Saturday 18 November 2017

Movie review - The Beguiled: a film that lingers and that is always good

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Elle Fanning and Nicole Kidman in a scene from The Beguiled
Elle Fanning and Nicole Kidman in a scene from The Beguiled

Sofia Coppola has been clear that this, her sixth feature, is not a remake of the 1971 Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood film of the same name but an adaptation of Thomas Cullinan's 1966 novel. It lacks the sledgehammer sexuality of the 1971 film to which it is inevitably compared but its dreamy, vaguely fairytale feel - it opens like Little Red Riding Hood - focuses more on societal repression of women rather than on merely sexual repression.

Visibly directed as is Coppola's wont it is a sumptuously beautiful film - cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd has a field day - with some wonderful performances but it will leave some viewers a bit cold.

Injured Yankee deserter Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell) is taken to a girls' school where only seven females remain. Ranging in age from child to matron they have been attempting to maintain normality in their Confederate stronghold but even in war their normality means neat writing, French verbs and the upkeep of a fussily restrictive appearance despite the heat and need to provide their own food. Their impeccably beautiful clothes are gilded cages. Life is limited, limiting and the arrival of an injured saucepot opens up all kinds of possibilities. They're not waiting for a man but waiting for a change.

Nicole Kidman is really good as headmistress Miss Martha, skilfully steering clear of uptight schoolmarm stereotype and Coppola regular Kirsten Dunst is also great as the dutiful but despairing Edwina. The bold Colin is a natural saucepot obviously and his veer into smarm and his rage when he is thwarted are effective. The pacing is off a bit at the end but this is a film that lingers and that is always good. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor

Cars 3

Cert: G; Now showing

It's unlikely that this will be the only review to drop this pun, but the biggest feeling we are left with by this third Cars instalment is one of being down this road before.

Mind you, the runt of Pixar's critical litter is a hulking heavyweight when it comes to merchandise sales - apparently $10bn over the first two outings - so it was hardly likely that the formula would be tampered with.

Having established the template - race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) takes the scenic route to proving his metal in a big race - franchise director and Pixar grandee John Lasseter steps aside and installs Brian Fee as caretaker to ensure just enough gets done to secure another billion lunchbox sales.

For those over the age of seven, there will be lots and lots of questions (indeed many remaining unanswered from the previous films). Why are the mountains shaped like cars? If a pick-up truck can drink in a bar, why are the tractors mooing in a field like cows? And how has a studio so concerned with intellect and lofty entertainment standards allowed this dead-eyed, lazily penned product advert to blot their cred copybooks for a third time?

If you must accompany the little ones, you will at least have Lou, the now-obligatory excellent Pixar animated short, to savour. In six gorgeous minutes, it achieves levels of heart, humour and invention that the main event can only dream of. ★★ Hilary A White


Cert: 18; Now showing

It's a little known fact but Spider-Man can speak Irish. So far it's only confirmed for the most recent Spider-Man, Tom Holland, who gives evidence of this skill in Pilgrimage, an unrelentingly, unapologetically dark religious road movie set in Ireland in the 13th century. It's a brave, well-cast, violent film about power and religion and the justifications made for them.

In 1209 Brother Geraldus (Stanley Weber) arrives at a remote Irish monastery home to The Relic, a rock used in the stoning of a Catholic martyr. He wants this stone delivered to Rome and enlists some of the monks to help him on his holy road trip. Brothers Ciaran (John Lynch), Cathal (Hugh O'Conor), Rua (Ruaidhri Conroy) and The Novice, Diarmuid (Holland) who has a special bond with The Mute (Jon Bernthal) a foreigner loyal and silent since being found adrift in a currach. It is, however, a perilous journey between threats from Ireland's tribes and the Norman invaders whose leader (Richard Armitage) would quite like The Relic for his own purposes.

The film is written by Jamie Harrigan and directed by Brendan Muldowney who are uncompromising in their vision. The weather is grey, the forests gloomy and menacing, the violence raw. They raise comparisons between superstition and religion, zeal and power tripping, all through Irish, English and French. The casting is excellent which mostly makes up for a story that feels a little thin. ★★★ Aine O'Connor

David Lynch: The Art Life

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Eraserhead, made in 1977, became a cult classic and was the film that led to David Lynch becoming famous.

In an interesting, unusual and occasionally slightly too involved with itself documentary, Jon Nguyen explores what got Lynch to the turning point that was Eraserhead. The only contributor to the doc is Lynch himself, filmed over three years in his studio in LA making art and smoking, and recorded in a type of soundbooth discussing his past. Lynch isn't the most charismatic or chattiest of subjects and his work, often odd and hard to reach, might seem like the product of a troubled background. But what he describes, with great affection and illustrated with home movies and photographs, is a happy middle American childhood where he was loved, encouraged and largely respected, even when his family didn't always understand.

As a doc about the who and why of David Lynch it is very effective but definitely made by fans for fans. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor


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