Nov 28, 2017

On my iPod: Nov 2017

1. Appetite — The Staves
2. Mystery of Love - Sufjan Stevens
3. Say You love Me (Early Version) — Fleetwood Mac
4. You Never Know — Haim
5. Shine On Me — Dan Auerbach
6. Oh Baby — LCD Soundsystem
7. This Song — Rastami / RAC
8. Malibu — Miley Cyrus
9. New York —St Vincent
10. Wild Fire — Semper Femina


From my Sunday Times review:—
'Based on recently discovered footage, thought to be lost, of Goodall as she observed, studied, and befriended the chimps in the wild,  the film film is filled with romance: for Goodall’s work, for the chimps, and for Goodall herself, as she watches them, perched in trees in cargo shorts, barefoot, her long ponytail bunched at the back of a swanlike neck. If you ever find someone who looks at you the way Goodall looks at those chimps, marry them. She puts you in mind of one of those home-counties beauties John Benjamin used to fall for, the daughters of doctors from Aldershot, burnished by the sun, swiping at the rhododendruns with their tennis rackets (“lucky the rhododendruns”). Just 26 when anthropologist Richard Leakey picked her for the job, she had been working as  his secretary,  and had no scientific degree. Her fresh impressions  unclouded by received wisdom, driven instead by endless patience and curiosity, she seems  to have found some part of herself in the jungle, this “strange white ape” as she puts it, communing with “the great mystery” she finds out there, like all those woman-in-Africa roles that Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver and Kim Basinger have queued up to play.  
Miffed to have her solitude disrupted when National Geographic send along a photographer, Hugo van Lawick to capture footage, she notes “it seemed I was as much a subject as the chimpanzees,” a line that drily foreshadows not just her eventual romance with Van Lawick, but the enraptured press coverage that greeted her discoveries (“Comely Miss Spends Her Time Eyeing Apes”) as well as the split focus of this documentary. Uses footage mostly shot by her husband —  you can almost feel the point at which he falls in love with her — director Brett Morgen toggles back and forth between Goodall and her animals.  When the chimps mate, Van Lawick proposes by telegram (“Will you marry me Stop”). When momma chimp gets pregnant, so does Goodall. Eventually, the chimps turn out to be “unconscionable thieves” capable of violence, war, and heartbreak and that, too, has ripple effects in Goodall’s life. Morgen’s editing can sometimes be a little tricksy, and his use of surround sound effects, simulating every snapped twig, will offend purists, but there’s no denying the sweep of his storytelling, or the beauty of the images which seem to have inspired Phillip Glass to deliver one of his more emotional scores: if Glass’s glittering arpeggios are good for anything it is accompanying a massive herd of wildebeast as they flock across the Serengeti.' 

Nov 5, 2017


From my review for the Sunday Times:—
'I suppose that if you’re in the mood for a ruthless allegory about a man forced to choose between slaughtering one member of his family or seeing them all paralyzed and die, then Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer  hits the spot. Like the films of Michael Haneke, Lanthomis delivers cauterising shocks with impeccable numbness designed to wake up all up from our Lethean sleep. On the other hand, life is short, babysitters are expensive and there may be more tempting invitations than “Hey honey, fancy a movie in which paralyzed children crawl across the floor to wake us up from our civilized numbness?”  Lanthimos’s film passes every test of cinema, perhaps, except: shall we get a sitter? 
Boasting a bushy salt-and-pepper beard, Colin Farrell plays a heart surgeon named Steven who lives in the suburbs of an unnamed Midwestern American city with his beautiful wife Anna (Kidman) and their two children, 14-year-old Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic). Their life is orderly and pristine, and yet from the blast of Schubert’s Stabat Mater that we hear while Steven performs open heart surgery, we surmise that he is guilty of playing God. He’s not the only one. Drone-mounted cameras peer down at the actors as they break acres of silence with absurdist non-sequiteurs in which we are invited to hear the death-rattle of civilized norm and ritual. “Have you seen how hairy my dad is?” “You’re not leaving until you tasted my pie.”  Only in Lanthomisland would “Our daughter started menstruating last week” pass for polite cocktail-party chatter.  The only one with a pulse is Steven’s peculiar friend, Martin (Barry Keoghan), a youth with an insinuating manner who shows up unannounced at the hospital where Steven works to exchange gifts, or go on long walks in which some submerged power dynamic seems at play. Is he a son from another mother? A lover? Last seen on Mark Rylance’s boat in Dunkirk, Keoghan is easily the best reason to see this film. With his puffy,  insolent face, both innocent and cunning, he insinuates himself into Steven’s life like a shadow: the film’s God has met his devil.  The film is basically an arthouse version of one off those thrillers like Cape Fear or Fatal Attraction, in which a nuclear family is terrorized by a malign invader — guilty secrets are unearthed, the sins of the father visited on his family, bunnies boiled, and everyone goes home to write their thesis on ‘The Return of the Repressed in the Urban Haute-Bourgeoisie.’  
Martin, it turns out, is the son of a former patient. In the cafeteria of the hospital he spells out his vengeful prophecy:  Steven must sacrifice one member of his family, or watch as they are first paralysed, then start bleeding from their eyes and die. It says something for Lanthomis’s skills for pushing unthinkable premises to dizzying Bunuelian extremes that you are even less inclined to ask “why doesn’t he just go to the police?” than you would in a traditional thriller. In his 2010 film, Dogtooth, a middle-class couple keep their kids captive with a bizarro-world set of rules and rituals. In 2015’s Oscar-nominated The Lobster, guests at a Fawlty-Towers-like bed-and-breakfast are given 45 days to find love or face being turned into animals — a savage burlesque of societally-endorsed coupledom and hot-or-not dating apps: Brave New World for the age of Tinder. And yet that film, with its tender, original love story, passed the baby-sitter test whereas this one comes up short. I’m not saying I won’t watch a film in which hunting rifles are pointed at paralyzed children; I’m just saying that when we get home our babysitter always asks us whether we’ve enjoyed the film we just seen and I’m not sure “no but it subjected beorgoise norms to convulsive shock treatment” will make her feel like she does a useful job. She may even ask for a bigger tip. Maybe that should be the subject of Lanthimos’s next film. A father is forced to choose between a film praised as “relentless” “ruthless” and “unyielding” by the critics, or the new Pixar movie. The baby-sitter is a fierce film snob with some peculiar power over the man. If he makes the wrong choice, he and his family will be forced to watch the falcon’s death scene in Ken Loach’s Kes on an eternal loop. What should he do? Tick tock. Tick tock.'