The DCH Blog
Tale of Tales - Thursday 20th October 2016
Matteo Garrone’s film is based on the bizarre stories of Giambattista Basile, the 17th century Neapolitan writer who inspired the likes of Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm. Reminiscent of the Grimms at their grimmest, there is a dark energy that swirls around this portmanteau movie of three interwoven tales about selfishness, vanity and stupidity.
It’s a startling change of tone for the director that brought us the hard-boiled realism of Gomorrah and Reality, and though it’s his first English speaking film, its influences are resolutely European. Garrone has name checked both Fellini and Bava, but there’s also a clear debt to Guillermo del Toro, Pasolini and even Jodorowsky. It makes for a heady brew, pleasingly grounded by a largely British cast. Toby Jones is tragically convincing as a king hoisted on his own petard, while Shirley Henderson and Hayley Carmichael are horribly hilarious as a very different kind of ugly sisters.
Using extraordinary, but real, Italian settings, puppetry instead of CGI, and the gifted Lee twins instead of camera trickery, Garrone has produced an oddly old fashioned film. Despite its fantastical subject matter, there is something satisfyingly robust in its production.
Complemented by breath-taking cinematography from Peter Suschitzky – a hallucinogenic cocktail of bloody reds, verdant greens and stark whites – this is a film that is a feast for the senses.
By David Vass
Mustang - a pre-screening review - Thursday 13th October 2016
Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s debut feature has a feeling about it of great foreboding from the outset. From the moment a group of post-pubescent boys and girls splash about fully clothed in the sea there is a sense of awakening sexuality in their frolicking. All the signals are there that no good will come of this, which makes for uncomfortable viewing. From that moment on the tension starts to ratchet up and barely lets up.
It’s a film that has moments of levity, subtly shifting loyalties, and tells a compelling story, but the abiding mood is one of tense unease. Having cast a group of unprofessional young girls as five closely bonded sisters, Ergüven manages to attract unnervingly naturalistic performances from her young cast. The occasional narration from the youngest - played with feisty determination by Gunes Sensoy - makes her character the nominal lead of this excellent ensemble cast, and it is from her perspective we begin to piece together the clues that hint at something so much worse than religious intolerance.
The film has roused considerable discontent in Turkey. Accusations of a distorted perspective have no doubt been fuelled by its antecedence – a French film directed by a Turkish expat – but this surely misses the point. The movie is not so much a about the cruelty of a particular patriarchal society, as it is about the universal danger of turning a blind eye. Of course the wider social context is relevant, and Ergüven has highlighted issues that are disturbing and thought-provoking, but she’s also directed a film that is enthralling, intriguing and emotionally engaging.
By David Vass
Love & Friendship - a pre-screening review - Wednesday 5th October 2016
Whit Stillman’s love of Jane Austen has finally made it onto screen with this literate, affectionate and respectful adaptation of her epistolary novella, Lady Susan. By taking on this early and relatively unknown work, Whitman cleverly sidesteps the key problem with reworking classic texts. We can all enjoy the retrospective irony of Emma, but how much more satisfying to genuinely not know what’s going to happen next.
Filmed in five weeks in and around the stately homes of Ireland, one is frequently reminded of the guerrilla filmmaking style of Derek Jarman, although there are also shades of Peter Greenaway in Benjamin Esdraffo’s sumptuous score. Fans of Kate Beckinsale, best known for her vampiric hijinks in the Underworld series, may be surprised to see how easily she slips into period drama. The camera rarely strays from her starry iridescence, though all about her is a host of fine actors. James Fleet and Jemma Redgrave are excellent in the tiny roles they are given, as is Xavier Samuel as their son, while Tom Bennett comes very close to nabbing the whole film with his winning portrait of a likeable buffoon.
Love and Friendship is, of course, a knowing and arch title for a film that is about cynical exploitation, surface appearance, and deception. That the film manages to explore these themes with such a lightness of touch is a testament to the skills of both Jane Austen and Whit Stillman.
By David Vass