By Orla Smith.
RUSH TO SEE…
Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name is destined to be considered one of the great movie romances. Astounding breakout Timothée Chalamet (who was also astounding in last year’s little seen Miss Stevens) stars as Elio, a 17-year-old bilingual, hyper-literate piano maestro staying in Italy for the summer with his professor father. Elio knows a lot, but he admits himself that he knows nothing about “the things that matter”. The film is a coming-of-age tale that charts his process of learning about the ways of love and heartbreak as a brief but passionate romance develops between him and Oliver (Armie Hammer), an American student come to work alongside Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg). Call Me By Your Name approaches first love in a wholly unique way. It allows its characters to fumble in their attempts to connect, and presents a relationship that is refreshingly balanced and supportive. There is little conflict in Elio and Oliver’s romance, so we are allowed the simple pleasure of observing two people yearning for and enjoying each other’s company ― shot through the sensual gaze of Italian director Luca Guadagnino. No conflict that is, except for the summer’s impending and inevitable end. The joy they feel when together is tinged by bittersweet sadness and regret for how much more they could have shared.
Person to Person
Going in to Person to Person I didn’t know what it was about. Turns out, it’s not about anything. Dustin Guy Defa’s retro 16mm portrait of scattered lives in NYC takes place over one day, and it’s a day I’d happily relive again and again. What at first appears to be a series of banal and sporadically funny vignettes builds to something much more ― without ever upping the stakes. Defa’s protagonists are not traditionally cinematic: amongst them, Michael Cera plays an immature, heavy metal loving investigative journalist, and Abbi Jacobson is his introverted new recruit who’d much rather be at home with her cat. Combined, the characters’ various amusing encounters add up to form a sweet, sensitive portrait of common decency and the joys of the everyday. It is as successful in achieving that as last year’s Paterson.
TRY TO SEE…
Blade of the Immortal
Takashi Miike’s 100th feature is proof that he hasn’t lost his magic. While Blade of the Immortal is often structurally creaky (and it would have packed a more lasting punch in a compact package), the fight scenes are choreographed with the effortless glee of a master. They are graphical, large-scale and often joyously creative. Takuya Kimura’s lead turn as a grizzled immortal samurai is masterful. He is the perfect reluctant action hero, managing to keep up his half-hearted, begrudging physicality while simultaneously murdering hordes of assailants.
Maxine Peake is predictably brilliant in Funny Cow, an awkwardly built but endearing British tragicomedy. Peake plays a woman who describes herself as having “a funny bone instead of a backbone” ― but one might argue that, in her case, the former serves the same purpose as the latter. As a child, she fights back against her abusive father with jokes. As an adult, she does the same to her abusive husband. Peake shines when performing stand-up comedy routines, and fills in the gaps in her unique and interesting character where the film itself fails to pick up the slack.
Thoroughbreds has almost nothing on its mind, but taken at faces value it’s giddily entertaining. Olivia Cooke shines as an emotionless, psychopathic teenager who is keenly aware of her own inability to experience emotion. Cooke treats her character’s condition with integrity, yet again elevating the material after she did the same with The Limehouse Golem earlier this year (a far weaker film overall). First time director Cory Finley does an impeccable technical job, and on a script level delivers an uproariously funny dark-comedy. It may be nothing more at all, but as pure entertainment, Thoroughbreds is a very impressive piece of work.
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