Posts Tagged ‘British film’

Krabi 2562 (2019) *** Bfi Player

Dir: Ben Rivers, Anocha Suwichakornpong | Experimental, Drama | UK 97 minutes

Krabi is not just an exotic beach location in Thailand where you can ‘get a massage”, as a one banal Western couple found out. In this offbeat cinema vérité experiment Ben Rivers joins fellow director Anocha Suwichakornpong to explore the landscape and stories within the wider community of this well-known beauty spot rich in Mangrove forests, limestone cliffs and offshore islands. 

The meditative often mysterious drama works chronologically, ethnologically and socially, the atmospheric use of sound – whether ambient or man-made – captures and distils the often eerie enigmatic essence of the place in a specific moment in time where the pre-historic, the recent past and the contemporary world collide. Tonally, Rivers conjures up that same resonant serenity and offbeat humour often associated with the Far East in a story that feels very much like that of Hong Sang-soo’s humorous In Another Country (2012). 

A Thai filmmaker arrives in the area to research locations. She is escorted by a guide offering insight into local folklore and a chance to discover the area’s more undiscovered corners: remote caves where they come across a wild-haired shaman in a loin-cloth, stoking his glowing campfire. Bizarrely, a film shoot is also taking place nearby jolting us back into reality as the scantily clad actor clocks the shaman, Rivers contrasts this with her trip to the highly commercialised shopping area where every type of cuisine is on offer. Deep in the lush rainforest we meet an octogenarian who has lived his entire life in a wooden house. The farmstead is also home to a humpback pig and cockerels. The news that Krabi has a Biennale of its own plays out against the background of gently flowing water as a group of rowers glides by gigantic cliffs. Another black and white scene features enormous shells and skeletons in a depths of a coastal cave giving the piece at atavistic twist.

It soon turns out that the location scouting filmmaker is researching the town’s cinema that has been shut since 1981; a banner announcing the latest releases “Comming soon!” – is a dusty testament to a cinematic past where screenings ran for 24 hours a day, and were packed full. But her presence seems to be a concern only to the local police, as bats and flocks of birds flit past the ghostlike temples of spiritualism and commerce, and dusk falls in this dreamy backwater. Langourously the strands come together to exert an unsettling pull over us as we muse over this fascinating but rather enigmatic trail of events. Intriguing nonetheless. MT

BFI PLAYER from 20 JULY 2020 | LOCARNO FILM FESTIVAL 2019 |  7 -17 AUGUST 2019

Heat & Dust (1983) **** Curzon World

Dir.: James Ivory; Cast: Julie Christie, Greta Scacchi, Shashi Kapoor, Christopher Cazenove, Zakir Hussain, Charles McCaughan, Patrick Geoffrey; UK 1983, 132 min. 

Heat and Dust was the twelfth (of twenty-seven) collaborations between director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Based on the Booker Prize winning novel, the screen adaptation is a break with the social realism of the trio’s earlier features such as Shakespeare Wallah (1965). Its visual opulence made it by far their most successful feature at the box office to date.

Heat and Dust is a lush evocation of the sensuous beauty of India, sashaying between the 1920s and the 1980s in an epic of self-discovery, starring Julie Christie, Shashi Kapoor, and Greta Scacchi in her breakthrough role, with a strong supporting cast

When BBC researcher Anne (Christie) inherits the writings of her great aunt Olivia in 1982, she travels to India to find out more about the ‘scandal’ Olivia caused in 1923. The narrative tells the parallel story of both women. Olivia was married to the naïve and conventional Colonial Civil Servant Douglas Rivers (Cazenove), who had no clue about Olivia’s emotions. Bored by the stifling narrow-mindedness of the ex-patriate community, Olivia soon meets the sophisticated maverick Nawab (Kapoor) who, in his role as Viceroy, runs his private army, often indulging in violence on a grand scale. Olivia falls in love with him, but when she gets pregnant, decides on an abortion for fear of the obvious repercussions. Running away from the British hospital and the reactionary Chief Medical officer (Geoffrey) after the botched surgery, she flees to Kapoor, spending the last years of her life in a villa in the mountains where Kapoor, now deposed by the British, rarely visits her.

Anne traces Olivia’s steps, meeting on her way a young boisterous American would-be-monk (McCaughan), who is only interested in sleeping with her. But his body cannot cope with the foreign lifestyle and diet: Anne puts him into a train back to the USA. In her rooming house, she falls in love with Indor Lai (Hussain), her landlord. She too becomes pregnant, wanting to abort the baby at first, but changing her mind and planning to give birth in a hospital, near the villa, where Olivia lives out her lonely days.

Very much influenced by the writing of E.M. Forster – whose novels would be filmed later by Merchant/Ivory/Jhabvala – Heat and Dust is a not so nostalgic look back to the days of the Raj, carried by the spirited Scacchi, who injects a feeling of joie de vivre to the role, growing increasingly melancholy. The 1980s segments are comparably less remarkable. But the feature belongs to DoP Walter Lassally, who not only shot the New English Cinema (A Taste of Honey, Tom Jones) but also won an Oscar for Zorba the Greek. The languid but vivid images of British rule in India would go on to inspire a generation of cinematographers, taking their cue from Walter Lassally. Heat and Dust, whilst not as stunning as the more mature Howards End, is nevertheless a trend setter: The legendary David Lean finished his career with the Forster adaption Passage to India in 1984. AS

NOW ON CURZON WORLD AS PART OF THE James Ivory series. 

      

Don’t Look Now (1973) *****

Dir: Nicholas Roeg | Writers: Alan Scott, Chris Bryant | Cast: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania | Fantasy Horror, UK 110’

Nicolas Roeg based his achingly tragic supernatural drama on a short story by Daphne du Maurier. It sees a grieving couple burying their sorrows in Italy after their small daughter drowns at home in Suffolk, wearing a shiny new mackintosh. John, an architect, has been commissioned to restore a church and Venice is eerie and beguiling in the out of season mists. But soon a doom-laden warning from a two English women, one of them a blind psychic, takes them off guard shrouding their bereavement in fear and but bringing Laura (Christie) a strange sense of hope in the shape of premonitions. But soon further torment seems unavoidable as the past and the future collide.

 As a wave of killings haunts the city, Laura returns to England to visit their son after an accident at his school. But the premonitions don’t stop: John suffers a near-fatal accident high on the church scaffolding, and then he glimpses his wife, supposedly hundreds of miles away, on a private launch flanked by the two mysterious sisters. The local police are intrigued by and even sympathetic to his story, but cannot help. As Venice and his fate closes in on John, illusion, reality and sudden terror spiral the story to its grotesque climax, as the design in director Nicolas Roeg’s mosaic becomes unforgettably clear.

Don’t look now is a richly romantic and deeply sorrowful story of love, longing and quiet desperation Imbued with ominous motifs and Roeg’s evocative visual style. Fate seems inescapable in this  dreamlike place where time stands still and unsettling silence is occasionally broken by a bird in flight or a banging door. A whiff of atavistic evil lurks at every lonely corner undermining the power of love and casting a dark pall over the couple’s attempts to discover the truth as they are gradually drawn into a web of mystery and horror. It’s a dignified, discreet and well bred terror, but it’s terrifying all the same.

Christie and Sutherland exude a captivating chemistry drowning in this kindgom of the senses the mood gradually escalating in into a mood of horror and disbelief surrounding their dead daughter. MT

4K ULTRA HD RESTORATION BACK IN CINEMAS JULY 5 COURTESY OF STUDIOCANAL | AVAILABLE ON BLURAY, DVD, COLLECTOR’s EDITION and EST JULY 29

https://youtu.be/xXP8OaJGxrM

Last Summer (2018) ***

Dir: Jon Jones | Richard Harrington, Nia Roberts, Robert Wilfort and Steffan Rhodri | UK 97′                                          

Four boys are looking forward to their summer holidays in the Welsh valleys when the adult world intervenes to spoil their fun. Instead of playing and discovering the joys of barn owls and and a sheep dog Rex, they are faced with the police and the social services as reality strikes. Catapulted into the adult world, they decide to take matters into their own hands – and who wouldn’t with a mother like Davy’s, freaking the boy out with the threat of some impending fate. Getting the melodramatic bits over early, means this well-paced drama can then unfold gradually, from the perspective of the boys.

Set during the 1970s in the stunning countryside of South Wales, and chockfull of authentic ’70s detail (right down to the anaglypta wallpaper), Last Summer is certainly  powerful emotional coming of age drama exploring the nature of growing up in a small rural community. There’s an appealing purity and an innocence to it making a refreshing change from the hardbitten sweary slices of social realism we’ve grown to expect from British filmmakers nowadays. It also introduces an outstanding cast of young Welsh actors including Gruffydd Weston, Rowan Jones and Christopher Benning with an astonishing performance from Noa Thomas as Davy. Best known for his TV fare such as Cold Feet and Northanger Abbey, this is Jones’ feature debut and he really pulls it off. The cast includes Richard Harrington (Hinterland), Steffan Rhodri (Gavin and Stacey) Robert Wilfort (Peterloo, Wolf Hall) and Nia Roberts (Keeping Faith, Rillington Place, Hidden).

ON RELEASE FROM 7 JUNE 2019

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