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By midlandsmovies, Mar 24 2019 08:08AM



Midlands Review - Deeds Not Words


Directed by Coralie Hudson


2018


Well... It looks like the Midlands has produced yet another solid little film.


This time, it comes in the form of Deeds Not Words, a short that takes a look at the Suffragette movement on a more local scale than perhaps most of us learnt about at school. The film is divided into three parts, focusing in on three different women who all got involved in the movement at some point.


I really love the thought that has gone into the structure of the film before we even get into any of the nitty gritty stuff. The chapter headings for each part of the film are colour-coded to match the Suffragette flag, and the themes of each part represent the values that the movement held as it fought for women to gain the right to vote.


I thought this attention to detail by director Coralie Kate Hudson was wonderful, and displayed a true passion and dedication to the story that she was telling through the film. When filmmakers feel this way about anything they decide to make the subject of a project, it truly works wonders in elevating a film to another level entirely.


The first third of the film centres around the theme of dignity, and I thought this to be the best of the three acts. The speech that we see being rehearsed is well written and tremendously delivered by Lisa Blissitt, who played Sarah E. Woodward in the film. I think it perfectly encapsulated this first theme, and was definitely my favourite part.


A lot of planning seems to have gone into the presentation of this film. Obviously as this is a period piece, I was expecting to see costumes, hair and make-up to fit the time period, although one always fears - or at least, I do - that really a big budget is a necessity in order to create a look that is convincing enough to transport viewers back to the time in which a story is set. It would seem, however, that those fears were entirely unfounded because the costumes put together here were fantastic, and when paired with some of the locations where the film was shot, absolutely smacked of the early 1900s.


The final touches that just added an extra little something to this film came during the post-production stages, and more specifically, the colour grading process. The faded film look that was added gives a sense of times gone by, but there’s a touch of warmth that reminds us that this movement was one of the better things to have happened throughout history. Again, it’s a little attention to small details that has added masses to the final product.


Overall, I think Deeds Not Words is a splendid short film that deserves to be seen by many. So much work has gone into making sure this could turn out as well as it has for it to be missed. It’s a true reflection of how every element and stage of the filmmaking process can come together to produce magnificent results regardless of budget, and that is the only reason anyone should need to watch it.


Kira Comerford

Twitter @FilmAndTV101


By midlandsmovies, Jan 17 2019 09:02PM



The Favourite (2019) Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos


Olivia Colman stars as Queen Anne in this bawdy black comedy-drama that sees the eccentric and frail head of state avoid her kingdom’s woes as she gets caught up in a tit-for-tat but serious squabble between her confidante Sarah and Sarah’s poorer cousin Abigail.


La La Land’s Emma Stone plays Abigail Hill, a fallen woman who arrives caked in mud and is soon to set to work as a maid amongst the luxurious palace rooms. Despite undertaking menial labour she has her sights set on bigger things and begins a surreptitious plan to move up society’s ladder by usurping Sarah (Rachel Weisz) in the Queen’s affections.


Abigail begins by assisting the Queen with her ailments before planting more sinister seeds to curry favour with the throne. Once it is revealed that Sarah is in fact involved in a lesbian affair with the monarch, Abigail discovers another way into the Queen’s good books – via her bed.


Lanthimos shoots his film with glorious cinematography using wide angle and fisheye lenses to show the vast spaces in the stately house, and the sumptuous chequered floors provide a metaphorical board for the chess pieces to play out their game. The pawns of Weisz and Stone try to checkmate the Queen but their false appearance of power is not quite the same as the actual divine power of royalty.


There’s plenty of humour to be had as well and the three leads are nothing short of phenomenal on screen. Funny when needed, whilst also showing vulnerability and empathy, the trio of amazing actresses fully come into their own with their vicious put downs and deliciously devilsome dialogue.


A (very small) hint of Trading Places occurs as Stone’s lowly serf becomes a lady in waiting whilst Weisz’s influential lover is brought to her knees when she is drugged and almost killed after falling from her horse.


The fine female cast are pushed to the forefront whilst the men in court definitely take second fiddle. And as the women fire guns, slap each other and drink heartily, the males are caked in make-up and wigs and pushed behind in an interesting twist on the period drama formula.


Nicholas Hault as Robert Harley is the best of the background bunch where he gets to act like a total arse throughout and is given some of the best and most profane dialogue, playing his own games in parliament and beyond.


But it really is Colman, Stone and Weisz’s show. The power games, the flip-flopping and the sparring of physical and verbal humour are delivered impeccably by all three and allow the actresses to create fully-rounded characters we can sympathise with. Yet the audience can just as easily hate when the trio’s primal and nasty game-playing comes to prominence. But either way, their conniving deceits provide plenty of juicy drama to enjoy.


Stylistically it couldn’t be further from the director’s previous film The Killing of a Sacred Deer (review here) which appeared in our Top 20 of 2017 which was far slower, slightly meandering (in a good way) and conceptually abstract. Whilst this is far more accessible, similar mythical and classical themes are explored where power, retribution and revenge all come in to play throughout the narrative.


The lighting is natural and adds to the period realism where night time scenes are lit by candle flame echoing a similar technique seen in Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon whilst the score utilises the classic music of composers like Handel and Bach.


Whilst its historical accuracy can be hotly debated, like Tarantino’s take on history I don’t see this as some quasi-realistic portrait and it sure has far more in common with a Carry On film than period-precise documentation. That said, with Anne keeping 17 rabbits to represent each of her child-bearing tragedies, Lanthimos doesn’t let the humorous aspects stop him from exploring the morbid issues of motherhood, dominance and sovereignty in all its forms.


However, with its added darkness and the Machiavellian machinations of the three protagonists, the film is full to the brim with incredible performances alongside some eccentricities in its technical aspects, plus we mustn’t forget its terrific quip-filled script. The Favourite therefore is a formidable film from a director who takes weighty themes and provides a theatre for three mighty actresses to deliver some of the best performances of the year and possibly of their career.


★★★★ ½


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Jan 17 2019 05:09PM



Colette (2019) Dir. Wash Westmoreland


This biographical drama comes from Still Alice director Wash Westmoreland and is based upon the life of French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. Nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature she is also famous for her 1944 novella Gigi which was the basis for the film of the same name.


Colette covers the early part of her life with Keira Knightley returning from an acting break as the lead woman whose first writings were published under the pen name of “Willy” – a nickname for her husband Henry Gauthier-Villars (Dominic West). She writes a series of stories revolving around “Claudine”, a fictionalised version of her own life which is filled with avant-garde parties and lesbian liaisons.


However, much like in the film Big Eyes (Tim Burton), Colette soon demands her name be revealed as the real author of the stories which her husband resists and which subsequently causes riffs between them. The film is told in a linear fashion and for a film about writing, sadly has too few literary trappings and most reminded me of the standard fare of Merchant Ivory period dramas – but with added liberal and progressive flourishes.


Knightley is solid and Dominic West plays the uptight, sleazy type of macho husband that he often excels in – but is one actor I have never thought has much of a range and he does little to correct that here in Colette.


As Colette’s will becomes more determined, the film delves into notions of masculinity and femininity and whilst swanning into boisterous parties one night in extravagant dresses, she partakes in serious muscular exercise the following day. The cinematography is fascinating as it captures beautiful French scenery as well as bawdy get-togethers exploring both public and private spaces.


The film however concludes with her departure from literature into her mime and stage career displaying her fight for female independence at a time where female respectability was considered paramount and she moves from exercising her mind to the physicality of her body.


Therefore Colette is certainly progressive and honourable – telling a little-known tale of creative and wanton passions – but if I’m honest I found little “life” in the film. Also, there was a very palpable chemistry vacuum between the two leads, yet the excellent support from Eleanor Tomlinson, Aiysha Hart and Fiona Shaw helps ease these gaps.


A melodrama of women’s independence, I would recommend Colette for those interested in the film’s central historical subject matter but for many others, the film – as respectful as it is – dips into blandness, both technically and narratively.


★★★


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, Dec 6 2017 09:59PM



Midlands Spotlight – Lapwing


Midlands Movies Mike finds out about upcoming film Lapwing from Urban Apache Films which is being made in the region with a planned release in 2018.


Urban Apache Films are an award winning UK based independent film production company founded in 2009. The core team features director Philip Stevens whose work has been selected for festivals around the world and has won numerous international awards, including a Royal Television Society award for best short drama.


Lapwing adds to the expanding portfolio of films at Urban Apache as they endeavour to keep numerous projects in production at any given time.


Lapwing’s exciting location is the local salt-marshes of Lincolnshire. Set in 1555, the film follows an isolated group of salt famers who are arranging illegal passage to Europe for an Egyptian family in hiding. However, a love affair between Patience, a mute English girl, and Rumi the son of the Egyptian family, threatens to destroy both communities.


The cast includes Emmett J Scanlan (David), Sebastian De Souza (Rumi), Hannah Douglas (Patience) and Javed Khan (Arif) and will be produced by Urban Apache Films themselves alongside Red Dog Film and World Serpent Productions,


Urban Apache describe Lapwing as “an immersive, visceral, yet tonal window into the life of a young woman who is forced to the fringes of Tudor society”.


“Living within an isolated community on the Lincolnshire salt marshes, Patience embarks on a journey of self discovery beyond the ominous shadow of the community's violent patriarchal leader”.


“Part psychological thriller, part love story, the film sets the contemporary and modern themes of immigration, otherness and the female voice and gaze, in a dangerous world where violence, superstition and vengeance reign”.


The film has been written by Laura Turner who has written more than twenty original plays and adaptations of classic novels for the theatre, with productions of her work touring all over the world and a number published by Josef Weinberger Books. Her film The Empty Throne won a LOSA award in April 2016 at the BFI and Laura's new work The Buried Moon opened in May at the Rose Theatre in London.


After a successful IndieGoGo campaign, the film has now wrapped and the filmmakers are very proud of their local connections. “We are almost entirely local professionals who believe in the wealth of exceptional talent in the East Midlands where we are based. But above all, we want to make the most beautiful and entertaining film that we can”.


You can follow updates on the film at their social media Twitter page here: https://twitter.com/lapwingmovie or at their official website www.urbanapachefilms.com


Midlands Movies Mike



Hannah Douglas and fellow cast and crew on set of Lapwing
Hannah Douglas and fellow cast and crew on set of Lapwing


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, May 25 2017 12:34PM



Family Portrait (2017)

Directed by Kelly Holmes


From Derbyshire filmmaker Kelly Holmes comes this short 14 minute film about time, inheritance and the changing dynamics in a family who have entered a precarious position.


Opening on a zoetrope of a horse as well as seeing a woman (Line of Duty’s Allison McKenzie as Margaret) reticent to sign a legal document, Family Portrait throws us straight into a world of upper-crust Britishness after the loss of her husband.


Filmed in a beautiful blue hue, the film has a gorgeous look of an older era with great costumes and the old stately home location carrying the ghosts of the past in its rooms and furniture.


After the death of said father, Margaret wants her daughter (In Plain Sight’s Kate McLaughlin as Louise) to maintain control of the family affairs whilst at the same time, the whole family have to tolerate the rigmarole of a family portrait.


The family surprisingly include the corpse of the father into the photograph, with the irony of the necessary “stillness” of the archaic process not lost on the film’s creators – “It would look more real”, says the photographer as he asks the family to pose in certain ways around the cadaver.


The dark tone of the screenplay by Nils Gustenhofen is sparse but gets straight to the major points and themes of the piece and allows enough ambiguity about death, possibly murder, and the future without explicitly stating in the dialogue. In addition, the score is at times gentle AND intense which gives a sense of dread as the story unfolds. This emotional music is expanded upon with ticking clocks and echoing footsteps which again show the passing of time and movement.


Time, image and movement are therefore the big themes Holmes has brought to the forefront throughout, with the rattling zoetrope alone emphasising the illusion of motion alongside the fixed nature of the images.


In summary, Family Portrait is a fantastic powerful short that captures the images of life from a bygone period. The film works on many levels and even displays its own themes via a sequence of images which show the progressive phases of motion during a family’s attempt to “move on”.


Midlands Movies Mike


For more information about Kelly Holmes and her films please go to www.kellyholmesdirector.com

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