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 – exclusively on MUBI from Friday, July 1st

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 Northman

Director – Robert Eggers – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 136m

*****

A 10th Century Viking prince vows revenge on his father king’s killer and sees it through to death – out in cinemas on Friday, April 15th

Young Viking Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak from The Batman) is thrilled when his warrior father King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) returns with a line of prisoners in two to his fortified stronghold and Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman). Father and son are devoted to each other, participating in a private ritual involving bodily sounds and consumption of an hallucinogenic liquid that causes the boy to experience a vision of his family line: a tree of life where the trunk is a spine and branches are umbilical cords attached to grown kings as the viewpoint pans up reveal the boy attached to the highest cord. He is now prepared to take over the rule of the kingdom when his father dies.

He doesn’t seem to get on quite so well with his mother, who warns him never to enter her room unannounced. At a banquet in honour of Aurvandil, his dour brother Fjölnir (Claes Bang from The Square, Ruben Östlund, 2017) takes exception to court jester Heimir the Fool (Willem Dafoe).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Green Knight

Director – David Lowery – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 130m

***1/2

A retelling of the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight from Arthurian mythology – out in cinemas on Friday, September 24th

This immediately sets out its stall with a woman leading a horse out of a courtyard and Gawain (Dev Patel) being awoken by a bucket of water on Christmas Day thrown by his lover Essel (Alicia Vikander) in a building which may or may not be a brothel. He attends mass with her, then goes back to his mother (Sarita Choudhury) who is going to pass attending the King’s court this Christmas Day.

The colour blind casting here has the good sense to cast Gawain and his mother in a similar ethnicity, which is certainly consistent and avoids the problems it produced in The Personal History Of David Copperfield (Armando Ianucci, 2019).

Whatever expectations of straightforward narrative the unwary moviegoer might have had from watching the trailer have been dashed. Much of the rest of the film is similarly oblique. While there is a basic underlying structure of a quest, what happens in the course of that quest comprises serial events and incidents en route that seemingly bear scant relation to the quest itself.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Story Of Looking

Director – Mark Cousins – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 87m

****

A highly personal film essay on the importance and significance of our visual senses – out in cinemas and on rental on BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September 17th

This opens with archive interview footage of musician Ray Charles, blind since losing his sight in childhood, asked about whether he’d like to have sight back. He says no – he’s already seen the things he needs to see and can picture them – the stars, his mother. And when he hears the news, there are a lot of things he frankly is glad he can’t see, and feels sorry for all the people who can. Pushed as to whether he’d like to be able to see for just one day, he’d less sure, responding with a guarded “maybe”.

This footage appears to be a touchstone for film-maker Cousins, who constantly refers back to it in this film essay. Another pertinent, recurring image is a man standing on a row of chimney pots. If we could see through his eyes, what would we see?

Cousins has spent a life looking at things, firstly as a human being with a visual leaning, then later on professionally as a film maker.… Read the rest

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