High Rise Review

Graced with a much larger budget and a much more starry cast than his more modest earlier films, Ben Wheatley still manages to pack a punch to the guts in the visual stunning yet visceral High Rise. This surreal dystopia, based on the J.G. Ballard novel of the name delights and disgusts in equal measure, blurring the lines between dark humour and horror to harmonious effect. However, though this film is a feast for the eyes (albeit a unsavory one), it may not to your particular taste. Dog or horse anyone?

The film opens just as Ballard’s 1975 novel does, with the line “Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr. Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months”, perhaps one of the greatest opening lines of genre writing and now genre film-making. It is here we are introduced to Tom Hiddleston’s devilishly handsome, cool as ice and charming anti-hero. He is dressed in rags, covered in paint and blood and barbecuing a dog. Setting the tone for the madness to come.

We then rewind back 3 months. Here we see the high rise as it should be and as it was, the utopian paradise for the young professional or family with a gym, swimming pool and a supermarket on the 15th floor. Hiddleston’s Laing is a young doctor, who moves into the 25th floor, a floor for the fairly well off). Laing quickly being completely seduced by the decadent high rise high life and the strange people who inhabit there.

Amongst the inhabitants we have sultry siren Charlotte (Sienna Miller), a failed documentary film-maker Wilder (a frighteningly macho Luke Evans), his heavily pregnant and depressed wife (Elizabeth Moss), pedantic orthodontist (Wheatley regular Reece Shearsmith) and the architect and “midwife” of the high rise Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons).

 

Soon after moving in Laing begins to realise that life in the high rise isn’t all bourgeois parties, dancing with air hostesses, squash game and discounts of French language books. Royal explains to Laing that the building was conceived as a “as a crucible for change” yet Laing is instantly aware of the hierarchy and class conflict is the high rise. The lower floors house the poorer tenants yet the top houses the building’s aristocracy with Royal’s wife parading round on a horse in their beautiful country house garden on the 40th floor as the bottom floors are suffering with no electricity. When the lower classes begin to rebel and the quality of life slowly beings to diminish and become feral, Laing finds himself in the safest position, in the middle of the building as the professional working class.

Previously High Rise has been deemed as un-filmable. Producer Jeremy Thomas, who produced Cronenberg’s adaptation of Ballard’s other cult novel Crash, has clung to the project for 30 years, before finding Wheatley at it’s helm and Amy Jump at it’s script. And the wait paid off. This immaculate adaptation gets right into the cruel mind of Ballard and replicates it’s tone perfectly.

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Stylistically the film is stunning. Everything is perfect; the futuristic yet retro set design, Clint Mansell’s looping score (including a haunting Portishead cover of ABBA), Laurie Rose’s steely cinematography and the meticulous, choreographed editing from Wheatley and Jump themselves. The look of High Rise is Kubrickan through and through, with many noticing the likeness to A Clockwork Orange. In terms of tone and feeling however it’s all Wheatley, with High Rise emanating the same genre-bending style of Kill List and A Field In England and the madness of Down Terrace.

With visceral scenes such a skull dissection, increasingly dizzying violence and a lack of emotion from most characters, audiences and critics alike are deeming High Rise as the most divisive film of year, and much like Wheatley’s previous work it is a true love it or hate it film. You’ll either leave the cinema wanting to erase the last 2 hours out of your mind or wanting the re-live it and return to the High Rise again and again. And me? Well I can’t wait until my next visit!

 

 

Youth (2015) Review

We review Paolo Sorrentino’s most recent film Youth staring Michael Caine, Harvey Kietel and Rachel Weisz.

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SET DEL FILM “LA GIOVINEZZA” DI PAOLO SORRENTINO. NELLA FOTO MICHAEL CAINE E HARVEY KEITEL. FOTO DI GIANNI FIORITO

A follow up to his Oscar-winning masterpiece The Great Beauty / La Grande Bellezza, Sorrentino’s second English language feature Youthis a stunning yet superficial mediation on growing old and looking back.

Full of bizarre characters and even more bizarre dream sequences, Youth is a tragi-comedy about a group of people reflecting on their lives, and the universal struggle between age and youth, past and future, life and death, and everything in between.

Michael Caine stars as Fred Ballinger, a retired acclaimed orchestral composer, holidaying in an elegant hotel/health spa at the foot of the glorious Swiss Alps. He is joined by his ageing movie director best pal, Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) and his daughter-cum-personal assistant Lena.

When we are first introduced to Fred, he is being pursued by a representative of the Queen to reprise his career one last time for a royal concert. He refuses for personal reasons, adamant to leave that part of his life in the past. Mick, meanwhile is working with a group of young scriptwriters to write the most important film he has ever made; Fred very much wants his youth to remain in the past whilst Mick is desperately trying to cling onto his in the hre and now.

Featuring a plethora of other characters including Paul Dano’s reclusive actor, Jane Fonda’s ageing Hollywood starlet, a mountaineer, a teen prostitute, a Miss Universe, an overweight retired footballer (supposedly meant to be Maradona) and an awkward cameo from Paloma Faith, Youth is a lot less about plot and much more of study of what youth means to different people.

The main strength of Youth lies with the casting and performances. Those familiar with the previous films of Sorrentino will be surprised to see his favourite leading man Tony Sevillo absent from the cast. In his place, with similar dead-pan facial expressions, is Michael Caine who Sorrentino supposedly had written the role for. Caine as usual works his charm and manages to add a level of likeability to a character that could have been completely un-sympathetic in the wrong hands.

The real hero’s of this film however are those in the supporting roles, particularly Paul Dano and Jane Fonda. The massively underrated but always brilliant Dano stars as a Hollywood actor who is sick of being known for his robot films rather than his more “quality pictures” – a character that sole purpose of the film is the reinforce the art or commercialism debate that seems to run throughout the film (and Sorrentino’s film-making career). Jane Fonda steals the film however in a short cameo towards the end of the feature, as an actress and former muse to Mike who turns down his latest film.

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The overall look of Youth is stunning, with Sorrentino teaming up with his long-term collaborator, cinematographer Luca Bigazzi. The setting of the Swiss Alps is captured so beautifully and elegantly, there is no question that the upper-middle class and celebrities would vacation there. The style of camera work remains consistent throughout, even when reality seamlessly swaps to dream sequences. The natural approach to the dream sequences, including Fred conducting a symphony of cows and Mick encountering all his previous leading ladies, (I would also include the Paloma Faith caricature music video, but I found it so embarrassing I’d rather try and etch it out of my memory) could be seen as too surreal for some audiences, with them appearing out of nowhere. However, the blurred lines of dreams and reality, common in the work of Sorrentino, only helps further blur the lines between age and youth.

It is clear to see why Youth is polarizing and dividing critics and audiences alike, with the surreal and often disjointed dream sequences, meandering characters and the general shallowness of the narrative. I, however, found enough there for a deeply enjoyable watch which was moving as well as a visual delight.Youth may not be on par with previous masterpiece The Great Beauty, but if beauty is in the eye of the beholder who’s to say that the beauty of Youth is not great?

The Great Beauty (2013) Review

In preparation of Paolo Sorrentino’s new relase Youth, we look back and review his last mastepiece, Oscar winning The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza).

In preparation of Paolo Sorrentino’s new relase Youth, we look back and review his last mastepiece, Oscar winning The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza).

Sorrentino’s love letter to the films of Fellini, The Great Beauty is saturated with decadence and hedonism, which transports you right into the centre of Berluscini’s Rome and into the superficial, leisured life of the Italian bourgeoisie. Continue reading “The Great Beauty (2013) Review”

How I Met Neji and Mad Bor Review (AltCine Action!)

A young traveler happens to collide with two strangers on his way to city in this 13 minutes short.

Niki is looking for a new life and that new life is in the city. On his travels one night, he happens to stumble across a campfire, and the inhabitants of that camp; Bor and Neji. They invite Niki for dinner and Bor explains to his guest that he is mad and has lost his mind. On learning his host’s state of mind Niki is dubious when Bor asks if he can borrow his knife, which Niki declines. Bor takes offence to this and proceeds to attack Niki when Neji steps in. After explaining to Niki how him and Bor came together, Niki continues on his travels, not before leaving his parting gift. Continue reading “How I Met Neji and Mad Bor Review (AltCine Action!)”

Darka/ The Dinner Review (AltCine Action!)

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Darka/The Dinner could of easily been a re-hash of most (normally evil) step-mother themed narratives, instead with like-able characters, this short has a tenderness that breathes a soft new light into a well know story. Continue reading “Darka/ The Dinner Review (AltCine Action!)”

Rhizome Review (AltCine Action!)

Yannis Zafris has captured a feeling the desperate feeling of loss without a word being spoken, perhaps because there are no words to describe such a feeling.

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The routine of the elderly is poignantly suggested and subverted into a routine of the lonely and the widowed. An elderly man sits alone, his tape player beside him for company. Suddenly he is jolted to life and sets about collecting a rock and garden tools. What can this old timer be up to? Continue reading “Rhizome Review (AltCine Action!)”

The Dinner Review (AltCine Action!)

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Dimitri Arygyriou hasn’t taken the Greek Weird Wave road in this 2013 production, but a road well travelled; A cheating spouse, a marriage reaching boiling point over a seemingly normal, if not lavish dinner. A masterclass in pace, the two protagonists give subtle, simmering performances complimented by tension building close ups and a quiet, sinister score. Continue reading “The Dinner Review (AltCine Action!)”

Nollibrot Review (AltCine Action!)

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Taking a well known metaphor and making it a literal tale of caution isn’t anything new, but this is a very interesting take on the perils of giving one’s heart away, or in this case, the key to one’s heart. Continue reading “Nollibrot Review (AltCine Action!)”