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Sweat

Director – Magnus von Horn – 2020 – Poland, Sweden – Cert. 15 – 106m

****

An Instagram fitness celebrity struggles with the tension between constant self-promotion and everyday existence – on MUBI from Friday, September 17th

This opens with Sylwia Zajac (Magdalena Kolesnik) leading a demanding workout with a crowd of dozens of her fitness fans in a shopping mall. It closes during her appearance on the ‘Good Morning TVN’ TV chat show with her doing a wake up workout for the camera. Somewhere in the middle, when she visits her mum Basia (Aleksandra Konieczna) for a birthday gathering where she meets Basia’s new boyfriend Fryderyk (Zbigniew Zamachowski), she plays her latest fitness DVD on the big plasma TV she’s just given her mum – who thinks it’s too big for her living room.

Hitchcock once described movies as “life with the dull bits left out” but this Polish movie takes a completely opposite approach, with writer-director Van Horne interested in the dull bits in between the star’s high profile presence. Sylwia is as much an Instagram personality as a fitness trainer and has “around 600 000” followers on the platform.

During the opening workout, she addresses her fans as “my loves”, the mode of address she consistently uses in her posts and, it turns out, in life, and after the workout she publicly takes a selfie.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies Music

Annette

Director – Leos Carax – 2021 – France, US – Cert. 15 – 141m

****1/2

This musical conceived and composed by Sparks plays out as a very dark opera ending in tragedy – out in cinemas on Friday, September 3rd

Although billed as a musical, this may actually be closer to opera given that even though it starts as a story about two people deeply in love, it veers into very dark territory.

And yet framing all that, and underscoring it throughout, is the sheer pleasure of writing / composing songs… and, for that matter, performing them. The opening song is So May We Start while the closer, as the credits roll, is It’s The End. (For added enjoyment, watch 90% of the audience leave before the last song starts. Or in my case, 10% of my fellow critics.)

The former starts with the band, the brothers Mael (singer Russell and keyboard player / composer Ron, profiled in recent documentary The Sparks Brothers, Edgar Wright, 2021) and a backing band in a recording studio in an invitation for the proceedings to get going, swiftly joined by the film’s two leads, while the latter ends with seemingly the entire movie cast and crew walking through the countryside hoping we’ve enjoyed the show and asking us to tell our friends if we did so.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Crash

Director – David Cronenberg – 1996 – Canada – Cert. 18 – 100m

*****

This review of the UK DVD was originally published in What DVD. See also my review for the Arts Centre Group’s member’s newsletter.

Sold as a sex and car crash (and by implication action) movie, Crash is in reality something very different: intelligent, grown-up science fiction. The former description being an easy sell, especially with the added (ridiculous) controversy surrounding the film’s (eventual) UK release, the inevitable resultant popcorn sensation‑seeking mass audience was largely disappointed.

That said, for those viewers prepared to engage brain, deal with tough subject matter and go the distance, it’s a masterpiece. But if you’re someone to whom the concept of sex scene as narrative device sounds too much like hard work, you probably shouldn’t touch it.

On the other hand, admirers of director Cronenberg (The Brood, Scanners, Dead Ringers, eXistenZ) or novelist J.G.Ballard (Empire of the Sun) will appreciate the film’s uncompromising vision. Although Crash is not especially unnerving by Cronenberg standards, it’s extremely shocking by those of mainstream movies and has the potential to confuse or overwhelm an average audience.

While it brims with sex scenes, they’re not particularly arousing in tone being close to the emotionally cold experience of watching laboratory experiments.… Read the rest