The DCH Blog
Wild Tales - Friday 24th July 2015
The seemingly incongruous opening titles of Damián Szifron’s Wild Tales – the cast is listed illustrated by animals in their natural habitat - gives an important clue as to what links the stories in this portmanteau film. Whether its road rage, revenge, corruption or infidelity, this is an illustration of what can happen when we let go of that impotent anger that seems to bubble just beneath the surface calm of modern life. It’s about the damage done if you allow yourself to go wild.
Owing a debt to the films of producer Pedro Almodovar, but also oddly reminiscent of the old Amicus horror films of the seventies, the tales vary in substance and tone, but all of them zip along. Although this is a resolutely Argentinian film (with a stellar ensemble cast of that nation’s biggest stars) these stories of petty officialdom, money driven corruption or simple rudeness, surely resonate with audiences of any nationality. Szifron’s abiding message is how similarly venal, childish and short-sighted we all are, a thesis he presents with considerable wit and imagination.
Sitting down to watch a foreign film often requires the viewer to gird their loins, in readiness for a challenging, albeit worthwhile, experience – as if only dour, worthy art house fodder is allowed to play out in the international market. There is something hugely enjoyable about discovering that not all foreign language features require us to bare our soul – sometimes they are a scabrous, wicked delight and very funny indeed.
By David Vass
The Second Best Marigold Hotel - a pre-screening review - Monday 20th July 2015
The original Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a word of mouth surprise hit – a rakish third age comedy that was as much about the ensemble cast as the narrative. It was a proper story, with a beginning, middle and end. All of which left something of a problem when it came to engineering a sequel that no one involved guessed might happen. The solution is an emotional reset, with many of the characters revisiting issues that we might have thought had been, in some cases literally, put to bed.
Julie Dench and Bill Nighy are still circling each other, despite the consummation of the first film’s motorcycle ride. Dev Patel is still hapless, notwithstanding the success of the first hotel that the plot demanded. And Celia Imrie is still salivating, this time over the wittily cast Richard Gere. Add to that cast a splendid score from Thomas Newman and stunning photography from Ben Smithard, and it’s easy to forgive the episodic flavour of Oli Parker’s screenplay, as each of the cast members gets the chance to do a turn.
At least director John Madden has resisted the temptation to succumb to a formula, and there is something refreshing about the storyline owing more to Faulty Towers than A Passage to India. Once the culture-clash clichés have run their course, the movie dares to take us in unexpected directions, offering a film that is wittier and more ingenious than might have been expected.
By David Vass
Selma - a pre-screening review - Friday 10th July 2015
Injustice at the Oscars is nothing new – Ordinary People beat Raging Bull for goodness sake - but the snubbing of Selma must be particularly galling. This gripping and significant examination of the civil rights movement in the US looked to have all the necessary credentials, yet director Ava DuVernay wasn’t even nominated - neither was leading actor David Oyelowo.
Perhaps the Academy took umbrage that it took Brit Oyelowo to get it made. When the project was floundering he brought DuVernay on board, as well as producer Oprah Winfrey and they stuffed it with British actors (who all, incidentally, do a fine job). Tom Wilkinson plays President Johnson, controversially, as a compromised man. Tim Roth is reptilian as Governor Wallace, while Carmen Ejogo manages to inject life into an underwritten Coretta King. Towering above them all, however, is Oyelowo, utterly believable as King. A lifetime away from Danny Hunter in Spooks, he is emerging as a world class actor.
DuVernay’s claim that this is a warts and all portrait is disingenuous – King’s serial unfaithfulness is barely hinted at – but where the film excels is in showing that King was so much more than a masterful speechmaker. Gathering a whole host of wise and reflective advisors around him we see a cunning, and at times ruthless, strategist. Here was a team player who knew how to use the media and win. This is a film that makes you angry and upset, not least because, for many of us, these outrages happened in our lifetime.
By David Vass