Film & TV

Cinematic Dogmatic #1 – 1/1/16 – 16/1/16

Our newest feature brings you all the latest films in one place! Did The Hateful Eight live up to expectation? Is Joy a front-running Oscar contender? Tom brings you quick-fire opinions on the hottest releases.  

The Danish Girl
A film whose archness defines it as much as scuppers it, The Danish Girl attempts to sensitively portray Trans* trailblazer Lili Elbe’s tragic but pioneering journey from Danish artist to the first person to undergo gender transition surgery. Refreshingly nebulous, the film tries to present for mainstream audiences a less tactile and more delicately ill-defined approach to issues of gender and expectations of love. Alas, whether through uncomprehensive understanding or the fear of societal upset, The Danish Girl becomes another major film hindered by the need for a proactive social conscience at the consequence of perhaps more messy, honest truths. Also features probably the worst re-appropriation of a Brian Clough quote ever.

The most enrapturing thing for me of the limited number of Bollywood films I’ve seen (exactly two, so I ain’t assuming generalisations here), is the tone of affectation and distance, a way of treating spectacle at a remove in a manner almost like a revue. The artificiality of action, performance and emotion calls attention to the theatricality and phoniness of cinema that’s been mostly ignored in the western world since the days of the nouvelle vague. It’s liberating and seductive, and as a result I’m kinder on a film like Dilwale than I might otherwise have been, which ties myriad barely connected subplots with melodrama pastiche, and could be read as ironic if it didn’t lack any genuineness.

The Hateful Eight
As messy and capable of supporting a range of responses as any of QT’s films, The Hateful Eight is probably my second favourite of his oeuvre (I’d need to rewatch KB Vol 2), though the first half drags and most of the reveals and plot hinges are recognisable a mile away. Which is probably testament to his QT’s sheer filmcraft then, that it remains in spite of these otherwise major flaws an entertaining yarn with some meat left on those exposed bones. That said the bloody nihilism for characters is fast becoming rote, even as it remains cathartic in the moment – looking less likely he’ll manage to top Jackie Brown’s subtle maturity before his 10th, final film.

There’s a touch of the old classic Hollywood in this ongoing screen partnership of Lawrence and Cooper (and director O. Russell). Which is appropriate, as the film taps into the vein of equally classic women’s pictures and gives it a loving shot in the arm. If melodrama had evolved properly with the times, today it would look like Joy, rather than the soap operas Joy’s mother obsesses over. Of course the question then is which is more subversive, as all those best melodramas were? The low rent populism, or the blockbuster populism? Either way, sterling performances from a mixed cast, and Rossellini’s a beguiling charm as ever, too.

Where half would start, Room does not. Where half would end, Room does not. Instead we get damn near the whole traumatising tale, where Brie Larson has been imprisoned for seven years in a single-skylight shed with her child created by her kidnapper. The first half is a facsimile of life, though ‘tis all the boy (Jacob Tremblay) knows. That they get out is not a surprise, either. It’s rather the point. These real such things are not happy ending stories, though stories may try and prescribe one. The most defining moment in a person’s life is both destructive and over, how does one carry on? With difficulty, selfishness and loathing. Life was easier in room. But outside it could mean something. Room is honest about both.

The Revenant
Aesthetically vividly rich, like heaving, bleeding, full-colour Salgado photographs. And if there’s any emotional or philosophical resonance to be found it’ll be there. Brutal, yes, but hollow too, and you have to ask if such elementally extreme filmmaking is worth it for anyone other than the makers. No more than the sum of its parts, and its parts are Leo slouching towards vengeance and gorgeous vistas. Intolerably patient and spiritually bankrupt walkabout.

Tom Watchorn

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Image sourced from ‘The Revenant’, 20th Century Fox.

Film & TV

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