By Roger Costa
BONES AND ALL
One of the most hyped films of the year, Luca Guadagnino’s 80’s-set cannibal road movie brings a hypnotic cinematography signed by Arseni Khachaturan. His work here, creating shadows and angles inspired by expressionism, easily puts him on the spotlight. Besides this essential and wondrously efficient technique there’s not much to love in here. At least, for me. It’s one of those cases, love it or leave it. Right in the opening sequence, a teen girl bites her friend’s finger off, runs back home, and is yelled at by her father who claims it’s time to pack up and move again. Police and victims alike will soon be looking for them. She can’t control her instincts, her thirst and hunger, her dark nature. They keep on moving, as she struggles to learn how to behave in a social environment. If that premise turns you on, go for it. You might have a blast. For me, let’s say, it was too shocking. Please do not misunderstand me. I really enjoy horror films, vampires, cannibals and zombies. But I just didn’t buy all the buzz over this (amazingly crafted) production. It is dragging, slow, confusing and very dark. The romance that the previews want to sell, actually, never happens. There’s not a romantic chemistry between the protagonists- they’re just in an adventure together, escaping from authorities and others cannibal alike, trying to satisfy their hunger and marginalized condition. What they really have is a strong friendship, a connection due to the circumstances, their hunger unites them. As they go from town to town, crossing paths with other members of the darkness, they look for fresh blood in order to make some more victims. There’s also a concern involving this film: it is a gore fest sold as a romance, opening wide on Thanksgiving, and starring two young influential actors who are able to draw crowds to the movies. This film will cause the same fever on teens as the “Twilight” saga did. But in this case, we’re dealing with a rated R film, which will likely be seen mostly by young audiences. A rated R movie doesn’t stop teens and children from watching them, as parents often bring their children for whatever movie they are in for. And millions of teen girls will do anything to go and see America’s darling, skinny sexy man, Chalamet. He is cute, but in this film, he is as skinny as the bones of the title. If a skinny cannibal is considered sexy, I really don’t get this generation.
Despite she has a whole lot to learn yet, Taylor Russell gives a fine, convincingly complex performance as the protagonist. The same cannot be said about Timothee Chalamet. He appears only half way through the film as a motivational force for Russell, and should not be considered for the major acting awards. The kid who became an instant worldwide sensation on the likes of what Di Caprio and Pitt experienced about two decades ago, has indeed an irresistible charm and proven talent, but here it feels like he is abusing of his star status. His performance is intriguing, scary and somewhat funny, but he demonstrates an irritating sense of stubborn and superiority, perhaps because of Guadagnino obsession and devotion to his muse. Well, he’s been spoiled, and I guess he is entitled to enjoy such a phase. I wonder what would have happened if Armie Hammer, who is being investigated in real life for cannibalism accusations, was on the cast. It’s kind of sinister to link his real-life scandals to the themes explored in this film, and how cannibalism is presented- it is almost like worshiping it. Has Hammer secret hobbies influenced the director? They worked together in the much-acclaimed “Call Me By Your Name”. Will cannibalism be associated with the “new normal”? Is the industry trying to re-educate this generation on how to consume and digest these types of mainstream? Well, time and society’s reactions will tell. In the meantime, you can either save your money or go for it at your own risk.
(MGM/UA. 11/18. Regal Union Square, AMC Lincoln Square.)
LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER
Young rising star Emma Corrin gives an Oscar caliber performance in the latest adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s steamy novel. Unhappy with her sexless aristocratic marriage and unable to deal with her husband’s war injury, Lady Chatterley ventures into a forbidden affair with the handsome gamekeeper of their estate, unraveling her liberal emotions and reclusive sexuality. Motivated by her own husband to pursue pleasure, she risks her dignity, reputation, social status and emotional balance when their romance stirs up scandal and divisions. Marking her sophomore directorial effort, Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (“Mustang”) conceives a wonderfully torrid sexually-charged romance where the sensibility beautifully merges with the courageous depiction of sex and pleasure. Jack O’Connell is charming and fascinating as the lover, demonstrating maturity and incredible control of his character. Matthew Duckett, who plays the husband, is a revelation and steals every scene he is in with funny, cruel and cynical observations on his condition and on his wife’s adventures. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he scores a Best Supporting Actor nomination at either the Globes or the Oscars. As for Corrin, who is building a brilliant, bold and exciting career, she is one of those rare cases, where she deserves the honors of a Best Actress for this feminist saga, and Best Supporting Actress for her conservative, puritan and utterly different work in “My Policeman”. Seductive and gripping, it is a finely crafted, superbly acted and extremely hot erotic tale.
(NetFlix. 11/23 In Theaters. 12/2 On NetFlix.)
THE KING OF LAUGHTER
Italy’s most revered performer, Toni Servillo delivers another memorable role in this biographical drama inspired by the life of infamous and controversial Neapolitan actor and comedy playwright Eduardo Scarpetta. A prolific people’s man who was very active from the late 19th century thru the first two decades of the following century, Scarpetta was beloved by his audience, impacting his competitor’s jealousy leading him to scandals at the courtroom for plagiarism. Servillo deservedly won the Best Actor Pasinetti Award at Venice Film Festival, and once again transforms himself into an iconic, irresistible historical figure. He masterly conceives this antihero, an arrogant, selfish, yet genius man, who freely conducted his personal life as he pleased: the members of his company all live together, a crowd formed of wife, lovers, partners, and many children, some he has never recognized. Director Mario Martone (“Nostalgia”, Italy’s submission for next year’s Oscars) dazzlingly captures the artist’s tumultuous life, his compulsive creative challenges, his temperamental behavior, his promiscuous and irresponsible affairs, his commitment to the art and the audience, and the estranged, conflicting relationship to his children, especially the eldest son who’s been waiting for an opportunity to escape his father’s nest and start his own career. The result is an intriguing, accurate and well done portrait of an artist’s ego, his ambitions, moral conflicts and distinguished devotion to his craft.
(Film Movement. 11/25. In Theaters and On Demand.)
ALL THE BEAUTY AND THE BLOODSHED
To start this review I must be truthful to myself and try hard to be understood in what I am stating. Movies are the place where I find myself. I cannot see or understand life without seeing it as if it was in the movies. It is a school, a life learning center, migrating from fantasy to reality, from the familiar to the unknown. I have been myself a drug addicted for many, many years. Sometimes I take soft ones, and occasionally heavy ones. I’ve always known the risks of them. I have never blamed anyone for my choices, mostly because of my spirituality, the place where I fulfill my soul and character. My point is: it is hard for me to digest some mature person who has experienced all sorts of underground life style and drugs consumption, somehow seeking something or someone extremely rich in order to have what to blame for. When an innocent child is abused in those terms that’s when justice gets me. But how serious can you consider an adult who has spent the entire life doing all sorts of drugs and getting involved in violent circumstances, and once reaching an aging state seeks to blame the world’s capitalist system for one’s own and conscious choices. In the hands of Academy Award-winner powerful and dynamic documentarian Laura Poitras this material and subject become a motivational source of revolutionary activism. Artist and photographer Nan Goldin is the center of the scandal targeting the Sackler family, a mega pharmaceutical company known for its millionaire investments on art collections of prestigious museums around the globe. A veteran, multi-talented, respected avant-garde artist revered and influential in the bohemian world, Goldin had a tough life, starting with her parents’ dismissal of her sister’s death, and despite she found success with her art, and great friends as talented as herself, she had a series of abusive relationships, which led her to more drugs consumption. She is the founder of the anti-overdose group P.A.I.N., and together they target the Sacklers, for their unashamed lies about the painkillers not being addicted. They protest inside the museums, and request they remove their names from the galleries and stop accepting money from the company. Of course, the Sachman’s lies are not acceptable either. But EVERYONE is aware of the risks of those drugs, and the effects caused by companies/system’s manipulative and corrupt manners towards us. So, please, give me a break when you decide protesting your own vices. Aren’t there other people in the world that could right now protest against something more relevant? Hunger, human traffic, war, economic inequality, the lack of compassion towards the refugee crisis? Anyone?
Please don’t judge me. The film is extremely interesting, potent, suspenseful and heartbreaking. A melancholic, poetic, humane and precise work that only the great and most investigative documentarian in America could pull off. But, as this, which reward was only taking their names down from the museum, though their drugs continue to be sold and consumed by Americans, won the Top Award at this year’s Venice Film Festival, making history as the second documentary to do so, and getting standing ovations at all of its premieres, including the one I attended early this fall at the New York Film Festival, I tend to totally disagree on this much noise about such a victimized situation. It is a compassionate story about surviving your own dilemmas and crisis. It is a brilliantly crafted portrait of the underground artistic world in conflict with their behavior and trends. It is an amusing and curiously detailed portrait of an electrifying, forgotten New York City. But, in my modest opinion, someone who recognizes exactly the inner, personal reality of such matter, this film doesn’t need such buzz. I don’t see it as much as important as they want us to, neither the way most mediums are glorifying it. It could have stayed as a journalistic reading, an accurate account on their victorious protests.
(NEON. 11/23. Film at Lincoln Center, IFC Center.)
A provoking and utterly strange film, Oscar-winner Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s gorgeously crafted meta-drama is his most personal and difficult project to date. The brilliant Mexican director who conquered Hollywood winning two-consecutive Best Director Oscars, is exposing his mid-life crisis in a magic-realism atmosphere that honors his influences on Fellini, Malick and Kubrick, but mostly is a mirror that reflects his personal conflicts and dilemmas, as well as responsibilities, expectations and reputation. His alter ego is Silverio, a renowned journalist and documentarian who is back to his Mexico City hometown for a short battery recharge before returning to Los Angeles where he will receive an important, historical award, making it the first Latin American person to accomplish it. The film revolves around his relationship with wife, and grown-up kids, as well as pro and anti-people he meets along the way. A visually stunning dramatic epic with hints of dark, absurdist comedy, Inarritu conceives an inventive and exquisite self-portrait, but its technical beauty (the cinematography and the set designs are one of this year’s best), and the convincing performances don’t save it from sinking on its own extravagant absurdist metaphors. The film is intriguing, but feels like the director conceived it as a form of therapy, perhaps the result of the Pandemic boredom. And, just like the baby that refuses to leave his mother’s womb, it refuses the viewers the pleasure of a more realistic or sincere, narcissistic experience.
(NetFlix. 11/18. Paris Theater, Village East Cinemas. 12/16 on NetFlix.)
One of this year’s most vibrant surprises, writer-director Nikyatu Jusu’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner is a triumphant socioeconomic critique that masterly plays some tricks on the viewer with its captivating slowburn aesthetic. Aisha, an immigrant from Africa working illegally as the nanny of a New York City’s middle-class estranged couple’s daughter, is determined to work as hard as possible in order to gather enough dollars to bring her son into the States. The uncertainty of her immigration status, the loneliness caused by the distance between her son, and other more critical circumstances cause a great impact on her behavior and mental stability. Gradually she starts seeing visions and connecting to mystical figures which could easily threaten and interrupt her caring-duty and family plans. Senegalese-American Actress Anna Diop gives a breakthrough performance as the heroine, captivating the viewer since the first moment we lay our eyes on her. She is hypnotic, sympathetic and mysterious- she brilliantly composes her character with nuance, assurance and incredible balance between the psychological challenges and the maddening supernatural link. Addressing women’s exploitation, abuse and negligence, as well as immigration, the pursuit of the American Dream and important topics regarding this century’s trends on raising a child, “Nanny” reveals the promising talents of both its director and star. They deserve Awards attention, and better quality opportunities. I can’t wait to see what they will do next. Highly entertaining, scary, thrilling and very emotional, it is a must-see horror drama.
(Amazon. 11/23. Film at Lincoln Center. 12/16 on Amazon Prime.)