sat 15/12/2018

LFF 2018: Colette review - zinging with zeitgeisty relevance | reviews, news & interviews

LFF 2018: Colette review - zinging with zeitgeisty relevance

LFF 2018: Colette review - zinging with zeitgeisty relevance

Bringing the Belle Époque bang up to date. Also, first looks at Widows, Mandy and The Guilty

Sparkling: Keira Knightley as Colette

The story of French author and transgressor of social mores Colette has been told before on screen and in song, but this new film version (shown at London Film Festival) from director Wash Westmoreland not only zings with zeitgeisty relevance, but gives each of its stars, Keira Knightley and Dominic West, one of the meatiest roles of their respective careers. As Colette, Knightley grows before your eyes as she evolves rapidly from sheltered country girl (she was born Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette in Saint-Sauveur, Burgundy) to fearless denizen of the salons, boudoirs and stages of Belle Époque Paris. As her husband Henri Gauthier-Villars (“Willy” to his friends), West bursts with bombastic exuberance as the entrepreneurial author and critic who shamelessly co-opted the work of other writers under his own byline, and made a fortune from Colette’s Claudine novels, even though he promptly squandered the earnings and was perpetually flirting with bankruptcy.

Dyed-in-the-wool roué and inveterate womaniser Willy loved to titillate his readers, and helped sprinkle purple passages through Colette’s previously demure prose (“more spice, less literature!”), but he was responsible for the Parisian education which caused her to blossom as a writer. “It’s the hand that holds the pen that writes history,” he tells her here, sounding like a combination of tabloid editor and Malcolm McLaren. He also encouraged her relationships with other women, including “wayward Louisiana heiress” Georgie Raoul-Duval (Eleanor Tomlinson) and the aristocratic Missy (Denise Gough), and in the process Colette grew wings and realised she’d outgrown him. The fact that he’d sold off her literary copyrights without telling her was the last straw, worse even than the way he’d lock her in a room and force her to write. Eventually the increasingly Falstaffian figure of Willy becomes a sad parody of his former self.

This is a shrewdly contemporary-feeling story of female self-determination in a world of stultifying male privilege, though the sparkling script and dynamic performances never make it feel like propaganda or special pleading (a quick mention for Fiona Shaw as Colette’s mother Sido, urging her daughter to cut Willy loose and do her own thing). There’s a fine soundtrack by Thomas Adès too. A hit! 

Widows

The Opening Night Gala event at this year’s LFF was this powerful reworking of Lynda La Plante’s 1980s novel and TV series about the widows of three gangsters killed in a failed heist. Director Steve McQueen and screenwriter Gillian Gone Girl Flynn have transported the action to a gritty, down-at-heel Chicago mired in the political machinations of the Mulligan dynasty as they battle for control against Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) and his murderous brother Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya). Colin Farrell turns in a heavyweight performance as young pretender Jack Mulligan, trying to break free from his bigoted, brutal father Tom (Robert Duvall).

The women, on the hook for a missing $2m, have to toughen up and learn fast. Veronica (Viola Davis) puts them through felony boot camp, where the one on the fastest learning curve proves to be Alice (Elizabeth Debicki, in what must surely be a major breakout role). It’s a tough, taut, twisty thriller that never feels long despite its 130 minutes. On general release in November. 

★★★★★
 

Mandy

This deranged revenge fantasy from Panos Cosmatos (who debuted with Beyond the Black Rainbow) stars Nic Cage (pictured left) as lumberjack Ed Miller in a Yukonesque wilderness, where he lives in a Grand Designs home in the forest with the other-worldly Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), an artist who draws exotic fantasy scenes. It's 1983, as we can gather from Ronald Reagan on the radio and a deafening soundtrack of doomy synthesizer music. Mandy piques the interest of a gang of Manson-esque hippy scum with Dark Side pretensions, led by an odious Linus Roache, and their kidnapping and brutalising of her (with the aid of some demonic acid-damaged freaks on motorcycles) trigger Red’s apocalyptic retaliation. Armed with a crossbow and a specially-forged giant silver axe, he morphs into a shambling, blood-drenched ghoul as he picks off his adversaries in a variety of gruesome – although considering what they are, perhaps still not gruesome enough – ways. If this is worth seeing at all it’s for the shameless lunacy of Cage’s performance, epitomised by his demented rictus leer in the final sequences, as he drives away under a landscape full of Tolkien-like crags and crevices under a huge looming moon. Intermittently amusing, but not in a good way. In cinemas from 12 October.

★★
 

The Guilty

In Locke, Tom Hardy managed to hold an an entire movie with just a car and a phone. In this lean Danish thriller from director Gustav Moller, everything is funnelled through conflicted cop Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren, pictured right) as he answers 999 calls at the emergency switchboard. He gets random calls from speed-freaks, a man who’s been robbed by a hooker and a cyclist with a hurt knee (“don’t bike drunk,” Asger scolds), but it’s the call from a woman called Iben that sets alarms jangling. She’s been abducted at knifepoint and is being driven away in a car, leaving two young children at home alone. Asger methodically sets about tracking the car, safeguarding the kids and identifying the kidnapper, but as the night wears on a darker and more complex picture emerges. To solve the problem, Asger has to dig deeper and reveal more of himself than he ever imagined. He may be a compromised cop, but perhaps he’s become a better man. Releasing on 26 October

★★★★ 

 

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