Dogtooth

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Director

Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring

  • Christos Stergioglou as Father
  • Michelle Valley as Mother
  • Angeliki Papoulia as Eldest Daughter
  • Christos Passalis as Son
  • Mary Tsoni as Youngest Daughter
  • Anna Kalaitzidou as Christina

Dogtooth marks my first introduction to the work of Yorgos Lanthimos and man is it one hell of an intro to this idiosyncratic film maker. Here he creates an unnerving and provocative portrait of parenting gone off the deep end and the weirdness of it all. You won’t be sitting in a comfortable position or thinking of pleasant things once Dogtooth has finished.

In a house in the Greek countryside that is sealed off like an army compound, a Father and Mother raise their three children, a boy and two girls who are never named. Yet the children( who are clearly nearing their 20’s) are treated like they are much younger and we are soon witness to their strange existence. Father and Mother have kept them inside the house their entire lives, with none of the children venturing outside into the big, wide world. They are taught the incorrect definitions of words. They believe they have a brother who lives on the other side of the high garden wall. They believe that cats are fierce man-eating beasts that lie in wait if they should exit their home. They are awarded stickers for good behaviour and violently berated if they don’t fall in line with the rules set up. They are told that they are only permitted to leave when a canine tooth falls out. To say it’s an extreme situation that the kids except as just normality is putting it mildly. The Father works at a factory and is the only one to ever leave the fortress he has made. The only contact with the outside world comes in the form of security worker Christina, who works in the same place as the Father. He enlists her to satisfy the raging hormones and sexual needs of the Son, but this introduction brings with it consequences. Once the other daughters meet her, the Eldest Daughter barters with Christina for first a headband and then video tapes in return for favours. These end up setting off a chain of events that threaten to tear apart the mendacious world the Father and Mother have created for their offspring.

Yorgos Lanthimos as director has this innate ability to make things seem surreal but with some semblance of reality, albeit one that has gone awry. It’s a strange but arresting gift to posses and Lanthimos sucks you in with how he presents such an unusual situation to the audience. It’s the type of place that looks at first idyllic, depending on your viewpoint, before smatterings of violence and graphic scenes appear unexpectedly. It might not be classified as a horror movie, but Dogtooth certainly has its fair share of shocks and squirms. And while Dogtooth is largely disquieting, there are slithers of jet black humour to be found here which is surprising to say the least. But that also gives Dogtooth another edge as you never know just how off kilter things will go. I mean how are you supposed to react when the Son finds flowers in the garden and exclaims “Mum, I’ve found two little zombies?”. I was between shock and giggles by this moment. As written by Lanthimos and fellow screenwriter Efthymis Filippou , Dogtooth is unusual in the extreme yet for all its weirdness, retains the attention with the eerie and often downright cryptic way the dialogue is presented. Even the most absurd moment is delivered with a deadpan seriousness that I wasn’t expecting in the least, but further fans the flames of an already head-scratching experience. Some will scoff at the story and say that there isn’t actually a lot of action, but that is to miss that Dogtooth is aiming to show us just how ordinary this strange world that the parents have made seems to their children. They have no knowledge of outside the house and the compound like structure they call a home, so they have literally been fed manipulative and oppressive lies. The activities they partake in are kooky and absolutely mind-boggling(not to them), but we can’t help but watch how stunted and sheltered they are.

It all crafts something particularly disturbing and like a stone in your shoe, it’s hard to get to the bottom of and shake once there. Which is mainly the point I think; ambiguity holds sway in the world that Lanthimos has presented us with leaving it up to us to decipher our various questions. We may wonder why the Father and Mother have raised their children this way? This is the most burning question of all but one that we ourselves must figure out and put our own meaning on. Dogtooth has that kind of power to make you think and not be spoon fed every single answer or have it tied up with a big, finishing bow. And from a visual standpoint, it’s a massive highlight of Dogtooth. Lanthimos chooses to shoot a lot of scenes with unusually, static wide angles that frequently cut people out of the frame with disorientating effect, further giving us cause to sit up and see where the film will journey to next. Cinematography as provided by Thimios Bakatakis has a harsh and brightly lit quality that bathes events in a sea of white, making the sudden bursts of violence just that little bit more shocking. It also serves as a bitter irony of how the world looks here and what is underneath and about to be thrown out of sync.

All the actors of the film are excellent at getting across the absolutely barmy and creepy nature of proceedings. Christos Stergioglou excels at showing stern and overbearing tendencies that are utterly horrifying from such a parental figure. He plays his role extremely well. The same goes for the rest of the cast who are exemplary, especially Angeliki Papoulia as the Eldest Daughter. She’s given the most to do and her reactions to the outside world creeping in are startling and revealing. What most helps is that they are clearly in tune with the direction of Lanthimos and his crazy, unpredictable vision of helicopter parenting.

A superb entry into the work of Yorgos Lanthimos, Dogtooth is not for all tastes but is horrifyingly compelling throughout. Believe me when I say, it’s got plenty of bite and shock to it and make no mistake about it.

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Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

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The quite amazing Maddy is doing a blogathon on the cinematic icon abs beauty that was Ava Gardner. I thought I’d join and give my thoughts on Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.

Director

Albert Lewin

Starring

  • Ava Gardner as Pandora Reynolds
  • James Mason as Hendrik van der Zee
  • Harold Warrender as Geoffrey Fielding
  • Nigel Patrick as Stephen Cameron
  • Mario Cabré as Juan Montalvo

A ravishing and unusual romantic fantasy, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman relies on the sheer gorgeousness of its visuals and it’s two main stars for what is one arresting movie. It may not be every taste out there, but for the cinematic lover, it’s bound to make a mark with its tragic romanticism and mythical shout outs.

In the coastal Spanish town of Esperanza in the 1930’s, men flock to the beautiful but aloof nightclub singer Pandora Reynolds. She is unmoved by attempts to woo her, even when the results are dangerous. It’s not that she’s heartless, she’s just never found anyone who has elicited a deep love within in. To others, she seems very callous( and in some cases she is and she demands her admirers perform ) but there’s more than just allure to her. It seems her attitude stems from boredom and knowing the power she has over men.She finally meets her match in Hendrik van der Zee. He is a mysterious man who mans a ship that only he sails on. Something about him captivates her like no one before, but he’s curiously distant. Geoffrey Fielding, who is a translator of text and friend of Pandora’s, surmises that is The Flying Dutchman as he’s been studying a manuscript. is doomed to sail the seas after he was condemned to immortality for murdering his wife he thought was unfaithful in the 16th Century. He can only be freed if he finds a woman who is so in love with him that she’ll sacrifice herself. Pandora is currently engaged to race car driver Stephen Cameron , but is also pursued by arrogant matador Juan Montalvo. But it’s Hendrik who most gets her attention and takes her over. Though Pandora falls deeply and unexpectedly for him, Hendrik attempts to push her away as he cares so much about her. Yet is Pandora really willing to give up everything for the man she has finally fell in love with? Let’s just say, tragedy and eventfulness take form in this romantic and mythical fantasy.

Albert Lewin crams the film with multiple mythology references and literacy allusions. This is something I’m a sucker for this kind of thing, as both subjects interest me and put them a in a stylish movie with a folklore inspired undergone, and I’m going to like it. Not every idea of comes off, but an underlying emotion and melancholy brings some of the flights of fancy back down to Earth and is a feast for the eyes and ears. There’s a poetry to the script( which is written by Lewin and story of an impossible love and the sacrifice asked to restore it and the flowery language, mixing metaphors and similes that a wordsmith would be proud of. Lewin does himself proud with this exercise in gorgeous style and heightened emotions. The biggest asset is how the camera truly is in love with Ava Gardner. She glows with an otherworldly glamour and is remarkable to admire. And the cinematography by the outstanding Jack Cardiff, with Technicolor shot through with a moody blue tinge is simply gorgeous at referencing the romantic fatalism of the two main characters .There are a few parts that stretch credulity and become to out there for its own good(along with a running time that’s a tad excessive), but by and large it is a movie that’s heady appeal isn’t wasted on colourful fans of movies deemed as oddities. It’s an exotic, dreamy film with a sheer sense of atmosphere and visual poetry that’s hard to tear yourself away from. It’s far from flawless in a number of ways, but it’s unusual nature and devastatingly splendour are hypnotic. And the score has a really unusual, tragic and lushly romantic aura that covers Pandora and the Flying Dutchman all the way through.

Ava Gardner heads proceedings as the eponymous Pandora, who’s feeling of indifference melt as she falls for The Dutchman. Gardner was a breathtaking beauty who just entranced you from the first time you saw her. That lends itself well to the role of Pandora, as men flock to her everywhere. Yet despite being such a luscious lady, she was also a very good actress. This is sometimes overlooked because of her looks, which is quite unfortunate. Here as Pandora, she exudes an enigmatic charm and a genuinely growing set of feelings that come as a surprise to her as well as us. Gardner has sheer magnetism, both because of her beauty and talent. Her work here is mysteriously masked yet slowly revealing into someone letting their often disguised feelings of love come out. Pandora may act callously and flippantly at first, but once she meets her, she’s slowly transformed into someone very different.so please check it out and marvel at her command of the camera. James Mason adds pathos and weariness as the cursed sailor who is lonely and desolate, but caught in a conundrum once Pandora enters his life. Mason and his mellifluous voice wring depth and guilt ridden anguish from the part that stands as one of many wonderful performances by a fantastic actor. Mason shares an unusual and tentative chemistry with Gardner; both striking off the other with their collective uncertainty and bewilderment at their growing attraction. it really adds to the atmosphere and mythical mood of this film. Filling out the supporting roles are Harold Warrender, who wisely acts as narrator to events, show off beholder of Pandora’s hand Nigel Patrick and strutting Mario Cabré as the matador willing to kill for the love of the eponymous lady. All are great, but it is definitely James Mason and above all Ava Gardner who you’ll remember from this picture.

A most peculiar yet haunting movie that looks sublime in Technicolor, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman is the perfect love letter to the haunting Ava Gardner and shows clearly why she was made for cinema.

Widows

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Director

Steve McQueen

Starring

  • Viola Davis as Veronica Rawlings
  • Michelle Rodriguez as Linda
  • Elizabeth Debicki as Alice
  • Cynthia Erivo as Belle
  • Bryan Tyree Henry as Jamal Manning
  • Daniel Kaluuya as Jatemme Manning
  • Colin Farrell as Jack Mulligan
  • Robert Duvall as Tom Mulligan
  • Jacki Weaver as Agnieska
  • Liam Neeson as Harry Rawlings
  • Carrie Coon as Amanda

A reinterpretation of a Lynda La Plante novel that was also a television series in the 80’s, Widows, as directed by Steve McQueen is an enthralling and character driven slow burn of a heist thriller and drama with superb acting.

In Chicago, a heist that was organised by Harry Rawlings goes horribly wrong and results in his and the other members of the criminal group being killed. Following this, Harry’s widow Veronica is threatened by mob boss Jamal Manning , who Harry stole from and who wants money back to finance his campaign to run for alderman. He warns her to get $2 million to pay him back soon or suffer the consequence, which will most likely come in the form of his terrifying brother Jatemme . His rival for his desired position  is Jack Mulligan, a slimy, spoilt politician who wants to step out of his father’s shadow who also will figure in a certain capacity of the story. After acquiring Harry’s notebook of plans for another heist, Veronica contacts the widows of the other dead men. Linda, who owns a dress shop is in a similar predicament as her husband sold her business without much thought for her and Alice is a battered young woman who is strapped for cash and harangued by a harridan of a mother. One widow isn’t interested in it, so Veronica enlists the help of the fierce Belle, who it just so happens to be Linda’s babysitter. She plans to relocate and could do with a chunk of money to help with this. The plans of the heist starts to form with the group, but various things throw up stumbling blocks and set in motion what could be deadly for the ladies if they don’t succeed.

Steve McQueen is already an established director who is on fire here, bringing his knack for looking at dramatic subject matter and blending it with some really tight tension. We get a plot that seems straightforward, but is actually very twisty and frequently takes you by surprise. We also get commentary on many themes such as racism, hypocrisy , sexism and crime, but thankfully they are given good rendering and not heavy-handed. McQueen clearly has something to say and his cinematic talents lend themselves well to his vision. One great example is Mulligan moving from an impoverished area to his plush house which is a minute away. The fact that the windows of his car are blacked out show how little he and sometimes others understand social divide. This is a heist thriller with a difference as the main characters are not professionals in the art of stealing and the heist itself is not the most important part of the film. Undoubtedly, it forms a ticking time bomb for the characters but it’s watching how these people react to the seemingly impossible task ahead that provides Widows with its biggest impact. We get to know these women and their lives and what ultimately brings them together. They don’t want to be friends or even know each other that well, but all are drawn into a certain sisterhood of unfortunate circumstance that leaves them with no choice but to resort to planning a heist. These are women who are realistic and not simply superheroes, a film like this is too good to go down that route to making it a matter of fluffy caper. There are real stakes here and ones dripping with double-crossing danger. Some may take issue with the gradual build up, but I thought it added more dimension to the film as we viewed growth within characters and their actions. McQueen should be commended for how he keeps all the stories and arcs spinning in tune and given time to breathe. It could have fell apart as there is sometimes a lot going on in Widows, but Steve McQueen and the screenplay from him and Gillian Flynn keep us firmly rooted and invested in the ways they link. The editing, which cuts back and forth in time at various intervals and can be choppy one minute and contemplative the next is something to admire. And set against a building and rumbling score from Hans Zimmer, Widows particularly soars.

A string in Widow’s ever impressive is the ensemble cast, which is simply to die for. Viola Davis heads proceedings with an intimidating and grim seriousness, that also allows for humanity and sadness emerging. Davis rocks the role of a woman who has lost everything and becomes an unlikely but indomitable presence in something she never thought she’d have to do. It’s when she doesn’t say anything that she truly comes alive; her face a canvas of subtle and nuanced emotion. It’s a very fine performance by an always impressive actress who it appears is incapable of disappointing. Michelle Rodriguez is a little softer here than the usual tough chick she plays and it works surprisingly well. I just wish she’d get more roles that blend her toughness with that something else like the one displayed here. Elizabeth Debicki is another standout as the often needy and almost childlike Alice, who it appears is incapable of having a relationship with anyone who won’t abuse or mistreat her. Debicki plays her like a broken down China doll, only later on she starts to harden herself and increasingly mature. Cynthia Erivo rounds out the main ladies with an abrasive attitude and no-nonsense visage that is palpable and strong from the moment we see her.

While it is the ladies of the ensemble who take the lion’s share of screen time, the men also show they are no slouches. Particularly of note is rising star Daniel Kaluuya who bristles with an unnerving swagger and alarming intensity. He puts you on edge throughout Widows and it’s a big credit to him that you feel that way. Bryan Tyree Henry also has an intimidating nature, but one that is tempered with shrewd smarts. Colin Farrell is really fleshed out as a conflicted politician who almost expects everything simply because of standing but also a desire to escape the way his father thinks. It’s a fine balancing act and one that is played well opposite the always watchable Robert Duvall. Liam Neeson, mostly seen in flashback, is like a spectre on proceedings as he is the one who instigated everything and has his fingers over all. Also here is Jacki Weaver, who plays in a short but memorable time the vile and suffocating mother of Alice, whose idea of trying to help is by attempting to coerce her into prostitution. Carrie Coon may be given the least amount of screen time but from what we see, her presence figures unexpectedly into things.

With a focus on characters and depth, Widows earns high points and is simply put, a very well made film with heart and tension. Steve McQueen crafts this engaging and twisty thriller drama that must be seen.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

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Director

Jacques Demy

Starring

  • Catherine Deneuve as Geneviève Emery
  • Nino Castelnuovo as Guy Foucher
  • Anne Vernon as Madame Emery
  • Marc Michel as Roland Cassard

A colourful but also melancholy musical of love and circumstances changing it, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is if nothing else an experience from beginning to end. This is largely down to the tribute to old musicals and the undercutting of it with an aching sadness not often seen in films of that nature.

In the French town of Cherbourg, 1957, where it seems to rain almost constantly, a passionate love is at play between 17-year-old Geneviève Emery and mechanic Guy Foucher. Geneviève works in her mother’s umbrella shop that is about to go into financial dire straits. The love shared between Geneviève and Guy is intense and idealistic with them hardly going a minute without thinking of the other. But, the mother of Geneviève disapproves of the relationship and wants her daughter to marry for security. Guy and Geneviève plan to marry and have a daughter, but fate has different plans. Around this time, Guy is drafted to serve in the Algerian War, meaning that he will be separated from his beloved for a long time. After a farewell of spending the night together and saying goodbye at the train station, Geneviève learns she is pregnant and is left in a predicament. Her mother has the idea to marry diamond merchant Roland Cassard, who is entranced by Geneviève. The marriage is to be one of convenience and after hearing only once from Guy, Geneviève makes her decision. Her decision in the end has far-reaching consequences and a different outcome than expected for her and Guy.

Jacques Demy was clearly a man with a vision to use certain tropes from classic Hollywood and mould them into something different and beguiling for us all. His eye for colours and unorthodox approach present his vision to us in a glorious way. His prowess crafts a story that’s enchanting as it is tragic and totally spellbinding. Moments really stick with you from this film. The collection of colourful umbrellas that cover the titles, the love shared between the lovers at the heart of things and a really tear inducing farewell at the train station. As the lovers are parted and the camera pulls away from their embrace, leaving Geneviève alone, the music swells to heavenly heights and shows the power of cinema over emotions .While a musical, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is anything but traditional. For starters, every word is sung, no matter if it’s just something mundane. This brings with it a level of fantasy, that is counteracted by the seriousness of subject matter and the ultimate tragedy of it all. We really feel every word sung because of its intensity and sincerity on show. The colour design that really pops with candy and pastel shades in every lovingly rendered frame also acts as a juxtaposition to the sadness of the central love story and the way life doesn’t always work out for us. The main story is quite simple when you look at it, but it’s the telling of it that truly makes it the classic it is revered as. It’s a boy meets girl situation told with sophistication and something that alternates between nostalgic romance and heartfelt loss. It may look like the kind of Technicolor extravaganza that MGM where so good at making back in the day, but under the surface is a real feeling of something bittersweet. This adds to the beauty of the film as it isn’t part and parcel and here’s your happy ending, it goes down another path that I respect. Cherbourg is not afraid to defy convention in its own way. Now no mention of this film would be complete without mentioning the ever-present score from Michel Legrand. As every line of dialogue is sung, a nice rhythm is established in proceedings. The most haunting refrain that translates into English as ‘I Will Wait For You’ is the music you’ll remember the most for its romanticism and ambience. Believe me, it will take a while to shake.

This is the film that introduced the world to Catherine Deneuve and what an introduction. She gives a gentle, charming and melancholy performance that really touches you. It’s all in her angelic face and soulful eyes as she goes through the pain of love and circumstance. Nino Castelnuovo is equally as good, finding hopes and dreams in Guy’s face and his outlook, which eventually gets changed over the years. The two really sell the romance and idealism of the couple, which says a lot considering that they spend large stretches of the film apart. Their first interactions are gorgeously played, while there is a more serious tone when they meet years later. It’s the kind of chemistry many movies dream of having between a romantic pair. Anne Vernon and Marc Michel round out the cast, but it’s the romantic two at heart of the movie that you’ll remember.

An unusual but wholly engaging and moving undertaking by the talented Jacques Demy and his visual(not to mention musical team), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is classic movie watching for all.

A Star Is Born

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Director

Bradley Cooper

Starring

  • Bradley Cooper as Jackson Maine
  • Lady Gaga as Ally
  • Sam Elliott as Bobby Maine

The fourth version of a classic story of two careers in opposite directions, A Star Is Born certainly has pedigree. And though some may have scratched their heads at why another remake should be done, I’m sure they’d agree that this version sits up there with the best of them, thanks to what Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga do with it.

Jackson Maine is a country rock star who has seen better days. Plagued by tinnitus and an addiction to booze and pills, his life is going through the motions. Drunk and in the middle of touring, Jackson stops in a drag bar. It is here he encounters Ally; a young woman in a dead-end job with dreams of being someone. She’s a talented singer and has a tough personality but is crippled with insecurity over the shallow people in the music industry who have dismissed her appearance in the past. Jackson is immediately struck by her and she is curious too. They grow closer to each other and Jackson helps Ally make a leap for stardom. They fall in love and marry, with Ally being a good influence on Jackson. She eventually becomes famous after Jackson invites her on stage to perform. Despite her initial nerves, she blows everyone away with her voice. Yet as stardom beckons, people want to mould her into something else and as her success soars, Jackson’s falls. Ally tries to retain her individuality, but her pushy manager has her switch her act and lose herself more and more. This causes an immense feeling of jealousy and resentment that has Jackson reaching for the booze and pills again. All of it hurtles towards tragedy for the couple as one career rises and the other inevitably falls.

Bradley Cooper makes a remarkably involving and emotional movie with A Star Is Born. He gets straight to the heart of the material and the themes of celebrity and tragedy with cracking results. It’s hard to believe that this is his directing debut, as he displays a deft understanding of film making and how to bring us close to the story in many ways. This version feels a bit more gritty, raw and stripped back and is all the better for that. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its nice and quiet moments though and many of this scenes stand out for their impact that has darkness but some lighter touches too. But where the film shines brightest is in the performance numbers. With a soundtrack written predominately by the two leads, A Star Is Born is brimming with show stopping tunes with a deeply personal undertone. One of the best is ‘Shallow’, a duet between Cooper and Gaga where both give it their all and Gaga telegraphs Ally’s burgeoning belief in herself. This song that packs the biggest emotional wallop however is ‘I’ll Never Love Again’. Seriously if you aren’t weeping during that sequence, you’ve obviously taken leave over your heart. a restless camera that often has extreme close-ups of faces and actions is employed throughout A Star Is Born. We are put into the action as love blooms for Ally and Jackson, but resentment grows as Ally’s career takes off and Jackson spirals further out of control. The story of A Star Is Born is familiar to most of us, but the new flourishes show it’s a tale that can be very timeless and take on many guises. It’s been told many times but when done right, like it is here, it really soars.a restless camera that often has extreme close-ups of faces and actions. We are put into the action as love blooms but so does resentment and addiction which spiral out of control. Some may find it to up close in the way it’s shot and that time flies a bit too quickly sometimes , but it’s still mightily effective storytelling despite some minor quibbles. The story of A Star Is Born is familiar to most of us, but the new flourishes show it’s a tale that can be very timeless and take on many guises. At the centre is a tragic love story that is strongly told and fraught with melancholy. It’s been told many times but when done right, like it is here, it really goes to new heights.

Bradley Cooper turns in one of his strongest performances in his career. Over the last few years, Cooper has steadily become a very reliable actor and a versatile one. Here, with his usually amiable voiced lowered considerably to a growl( and surprising musical chops), he displays such raw anger, sadness and tiredness that is very believable. Jackson is someone who has success but usually doesn’t see it and instead drowns in pity. Ally may represent the light for his safety, but Cooper finds that Jackson is so wound up and dependent on addiction that the once bright spark will eventually go out. Cooper is nothing short of a knockout here and this is extremely excellent work from him. Any worries that Lady Gaga’s image as a pop star will overshadow her performance are put to rest immediately as we witness her immense talent for acting by drawing on some of her own experiences. We all know she can sing, but here she takes it to another level and rocks us to the core. And her acting is one of the biggest assets of this movie. With personality, strength and vulnerability, she plays Ally tremendously as he feels so real and natural in this film, signifying her skill in this arena. We observe someone growing in confidence but being faced by many trials along the way and it’s played with an authentic and engaging edge. Gaga is at the top of her game with a compelling and sympathetic turn that announces great promise in an acting career. Cooper and Lady Gaga make for an incredible couple as their chemistry is immediate and extremely genuine that we feel the emotional highs and lows of their lives. Sam Elliott, of the moustache and grizzled, deep voice, steals whatever scenes he appears in as Jackson’s aggrieved brother. He’s been there for his brother but has a very fractious relationship with him. Elliott shows him to be the person who says it like it is often bluntly, but ultimately wanting to help his brother in the long run.

An excellent version of a classic story with two amazing central performances and  emotional material, A Star Is Born is strong movie making that has an impact on you. And after watching this excellent version, I’m very tempted to see the other interpretations again.

The Company of Wolves

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Director

Neil Jordan

Starring

  • Sarah Patterson as Rosaleen
  • Angela Lansbury as Grandmother
  • Micha Bergese as The Huntsman
  • David Warner as Father
  • Stephen Rea as Young Groom

A visually arresting and thematically rich dark fairy tale from the pen of Angela Carter and immense craftsmanship of Neil Jordan, The Company of Wolves sucks you right into its world of haunting dreams and metaphors that will be impossible to shake once you’ve viewed them.

The Company of Wolves takes place almost exclusively in the dreams of a young girl by the name of Rosaleen. She dreams of living long ago in a village, surrounding by a foreboding forest. Her older sister is killed by a wolf, sending the village into shock. Her Grandmother, who is wise and filled with stories, arrives and begins informing the sheltered Rosaleen on dark subjects. She explains that her sister wasn’t taken by any wolf, but a werewolf. She goes on to warn her granddaughter of not straying from the path in the wood and keeping distance from men whose eyebrows meet in the middle. Grandmother also gifts Rosaleen with a red shawl, which she almost always wears. At this time, Rosaleen is fascinated by the stories, which include one about a husband going missing. When he returns, his wife has remarried and his rage comes flying out in the form of a transformation into a wolf. Despite the warnings from Grandmother about wolves and that many of them are hard to tell in human form, Rosaleen can’t help but be curious about the opposite sex and alternates between running from growing up and grasping for it. One day, she is sent to visit Grandmother meaning she must take the path through the forest. Let’s just say things get interesting and many things Grandmother told her come into fruition once she meets a mysterious and most unusually seductive Huntsman.

Neil Jordan is the perfect director for The Company of Wolves, due to his skill with visuals and also haunting atmosphere. Both are very much in evidence here as is his wise decision to focus on story rather than just scares. Don’t get me wrong, The Company of Wolves is most certainly an adult horror, but it has more thoughtfulness going for it than you’d think. In short, Jordan is at his best with this movie. The Company of Wolves chock full of symbolism and Freudian overtones, plunging us further into the mind of a young girl who is both excited by and terrified of her own burgeoning sexuality. Carter, adapting from her own spin on fairy tales that was entitled ‘The Bloody Chamber’ and collaborating with the visually inclined Neil Jordan, are a dream team at incorporating the sense of innocence being lost and the feverish emotions of puberty, when the world seems alien to a person. As a viewer, you are taken on quite the experience that slowly intensifies and gathers staggering momentum in terms of thematic material and. The sexuality angle and subject of changing is never far from the screen, with lycanthropy standing for the body altering as you grow up and the way that Grandmother warns of not leading the path( in other words, straying into sin).  It’s not a movie for everyone as the narrative and structure may confuse certain viewers. But for those willing to see a dreamlike horror fantasy that covers curiosity, sexuality and darkness, you should be in for a treat. The effects, mainly in the transformation scenes, use animatronics which might not have the smoothness of CGI, but at least have something more unusual and downright creepy to them. I found myself getting very unsettled as people morphed into werewolves and screamed out in pain as their bodies underwent a severe transformation, which contains all member of messages and interpretations. The eerie sets resemble something from a Hammer Horror and are accentuated by a red heavy colour palette, combining danger, passion and death into an already heady cauldron. A spooky and bubbling score from George Fenton further amps up the unsettling nature of the stories and the dreamlike way they are presented to us.

Young Sarah Patterson possesses a radiant innocence and naivete that is played well and you can see her mind in overdrive as the temptation of adulthood comes calling to her. With her soft voice and angelic face, she is an ideal vision of Little Red Riding Hood in this passionate and very dark fable. Angela Lansbury is on scene stealing duty; capturing a loving kindness and uneasy creepiness of the wise Grandmother who is full of story and warning. Lansbury is a pro in every sense of the word and I loved her eccentricity and slightly off kilter appeal in The Company of Wolves. Micha Bergese has this downright slippery and creepy vibe that is employed to fine effect as he slinks his way around Rosaleen and tempts her. It’s all in the voice and the eyes with him. David Warner is the young girls father in a supporting role, while Stephen Rea makes his story undeniably unnerving and spine-chilling. But by far the biggest star is the atmosphere of it all.

A dark and menacing variation on Little Red Riding Hood and a commentary on reactions to coming of age, The Company of Wolves spins a compelling web of creepy fairy tales and evocative material that you’ll find yourself thinking over for a long time.