Categories
Art Features Live Action Movies

Benedetta

Sins of the flesh

Benedetta
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Certificate 18, 131 minutes
Released 15 April

The Dutch director Paul Verhoeven revels in controversy… His latest work, Benedetta, is… sexually explicit, but also tackles religion within a historical context. It clearly has plenty of potential to offend.

Benedetta is based on the story of the 17th-century Italian nun Benedetta Carlini who had visions and exhibited stigmata. She became an abbess and was investigated and discredited by Catholic officials. There were suggestions that Benedetta’s visionary traffic was with the Devil rather than God, while various nuns’ testimonies claimed her stigmata to be faked. Her roommate Bartolomea confessed to regular sexual activity with Benedetta. Benedetta was demoted.

Verhoeven eschews historical accuracy for the spiritual, the spectacular and the carnal… [Read more…]

Full review published in Reform magazine.

See also my alternative review.

Teaser trailer:

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Cyrano

Romantic self-doubt

Cyrano
Directed by Joe Wright
Certificate 12a, 124 minutes
Released 25 February

Edmond Rostand’s 1897 romantic play Cyrano de Bergerac concerns a man who, because of his long nose, considers himself too ugly to tell the girl of his dreams and childhood friend Roxanne that he loves her. This new version ditches the nose to cast Peter Dinklage (Game Of Thrones) as the hero whose dwarfism becomes his reason for thinking Roxanne (Haley Bennett) couldn’t possibly love him. Then she falls in love… with one of the men in the regiment he commands.

However… [Read more]

Full review published in Reform magazine.

See also my alternative review.

Cyrano is nominated for Best Costume Design in the 2021/22 (94th) Oscars.

Cyrano is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, February 25th.

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Cyrano

Director – Joe Wright – 2021 – UK – Cert. 12a – 124m

*****

The short stature of Cyrano de Bergerac makes him believe that no woman could ever love him – not even his beloved friend Roxanne, who he can’t bring himself to tell – out in cinemas on Friday, February 25th

17th Century Italy. Witty and articulate Captain of the Guard Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) is never at a loss for words. His rapier wit defeats any opponent, as does his rapier proper should any be foolish enough to challenge him to a duel. Being short in stature, he can’t imagine that any normal sized woman could love him for who he is.

He is therefore unable to confess his love for her to the beautiful Roxanne (Haley Bennett), the woman and lifelong childhood friend for whom he would do anything. So when she falls in love at first sight with Christian (Bashir Salahuddin), a new recruit to Cyrano’s regiment, Cyrano finds himself torn between her rejection and his desire for her to be happy with the man she loves. Unfortunately, this intelligent and free-spirited young woman enjoys nothing more than the literary cut and thrust which Cyrano is able to provide but the inarticulate and out of his depth Christian is not.… Read the rest

Categories
Art Features Live Action Movies

Benedetta

Director – Paul Verhoeven – 2021 – France – Cert. tbc – 131m

*****

A 17th Century nun subject to religious visions embarks on a lesbian relationship with a novice – in cinemas from Friday, April 15th

Christianity. The Church. Religion. Treat them the wrong way, and you can get into trouble. Horror The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973), drama The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971) and comedy Life Of Brian (Terry Jones, 1971) remain controversial. Lesbian nun relationship drama Benedetta may be about to join their ranks. Or perhaps times have moved on. The film is apparently based on a real 17th Century case.

As a young girl, Benedetta (Elena Plonka) claims to commune with the Divine – convincingly so, too, enough to suggest to a bandit gang about to rob her parents and her that a chirping bird is God’s voice, especially when said bird deposits excrement in the eye of the bandit leader who promptly returns a gold necklace to Benedetta’s mother.

On arrival at the convent in Pescia, Benedetta’s father (David Clavel) must pay the Reverend Mother (Charlotte Rampling who seems to have cornered the market in Reverend Mothers judging by Dune, Denis Villeneuve, 2021) a dowry to enable his daughter to become a novice, which suggests that the institution, like the wealthy Catholic Church under whose umbrella it exists, may have ignored Jesus’ injunction to sell all you have and give to the poor.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Reckoning

Director – Neil Marshall – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 111m

***

A woman accused of witchcraft finds herself pitted in a battle of wills against her witchfinder torturer at the time of the Great Plague – on digital from Friday, April 16th and Shudder UK from Thursday, 13th May

On the one hand, this explores the historical time period of the Great Plague and links that directly with women being burned at the stake for witchcraft by way of a widespread, social scapegoating process. On the other, it depicts a horribly misogynistic society where, for the most part women are regarded as inferior and treated really badly. Two sides of the same coin.

The film itself is mixed. Parts feel hackneyed, parts will have you on the edge of your seat. The cliché-ridden opening, for instance, cross-cuts chocolate box-y photography of a cottage-dwelling couple’s idyllic, married existence in the constantly sunlit countryside with the wife digging a grave in torrential rain after finding her husband has hanged himself from a tree at night.

It transpires that farmer Joseph Haverstock (Joe Anderson) stopped off for a pint at the local tavern and accidentally drank the beer of a plague victim, contracting the disease.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

WolfWalkers

Director – Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart – 2020 – Ireland, Luxembourg, France – Cert. PG – 100m

*****

An adventurous English girl from Kilkenny encounters a wild Irish girl in the woods who can change into a wolf in groundbreaking 2D animation – on BFI Player as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2020 on Saturday, October 10th, 18.30-19.00 start, in cinemas from Monday, October 26th, then on Apple TV from Sunday, 13 December

This is co-director Moore’s third production based on Irish mythology for Irish animation house Cartoon Saloon following The Secret of Kells (2009, about the making of the Book Of Kells) and Song of the Sea (2014, about selkies / mermaids).

Irish WolfWalkers mythology concerns humans who can transform into wolves and back again, while mankind’s relationship with the wolf down the ages has to do with destroying its natural habitat and a fear of the animal derived largely from its attacks on small animals such as pets and, very occasionally, children. These two ideas are combined in the film WolfWalkers along with Oliver Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland as Lord Protector, although historical accuracy clearly isn’t the intention as not only is his name left out abut also what happens to the Lord Protector here is very different from what happened to him in real life.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

WolfWalkers

Subdue the forest

Wolfwalkers
Directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart
Certificate PG, 100 minutes
Previews from 26 October, released 30 October, then on Apple TV from 13 December

The tree cutters attempting to clear the forest around the walled town of Kilkenny, Ireland, live in fear of wolves. They also believe in WolfWalkers – human by day, wolf by night – who appear in daylight to call off wolf attacks on humans. Ireland is under English rule, administered by the God-fearing Lord Protector (Simon McBurney) through his northern English officer Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean), charged with clearing the forest of wolves. Bill’s young daughter Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) dreams of slaying wolves with her crossbow. However, children are barred from leaving the city.

This prohibition doesn’t prevent Robyn from sneaking out to the forest, however, where her wolf hunting goes disastrously wrong… Read the rest

Review for Reform magazine.

See also my BFI London Film Festival 2020 review.

Previews from 26 October, released 30 October, then on Apple TV from 13 December.

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Fanny Lye Deliver’d

The new normal?

Fanny Lye Deliver’d
Directed by Thomas Clay
Certificate 18, 110 minutes
Released digitally on 26 June

Shropshire, 1657. The aftermath of the English Civil War and a time when ideas about politics, relationships, religion and society are up for grabs. Fanny (Maxine Peake) is the young wife of Captain John Lye (Charles Dance) who fought under Cromwell and has been given a farmhouse by way of thanks. The puritan couple have a son, Arthur, who is too young to have lived through the war. The God-fearing and articulate John takes the family to chapel weekly (we never see them there, just going and returning) and keeps his son and, particularly, his wife in order using a mixture of Scripture reading, prayer and corporal punishment.

I review Fanny Lye Deliver’d for Reform.

Here’s the trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Fortress (Nam Han San Seong, 남한산성)

Director – Hwang Dong-hyuk – 2017 – South Korea – 140m

**** 1/2

Korean period, winter war movie in which a besieged King, his court and his army decide whether to negotiate or fight as the enemy approaches – the opening film in the London East Asia Film Festival 2017

From its title you might assume that this big budget Korean offering was primarily a period war action epic more interested in spectacle and entertainment than anything else. In fact it’s an adaptation of contemporary writer Kim Hoon’s latest bestseller which explores a specific episode of history. The Fortress takes place in 1636, when King Injo of the Joseon Dynasty (Park Hae-il from The Host, Bong Joon-ho, 2006) was trapped in the mountain fortress of Namhan along with his ministers and court. It was winter and his army was suffering from exposure. To the South was the expansionist enemy Qing army advancing into territory hitherto under the protection of the Ming Empire.

At the start Kim Sang-hun (Kim Yun-seok), later revealed as Injo’s Minister of Rites, has a ferryman take him safely across the frozen river which is the route to Namhan. The old man bemoans his lack of payment for guiding others along the same route and wonders if the Qing will pay any better.… Read the rest