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By midlandsmovies, Jan 30 2020 08:40PM



The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2020) Dir. Terry Gilliam


A passion project two decades in the making, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote comes from the fractious (and now controversial) mind of ex-Monty Python-er and 12 Monkeys director Terry Gilliam.


Autobiographical in nature, Adam Driver stars as film director Toby Grisoni (“T.G.” as a cipher for Terry Gilliam perhaps, but also far closer to the film’s screenwriter Tony Grisoni) who is blasé about the filming of his current Don Quixote production. After rediscovering his old student film on the same subject however, Driver comes across Jonathan Pryce (from Gilliam’s own 1985 feature Brazil) who starred as Quixote in that student film. And he has now, many years later in his old age, convinced himself that he is really the swashbuckling hero.


Driver and Pryce subsequently get caught up in a calamitous adventure. However, an appreciation of how the film came into being, and Gilliam’s own career, may be essential to fully appreciate some of the more frustrating narrative elements. Lost in La Mancha which documents the failed attempts at getting Gilliam’s story on screen is really required viewing in many ways. This is true as Gilliam has clearly reshaped the time travel element of a previous script draft. So as the duo cross paths with knights, bandits and persecuted villagers it is explained that these are merely locals playing out several roles.


The great cinematography also captures the excellent costumes and production design. Messy junkyards and picturesque old towns are captured in glorious sunlight and the narrative finds Driver rediscovering his passion for filmmaking. The theme of filmmaking is a bit on the nose but with the long-gestating production, it’s quite understandable he wanted to address and focus on it.


As well as fantasy and reality, the past and present are constantly referenced too. A nod to the everlasting turning of time can be seen in a decrepit windmill contrasted with a modern wind farm. The older windmill echoes the classic Frankenstein and this ‘monster’ project Gilliam has undertaken.


He shows us in many ways how these productions (and creative endeavours as whole) are constantly living and dying. Gilliam’s strange and singular vision mixes with more regular scenes which has the movie rollicking along like Romancing the Stone at times. However, the chaotic 3rd act is ramshackle to say the least but the film is at least consistently attractive to look at and Pryce and Driver are excellent in difficult to conceive roles.


Fans of Gilliam and this finally completed project (or even just filmmaking) will enjoy his imaginativeness and obsessions. But the film could be a bit hit or miss for those coming unfamiliar to Gilliam’s work, and the background to this particular movie, for the first time. So in the end it’s messy, scattershot and odd, a bit like Gilliam himself, yet it has a lot of eccentric fun at times with plenty of the director's trademark inventiveness throughout.


★★★


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Sep 28 2017 08:58AM



The Beguiled (2017) Dir. Sofia Coppola


Based on the novel of the same name, Sofia Coppola was only the second female to win the Best Director Award at Cannes for this film set at a girl’s school in the Deep South during the American Civil War. With only teacher Edwina Morror (Nicole Kidman) and five students left at the school house, they find and take in Colin Farrell’s injured corporal soldier where the the ladies tend to him in a locked room.


Copolla fills her plantation location with lots of moody silences but these later turn to screams as the repressed women deal with the soldier’s attentions. Cleaning Farrell’s wounds in a scene of sexual/religious tension, the film plays with ideas of femininity and sexuality and its natural light gives the movie authenticity but this results in it being under-lit at times. As a chamber piece, it uses the technical staging of Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon by using windows and candles to provide the only in-house lighting, but again, sometimes to a confusingly dark fault.


Critic Tim Robey surmised Barry Lyndon by saying audiences and reviewers railed “against the perceived coldness of Kubrick's style, the film's self-conscious artistry and slow pace” and I’d argue the exact same accusations can be leveled here.


The mesmerising framing shows Copolla's fine artistry and the cast deliver the melodramatic lines with grace but everyone’s done far better historical/literary work elsewhere. Also, the snail’s pacing hindered my own engagement despite Dunst and Farrell’s explosive scenes – which are great but few and far between.


With more drama and conflict, the film does improve in its second half and can be seen as a complimentary (or development) venture to Copolla’s own The Virgin Suicides (1999). The themes and female cast (especially Dunst’s repeat appearance) echo the director’s previous literary foray into a woman-filled and prison-like house.


Measured and controlled, the lack of narrative thrust and extremely long set-up, despite its short runtime of 93 minutes, sadly makes The Beguiled a rather ponderous affair. This is ultimately frustrating given its many positive performances and interesting representations of control, seduction and temptation. Charming but deceiving.


6/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Dec 16 2016 06:29PM

High-Rise (2016) Dir. Ben Wheatley


This adaptation of J.G. Ballard's High-Rise from Ben “Kill List” Wheatley is every as bit as weird as the original novel in what is a challenging yet rewarding film set in a sci-fi dystopia ripped straight from the 1970s.


Tom Hiddleston plays protagonist Dr. Robert Laing who moves into a 25th floor apartment in a tower block featuring luxurious amenities before the building (and its self-contained and insular society) begins to tear itself apart. Beginning relationships with single-mum Charlotte (a haunting turn from Sienna Miller) and becoming friends with a family on the lower level (Luke Evans and Elisabeth Moss as Richard and Helen) Laing moves between and between the opulent penthouses and paltry rooms at the bottom as the differences in wealth become an obvious reality.


With the building’s temperamental water and electricity and with garbage piling up in corridors, the microcosm pits the building’s designer Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons) and his decadent friends against the hungry and scavenging gangs near the actual (and metaphorical) bottom as Luke Evans’ Richard Wilder puts it upon himself to assassinate Irons.


Hiddleston plays Laing with indifference and distance as he becomes our eyes, viewing the chaos as a somewhat inevitable outcome of the building’s construction.


In a whirl of hedonistic violence, disgusting torture – both mental and physical – the film shows the depravity of an unequal society with as much relevance today as it did when the book was written. Wheatley has gone for an amazing “future 70s” aesthetic with the costumes, locations having a quasi-retro feel about them more akin to Logan’s Run and A Clockwork Orange than anything modern. The building’s supermarket has a vibe straight out of the iconic Pulp “Common People” video whilst the feelings of isolation – as a whole as the building is cut off from the “real world” and as people walk on by oblivious to the building’s breakdown – are kept very much at the forefront.


Unlike most, I’ve never been a huge fan of Wheatley’s but this film shows a filmmaker with a passion and drive to deliver exactly what he intends. Luke Evans and Jeremy Irons (who’s having a movie renaissance in 2016) provide excellent support and the eclectic shots and soundtrack music (from Clint Mansell) linger long in the memory. From the illustrious images to the dark themes it explores, High-Rise is a film that bubbles up slowly from the bottom until it reaches a gloriously gory finale. Experimental but just the right side of coherent, the film explores wickedness and immorality and if you go along with its wantonness you’ll find many more highs in a slow burner building to a pinnacle of decadence.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Oct 20 2015 05:28PM

Macbeth (2015) Dir. Justin Kurzel


Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Elizabeth Debicki.

113 mins.


Shakespeare’s tragedy of Macbeth is notoriously known for its bloodthirsty power, and as for Justin Kurzel’s new 2015 adaptation, bloodthirsty attitude is certainly still pertinent in this adapted tale. This is a story about a power seeking warrior, Macbeth (Michael Fassbender), and his deceitful journey in becoming King. A rather poignant scene of a child’s funeral is our first glimpse into Macbeth’s wretched world. It is within this scene that we realise that the child is in fact Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s (Marion Cotillard) deceased son. This is the beginning of the decline of Macbeth.


One could argue that we already have our fair share of Macbeth film adaptations, most famously those of Roman Polanski, Akira Kurosawa and Orson Welles. But move over and make way for Justin Kurzel as this new version opens up and expands this Shakespearian tragedy in the most monumental of ways. The expansive landscapes of the Scottish highlands are the backdrop for the tale. You would expect to see such scenery in films such as Lord of the Rings, not for a play originally confined to a Shakespearian stage set. This makes for some of the most astonishing and inconceivable visuals. Another reoccurring pictorial throughout the film is the battlefield glow of orange fire, which ironically is a warming tone. This glow seems to signify the burning thoughts and deaths that cause the downfall of Macbeth’s life, as this hue seems to follow Macbeth. Also, Kurzel’s use of slow motion prolongs the absolute brutal happenings in the reality of Macbeth’s world and produces us with a terrifying sense of chaos.


Director Justin Kurzel’s debut film ‘Snowtown’ was also an adaptation. It was only released in 2011, making Kurzel a relatively new director to the scene, but he brought with him an ability to deal with rather controversial and chilling subjects. Snowtown deals with many of the main topics that also appear in Macbeth, such as murder, deception and grief, which may have set Kurzel up for Macbeth; a story with such an evil main character. Although Snowtown wasn’t the greatest of successes, it set Kurzel up for bigger and better endeavours and this is unquestionably shown in Macbeth. Confusion now hath made his masterpiece.


Michael Fassbender is an outright natural when it comes to playing the infamous and evil protagonist of Macbeth (with the help of a little war paint, of course). He describes the anger, sadness and mental deterioration of Macbeth with such precision that you feel as though you are sharing his emotions throughout the film; the confusion, the hatred and the sorrow. The same can also be said for Marion Cotillard’s mystifying representation of Lady Macbeth. Her beautiful prowess is almost hypnotic, a feeling also shared by Macbeth himself. Her deceptive ways almost become understandable as we are drawn into her illusory life. Her monologue to that of her departed child is hauntingly harrowing.


Overall, with scenery fit for a King and enough bloody battles to satisfy the mind of even the most corrupt and ferocious warriors something wicked this way comes to a cinema near you. Dedicated Shakespeare fans may unlike the way Kurzel has cut certain famous quotes and characters from the new adaptation, but as a film with enough rigour to satisfy many tastes, it strives. Love it or hate it, but what’s done is done.


U.K release date: October, 2nd 2015.


7.5/10 Zoe Heslop


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