The Film Club #11

Friday, April 10, 2020
Well, it's not like any of us are getting out to a cinema any time soon. Most of the films I was looking forward to seeing this year (The French Dispatch, No Time to Die, Tenet...) have all been postponed so I guess we'll just have to make do with the wonderful films that are already available. That's the great thing about cinema, it never really ages and films will always feel relevant at different points in our lives. 

Whilst stuck at home, under different circumstances, I caught up on some films in my spare time. Here are some films I recommend...

Parasite (2019) by Bong Joon-ho


Ok ok, this is obvious and barely necessary of a mention. Everyone has heard about Parasite by now, right? On the off chance you haven't heard of it, it's bloody brilliant and that's all you need to know. I rented it on Google Play after seeing a bazillion tweets/article headers about the movie and eventually caved, I couldn't wait any longer! I read no reviews so nothing was spoiled beforehand. I was truly gripped from the first frame and felt like I was constantly being revealed surprises throughout, whilst the characters couldn't quite believe what was unfolding in front of them, neither could I. On very basic terms, it's a social satirical masterpiece about class and greed, where a poor family cons their away into and quickly infests, like a parasite, the lives of a very rich family. I recommend these articles (1, 2, 3) and this video about the film (to consume after viewing to avoid spoilers!). Parasite marked a pivotal moment in cinematic history as it was the first EVER non-English language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture in history. A must-see!

1917 (2019) by Sam Mendes


I mainly wanted to go and see this because I knew Roger Deakins was the cinematographer behind it all and that is was shot in one take - or made to look like it as much as possible anyway. What's also really great about this movie is that it was co-written by a woman, Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Director, Sam Mendes wanted to honor his grandfather, Alfred Mendes, in 1917, who was a native of Trinidad and a messenger for the British on the Western Front. Mendes said that "it's important to remember they were fighting for a free and unified Europe and it's good to be reminded of that now". I'm not usually a mad fan of war films but this one felt particularly unique, mostly thanks to the way it was filmed - as you follow the two lead characters on their journey from the very first scene to the last. The camera felt very up close and really there was no way of escaping what was going on in front of you. An intense and captivating perspective of the first world war.

Midsommar (2019) by Ari Aster


Something very different here, but equally as intense as 1917. I can't say I really enjoyed Midsommar, maybe the better word is endured. Though beautifully shot, interesting and with brilliant acting from lead Florence Pugh, it just left me feeling a little uneasy. It's a horror film but set in broad daylight which makes it all the more eery. No jump scares, darkness or ghosts here but a very different kind of horror film. A young couple embarks on a 'trip' to a midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village. It all starts off as a nice, carefree summer holiday and looks pretty idyllic, however it takes a sinister turn when the insular villagers invite the guests to take part in certain festivities. Think The Wicker Man but even more confusing.

The Lighthouse (2019) by Robert Eggers


Cabin fever might be beginning to feel a little too familiar for us all, right? Maybe save this one for when you're out of isolation, so you don't feel more claustrophobic. Two lighthouse keepers, played by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, are stuck out on a remote and mysterious island in New England in the 1890s. They both struggle to maintain their sanity as they are confined together day in and day out on this island. For four weeks, the men face back-breaking work in miserable conditions with no one else for company but each other. They must endure one another's odd quirks and behaviors, resentment and hatred. In the unfortunate weather conditions, the two are forced to spend more time in hunger, agony and manic isolation with nothing but booze and telling old tales to keep them entertained. It leads the pair down a slippery slope into odd hallucinations. Visually this movie is a gorgeous, gothic horror sensation all shot in black and white, adding to the soulless atmosphere on the island with mad but brilliant performances from both actors.

The Farewell (2019) by Lulu Wang


It is not uncommon in Chinese culture, for example, to keep a loved one in the dark about an illness, like in The Farewell. The film tells the story of a Chinese family, who discover that their Grandmother has only a short while left to live. In order to get all the family together for one last time, they decide to schedule an impromptu wedding for a reunion. We meet Billi, a Chinese American, who quickly gets on the next flight from her home in New York back to her home country of China when she learns the news. However, she struggles to fit in with her family again and is against her family's decision to hide the truth from her grandmother. I really loved this film and thought it was a beautiful story about messy and loving big families, cultures and 'home'.

The Irishman (2019) by Martin Scorsese


Lastly, The Irishman! How lucky are we to have a director well into his seventies still making movies like this, and at such a length too. This movie is a crazy 3 hours and 30 minutes long but i'll be honest I didn't feel like i'd been watching it that long. I've watched shorter movies that felt longer but this one keeps you entertained with no need to check the time. In short, it's set in the 1950s where we meet truck driver, Frank Sheeran (played by longtime Scorsese companion, Robert De niro). He quickly gets involved with the Pennysylvania crime family and then goes on to work for Jimmy Hoffa, an American labor union leader and president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and is largely tied to organized crime. These are exactly the kind of stories Scorsese does best but Casino is still up there as my all time favourite of them all. What I did find interesting though was the use of special effects to make certain actors look younger - you can find out more about this in the 20/30 minute follow up episode 'In Conversation' featuring the director and lead actors from the movie on Netflix. It's amazing what we can do with technology in film, but for me it looked like the style used in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, and felt out of place. Nevertheless, it was as expected flawlessly performed, with amazing costume design (another interesting video here) with a great soundtrack too.

What movies have you been loving lately?

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