Sunday, 16 July 2017
Friday, 7 July 2017
Villeneuve's film has been much lauded, largely for eschewing the standard alien menace road in favour of a more intellectual angle. It is also strong on mood-setting. Irrespective of these virtues, when judged outside the genre confines it doesn't stand up so well to scrutiny. The notion that beings so advanced that they can get here, in their 2001 monoliths, would then be incapable of working out our crude syntax is as ridiculous as ever, never mind that we could decipher their fuzzy circles of supposed language instead. Accordingly, the message of hope that they finally impart is equally woolly.
The film's strongest aspects, i.e. the lead character's dawning realisation of the fate of her future daughter and how that impacts her choices here and now, twinned with the notion of events in time as something immutable and ever-present rather than linear and finite, are unfortunately somewhat buried under the global-level portentousness. A braver script would have trusted that these themes had sufficient power to sustain interest by themselves, without any of the sci-fi hoo-ha.
Sunday, 25 June 2017
The Salesman continues along the same track that he's already carved out: a couple experience a moment of catharsis (here, a woman in Tehran is assaulted in their home while expecting her husband to return), where the viewer is denied crucial information, and then it is is up to us to piece together the truth, such as there may be any. It is detective work without a clearly delineated crime, but also a means of emphasising the subjectivity of experience, which in turn underlines how there are few cut-and-dried aspects to situations or people. Hence, the wife unhelpfully withholds what actually happened while the husband thunders on powered by the twin pressures of social stigmatisation and his own sense of self-righteousness. Neither is wrong or right: Farhadi's real craft is creating characters that are fully rounded, and he hasn't done it as well as this since A Separation.
A slow burner it may be, but that just means more time to think around the subject, from the fractured relationship between the couple to the values of the middle-class Iranian context and the parallels with the play Death of a Salesman, which they are starring in a production of, and all of these aspects are woven in with genuine purpose.
Thursday, 22 June 2017
The only ways a story as flogged to death as this, just as with zombie epidemics, can begin to justify its retelling is with superior casting, decent dialogue and some other distinguishing virtue. Recently, with Hell or High Water, the last one of these separators was a powerful melange of social context and atmosphere. Here, the director goes for the very modish gimmick of telling the story backwards instead, and the result isn't as compelling, but it does nevertheless manage to pull out a real twist at the end, which didn't seem possible given the structure and stock characters.
Wednesday, 21 June 2017
Sunday, 11 June 2017