Thursday, 16 February 2012
Intermission: 2011 Catchup - Beginners, The Skin I Live in, A Better Life, Sleeping Beauty
The Skin I Live In
Perhaps the single film I most regretted missing last year was this, Almodovar's much-praised mysterious plastic-surgery thriller. And it's great, a cracking thriller that verges on horror. It is a very hard film to review, though, as one doesn't wish to give away any of the plot detail before it's seen - best to go in completely cold and experience the bonkersness. Suffice to say, much praise the taut storytelling, the elegant, dynamic direction, two fabulous lead performances from Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya, and finally a wonderfully manic score (oddly reminiscent of Philip Glass's Akhnaten, without the singing) from Alberto Iglesias.
A Better Life
Chris Weitz (whose CV bafflingly includes The Golden Compass and American Pie) directs a very fine addition to the canon of LA movies, shot with class and featuring an outstanding lead performance from Demian Bichir, who is well worth his Oscar nomination. Best seen as an insight into a world usually in the backdrop of most Californian TV and movies - the travails of the Latino gardener - it's played out with real feeling and humanity, and told with a genuine ring of truth. A valuable film that, while a bit slow for some, still deserves a wide audience.
And now film to dislike. Set in modern Australia, this is a tale of a girl who falls into a very specific kind of upmarket prostitution. Blessed with porcelain, unblemished complexion, Clara is perfect for the position of 'sleeping beauty'; essentially she is drugged into deep sleep while one or other well-to-do old men have their way with her. While there is something to be said for the pre-Raphaelite aesthetic, Emily Browning's terrifying vulnerability in the lead role and director Julia Leigh's fluid, elegant composition, the problem lies in the story, which is unpleasant, ludicrous and sleazy (though not at all sexy, thankfully). Worst of all, it's boring. One to miss.
And now back to LA for Beginners, Mike Mills' sort-of autobiographical tale of a thirty-something graphic designer (Ewan Macgregor) romancing a French actress (Melanie Laurent) while recovering from the death of his father (Christopher Plummer, Oscar nominated), whose experience of coming out as a gay man aged 75 is told through Macgregor's recollections in flashback. While Plummer's story (and performance) is genuinely compelling, the up-front romance is irritating and noodly; Macgregor is still not entirely able to hold an American accent, and Laurent struggles as a semi-mute manic-pixie-dreamgirl character that gives her very little to play with. There are good bits, but the overwhelming response to Beginners is the exasperated eye-roll.