The DCH Blog
Anomalisa - a pre-screening review - Friday 19th August 2016
It beggars belief that Charlie Kaufman, the brilliant mind behind Synecdoche, Adaptation and Being John Malkovich can’t get anyone to film his screenplays. After seven years of frustration and aborted projects he finally turned to Kickstarter in desperation, and armed with the script of a radio play, persuaded countless believers to invest in the micro budgeted Anomalisa.
Together with stop motion animator Duke Johnson, he has produced nothing less than a mini masterpiece, where the mannequins are an integral part a depressed man delusion that everyone looks the same and sounds the same. Despite the thousands of moving parts these unsettling models do the job better than any actor could, and with Tom Noonan voicing every character, the hotel clerk, the son, the ex-girlfriend and the bar tender quickly melt into one big hallucinatory mess. When protagonist Michael hears Anna voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh, and then sees she is different, the frisson is palpable. It’s a brilliant conceit for a man waking from his own stupor, and Michael is superbly played by David Thewlis, somehow drawing out our sympathies for this selfish, self-centred philanderer.
Comparisons have been drawn with the mordant humour of Aardman’s Creature Comforts, but we are a mile away from the Claymation whimsy of Wallace and Gromit. This is a dark, brooding and resolutely adult film that uses animation in a startling new way to ask fundamental questions about who is really pulling the strings.
By David Vass
Rams (15) - a pre-screening review - Thursday 11th August 2016
Grímur Hákonarson’s mordant essay on the lot of Icelandic sheep farmers is a deeply affecting fable about a disappearing way of life. However, despite the pivotal role sheep play in this movie, the eponymous Rams are undoubtedly the feuding brothers Gummi and Kiddi, who after butting heads for forty years are forced by circumstance to work together.
The film is astonishing to look at, the utter bleakness of an Icelandic Hinterland beautifully captured by Sturla Brandth Grøvlen’s cinematography in a way that is reminiscent of the scene stealing vistas of Benedikt Erlingsson’s Of Horses and Men, while Atli Örvarsson’s minimalist score fleshes what might otherwise be an unbearably barren setting. Within that setting, Sigurður Sigurjónsson and Theodór Júlíusson play the warring siblings with complete conviction, their obscure falling out of long ago barely referenced, and with only their sheepdog to pass messages back and forth like a canine go between. Having sublimated their awkward, inarticulate feelings into the common purpose of raising animals, the revelation that threatens not just the herd, but the one last fragile bond between them, is heart breaking.
Superficially this might seem to be a film about estrangement and the tragedy intransigence brings, but actually it is the opposite. What we ultimately witness is the indestructability of fraternal bonds. Anyone who sees this movie can empathise with these brothers, but perhaps only those of us who are brothers can truly and fully understand it.
By David Vass
Spotlight - a pre screening review - Thursday 4th August 2016
Every so often a film comes along that defies review or comment. Such is the seriousness of the crimes revealed in Spotlight, and the sobriety with which the unfolding events are acted out, that it feels a little impertinent passing judgement on how well the message has been packaged.
Director Tom McCarthy has always been a champion of the outsider, and here he examines how the Boston Globe, with dogged old fashioned investigation, uncovered entrenched child abuse by the Catholic Church. An ensemble cast delivers low-key, yet utterly absorbing performances, clearly designed to put across the message before grand-standing. Divested of their signature tics Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo are particularly convincing, delivering sincere and thoughtful performances as lead reporters on the Spotlight team.
Comparisons with All the Presidents Men are inevitable, but this is actually an altogether more mature work. Without any obvious star turns, and with a subject matter too grim to be truly exciting, this is a more unsettling work, its central thesis being that such an endemic problem could only remain unexposed with the tacit acceptance of the wider community. With journalists knocking on doors, trawling through paper records and working through phone directories this could easily have become little more than period drama, but with its closed ranks, blind eyes and grotesque complicity, the issues it raises couldn’t be more current.
By David Vass