The DCH Blog
The Double - a pre-screening review - Sunday 17th August 2014
Richard Ayoade surprised everyone with his delightful debut feature Submarine, proving he was capable of unshackling himself from his magnificent turn as Moss (the uber nerd from the IT Crowd) to produce a quirky, original and moving piece of work. His second feature, however, is an altogether more ambitious project.
Based on a novel by Dostoevsky, The Double is a claustrophobic tale of a man losing his identity in the face of a more charming man. Jesse Eisenberg is cleverly cast in the twin roles of Simon and his body double James (this introspective anti-hero is essentially the Mark Zuckerberg that didn’t invent facebook) and Eisenberg has great fun with the baggage he brings to the role. Film references abound – most noticeably Lynch’s Eraserhead, Gilliam’s Brazil, and Polanski’s Tenant – but this is so much more than a Tarantino-style grab bag of filmic tropes.
This is a director’s film that is always beautiful to look at, packed with witty cameos, and never less than an intriguing. Ayoade knows his cinema – he has taken a legacy of images and ideas and moulded them into a clear and focused vision of a frightening dystopian world.
By David Vass
Lift to the Scaffold - a pre-screening review - Monday 11th August 2014
The literal English translation of Ascenseur pour l'échafaud is so oblique that I imagine it leaves the uninitiated scratching their heads, but that only adds to the fun of this perfectly compact little thriller. The clues are all there in the title, but the film twists and turns in the telling. The viewer is kept on constant vigilant alert, wondering where on earth we are going next.
So assured is the direction, it’s a real surprise to learn this was Louis Malle’s first feature. Buttressed by Henri Decaë’s stunning cinematography and Miles Davis’s improvised soundtrack, it drips with assured style. A huge influence on the New Wave that followed, its own influences of Hitchcock and Wilder (and even the novels of Graham Greene) are evident from the outset. Jeanne Moreau, unusually unkempt as she wanders the rain splattered streets of Paris is particularly effective, while her lover - Maurice Ronet as a bravely unlikeable antihero – remains trapped in the eponymous lift.
Time has been kind to its reputation - the plot is wildly implausible and its characters are almost wilfully foolish - but this is a lean, mean film so packed with cool hearted archetypes that it transcends its shortcomings and rightfully commands a place in any serious history of cinema.
By David Vass
Under the Skin - a pre-screening review - Thursday 31st July 2014
Scarlett Johansson drives around Glasgow in a white van picking up men played by amateurs that don’t know they are being filmed - that can’t have been an easy sell when Jonathan Glazer applied for lottery funding. What he has created, however, is a mesmerising, almost hallucinogenic, meditation on how we view others, how they view us.
Under the skin, Johansson is indeed an alien, and she is perfectly cast – what could be more alien than a Hollywood actress injected into urban Scotland? Support comes from a partly amateur company, giving the film a curious, documentary feel. Grand Prix motorcycle champion Jeremy McWilliams is particularly unnerving, while Adam Pearson’s willingness to confront his own disfigurement to make a bigger point is brave and confrontational.
Whether you find this film maddening or intriguing will depend on how familiar you are with sci-fi tropes and conventions. It owes a debt to Man who fell to Earth – not just in plotting, but in Nicholas Roeg’s direction – but its empty hearted female protagonist and bleak nihilism is actually closer to Tsukeman’s Liquid Sky. The film’s obstinate refusal to explain is also reminiscent of the closing of 2001 - it’s perhaps worth remembering that Arthur C Clarke once said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
By David Vass