaches the thieves with a proposition for one of them. Going for the obvious choice, the Count nominates Sookee for his plan, convincing her that its success could reap rewards for both parties. His scheme leads them to the gloomy abode of aging Korean antiquarian Kouzouki, who lives – and is engaged to – his younger, alluring niece Lady Hideko. Pulling the strings behind the curtain, the Count manipulates the employment of Sookee as Hideko’s new handmaiden, so that his plan to marry the Lady for her fortune is fulfilled. A burgeoning desire begins to form between the Lady and her handmaiden, standing a threat to the Count’s callous stratagem. Park Chan-wook orchestrates a splendid experience with this darkly beguiling lesbian romance. All of the director’s glorious hallmarks are proudly scintillating here, combining a compelling and precarious screenplay with sweeping, decadent cinematography. The visual beauty of the production and costume design truly elevates this piece, gushing with the salacious woodblocks of Hokusai, opulent interiors and set pieces – which function like fragments of a puzzle, a device masterfully used in Chan-wook’s legendary Oldboy. Frequent collaborator Jo Yeong-wook returns with another evocative string-led score, his melodies an integral element to the director’s aesthetic. Delving beneath the skin, The Handmaiden is a majestic study of perception, sexism and pleasure-pain perversions.
See the trailer: The Handmaiden (2016)
Moonlight (2016) – – – (15) (Showing at Curzon on Tuesday 10 October at 8:30pm)
[Genre: Drama. Dir: Barry Jenkins. Starring: Ashton Sanders, Alex R. Hibbert, Trevante Rhodes, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris. Language: English]
Exploring the journey many black men raised in marginalised communities face, director Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight delivers a coming-of-age drama unlike most others. Divided over three time periods, the film charts the life of central character Chiron and childhood companion Kevin, observing the pivotal moments that shaped their course. Adapted from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, the film begins with Chiron (aptly nicknamed Little) at ten-years-old during a particularly vulnerable period of his youth. A nuclear family with home comforts is but a mere fantasy for Chiron, who lives with his substance-addicted mother in a deprived Miami neighbourhood. Due to his dysfunctional home life he is an easy target for bullies, and finds little sympathy from his mother who is often absent. Chiron finds an ally in the local Cuban drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), who helps him escape another assault by taking him home to his girlfriend Teresa. Sensing he is without familial security, Juan and Teresa take him under their wing, their home becoming Chiron’s sanctuary. Jenkins’ starkly realistic portrait of the African-American upbringing is a tender, heart-wrenching and profound experience. The carefully-written screenplay avoids the tropes of “disadvantaged” stereotypes; despite his criminal activities Juan is a paternal, nurturing figure and there is more to Chiron and Kevin’s friendship than meets the eye. James Laxton’s refined cinematography mirrors the emotional fluctuations of the narrative, echoing the aesthetic glory of Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai. Having already won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture (Drama), the film is set for further success with nominations in the upcoming Academy Awards and BAFTA ceremonies. Moonlight is a truly beautiful character study, covering themes of race, sexuality, class and love.
See the trailer: Moonlight (2016)
Mother! (2017) – – – (18) (Showing at Cineworld)
[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 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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