Posts Tagged ‘Michael Winterbottom’

Genova (2008)

Director Michael Winterbottom  Writers: Laurence Coriat/Michael Winterbottam

Starring Colin Firth, Catherine Keener, Hope Davis, Willa Holland, Perla Haney-Jardine

94 mins UK  Mystery/Drama

From documentary to porn, it’s always interesting to see what Michael Winterbottom has in store. Genova is no exception especially as it stars Colin Firth as Joe, a middle class English Daddy who takes his kids to Italy to recover from the tragic death of their mother in a car accident back in America.

Taking the opportunity to teach at the University, he settles the family into a flat in the old part of town and meets up with Barbara (Catherine Keener) a friend from his days at Harvard. A gentle routine develops: classes in the morning, beach in the afternoon. Pubescent Kelly (Willa Holland) discovers Italian boys. Mary, (Perla Haney-Jardine) the younger one, is sensitive and introspective and doesn’t cope at all. She really misses her mother in poignantly observed scenes.

From the outset there an uneasy feeling that this is no ordinary drama. Very much a ‘ghost’ story in the modern sense. But why Genova? The old town is just the place for this sinister tale. A hand-held camera pans the narrow medieval streets as shadowy figures loom out of the darkness and give a whiff of menace that’s reminiscent of  Roeg’s: Don’t Look Now. Prostitutes haunt the shady courtyards of the Port and birds fly out of dilapidated buildings in scenes that would be difficult to come by in a more modern city such as Chicago, the family’s US home.

One minute Kelly is disappearing on the beach or zipping precariously through the streets on the back of her boyfriend’s dodgy moped, the next Mary has gone missing in a Church, causing a frantic search. And all the time Colin Firth is holding things together with that nagging expression of impending doom he does so well. This is a narrative about a family falling apart, dislocated in time and space: the onslaught is geographical and personal.

Marcel Zyskind’s atmospheric location shots echo the wistful sadness of this tale of bereavement and individual reactions to it. Mary has a wild imagination and is the most candid in her expression of sadness. Her vivid nightmares start to feature her mother Marianne (Hope Davis). Kelly resents her younger sister’s angst and tries to appear cool, playing out in her waywardness, nevertheless.

But ultimately this is Colin Firth’s film. He is superb as a respectable 40-something guy who’s keeping things together for his children. Continually on the verge of tears he is by turns incredibly tender and caustically abrupt; and this is the refreshing part. His performance is subtle yet accessible, so English: there is no embarrassing breakdown – just a dignified portrayal of a man who’s making a very brave attempt to carry on and succeeding despite the interference of his friend (Catherine Keener) and of a nubile student, Rosa (Margherita Romeo). Both are desperate to ‘get it on’ with Joe, but end up just getting in the way.

Michael Winterbottom has given us realistic sex in 9 Songs: This is realistic grief and feels unsentimental yet utterly moving. MT

The Look Of Love (2012) **** Sundance London

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Producer: Revolution films/Melissa Parmenter
Cast: Steve Coogan, Tamsin Egerton, Imogen Potts, Anna Friel, Chris Addison, James Lance, Matthew Beard, David Walliams
105min     UK  Comedy Drama










Michael Winterbottom’s biopic of sixties porn publisher and property magnate Paul Raymond marks a return to comedy drama for the director and what a cracking film it is!

Starring his regular collaborator Steve Coogan, who’s absolutely magnificent in the role of Raymond: brimming with hard-edged joie de vivre and embuing in Raymond a crude and letcherous charm: The story will have particular appeal to those who remember with nostalgia the swinging sixties for the sheer decadence, joy-filled optimism of an era that broke down the barriers of stiff-lipped tradition.

Told with great gusto, the story really centres on Raymond’s relationships with the main women in his life: his wife, daughter and lover in the shape of Fiona Richmond.  And anybody with an older brother or father will remember her as the first really strong English sex symbol: both alluring and powerful in the early seventies: a business woman AND a centre-page cover girl.  And this is a film about strong personalities but particularly about feisty female characters.

The story charts 30 years of Raymond’s hedonistic life starting in1958 with his brief dalliance as a stage hypnotist through to club owner, theatre producer to property magnate to publishing by 1992. He emerges as a coke-snorting, cold fish but also cuts rather a sad figure who, in the rush to make a commercial success of his life, fails to engage on any meaningful level with the women who really make it all worthwhile.

Anna Friel is gutsy and believable as his wife Jean and mother of his daughter Deborah.  Imogen Poots excels in the role of the vulnerable, needy, yet strong-willed Deborah who casts around looking for a niche, first as an actress and then a singer. The film gives insight into Paul Raymond’s work methods and really unlocks the business man in him, through his relationship with his wife and daughter.  Although Paul loves her madly as a dad, he  lets money stand in the way of her happiness when a West End production she’s starring in fails: “I can’t keep haemorrhaging money into something that’s not working just to keep you happy”. Like many businessmen he sees only the balance sheet and never what money can do to make those important to him feel validated.

But it’s with Fiona Richmond that he really meets his match, sexually and intellectually.  Tamsin Egerton makes for fabulously graceful casting here.  She’s also appears way ahead of him class-wise leaving him slightly back-footed but looking like the cat that got the cream on more than one occasion: they make a appealing double act and are both better looking than the originals.  Sadly, Paul’s eldest son (Derry McCarthy) from his first partner, is played here by Liam Boyle, makes a small appearance but gets short-shrift and goes away empty-handed, as he does in real life.

This is a richly entertaining film and the best that Michael Winterbottom has made in a long while. Particularly appealing to those interested in the era with its excellent footage of London’s Soho and sixties life offering a colourful back-drop from Kettners, Ronnie Scott’s, to L’Escargot in Greek Street; all still going strong.  Paul Raymond emerges as a sad, cypher, reflecting the striking charisma of the women around him, yet possessing little depth and personality himself despite his shrewd business acumen.  He certainly liked money and he liked sex but, at the end of the day, it appears the ‘King Of Soho’ only really loved himself. MT



Everyday (2012)

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Writers: Laurence Coriat, Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Shiley Henderson, John Sim, Shaun Kirk

106mins    Drama

Everyday will not appeal to everyone. Filmed over five years and following a family as they wait for their father (John Simm) to come out of prison; hardly an upbeat theme but delicately interwoven with seasonal changes in the Norfolk countryside, it’s hard to beat the intimacy of this social realist study of a young family growing up. Real life siblings play the children with screen mother Shirley Henderson giving her best. A fictional portrait then but a tender one that also touches on the effects of separation for a couple; growing older and growing wiser.  Not a patch on Genova, his other similar collaboration with Laurence Coriat but then that did bring us the subtle glamour of Colin Firth and Italian Riviera.  I know which I’d prefer.  MT


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