EIFF 2014: Garnet’s Gold

(Garnet’s Gold, Ed Perkins, 2014)1195067_Garnets-Gold

Mortality is a bitch, cinema is wont to remind us, so it is a good idea to try and achieve something before you get shuffled off this mortal coil. So it is in Ed Perkin’s documentary Garnet’s Gold, the tale of one man’s flails to make something of his life, worried he’s let much of it slip by in a cosy somnambulant fugue. Garnet Frost is an affectless, intelligent eccentric determined to discover the buried gold of Bonnie Prince Charlie, which, apocryphally, was lost in the Scottish Highlands in the 18th Century. There’s little sense he could possibly be successful, certainly as his friends see it, and you get the faintest hint Garnet himself doesn’t really think he stands a chance, either. But he wants to do something, anything, important.  Continue reading

EIFF 2014: Sorrow and Joy

Sorrow and Joy (“Sorg og glæde” Nils Malmros, 2013)

It is an unfathomable tragedy: film-maker Johannes (Jakob Cedergren) returns home one night to discover his wife Signe (Helle Fagralid) has killed their infant daughter during a psychotic episode. This event (drawn from the real-life experiences of director Nils Malmros) forms the basis of the story of Sorrow and Joy, in which Johannes sets about protecting his wife from the Danish legal system while simultaneously exploring his own culpability in the tragedy.  As he struggles to come to terms with the event, he describes their relationship from first meeting, courtship, marriage, and finally the anguished days following their daughter’s murder.

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EIFF 2014: Life After Beth

Life After Beth (Jeff Baena, 2014)

Improbably prolific sub-genre rom-zom-com gets its latest offering in the form of Life After Beth, the debut feature from writer/director Jeff Baena.

Zach (Dane Dehaan, he of the piercing blue eyes) is distraught following the death of his girlfriend, Beth (Aubrey Plaza). His parents (Paul Reiser and Cheryl Hines) are shockingly insensitive in the face of his loss. Conversing with Beth’s father (John C Reilly) proves to be Zach’s only respite, a sympathetic ear prepared to listen as Zach explains Beth’s last words to him were heated and dissatisfied. Continue reading

EIFF 2014: The Infinite Man

(The Infinite Man, Hugh Sullivan, 2014)

“Am I crazy to think we could be happy?”

Relationships can often be the foreground for an attempt at a sort of paradoxical time travel: you find yourself desperately trying to recapture the joy and spontaneity of your happiest moments with someone, but end up diminishing things in the attempted recreation. Such wisdom is lost on Dean (Josh McConville), the hare-brained inventor and protagonist of The Infinite Man, who is trying to recreate the perfect weekend with his paramour Lana (Hannah Marshall). When his meticulously scheduled efforts are interrupted by Lana’s Continue reading

EIFF 2014: Uncertain Terms

Uncertain Terms (Nathan Silver, 2014)

Pregnancy is frequently romanticised within cinema and television as a nigh-on celestial state,  the apotheosis of every Real Woman’s existence – a beatific reverie where one wears diaphanous gowns and smiles serenely as Gaia flows through you, waiting for The Miracle To Come. In reality, pregnancy entails a woman’s body being co-opted by a parasite that plays havoc with your hormones, your physicality, and your mind – all as a precursor to a much more demanding life-long task. Uncertain Terms, the new film by director Nathan Silver (Exit Elena) recognises this truth, representing impending motherhood with unsentimental clarity, never proselytising or moralising. It’s a refreshing corrective to a subject woefully mishandled by cinema.

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EIFF 2014: The Skeleton Twins

When actors best known for their comedic chops are looking to demonstrate their dramatic range, it’s de rigueur for them to turn to depression (see: Jim Carrey: Eternal Sunshine, Steve Carrell: Dan in Real Life, Zach Braff: Garden State). And so it is with Kirstin Wiig in The Skeleton Twins, convincingly slumped and dead eyed in the role of Maggie, a dental hygienist and multiple adulterer whose thoughts are drifting to suicide. Fellow Saturday Night Live alumni Bill Hader is on hand as her twin Milo, similarly in a mighty funk – he’s a failed Continue reading

EIFF 2014: Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-Ho, 2013)

Wildly inventive, raucously bloody, and entertaining as hell, renowned Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s (Memories of Murder, The Host, and Mother) first English-language film Snowpiercer is a masterpiece. Macabre, drily witty, crammed with beautifully realised action set pieces and simply stunning to look at, it’s a dystopic phantasmagoria. Golden era Gilliam meets grimy Jeunet by way of the Wizard of Oz, with a fuck-load of Bong’s signature magic mixed in for good measure.  Continue reading

EIFF 2014: Welcome to New York

Welcome to New York (Abel Ferrara, 2014) 

“No one wants to be saved.”

It is a scientifically observed fact that it is impossible to discuss Abel Ferrara’s film canon without liberal use of the word “lurid” and his latest slice of sex’n’depravity, Welcome to New York, firmly ensures there shall be no deviation from this phenomenon.  Inspired by the scandal that ended Dominic Strauss-Kahn’s career, the former head of the IMF, who resigned his post amid accusations of sexual assault in 2011 (the case was later settled out of court), the material in the film is considered so vilifying Strauss-Kahn is now suing Ferrara and the film’s producers for defamation. Gerard Depardieu – himself no stranger to scandal – plays the fictional Devereux, a banker and heir apparent to the French presidency. He’s a repugnant, amoral creature, all appetite. Landing in New York, he sets about something of a sexual rampage. 

 

The film’s opening twenty minutes are dedicated to multiple orgies between Devereux and high-end escorts – all impossibly nubile beauties and improbably turned on by his grotesque, misogynistic rutting. These sequences smack of gratuity, even if they could be argued to be detailing his sexual rapaciousness and the banality of these interactions, and play out so long you’re in the unusual position of welcoming the attempted rape scene when it comes, if simply for being tonally different and offering up psychological intrigue. The scene is one of stark horror, and signals the start of the action proper, as Devereux is arrested trying to depart the US and begins a privileged trip through the American penal and legal system. His Lady Macbeth-inflected wife, played with little skill or nuance by Jacqueline Bisset, flies to his side, supporting him publicly and railing against him in private for ruining all her plans.  

 

The film is nothing if not tonally uneven, with the domestic drama between Depardieu and Bisset (who is no match for the Gallic star’s towering performance) lapsing into hammy melodrama. “I had some balls already, but you gave me more,” Bisset barks, aiming for intrigue and instead eliciting guffaws. By contrast, the scenes of NYPD officers brusquely attempting to intimidate Devereux are compelling and realistically played, their treatment so inhuman one momentarily feels sorry for the utterly contemptuous anti-hero. Devereux’s initiation into prison, in particular, makes for a spell-binding set-piece, and it is for this central section that the film comes most alive. Droll comedy is wrought from the well-written, finely played scenes between Devereux and his daughter, with whom he has a strong, if woefully inappropriate, rapport. 

 

A sweating, lumbering, unapologetic mass, Depardieu leers and pants his way through the picture, his performance riveting from the (to my mind, pretentious) opening scene to the last. He’s utterly repulsive but seeringly magnetic – it is impossible to peel your eyes away during the many distressing scenes in which he gapes and paws at different young women. That the film, for all its variability and lack of revelation, is so compulsively watchable is in large part thanks to his performance. 

 

Shallow, uneven, sweaty and gratuitous, Welcome to New York is flawed as fuck, but a lurid extravaganza. And so Ferrara’s law is observed again. 

Perspectives: The Role of Film Soundtracks

From the rousing horns of Indiana Jones, to the jukebox pop of Scorcese and Tarantino’s flicks, or the Wagnerian swagger of Apocalypse Now – there’s no denying film soundtracks are an integral part of the cinema experience. But what makes a great soundtrack? What are they there to do? The Red Curtain met with three doyens of different realms of cinema to get to the heart of what makes a great soundtrack. Continue reading

Edinburgh Fringe Festival – Continuous Growth (Review & Interview)

The Red Curtain believes all of life’s philosophies should be predicated on the consumption of chocolate. So it is natural we loved Continuous Growth – we warmly embrace any theatre that declares the world’s problems could be lessened if we just shared our last Rolo with someone we loved.

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