Thursday 22 March 2018

Film review: Mustang - enjoyable but anger-making

Cert 15A; now showing

Mustang is a powerful take on the repression of women.
Mustang is a powerful take on the repression of women.

It is often said that we live in a society obsessed with sex but no-one is more obsessed with it than the sexually repressive, those nutjobs who see it everywhere and fear it pathologically. That nearly always manifests as the repression of women. In her first film, Turkish/French filmmaker Deniz Gamze Erguven makes that point powerfully. This is a simple tale, a version of one often told, but it's delivered very effectively to become a film that is enjoyable, engaging, thought-provoking and anger-making.

Five gorgeous young sisters, aged from about ten to 17, live with their grandmother (Nihal G Koldas) and uncle (Ayberk Pekcan) in rural Turkey. They're feisty and fun, full of energy and a great love for each other. But in a society obsessed with sex, these five beauties are targeted for full-scale repression, their home increasingly fortified to keep them in until they can be safely married off.

It's clear that there is huge societal pressure to conform, that personal privacy means nothing in the face of honour, and that autonomy is frowned upon. Women as such are not really even considered people, but Gamze Erguven shows that we are each born with huge spirit. But when forces collide to destroy that spirit in the name of control everyone crumbles to some degree, and never with a good outcome. She also shows that whilst men repress women, women do too. In doing to other women, especially daughters and granddaughters, what was done to them, they perpetuate the evil and leave no exit but an extreme one. The first-time actors who play the sisters are fantastic and the film never crosses the line into pity. I loved it, but it made me mad. 5 Stars

Aine O'Connor


Club Cert; now showing 

Amongst the various fascinating art movements about which I knew nothing is Land Art. But thanks to James Crumps' interesting documentary, Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art, I now at least know something about this audacious, interesting and fabulously self-important group of mostly male artists.

In the mid-1960s, feeling constrained by the limits of galleries and Manhattan, a group of artists started to branch out into different materials and from there to different spaces. It was about working with the glory of nature, in nature. Within museums, exhibits ranged from arrangements of muck to plaster chipped from walls to reveal the material beneath. But in its most interesting form Land Art was reminiscent of ancient art, enormous like Stonehenge, carved into nature and often only best appreciated from the sky, like Nazca Lines.

The documentary concentrates on three of the main players in the movement - Robert Smithson, whose most famous work was Spiral Jetty in a red algae-filled lake in Utah; Walter De Maria, who made Lightning Field, 400 steel poles in a square kilometre of New Mexican desert and the only one still alive and working; and Michael Heizer, creator of Double Negative.

Featuring old interviews and footage of the artists and their contemporaries in their hey day, there are also more recent interviews with artists and Land Art patron and champion Virginia Dwan. It's respectful and interesting, gives a good sense of the genesis of the movement, some of the key figures in it, and the art itself. But it is a niche market, mainly for art enthusiasts. 4 Stars

Aine O'Connor

Everybody Wants Some!!

Cert: 15A. Now showing

Richard Linklater scaled the dizzy heights of critical respectability in 2014 when his momentous, Zeitgeist-capturing saga Boyhood took multiple Oscars. That  project - famously filmed over  12 years - was the writer-director at his most tender and nostalgic, two qualities he often trades in even if it's not immediately obvious. Given all the success that film received, it is admirable that he has not tried to make Boyhood 2. Instead, the 55-year-old has gone back to his Dazed and Confused roots by mining the college-freshman wonder years and giddy, hormonal pheromones of that 1993 classic.

It's all flares, bongs and Pink Floyd as Jake (Blake Jenner) rocks up to college on a baseball scholarship in 1980. He is slowly accepted into his fraternity along with a mighty cast of messers and teammates (comprised of vaguely familiar faces such as Glen Powell, Wyatt Russell and Tyler Lee Hoechlin), all young, dumb and full of machismo.

The campus is awash with willing female quarry, and while Jake may have caught the eye of Zoey Deutch's arty type, he is still happy to go out and humiliate himself with his hot-to-trot housemates. This is all done to a soundtrack of lightning-fast badinage and a brilliant soundtrack straight from the era.

And there's your "plot", if you'd call it that. Jake's initiation weekend into college life roles along with Linklater's affectionate eye for innocence, gradually softening the corners of the bad behaviour. No one is getting exploited, everyone is happy and handsome, and an easy-going charm works its way under the skin as flecks of substance shine through the shape-throwing and bad fashion. An unassuming, soft-centred delight. 4 Stars

Hilary A White

Our Kind of Traitor

Cert: 15A. Now showing

John le Carré adaptations tend to work well, both on the big screen (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, A Most Wanted Man) and small (BBC's excellent The Night Manager). The author's brand of spy game eschews the gadgets and gals of Bond for something more bureaucratic and workmanlike, and is all the more charged for it.

Our Kind of Traitor, le Carré's 2010 novel, was warmly received but it is unlikely that this pedestrian film will go the distance. Susanna White's second feature outing is almost too clean and polished, a perfectly nice but hollow-sounding replica of a potentially great spy thriller.

It doesn't help that leads Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris (as Perry and Gail) have so little charisma or chemistry. That falls to Stellan Skarsgard as the Mafia accountant who cosies up to the holidaying couple. At a party, he gives Perry a USB stick and requests it be passed on to MI6. The couple are soon sucked into murky waters by conniving British intelligence agent (Damien Lewis, sporting "Smiley specs").

Everything - the pace, the action, McGregor's frowning - is fine. But you start to wonder if an institution like le Carré perhaps deserves a bit more care and reverence when his works are earmarked for filming. 3 Stars

Hilary A White

Green Room

Cert 16. Now showing.

Blue Ruin was a noirish neo-western that made a mark in 2013 due to its quirky protagonist and visual flair. Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier revives that tone of frontier lawlessness in this fresh and furious thriller that, like its predecessor, wears the distinct colour motif of its title.

Anton Yelchin plays the leader of a hardcore punk outfit on the road, not having much luck. Desperate, they accept a gig in a clubhouse in the middle of nowhere, which they find is the den of skinhead white supremacists.

When they walk in on a murder in the backstage green room, all hell breaks loose. Club owner and drug kingpin Darcy (a brilliantly atypical role for Patrick Stewart) is called in to negotiate with the new witnesses, who bombard themselves in the room after getting a strong indication they won't be allowed leave alive.

The trim and flab-free 94 minutes is rife with invention, from the novel shards of violence (some extremely graphic) to the layers of menace that gather outside the simple wooden door. Saulnier's screenplay is tight and peppered with black humour as the strong cast do sterling work. Naturally, the nightmare gets out of hand by the finale and the body-count is high, but getting there is devilish fun. HHHH

Hilary A White

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