Jessica Hausner’s chilling psychological thriller is visually masterful however lacks a storyline worthy of it. The dizzying camera shots combined with the ominous and unnerving score creates an element of paranoia from the outset. The colours which are at points quite Wes Anderson esque can beautifully slip into the shadowy under belly of Blade Runner (1982).
The film centres on Alice who is a single mum and a dedicated breeder at a corporation which genetically engineers plants. She is working on developing a new breed that will control human emotions. Against company policy, she takes one home as a gift for her teenage son and names it after him but soon, though, she starts to fear it. Films and literature throughout history have dealt with the raw unspoilt beauty of flowers and the untold secrets they might hold. Little Joe carries on this tradition. Although the immortal words “Life will find a way” did pop into my head a few times, the film manages to offer up enough which feels different. The theme of mental health, maybe not fully realised, raises some interesting ideas on the subject and the stigma surrounding it. It is also about relationships, which feels more fleshed out but still perhaps not fully explored.Jessica Hausner’s eastern European routes and filmmaking style are at odds with the English setting, leaving the viewer with the impression of a tourist eye view of Britain.
The acting which was sometimes deliciously creepy and understated, sometimes fell into mockery and felt quite wooden. The saving grace in regards to the acting was Ben Whishaw who was the stand out performance.
Bong Joon Ho’s chilling satirical masterpiece addresses the age old theme of social class. Much like Bong Joon Ho’s previous work, Snowpiecer (2013), the question of why some people are seen as “lower” and some people are seen as “higher” class is asked. The film also explores what we have to sacrifice to change social classes under a capitalist system.
The narrative follows the Kims, a poor family who con their way into becoming the servants of a rich family, the Parks. Their easy life gets complicated when their deception is threatened with exposure. What follows is a fascinating spectacle which is sometimes operatic in nature and a sad reflection of modern life. Although it is all set in South Korea, the story works so well because it is universal and could have been set practically anywhere. It could be argued that there are no villains in the film, just people; however, it is anything but a soap opera. It is a commentary on the human condition. Nothing is black and white, just shades of grey.
Parasite offers a way of seeing the world which feels unlike anything most Western audiences have seen before. However, there are still some films which it does bear some stylistic similarities to. Hitchcock comes to mind with films such as Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963).
There is also a twist in the tail which does feel slightly Hitchcockian. I could also see traces of films with a more biblical and spiritual quality to them such as Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999).
The acting was convincing throughout with stand out performances from Kang-ho Song and Sun-kyun Lee which puts the audience on edge. The spider-like way Bong Joon Ho directed his cast to move added to the sense of uneasiness.
The writing is spot on with some razor sharp wit which, combined with the direction, made for some side-splitting moments. However as a contrast to the more humorous points in the film, there are moments of real sadness and pain. The contrasts beautifully represent life, because what is life if not a series of contrasts?
From this weekend, the first official On the Road screenings are set to begin – with the first films showing at Leeds University Union’s Pyramid Theatre. The NEW INDIES strand, kicks off with two screenings of the gripping new documentary Midnight Traveller. Winner of Sheffield DocFest’s Grand Jury Award, this remarkable film follows a family’s epic flight from persecution.
Also playing at the Union this Sunday is the brilliant coming-of-age drama The Miseducation of Cameron Post, showing as part of LGBTQ History Month. And animation fans are in for a treat on Monday, with Makoto Shinkai’s romantic, visually dazzling follow-up to Your Name – Weathering With You.
The NEW INDIES screenings at Leeds University Union are open to absolutely everyone, and are only a 10min walk from the cinema. There’s a 2-4-1 ticket offer for both screenings of Midnight Traveller – this Sunday (3.30pm) & Monday (6.30pm). Simply enter the promo code MIDNIGHT2020 when selecting your tickets on the website to receive the offer – or let staff know when buying on the door.
SUNDAY 16 3.30pm: NEW INDIES at LUU | Midnight Traveller (15) 6.00pm: NEW INDIES at LUU | The Miseducation of Cameron Post (15)
MONDAY 17 6.30pm: NEW INDIES at LUU | Midnight Traveller (15) 8.30pm: NEW INDIES at LUU | Weathering With You (12A)
Sam Mendes’ brilliant war epic, 1917, shows us the horrors which so many young men went through in the darkest days of the First World War. It also hints at the rare melancholic beauty of war, with scenes such as a soldier singing the American folk song (The Wayfairing Stranger) as his brothers in arms sit around him listening with intent. The way Mendes masterfully presents the contrasts of war to us signifies a director on the top of his game.
The plot is relatively simple and is loosely based on stories from Sam Mendes’ grandfather’s own experiences of the First World War. Two soldiers, superbly played by Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay, are assigned to deliver a message behind enemy lines. It will stop 1,600 men, including one of the soldier’s brothers, from walking straight into a deadly trap. The film puts you in mind of Saving Private Ryan (1998) and the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers (2001), and even Peter Jackson’s First World War documentary They Shall Not Grow Old (2018). However none of them delivers the sense of urgency and hopelessness which 1917 exudes.
Interestingly, the film is told in real time through a sequence of long takes. Mendes isn’t new to the one shot idea, as shown in the opening sequence to 2015’s Spectre, but he has never done it for a whole feature length film before. While there are masks and cuts if you look hard enough, this does not subtract from the feeling of urgency at all, in fact it heightens it. There are other films that play with the one shot formal such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) and Victoria (2015) that arguably deal with relationships and characters more effectively. Technically, however, 1917 is something quite unique. What makes it remarkable is the work of cinematographer Roger Deakins, who creates a beautiful ballet with the camera, putting the audience into the shoes of the soldiers. This technique can get a bit distracting at points, nonetheless it generates images and emotions which you wouldn’t be able to achieve with multiple shots. For example, there is one shot where one of the characters is running through some ruins while flares go up all around him. In this sequence the lighting and camera work combine to make something truly breathtaking, and is the stuff that dreams (or nightmares) are made of.
The film is carried throughout by its two leads. Both Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay are utterly mesmerising, and MacKay in particular gives a performance of a career, and is completely believable in the role. It is a wonder why neither of them were nominated at this year’s Oscars. There are also numerous big name actors who appear in minor roles throughout the film, such as Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch and Mark Strong, but they just act as seasoning which punctuates the overall narrative. That is not to disregard their contribution; Andrew Scott gives a perfectly dry and callous performance as a cynical Lieutenant, while Colin Firth gives a solid matter of fact performance as General Erinmore. It is all credit to the filmmakers’ ingenuity for not making these cameos feel out of place or unduly dominate their respective scenes.
The tale of love, loyalty and friendship that Mendes presents to us is something which everyone should bear witness to. It acts as a reminder of what those brave young men sacrificed. 1917 is worthy of all the praise given to it.
Deliriously funny and with a brilliant cast including Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, Billy Wilder’s 1960 classic returns on 35mm as this year’s Friends of Hyde Park Picture House Christmas screening.
All friends/members are welcome to join at the cinema from 5.30pm for free pre-screening sherry mince pies and mulled wine. To RSVP and reserve for your free ticket, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the cinema on 0113 275 2045. The film will start at 6:30pm.
C.C. Baxter is an office clerk who courts favour with the executives in his office by giving them the key to his small apartment for their extramarital flings. Among them is his callous boss, J.D. Sheldrake, who Baxter eventually learns is using his place to sleep with Miss Kubelik, the sweet elevator operator the clerk has loved from afar. When Sheldrake coldly dumps the vulnerable young woman, she tries to commit suicide in Baxter’s apartment, giving the clerk the opportunity to save the woman of his dreams but possibly lose his job.
As well as the film, mince pies and drinks we’d also like to hear your thoughts and ideas on what you think the Friends group should be doing in a number of different areas:
Promoting the cinema and its activities
Preserving and sharing our heritage
Consultation with Friends’ membership/cinema audiences
During the Picture House closure we’ll be looking at how we can best serve our members to achieve our charitable aims and your feedback will play an important part of the process. This will be first of many consultations but if you have any ideas at any time please contact us.
Bill Walton selects some films from the Cinema Versa strand of the festival programme:
Last Festival I only managed to see two documentaries (in the Cinema Versa section): Something Left Behind (2018) about the legendary Leeds band The Wedding Present; and What is Democracy? (2018) which highlighted how the very understanding of democracy varies from place to place around the world and over time.
They inspired me to make sure that I see more Cinema Versa films this time. So far on my list are: