I have long hated summer at the movies. It’s the season when the already dangerously low IQ of both films and audiences appears to drop another twenty points, when the studios wheel out their most aggressively marketed and (not coincidentally) most aggressively dull films. It’s also when the schools are out, so even at matinees you get mewling brats shouting, throwing popcorn and playing with their phones.
So, as a way to stave off my depression, here’s a selection of counter programming, the films being released up until the end of September which should help stave off those summertime blues. I’ve included some of the less idiotic looking studio fare, along with a lot of things that are much more off the beaten path. Some I’ve seen already, others I’m just as much in the dark on as you are. All films are listed under their UK release date.
In this first part I'll look at a couple of films out now, as well as the whole of July. I'll cover August and September in the next post.
Chris Rock explores the $9bn industry around black hair in this irreverent looking documentary. It’s attracting good reviews, and the trailer alone contains some very funny stuff, as well as some genuinely interesting, and sometimes shocking, information.
The first of a pair of Isabelle Huppert films opening in the UK in the next two weeks. Here she sees her husband kissing another woman, which acts as the trigger for her to leave and pursue a whole new life, including, apparently, a new relationship with a younger woman played by Maya Sansa. It’s got mixed notices, but Huppert is always worth watching.
The latest from acclaimed French director Claire Denis has attracted laudatory word at the festivals since Cannes last year, and finally opens here having played at London in 2009. It’s set in an unnamed African country and sees Huppert as a coffee grower who is threatened with violence when there is a growing rebellion among the native population. There’s an interesting cast, including Christophe Lambert as Huppert’s husband and frequent Denis collaborator Issach De Bankole as a rebel leader. It will be the first I’ve seen of Denis’ work, I hope she lives up to her reputation.
I saw this latest from Catherine Corsini at both LFF 2009 and Rendez Vous with French Cinema 2010. It does boast brilliant performances from Sergi Lopez and Kristin Scott Thomas, but the film, which is a little melodramatic at times, struggles to come up to the level of excellence achieved by the leads.
Went the Day Well?
Alberto Cavalcanti’s 1942 masterpiece is getting a re-release thanks to a BFI season. The story of a covert Nazi invasion of Britain, via a tiny rural community, must have been terrifying in its day. Now it serves as a rousing war movie, while remaining tense and provocative thanks to strong direction from Cavalcanti and fine performances all round. Highly recommended among this summer’s reissues.
Christopher Nolan’s stopgap between The Dark Knight and his likely next project; Batman 3 is his first entirely self-penned script since his debut, Following. In a summer seaon that looks overwhelmingly braindead it seems that the worry with Inception is the reverse, apparently some of the actors didn’t understand the film while shooting it, so the question is; are audiences too dumb for this movie? I’m interested anyway, I don’t love Nolan’s work, but this has a great cast (Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Michael Caine) and at the very least it looks like it’s going to pack visual inventivness to match the story.
Lucas Belvaux made an audacious debut with One, Two and Three, a trilogy of linked films, each in a different genre. His latest is a kidnap thriller following negotiations for the release of Yvan Attal’s character, even as he deteriorates in captivity. The wonderful Anne Consigny plays Attal’s wife.
Toy Story 3
If I were going to see just one film this summer it would be this one. And by the way, if ANYONE tells me ANYTHING about what happens in it I will rip out their lungs. I know it’s got great notices (and that professionally contrary critic Armond White hated it) and I know that it is supposed to continue Pixar’s grand tradition of making films that are funny and emotional, both for children and for adults. I want to be as surprised by this film as I was 15 years ago at a preview of the first.
I didn’t love Splice on seeing it at Sci-Fi London this year, but before it falls apart in its last twenty minutes (and it does, spectacularly) this is a smart and engaging sci-fi movie. Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody work well together, and bring some gravitas to what is essentially a generic story about two scientists whose gene splicing experiment gets out of control, producing a creature they name Dren. The effects are excellent, and Delphine Chaneac is affecting as the ‘teenage’ Dren. It surrenders to cliché in the end, but the first 70 minutes or so are well worth your time.