Movie reviews: Call Me By Your Name, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, Property of the State
Call Me By Your Name (15A, 132mins) ★★★★★
Grace Jones: Bloodlight And Bami (No Cert, IFI, 115mins) ★★★★
Property Of The State (16, 107mins) ★★
I'm a big fan of Sicilian film-maker Luca Guadagnino. I loved his 2009 film I Am Love, in which Tilda Swinton played a woman who rebels against the stifling materialism of a Milanese textile dynasty, and Call Me By Your Name is of a similarly high standard. Lush, evocative and loosely based on a novel by Andre Aciman, it's set in rural Italy in the early 1980s, where a family's peaceful summer is disturbed by the arrival of a charismatic stranger.
The Perlmans (Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar) and their 17-year-old son Elio (Timothee Chamalet) are enjoying a sweltering break at their villa when Oliver (Armie Hammer) turns up jet-lagged but beautiful. Mr Perlman is a noted archaeology professor, Oliver an up-and-coming academic who's come to study his methods and help.
He's long, lean, annoyingly perfect and soon all the local females are in hot pursuit. This enrages Elio, who acts petulantly with the family guest. But Elio's antipathy is a way of dealing with his underlying infatuation: he's gay, and may not be barking up the wrong tree.
Heat hangs heavy in the air in this beguiling, almost overpoweringly sensual drama, which is languidly paced, and filled with the sleepy sights and sounds of a northern Italian summer. Hammer continues his career renaissance with a wonderfully opaque turn as the elusive, charming Oliver, but Michael Stuhlbarg is this film's secret weapon - his late speech to his confused and heartbroken son will stay with you for a long time.
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At one point in Sophie Fiennes' refreshingly low-fi documentary Grace Jones: Bloodlight And Bami, we glimpse an archive photo of the Jamaican singer arm in arm with Andy Warhol.
Grace's 15 minutes of fame came in the early to mid-1980s, when she released some stylishly catchy records, developed a compelling stage act and appeared as a high-kicking Bond villain in View To A Kill. Her fearsome reputation was enhanced by her contretemps with talk-show host Russell Harty, whom she belted for turning his back on her, but in the 90s she disappeared from the zeitgeist and that, one thought, was that.
But so far as Grace is concerned, she is still a star, and I must admit the more of this film I watched, the more I liked her. She's a force of nature, a style icon and staggering performer who, at 69, still commands the stage and looks a good 20 years younger. In Bloodlight And Bami we watch her perform in Paris and elsewhere, bawl out dodgy promoters who try and weasel their way out of paying her hotel bill, and return to her native Jamaica to reminisce with her family about her tough and violent childhood.
She's a chameleon, a fascinating person who literally invented herself, and makes most of today's female stars look watery and tame.
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And finally, a word about Property Of The State, a problematic Irish film that resurrects the horror of the Imelda Riney killings. In 1994, the young Dublin artist, her three-year-old son and a local priest were murdered in an east Clare wood by Brendan O'Donnell, a homeless man with a history of instability.
The Riney case has produced more than its fair share of bad art - a Christy Moore song, a dubious novel by Edna O'Brien, and now this film, which has the good, if controversial, idea of approaching the story from the killer's point of view, but doesn't have the budget or imagination to properly execute it.
Aisling Loftus plays O'Donnell's sister and the film is based in part on her diary.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to f*** one up also, and young Brendan, who's clearly in the early stage of psychosis, is failed at every turn by family, church and State. But his agonies, while depressing, are not illuminating, and Property Of The State clunks along like a TV movie and ultimately fails to justify its exhumation of this awful event.