Dallas Buyers Club (2013) Film. Director: Jean-Marc Vallée



Dallas 1985. Electrician and sometimes rodeo bull rider Ron Woodroof lives hard, which includes heavy smoking, drinking, drug use (primarily cocaine) and casual sex. He is a stereotypical redneck: racist and homophobic. While in the hospital on a work related injury, the doctors discover and inform him that he is HIV+, and that he will most-likely die within thirty days. Ron is initially in angry denial that he would have a disease that only “faggots” have, but upon quick reflection comes to the realization that the diagnosis is probably true. He begins to read whatever research is available about the disease, which at this time seems to be most effectively treated by the drug AZT. AZT, however, is only in the clinical trials stage within the US. Incredulous that he, as a dying man, cannot pay for any drug which may save or at least prolong his life, he goes searching for it by whatever means possible. It eventually leads him to Mexico and a “Dr.” Vass, an American physician whose …(Imdb)





Saturday 7 September 2013 

    • A day in the life of the rodeo cowboy. A slug of bourbon, a dance with the bull, a post-buck shuffle with a prostitute under the stands. A life of narrow parameters. Pleasure taken fast, hard and simple.

      Dallas Buyers Club shows how terminal illness ripped up the routine of one such small thinker. Ron Woodroof was a homophobic hedonist who, in 1986, was given 30 days to live after being diagnosed HIV positive. His world flipped from gay-bashing in the bar with his blue collar buddies, to hours in hospital, camped next to fellow AIDs patients, most of whom were gay men dealing with a disease that had started to devastate their community.

      Woodroof’s response to his diagnosis was to reject his doctor’s prescription, head for the Mexican black market to collect his own cocktail of alternative therapies, then set up a subscription service to shop the treatment back to the same people he claimed to hate. He was a grizzly, complex character. Dallas Buyers Club is at its best when it keeps him that way.

      Matthew McConaughey lost 38 pounds to play Woodroof. He delivers a twitchy, hostile performance on par with anything he’s done since he escaped the rom com cul-de-sac. He’s matched by Jared Leto as Rayon, a transsexual drug addict who goes into business with Woodroof and carries the responsibility of broadening the shit-kicking cowboy’s world view. Rayon paints Woodroof’s motel room a garish red (“It’s Cranberry Mocha!”), sticks pictures of Marc Bolan up amongst the cutouts from girlie mags. The odd couple came together because there was money to be made, but Rayon reasons it won’t hurt to dripfeed Woodroof some tolerance as well. Less juicy is Jennifer Garner’s role as the more sympathetic of Woodroof’s doctors. “You’re always in a white coat,” he says. “Are you afraid of colour?”. The screenplay answered in the affirmative a long time ago.

      America’s AIDS crisis has been under a small scale cinematic re-evaluation of late. Last year’s Oscar-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague condemned government inaction. Dallas Buyers Club takes on big pharma, waging war on the bureaucrats who were happy to charge $10,000 a year for drugs that were toxic, while the FDA stood in the way of treatments that were proven to work, but less marketable. It’s in this fight that the film loses part of its thrust. The suits and their profit margins are no match for McConaughey as Woodroof. The wildcard’s more fun to watch.

      Dallas Buyers Club takes its own alternative route compared to the prescribed biopic conventions. There’s a conversion for Woodroof, but it’s not dramatic or revelatory. He didn’t have enough time left to become a true reformer. He accepts and even loves Rayon, but we don’t get a grand-scale happy-clappy realisation that all of us are equal. Nor should we. This is not about a community taking care of its own. This is about Ron Woodroof looking out for himself, permitting difference to that end, then growing gradually out of routine homophobia. He was a grizzled bastard who spun a profit that paved a way for change. A survivor who escaped himself through desperation and greed. Dallas Buyers Club stays true to that remarkable, redoubtable spirit.

    • To give credit where it’s arguably due, “Dallas Buyers Club,” directed byJean-Marc Vallée from a screenplay by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, takes a different storytelling tack than might be expected of an aspiring-to-inspire based-on-a-true-story drama. Beginning in the mid-1980s, a period cited by journalists and historians as the height of the AIDS crisis in the United States, “Club” is about Ron Woodroof, a real-life figure. Woodroof was a hard-partying, ever-on-the-make quasi-cowboy who, on finding himself HIV-infected and with a very-soon-to-come death sentence hanging over him, began aggressively exploring alternative meds. He unwittingly became an advocate and activist, even as he kept himself alive for years longer than any medical experts had told him he could.Woodroof was also, this story tells us, a bigoted redneck who bristled with more than just fear of mortality when he got his diagnosis. “Dallas Buyers Club” is not just about Woodroof going up against the FDA and Big Pharma and the other institutions and individuals who kept potentially life-saving drugs from sick people who needed them; it is of course also about Woodroof’s Growth As A Human Being, and how this growth allows him to work side by side with a flamboyant transsexual, a person he not only wouldn’t have given the time of day to in his prior mode of life, but possibly would have given a beatdown to.
    • But while it highlights performances by both Matthew McConaughey (as Woodroof) and Jared Leto (as the wily, poignant transsexual Rayon) that are models of both emotional and physical commitment (both actors shed alarming amounts of weight to portray the ravages the disease wreaks on their characters), “Dallas Buyers Club” largely goes out of its way to eschew button-pushing and tear-jerking. Shot mostly in a direct, near-documentary style, but edited with a keen feel for the subjectivity of its main characters, “Dallas Buyers Club” takes a more elliptical, near-poetic approach to the lives it portrays than the viewer might expect from this kind of movie.
    • As I mentioned at the start of the review, the approach is admirable in theory. In practice, though, it’s sometimes mildly frustrating. The struggles of people suffering from AIDS in America were epic, and involved a Physician’s Desk Reference worth of meds, and a near-army of regulations and regulatory agencies; that’s a lot of data for one two-hour drama, andMcConaughey‘s character has to act as both an audience surrogate and a hero, but he’s also a man struggling with potent demons. Vallée’s energetic direction keeps the narrative moving, and there’s a real rush when Woodroof’s hustling pays off with the creation of the movie’s title entity, a sort of medical co-op that gets non-approved meds into the hands of the sick people the health care system can’t or won’t help.

      The moment-to-moment approach gets choppy sometimes, as when Woodroof is suddenly portrayed in a slick international-drug-smuggler mode; one gets the impression of being in a different movie. Vallée also misjudges, I think, the scenes in which to lay on the portent, as the scene in which Woodroof muddles through his past to figure out how he got infected, and flashes back to a rather overly boogity-boogity scene in which Woodroof has aggressively unprotected sex with two women, one of whom is a junkie. On the other end of a particular spectrum, the movie’s potential nod to sentiment, in the form of a potential romance between Woodroof and one of the few helpful/compassionate physicians he encounters (Jennifer Garner, who does good, understated work), seems a little half-hearted.

      I understand these sound like quibbles, but I’m trying to come to terms with why “Dallas Buyers Club” is a somewhat more dry experience than I suspect it wants to be. The movie certainly does crackle courtesy of McConaughey. Even as his character is physically wasting away, the actor is unfailing in his portrayal of Woodroof’s never-say-die indomitability, and is also unimpeachable in conveying the dangerous sleazoid charm that’s a carryover from Woodroof’s former footloose existence.

      While Jared Leto’s Rayon is often used as Woodroof’s foil, Leto’s attentive, detail-oriented portrayal of the fragile but supremely street-smart Buyers Club partner gives the character a distinct autonomy. The cast is packed with great actors (Steve ZahnDallas RobertsGriffin Dunne and Denis O’Hare among then) buckling down, and that’s key to the movie’s pleasures. If “Dallas Buyers Club” falls somewhat short in the categories of historical chronicle, emotional wallop, and information delivery, its conscientious attempts to portray a group of people in trouble in a troubled time delivers mini-epiphanies in a series of small doses. And that isn’t nothing.

    • http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/dallas-buyers-club-2013



 October 31, 2013

Skinny as a whippet and fierce as a snapping turtle, Matthew McConaughey brings a jolt of unpredictable energy to “Dallas Buyers Club,”  an affecting if conventional real-life story of medical activism. The film, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée  from a script by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, tells the story of Ron Woodroof, a Texas electrician and rodeo rider who, after receiving a diagnosis of H.I.V. in 1985, took his treatment into his own hands and helped others with the disease obtain medication not legally available in the United States at the time.

When we first meet Ron, he is enjoying the company of two women and preparing to mount an enraged bull. Flamboyantly heterosexual and crudely homophobic, he runs on cigarettes, liquor and arrogance, with an occasional dose of speed or coke to boost his confidence. He is a proud good old boy, but not an especially nice person. In time, of course, his rougher edges will be smoothed away by suffering and compassion, though he will never entirely lose his wild, profane lust for life. He is redeemed, but not fully sanctified.

Along the way, Ron tangles with a medical establishment partly blinded by its self-interest. Never an easy patient — he has a habit of unhooking IV drips and bolting from hospital beds — he becomes a thorn in the side of doctors at the hospital where his condition is first diagnosed. He flouts the rules of an experimental drug trial, buys stolen AZT from an orderly, and does a lot of angry shouting at Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner ) and her boss (Denis O’Hare).

Eventually, Dr. Saks will become an ally, as she and Ron — he instinctively, she by more careful scientific means — conclude that high doses of AZT are likely to do more harm than good in fighting H.I.V. Ron, meanwhile, has found his way to Mexico, where a renegade American doctor (Griffin Dunne) persuades him that a combination of drugs and dietary supplements can help the immune system and stabilize the T-cells. Soon he is smuggling pills across the border, at one point disguised as a cancer-stricken priest. Back home, he circumvents the rules against selling unapproved medicines by starting the subscription service that gives the movie its name. Patrons pay a monthly fee and receive regular orders of Ron’s contraband.

The lines that stretch outside the door of the club’s headquarters — a few rooms in a shabby motel — suggest the extent of the AIDS epidemic, and other details in the film remind viewers of the often poisonous social climate of the times. Ron’s friends shun him, showering him with the same slurs he had been in the habit of using. The government (embodied by a doughy Food and Drug Administration bureaucrat) is more concerned with procedure than compassion. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies chase glory and profits at the expense of patients.

What is largely missing, though, is the sense that Ron’s efforts are part of a larger movement. The problem is not that “Dallas Buyers Club” focuses on a straight hero acting mainly on behalf of gay men. Ron’s bravery and determination are entirely credible, thanks to Mr. McConaughey’s disciplined, high-spirited performance and the filmmakers’ interest in the complexity of the character. But his actions unfold in something of a vacuum. There is little sense of the militancy and passion chronicled, for example, in David France’s documentary, “How to Survive a Plague,” which brilliantly illuminated how the response to AIDS — as a political as well as a medical emergency — helped to transform gay life in America.

Instead, “Dallas Buyers Club” presents the fable of a homophobe’s awakening, with supporting roles given to Ms. Garner’s kind doctor and to Rayon (Jared Leto), a troubled transgender person who becomes Ron’s business partner. Mr. Leto is always a subtle and intriguing actor, but Rayon essentially revives the ancient stereotype of the tragic, self-destructive queen, suffering operatically and depending, at last, on the kindness of strangers.

Rayon is meant, I suspect, to inject both a dash of camp and a surge of pathos into the movie, but the character helps instead to confine it to the realm of simple and sentimental melodrama. There is warmth and intelligence here, and undeniable sincerity, but also a determination, in the face of much painful and fascinating history, to play it safe.


About Time (2013) Film. Director: Richard Curtis




At the age of 21, Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) discovers he can travel in time… The night after another unsatisfactory New Year party, Tim’s father (Bill Nighy) tells his son that the men in his family have always had the ability to travel through time. Tim can’t change history, but he can change what happens and has happened in his own life-so he decides to make his world a better place…by getting a girlfriend. Sadly, that turns out not to be as easy as you might think. Moving from the Cornwall coast to London to train as a lawyer, Tim finally meets the beautiful but insecure Mary (Rachel McAdams). They fall in love, then an unfortunate time-travel incident means he’s never met her at all. So they meet for the first time again-and again-but finally, after a lot of cunning time-traveling, he wins her heart. Tim then uses his power to create the perfect romantic proposal, to save his wedding from the worst best-man speeches, to save his best friend from professional disaster and to …(Imdb)


Susan Wloszczyna

November 1, 2013

After seeing “About Time,” a time-travel fantasy that is basically “Groundhog Day” with Brit accents, a nice-bloke hero and minus a rodent (unless you count a rat of a boyfriend), I realize I have a problem.

I cannot help but fall for Richard Curtis’s rather self-indulgent romantic comedies. My level head might be crying ‘No,’ but my lopsided heart can’t help but say yes. For me, resistance is futile when it comes to his scripts for “The Tall Guy,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Notting Hill” and “Bridget Jones’ Diary” (which he co-wrote along with the unfortunate sequel that shall not be named).

Of course, “Love Actually,” his 2003 directorial debut, is a towering multi-layered masterwork that fairly oozes gooey woo and has grown into an annual Christmas TV tradition with its parade of befuddled Englishmen in varying stages of amorous yuletide desire.

I do draw the line, however, with his efforts with Mr. Bean—an enterprise that is essentially Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot for dummies—and his unwatchable second directing effort, “Pirate Radio,” that saw the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Nighy (Curtis’s go-to secret weapon of mass appeal) go down with the ship amid much sleazebag behavior.

But during the course of being seduced by his current paean to the power of love and its underlying message to simply live each day as if it were your last, this thought occurred: Something about Curtis’s films allow cinematic endorphins to be released into the brain and generate a state of euphoria that is akin to absolute bliss.

To experience it, you just have to allow the analytical parts of your mind to unclench during the dodgier bits of business—all these pasty well-off people and their problems, oh woe is them!—and go with the feel-good flow.

And so I did until the last third or so with “About Time” and began to especially admire the often-impeccable casting in movies that feature Curtis’s handiwork. At 53, Hugh Grant—a former mainstay—has matured far beyond impersonating fluttery-eyed fumblers in the throes of courtship. But the filmmaker has found a perfect replacement in the abundantly beguiling presence of Domhnall Gleeson, the son of Brendan Gleeson of “In Bruges” and Mad-Eye Moody fame.

Not that you would know it from the young Irish actor’s last big role, the somber, bushy-bearded landowner Levin in last year’s “Anna Karenina.” Here, though, he is slightly more grounded than Grant (and his copper hair color provides fodder for ginger jokes, an Anglo staple) as Tim, a lawyer-to-be who is gobsmacked to learn at age 21 that the men in his wealthy family of eccentrics share the ability to go back in time. That the news is delivered in the most charming off-handedly fashion by his father in the form of Nighy, who never fails to amuse at the very least and astonishes almost always whenever he is onscreen, undercuts the questions that nitpickers might have about the process.

One major caveat: You can only revisit and revise portions of your own life. Or as Nighy puts it, “You can’t kill Hitler or shag Helen of Troy.” That Tim tends to go into a Narnia-esque wardrobe to begin his detours into the past adds a quaintly homey touch that is light years away from Star Trek or even H.G. Wells.

Once he is over the shock, Tim decides to concentrate on using his newfound ability to improve his love life. After fixing a disastrous New Year’s kiss situation but failing to convince a comely summer visitor to give him a chance, he gets serious about his settling-down pursuits after moving to London. There he encounters an American named Mary (Rachel McAdams at her most infectiously fetching) who is mad about Kate Moss, prattles on about her too-short bangs while referring to them as “fringe” and will be revealed to have quite good taste in stylish frocks.

During one of Curtis’s typically untypical romantic meet-cute interludes, he has the pair first run into one another during what amounts to a literal blind date at an actual restaurant named Dans Le Noir, where patrons dine in complete darkness and are served by sight-impaired waiters.

For Tim and Mary, it’s a case of like at first unsight after a server decides to seat them together along with their less-than-a-perfect-match friends. She quickly gives him her number once outside the eatery. From there, typical relationship moments tumble by—the first real date, the first sexual encounter, the sharing of living space, the meeting of parents, the proposal, the exceptional rainy-day wedding sequence (you will be Googling Jimmy Fontana and his song, Il Mondo) and so on, all repeated, reshaped and improved slightly by Tim’s time-travel twiddling.

Until then, it is easy to ignore the nagging what-ifs the premise presents. But once babies get involved and potentially sad verging on tragic situations complicate matters, Tim can’t so blithely alter his reality without unwanted consequence. At this point, you will either put up with “About Time” or think it’s about time you leave, especially if you have issues with a husband who thinks it’s OK to continue to keep his magical do-overs a secret from the person who is now his wife. But do stay, if only to witness Nighy’s awesome ping-pong pantomime at the very least.

One character provides the true bliss litmus test of whether or not you are immune to the Curtis effect: Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson), Tim’s impossibly offbeat nature sprite sister who adores purple T-shirts, apparently doesn’t own a comb, gives hugs that are more like full-contact body slams, is prone to dating awful men and is ill-equipped to cope adulthood. In other words, Kit Kat typifies the dreaded Manic Pixie Dream Girl at her worst.

My favorite part of “About Time” has nothing to do with the love story, however, and has everything to do with Tom Hollander as a deeply nasty playwright—who briefly is Tim’s landlord and, this being Curtis World, is wickedly funny. When Tim learns that the premiere of his scabrous friend’s latest production was a complete disaster after an actor goes blank while delivering a big speech, he of course decides to fix it.

That the stars of the show are none other than the esteemed Richard Griffiths and Richard E. Grant in invaluable cameo roles and that they end up provoking some of the biggest laughs of the movie demonstrates why Curtis is a comedy genius. If only he knew when to step back in time and make a few changes himself.



Sunday 8 September 2013

It’s easy to sneer at Richard Curtis‘s movies, which (by the writer/director’s own admission) are populated almost entirely by “people I know, and like” – people for whom financial hardship means a slow day at the bookstore, Notting Hill is a middle-class milquetoast enclave, Hugh Grant is prime minister and airports scan passengers not for weapons or drugs, but for love, actually. Welcome, then, to the rambling seaside abode of another thoroughly genial family, replete with a dotty uncle, doolally sister and tea-loving mum, presided over by Bill Nighy as the Best Dad in the Whole World Ever.

On the eve of his son’s ascent to manhood, Dad reveals a family secret – the men in their lineage have the ability to travel in time. After swiftly dispensing with the hard financial and philosophical questions (never met a happy rich person, don’t worry about the “butterfly effect” etc), Curtis sets his sights once again on romance, with Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) using his new-found skills to “get a girlfriend”, and thence to relive and refine his courtship on eternal play and rewind. Naturally, as events progress, he learns that the real trick is simply to live in the moment, without recourse to the Time Lord antics. And so it proves with Curtis, too, who sets up his rules of temporal engagement, only to break them willy-nilly whenever the prospect of an extra hug rears its head.

And what a hug it is. For all the oddly naff naughtiness (Curtis owes a weird seaside-postcard debt to Benny Hill and Carry On) and familiarly hesitant one-liners, this has a Capra-esque tendency toward tearfulness and you’d have to be pretty hard-hearted not to succumb to the glimpses of a wonderful life captured in the quiet moments shared by Nighy and Gleeson – the true romance at the heart of this drama. Yes, Gleeson overdoes the Hugh Grant-isms, while Rachel McAdams plays a Time Traveller’s Wife for the third time in recent memory. Yes, it’s baggy and overlong, qualities heightened whenever Curtis is behind the camera as well as the typewriter. And, no, the edgy smarts of the leaner, meanerGroundhog Day are not on the menu. But like Julia Roberts asking us to forget all that other stuff and just love her anyway in Notting HillAbout Time wants us to put aside our cynical reservations and accept an extra pint from the milkman of human kindness. As I stood outside the preview screening watching middle-aged men and women alike wiping away a tear, it was evident that, for all its flaws, the film had indeed delivered.




The Guardian , Thursday 8 August 2013

As far as we know, Richard Curtis cannot travel through time. But the kingpin of the Britcom can get a huge movie off the ground. And, along with the possible, Curtis has managed to achieve the impossible. Specifically: he has gone back to 1993 and remade Groundhog Day with a ginger Hugh Grant.

About Time, Curtis’s third film as director as well as writer following Love, Actually (2003) and The Boat that Rocked (2009), is about as close to home as a homage can get without calling in the copyright team. What throws you off the scent are those other notes that flood out from the first frame – heady remembrances of Curtis films past. There’s the familiar lush locations: the rambling coastal pad where our hero grows up with parents Bill Nighy and Lindsay Duncan, then the London digs to which he decamps when starting out at the bar – a Smeg-ready mansion owned by Tom Hollander’s church-mouse playwright.

There’s the vaguely disabled family member (in this case, a permanently befuddled uncle), the regulation scatty sister who needs redeeming (Lydia Wilson). And, all present and correct, the bright-smiled American goddess (Rachel McAdams) who will rescue our bumbling toff.

And, of course, there’s Hugh Grant – or rather, a new hybrid version in lieu of the real deal. He certainly sounds like Grant (so much so that you half suspect a dub job), but that distinctive voice comes from the body of gangly Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson, son of Brendan, alumnus of Harry Potter. The effect, at first, is unnerving; as About Time marches on, Gleeson’s innate charm gleams through and this weird disconnection becomes quite compelling.

Gleeson plays Tim, who is told at 21 that all male members of his family have been able to time travel. You just pop into a cupboard, or somewhere small and dark like the downstairs loo or the servants’ quarters, clench your fists, imagine a time and place in your past, and bingo. There are some quirks of course – some slightly moth-eaten logic about the effect that, say, having children has on your epoch-hopping abilities. But that’s basically it.

And, accordingly, Tim uses what might feel quite an earth-shattering skill to fry fairly small fish – primarily, to woo McAdams. They run into each other and hit it off, but Tim accidentally deletes that evening and so must engineer another meet-cute. A successful one. So follows the film’s meatiest section, in which Tim makes and then erases gaffe after gaffe in pursuit of his squeeze-to-be.

So far, so familiar, but it’s not the indebtedness that deadens thecomedy. What does is an uncarbonated script, and the fact that Tim’s motives feel opportunistic, for all his romantic protestations. When Bill Murray had to rewind and start again through the course of one endlessly relived evening courting Andie MacDowell in Groundhog Day, he was pretty basely motivated. Yet what allowed Murray’s character to ultimately break the curse was not copping off with the girl, but realising that he needed to be a better man. There is nothing like that here. And so, as Tim heads back for another pop once he knows McAdams’s bra fastens at the front, it just feels a bit like grooming.

There are bright points; a few awkward lines that give rise to big laughs, scenes of real tenderness between Gleeson and Nighy. You feel a true Scrooge balking at a movie message which urges you to make the most of every day, however humdrum it might appear. But there’s something grating about being instructed to do so by a character whose “ordinary little life” is objectively pretty minted, and who doesn’t in fact need to make the most of every moment on account of perhaps the most screwy example of primogeniture you could ever imagine.

Curtis’s heart is in the right place. In fact, it’s all over the place – front and centre and backlighting the whole thing with a benevolent glow. But it is hard not to watch this, read the news that it will probably be his last as a director, and look to the future.




The Guardian , Thursday 5 September 2013

Richard Curtis‘s film is a good-natured fantasy romance of such utterable daftness that it’s impossible to dislike. Criticising it is like vivisecting a Labrador puppy. All the traditional Curtis items are in place, including a jolly cast of upper-class folk, a wacky/vulnerable kid sister, characters who go into strange Curtis-speak under pressure (“Oh my arsing God in a box!”), and a Hugh-Grant-replicant leading man: 30-year-old Domhnall Gleeson sounds so much like the young Grant I suspected he’d been dubbed. But there are some nice gags and some ingenious narrative turns in Curtis’s well-carpentered screenplay.

Gleeson plays Tim, the shy son of eccentric, well-off parents (Bill Nighy and Lindsay Duncan). At 21, he leaves the family nest in Cornwall to take up his barrister pupillage in London and, yearning for love, meets Mary (Rachel McAdams), whose under-par frock and non-glam fringe can’t deflect his and our appreciation of what a babe she is. Their relationship is, however, made fraught by Tim’s secret superpower: he can travel back in time to any point in his own past, and correct his dopey mistakes, though creating new ones along the way. This is nearer to Sliding Doors than the dyspeptic Groundhog Day. Curtis is a director who likes his spoonful of sugar, and isn’t shy of breaking out Arvo Pärt on the soundtrack to make sure we recognise the sad bits. (Come to think of it, Jean-Luc Godard has done the same sentimental thing in Origins of the 21st Century, though the comparison of these two directors is best left there.) You’ll need a sweet tooth for this film, but it’s heartfelt, with a fragile sort of sincerity.






Blue Is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle) (2013) Film.Director: Abdellatif Kechiche




Adèle is a high school student who is beginning to explore herself as a woman. She dates guys but finds no satisfaction in their company, and is rejected by female friends who she does desire. She dreams of something more. She meets Emma who is a free spirited girl whom Adèle’s friends reject due to her sexuality, and by association most begin to reject Adèle. Her relationship with Emma grows into more than just friends as she is the only person with whom she can express herself openly. Together, Adèle and Emma explore social acceptance, sexuality, and the emotional spectrum of their maturing relationship.(Imdb)


Peter Bradshaw

21 November 2013 

Big success in the film business often means opening a can of worms along with the champagne. The Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes film festival went to the epic and erotic love story Blue Is the Warmest Colour. But the jury and its president, Steven Spielberg, insisted the prize should be accepted not only by the director, Franco-Tunisian film-maker Abdellatif Kechiche, but also by his two young stars, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Julie Maroh, who wrote the original graphic novel, dismissed Kechiche’s adaptation as a straight person’s fantasy of gay love. As for Kechiche, his feelings about that last-minute requirement to share the Palme with his two actors can only be guessed at – and the same goes for their feelings about his feelings. Seydoux and Exarchopoulos have since said he was oppressive, intrusive, and even tyrannical in the demands he made, especially in the extended explicit sex scene, which took fully 10 days to shoot.

Led by this internal dissent, the film’s critical tide may be slowing, if not turning. But I think that the impact of the movie increases with a second viewing, and my own objections about the lovers’ ferocious “confrontation” scene have been answered. It no longer looks melodramatic, but rather the icy and violent culmination of a hitherto invisible disconnect between the two women. This dramawas never supposed to celebrate the equality of their romantic good faith. Its original French title is perhaps a better guide: La Vie d’Adèle Chapitres 1 et 2. Adèle, played by Exarchopoulos, is the sympathetic centre of the story, a schoolgirl at the beginning and a teacher by the end: the two chapters of innocence and experience.

What a passionate film it is. At the outset, Exarchopoulos’s Adèle is a shy, smart high-schooler who finds that she is lonely and tentative in her social life. A good-looking boy who likes her is rewarded with a brief relationship, but he is merely John the Baptist to the imminent Christ: Emma, played by Séydoux, a twentysomething art student. The romantic spark between them is a lightning bolt.

As for the much discussed sex scene, I predicted earlier this year that some sophisticates would claim to find it “boring”. The second charge, that it is exploitative or inauthentic, is also naive. It is no more authentic or inauthentic than any sex scene, or washing-up scene, or checking-in-at-the-airport scene. It is fictional. The sequence certainly strikes me as uncompromising and less exploitative than any smug softcore romcom or mainstream thriller in which women’s implied sexual availability is casually served up as part of the entertainment, although I will concede one tiny moment of misjudgment: when Emma is painting a nude of Adèle (unfortunately like Leo and Kate in Titanic) and the camera travels up her naked body.

When the love affair starts, Emma has blue hair; as it proceeds, the blue colour grows out. As Kechiche shows, that is a bad sign. Their love is cooling. Emma is always the senior, dominant partner: better educated, more worldly and higher up the social scale. Kechiche sketches this out by having Emma bring Adèle around for dinner with her mum and stepdad. There is no secret about their relationship, and they stylishly have oysters. When Emma meets Adèle’s conservative folks, however, the food is humbler – spag bol – and Emma has to pretend to have a boyfriend. And when Emma’s art career takes off, Kechiche shows how she is starting inexorably to outgrow Adèle, and yet it is Adèle who develops a kind of emotional maturity that Emma, the increasingly smug careerist, can’t match.

The movie’s final sequence is heart-stoppingly ambiguous. Yet the point is surely that there is no guarantee that either Adèle or Emma will ever find anything as good ever again. The notion that they can each go on to find a better or richer experience is illusory. This isn’t young love or first love, it is love: as cataclysmic and destructive and sensual and unforgettable as the real thing must always be. To paraphrase Woody Allen, if it doesn’t make the rest of your life look like a massive letdown then you’re not doing it right. Here is Emma and Adèle’s moment, the definitive blaze.

Blue Is the Warmest Colour really is an outstanding film and the performances from Exarchopoulos and Séydoux make other people’s acting look very weak.





Published: October 24, 2013

“Blue Is the Warmest Color” is a feverish, generous, exhausting love story, the chronicle of a young woman’s passage from curiosity to heartbreak by way of a wrenching and blissful attachment to another, slightly older woman. Although there is plenty of weeping and sighing, the methods of the director, Abdellatif Kechiche , are less melodramatic than meteorological. He studies the radar and scans the horizon in search of emotional weather patterns and then rushes out into the gale, dragging the audience through fierce winds and soul-battering squalls.

Lea Seydoux in “Blue is the Warmest Color,” by Abdellatif Kechiche.

The storm system we are tracking is named Adèle. Played with astonishing sensitivity by the 19-year-old Adèle Exarchopoulos, she gives every appearance, when we first encounter her, of being an ordinary French teenager: running to catch the morning bus to school, daydreaming in class, trading gossip with her friends in the cafeteria. Her transformation, before our eyes and in close-ups that register every stray tendril of hair and fluctuation of skin tone, is not necessarily into anything more extraordinary. The child of a lower-middle-class family in the northern industrial city of Lille, Adèle is pointedly and contentedly modest in her ambitions. She likes reading and eating (especially her father’s spaghetti) and aspires to a career as a schoolteacher.

And yet, over the course of nearly three hours and what seems like about a half-dozen years (Mr. Kechiche is not fussy about marking the passage of time), Adèle acquires a depth and grandeur that make her equal to some of the great heroines of literature. For a while, as with Anna Karenina or Elizabeth Bennet or Clarissa Dalloway, her life is also yours, and afterward you may discover that yours has altered as a result of the encounter.

“Blue Is the Warmest Color” is the loose amalgam of two literary sources: Julie Maroh’s compact graphic novel of the same title (published in 2010) and “La Vie de Marianne,” a sprawling, unfinished doorstop of a book by the 18th-century author Pierre de Marivaux. (In the movie, Adèle calls it her favorite novel.) The film’s focus is nonetheless resolutely contemporary and its achievement decidedly cinematic. Immersing us in the everyday facts of 21st-century French life — including school, politics, food, wine and sex — Mr. Kechiche illuminates the suffering and ecstasy of an awakening consciousness.

Ms. Exarchopoulos almost never departs from the camera’s scrutiny, and her reality, her ways of seeing and feeling, define the many shades of “Blue.”  Mr. Kechiche’s earlier films include “The Secret of the Grain,” a similarly messy and capacious consideration of the life of a North African immigrant in France and his extended family, and “Games of Love and Chance”  (“L’Esquive”), which sets a Marivaux comedy in a rough housing project in the Paris suburbs. He rarely allows the machinery of plot to distract him from the tangents of talk, and the first part of “Blue” is preoccupied with what seem to be extraneous, trivial arguments and conversations. Adèle chats about boys with the girls at school, and about music and books with a boy named Thomas (Jérémie Laheurte), who briefly becomes her boyfriend. She naps, snacks, studies and pushes her unruly hair into a ragged ponytail atop her head.

Then one day, she crosses paths with Emma (Léa Seydoux ), and everything changes. Emma, blue-haired and fox-eyed, walks past Adèle in the street, shows up in her dreams and flirts with her in a lesbian bar. “I came here by chance,” Adèle says, which is only half-true. She was not exactly looking for Emma, or for anyone in particular, but rather for confirmation of a hunch about her own desires, something Emma is happy to provide.

Emma, an art student and an aspiring painter, relishes the role of mentor. A bit pompously, she lectures Adèle on the ideas of Jean-Paul Sartre — she sees him, not altogether implausibly, as a forerunner of gay liberation — and offers to tutor her in philosophy. Later, when they are more or less securely established as a couple, Emma prods Adèle toward loftier ambitions, almost as if she is embarrassed to be with someone so down to earth.

There is a subtle but unmistakable class difference between them. When Adèle has dinner with Emma’s mother and stepfather, she is served oysters and high-flown conversation about the value of culture. At Adèle’s house, Emma eats pasta and gets a paternal talking-to about the frivolity of art and the importance of making a living. Emma is proudly out. Adèle is, somewhat defiantly, closeted. There are unspoken tensions and imbalances between them that eventually erupt with shattering force.

When “Blue Is the Warmest Color” was shown at Cannes in May — where the jury, headed by Steven Spielberg, took the unusual step of awarding the festival’s highest prize jointly to Mr. Kechiche, Ms. Exarchopoulos and Ms. Seydoux — much attention was paid to its explicit sex scenes. Not without reason. One sequence in particular is longer and more literal than anything you are likely to encounter outside of pornography. Ms. Maroh (among others) objected that Mr. Kechiche’s rendering of her work was indeed pornographic, reflecting a prurient male fantasy rather than the truth of lesbian sex.

A conversation late in the movie (after most of the on-screen sex has taken place) seems to anticipate this criticism, as does an earlier scene in which Adèle and Emma visit a museum and gaze at paintings and sculptures of naked women, almost all of them produced by men. The conversation features a male gallery owner who rambles on breathlessly about the power and mystery of female sexuality, which has fascinated male artists for centuries.

A parallel argument between Emma and another woman about the relative merits of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt — tireless painters of the female form, as is Emma herself — underlines the theme. All this talk may be an attempt by Mr. Kechiche to cover his own backside while Ms. Exarchopoulos’s and Ms. Seydoux’s are on full, undraped display. Like Titian or Degas or Flaubert, he just can’t help it.

But “Blue Is the Warmest Color” is ardently and sincerely committed to capturing the fullness of Adèle’s experience — sensory, cerebral and emotional. The sex is essential to that intention, even though Mr. Kechiche’s way of filming does not quite succeed in fulfilling it. Trying to push the boundaries of empathy, to communicate physical rapture by visual means, he bumps into the limits of the medium and lapses into voyeurism, turning erotic sensation into a spectacle of flesh.

That is a small failure, given the scale of this movie’s achievement, which belongs equally (as the Cannes jury recognized) to the director and the actresses. The film is at times as sloppy as its heroine, with her runny nose and unruly hair, but it is never dull, lazy or predictable. Mr. Kechiche’s style is dizzy, obsessive, inspired and relentless, words that also describe Adèle and Emma and the fearless women who embody them. Many more words can — and will — be spent on “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” but for now I’ll settle for just one: glorious.


Albatross (2011) Film. Director: Niall MacCormick



Beth, a bookish teenager, befriends Emilia, an aspiring novelist who has just arrived in town. Emilia soon begins an affair with Beth’s father that threatens to have devastating consequences.(Imdb)


By  @MaryPolsJan. 12, 2012

Should you believe movies like the pleasant but unexceptional Albatross, a key rite of passage for shy, bookish young women involves meeting up with a peer who lacks any boundaries or inhibitions. These wild child types range from Desperately Seeking Susans to Poison Ivies. They tend to talk tough, impudently snap their gum and are always casually stripping in front of the modest heroine. In the extreme, they think nothing of sleeping with her father. This bad girl’s tricks rarely vary; for instance, once she turns up wearing the good girl’s clothes, it won’t be long before someone gets at least their feelings hurt. This predictable troublemaker tends to the tedious, and the stereotype is the real albatross in Albatross.

Seventeen year-old Emilia Conan Doyle (Jessica Brown Findlay) struts around the Isle of Man, a picturesque island plunked between Northern Ireland and Scotland, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “I Put Out.” (The shirt doesn’t lie.) She lives with grandparents — her father disappeared, her mother killed herself — and the movie’s most touching scenes involve this ancient, fragile couple. Sweet demented Granny keeps mistaking Emilia for her mother, Granddad seems like a disapproving grump but proves to care far more about Emilia than she expects. She doesn’t have much in the way of friends until she takes a part time job as a maid at Cliff House and meets Oxford-bound Beth (Like Crazy‘s Felicity Jones) whose family owns and operates the inn.

Their relationship is a teasing one. Emilia ribs mousey Beth and Beth gazes adoringly at her.  She’s assertive, daring, all the things that Beth isn’t. She’s also obnoxious and prone to challenging authority at the hotel and a restaurant where she waitresses. Brown Findlay, known to fans of Downton Abbey as Lady Sybil, is fetching and has a honeyed, seductive voice but no matter how captivating she is, there’s no way any boss would tolerate her sass. The movie assigns this character a power over others, but doesn’t illuminate its source or offer a proper defense of it — such a power could only exist if all other characters were doormats. It’s unreasonable to expect us to believe that Beth’s mother (Julia Ormond), a vigorous shrew, wouldn’t give Emilia her walking papers after a day.

Her sexual power however, is never in question. The attraction between Emilia and Beth’s father Jonathan (Sebastian Koch) is wrong but still makes plenty of sense. Compared to the island boys she’s used to, he’s George Clooney. Compared to his aging, bitter wife, she’s an audacious tonic, a willing Lolita.  She teases him, mocks his stalled writing career – an early bestseller centered around the enchantments of the Cliff House and was followed by a string of flops – and flirts brazenly with him in front of his wife (poor Ormond, reduced to playing the desperate to seem young shrew when a couple of decades ago, she was positioned as the next Audrey Hepburn). Jonathan, who lights up like a candle in Emilia’s presence, offers to help her edit the novel she claims to be writing, an invitation to his attic lair right up there with “Would you like to come up and see my etchings?” Koch (The Lives of Others) succeeds in making Jonathan bearable by conveying his raft of middle-aged insecurities and vulnerabilities. Jonathan’s lowest moment involves a “P”-themed birthday party for Beth’s little sister. He’s dressed as a pope and Emilia as Princess Leia, they duck into a broom closet. It’s sad and creepy but director Niall MacCormick also makes it a little funny.

That’s in keeping with the film’s underlying confusion about whether it wants to be briskly amusing (its lively, jazzy score feels like something that ought to be accompanying a comedy) or a serious coming of age story about Emilia recognizing and moving past her demons. The similarities between it and the Isle of Wight-set 2001 film Me Without You, which featured the very young Michelle Williams as the good girl and Anna Friel as the naughty minx, are uncanny. In both cases, the performances are compelling (although Jones is underused) but the thin narrative is less instructive of the strange way female friendships operate than of the way stories get recycled. Girls, they’re either naughty or nice! Madonnas or whores!  If you want to see a great film about screwed up relationships between women, try PersonaAll About Eve or Robert Altman’s 3 WomenAlbatross looks like a scrawny sparrow next to them.




Yes, the title of Albatross is a metaphor. In fact, the eponymous bird shows up not as a figurative chokehold around the neck of simply one character, but at least three. Everyone has his or her burden in the film, but rather than convincingly communicate this fact in dramatic terms, director Niall MacCormick and screenwriter Tamzin Rafn fall back on a lame literary device to pound home the point.

It’s far from the only poor choice the filmmakers opt for in this misguided coming-of-age/unraveling-of-a-marriage drama, a movie that continually loses focus in its shift from one set of characters to another and falters on its inconsistent attitude to those same figures. Set at a seaside hotel on the English coast, the film does nothing to endorse Tolstoy’s (name-checked in the film) famous novel-opening maxim about unhappy families being unhappy in their own way. There’s nothing unique about the familial discontent that characterizes the hotel owning clan: There’s the blocked novelist Jonathan Fischer (Sebastian Koch), trapped by the decades-old success of his first novel; his unsatisfied wife Joa (Julia Ormond), who gave up her acting career years ago and now resents it; and their teenage daughter Beth (Felicity Jones), caught in between. Into the mix comes sassy 17-year-old cleaning lady Emelia (Jessica Brown Findlay), whose prickly personality is evoked in a heavy stream of sarcastic comments and whose wildness is conveyed in an unfortunate scene where the underage teen buys alcohol by flashing her breasts at a pimply store clerk.

Before long, Emelia is befriending good girl Beth—taking her to parties, getting her laid and possibly pregnant—and fucking her father. But the filmmakers seem uncertain how to handle the ebbs and flows of the film’s interpersonal chemistry or how to regard its characters, most of whom tend toward the monstrous. Jonathan, a feckless would-be cad, is sufficiently chastised for his behavior, but he’s still let off easy despite his inability to evince not a single redeeming quality. Similarly, Emelia goes from being simply a bad, if highly intelligent, girl to a sympathetic character, but only because the film keeps insisting on her horrible backstory—dead parents, grandma with Alzheimer’s, class resentment. With the dramatic deck so heavily stacked toward dictating our attitudes toward the film’s characters, none of the resulting shifts of alliances feel anything like organic.

But beyond that, Albatross is simply a compendium of bad ideas. Whether it’s matching the obviousness of the titular metaphor with thuddingly literal-minded music choices (Vampire Weekend’s “Oxford Comma” punctuates a trip to, yes, Oxford), crafting credulity-straining sequences as when aspiring novelist Emelia claims one of the most famous opening sentences in literary history (The Great Gatsby) as her own and man-of-letters Jonathan is none the wiser, or making questionably positive use of a T-shirt that reads “I Put Out,” MacCormick’s film hasn’t got a clue. And the proof of this is that the movie’s moment of coming-of-age fruition turns on the physical transfer of the aforementioned tee and, with it, the sentiments included. Who knew that becoming a young woman meant nothing more than embracing one’s inner slut?



By Ross Miller;

Making its world premiere at the EIFF 2011, Niall MacCormick’s coming-of-age comedy-drama Albatross is destined to be one of the most talked about and beloved British films of the year, not least because it balances feel-good laughs (a kind of believable British equivalent to the humor found in Juno) with pertinent issues for all ages.

The film follows would-be writer Emelia (Jessica Brown Findlay) who takes a job as a cleaner in a seaside hotel owned by frustrated writer Jonathan (Sebastian Koch) and his family. She soon befriends his daughter, Beth (Felicity Jones), and naively gets involved with the writer while dealing with her personal issues and home life.

Aside from the brilliantly observant script by first-timer Tamzin Rafn, the cast is what makes Albatross work so well. Standing out is Koch (you may know him as the lead in the Oscar-winning The Lives of Others) as Jonathan who seems unable to resist Emilia, who comes along at just the right/wrong moment (depending on how you look at it) as he is struggling to replicate his earlier literary success while his marriage is beginning to break down; Jones as Jonathan’s hopeful student daughter who starts to let her hair down; and particularly relative newcomer Findlay as the charming and conflicted Emelia who comes into this family’s life like a whirlwind.

The film jumps effortlessly between touching human drama and true-to-life comedy (sometimes from one moment to the next), never once feeling like its two types of movies vying for screen-time as is so often the case. Everything from the forbidden relationship between Jonathan and Emelia to her complicated home life rings entirely true, belying the inexperience of Rafn as a screenwriter.

Albatross is exactly what you hope for from a coming-of-age “dramedy”: cute without being schmaltzy, sweet without being sickly, insightful without being preachy. With a dynamite debut script from Rafn, Albatross is just about as good as this sort of thing gets and is easily one of the best films being showcased at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.



Americano (2011) Film. Director: Mathieu Demy






An odd hybrid of adult child in-search-of-mother quest and lurid border-town pulp, Americanomarks the first feature of actor Mathieu Demy as a writer-director. His legacy as the son of two major filmmakers may set up burdensome expectations, but here a dearth of narrative imagination causes his debut to quite literally go south around the 45-minute mark. Struggling with a fraying relationship, real-estate agent Martin (Demy) flies to his boyhood home in Venice, California, after learning of the death of his long-estranged mother. Scattered memories of youth (represented by clips of young Demy in an early-’80s film by his estimable mother, Agnès Varda) and the chastisements of his mom’s caregiver (Geraldine Chaplin, vaguely comic as an exposed nerve wearing a Dodgers cap) take their toll on Martin, who, accidentally discovering evidence of an ambiguously intimate relationship between his deceased mom and a Mexican neighbor—named Lola for Anouk Aimée’s role in the masterpiece by Demy’s father Jacques—he barely remembers as a playmate, dashes from the morgue to Tijuana, perhaps yearning for an idea of what his lost parent truly valued and loved.

After exhibiting flashes of genuine wit (an L.A. embalmer tells Martin, “Your mother was a beautiful woman…You’ve got great skin”), Americano then swiftly deflates with a slew of lazy and frequently offensive clichés: Martin, parking Chaplin’s Mustang (and the unsigned deed to Mom’s condo) in front of a sketchy hotel, receives the streetwise counsel of a plucky street kid (Pablo Garcia) who steers him to the titular, neon-red bar, home to the putative lost playmate in the form of a magenta-wigged, cheek-scarred stripper (Salma Hayek, inevitably) and a potentially lethal manager-pimp (Carlos Bardem). As Hayek writhes around her pole lip-synching “I’m so tired of America,” then like clockwork moves from surly to vulnerable in her private sessions with the probing Frenchman, Demy’s performance remains clouded with one-note inertia, and the identities of Hayek and Garcia’s characters are telegraphed with amateurish clumsiness. Proving to be as panicked as his protagonist about his own cinematic inheritance, Demy packs his last reels with everything from fire to knife play; his kernel of promise behind the camera needs to embrace the confidence, if not necessarily the style, exuded by the excerpts of Varda’s film that periodically expand Americano to intimate, human scale.



A man struggles to come to terms with his past as well as his family relationships in this drama. Martin (Mathieu Demy) was born in Los Angeles and spent much of his childhood there, but his parents were from France, and when his mother (Sabine Mamou) went through a nervous breakdown, his father relocated to Europe and took the boy with him. Martin rarely saw his mother again, and her absence left a void in his life that has impacted his relationships with women ever since, most recently his on and off romance with Claire (Chiara Mastroianni). When Martin receives word that his mother has died, he travels to California to take care of the arrangements with the help of Linda (Geraldine Chaplin), one of his mother’s best friends. Martin intends to clear everything away as quickly as possible and return home, but talking with Linda and going through his mother’s effects causes him to question his feelings about her, and when he sees an old snapshot of himself with his mom and a woman named Lola, he suddenly becomes obsessed with finding her. Martin’s obsession leads him to Tijuana, where he falls for a stripper named Lola (Salma Hayek) who embodies the strength and joie de vivre that Martin has lost. Americanowas the first feature film from writer, director and actor Mathieu Demy, the son of filmmakers Jacques Demy and Agnes Varda; clips from Varda’s 1981 film Documenteur are used in the film’s flashback sequences.





12 Years a Slave (2013) Film. Director : Steve McQueen


Twelve Years a Slave: the astonishing book that inspired my film

In trying to create a film about slavery I barely knew where to start – until my partner, historian Bianca Stigter, uncovered a true account of slavery that blew our minds.

Three and a half years before finishing the production of 12 Years a Slave I was lost.

I knew I wanted to tell a story about slavery, but where to start?

Finally, I had the idea of a free man kidnapped into bondage, but that’s all I had. I was attracted to a story that had a main character any viewer could identify with, a free man who is captured and held against his will. For months I was trying to build a story around this beginning but not having great success until my partner Bianca Stigter, a historian, suggested that I take a look at true accounts of slavery. Within days of beginning our research, Bianca had unearthed Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup.

“I think I’ve got it,” she said. If ever there was an understatement. The book blew both our minds: the epic range, the details, the adventure, the horror, and the humanity. It read like a film script, ready to be shot. I could not believe that I had never heard of this book. It felt as important as Anne Frank’s diary, only published nearly a hundred years before.

I was not alone in being unfamiliar with the book. Of all the people I spoke to not one person knew about Twelve Years a Slave. This was astonishing! An important tale told with so much heart and beauty needed to be more widely recognised. I hope my film can play a part in drawing attention to this important book of courage. Solomon’s bravery and life deserve nothing less.


12 Years a Slave’ (2013) Movie Review – Toronto Film Festival

Flawless filmmaking resulting in a film that’s torture to watch

Near the end of 12 Years a SlaveChiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup — battered, beaten and defeated — turns and looks straight into the eyes of every member of the weary audience. Living as a free man in Saratoga, New York in 1841, Northup was abducted and sold into slavery where he remained for twelve long years. Looking into his eyes, questions arise — What is he thinking? What is the audience thinking? It’s a scene that removes the idea of the audience serving as spectators. It’s a scene that says If you didn’t feel involved to this point, you are now.

Director Steve McQueen (HungerShame), and his unflinching cinematic eye, delivers a film filled with shame, guilt, hatred, anger, rage, torture, anguish and tears. It rips your heart out of your chest and holds it before your very eyes. It’s a painful watch and one I won’t likely run to visit again, but this doesn’t detract from its quality. Thanks to those few seconds where our eyes lock with Northup’s, it makes for a moment where the entire audience is forced to reflect on what they’ve seen and interpret it in their own way. It’s a look that asks you to see Solomon not as a black man, but as a free man, no different than any of us, and it isn’t the first time the idea is addressed in the film, but it is the first time the onus is placed 100% on the audience and it’s a stroke of genius. 

Yet, what must absolutely be mentioned and reiterated is the absolute horror this movie is to watch. A scene involving a hanging leaves a man dangling, with only the tips of his toes negotiating the muddy ground below serving as the difference between life and possible death. Choking and gasping for air, the soft squish of the wet mud is like needles in your ears. McQueen and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt first focus on his feet, then move to a wide shot as fellow slaves in the background get back to work, leaving the man to hang, afraid to interfere. A couple white people stare from the plantation windows and porch, the whole time the wet squish beneath the man’s feet continues as he chokes for a sliver of air. The scene goes on, and on, and on.

Similarly, a scene where another character is whipped, the flesh ripped from their skin into bloody tendrils, is one I had to close my eyes during. Yet, the sound of leather on flesh remained. I stopped counting at 35 lashes before it ended, I maybe saw ten of them with my own eyes, but couldn’t avoid the sound of the other 25.

Sound, in fact, weighs heavily on this film. Following Northup’s abduction he’s chained and tossed into a room with a concrete floor and wooden slats for walls. Every move he makes the chains strike and scrape against the floor at a nearly intolerable level. And when the ambient noise isn’t setting the mood, Hans Zimmer‘s cello-driven score threatens and taunts us with the promise of more to come.

John Ridley (Red Tails) adapted the screenplay from Northup’s autobiography, but I can’t help but give most of the credit to McQueen whose command of the story is so powerful he doesn’t need much more than a location and a few words of dialogue. Combine that with Bobbitt’s talent behind the camera and perfect casting from the top down and it’s hard to miss a beat.

Ejiofor has delivered the performance of his career and at times it must have been punishing to read what was in store each day. As an audience we’re asked to live in Solomon’s headspace for just over two hours, but production on the film lasted seven weeks. Add I can only imagine the time Ejiofor took to prepare for the role before filming a single frame.

McQueen’s frequent collaborator in Michael Fassbender plays Edwin Epps, a hellish man whose conscience rotted long before we meet him in this story. Personally I don’t know how an actor can even agree to a role such as this let alone find it within themselves to perform to the level Fassbender achieves here. To say he’s a man that’s easy to hate would be too kind. He’s a man I can’t even find pity for. Then again, I can’t even pity Paul Dano‘s John Tibeats, whose IQ wouldn’t needs more then five fingers to tally, and the whole time I watched any of these slave drivers I could only imagine the shame and hate they felt for themselves.

The performances, however, don’t all belong to the men. Newcomer Lupita Nyong’o will break your heart as Patsey. Targeted by Epps as his personal play thing and reviled by his wife Mary (a relentless performance from Sarah Paulson), Nyong’o’s contributions to the film are vital in ways I don’t want to completely reveal here. It really goes without saying her’s is a character we all feel a strong sense of compassion for, but Nyong’o’s performance serves to amplify that connection.

McQueen has a talent for directing emotionally raw features, all of them involving some level of dark suffering. HungerShame and now 12 Years of Slave tackle subject matter most would rather bury under the rug and as a result it’s always hard to review films of this nature.

Such flawless filmmaking deserves every bit of praise we can dote on it, but at the same time it’s not pleasant to watch. In fact, watching 12 Years as Slave is to dwell in purgatory for 133 minutes. If you’re willing to subject yourself to its horrors you’ll be rewarded with some of the highest level of filmmaking you’ll see all year, but in the end you’ll be leaving the theater in a stupor.



Based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) will forever alter his life. (Imdb)




Drinking Buddies (2013) Film. Director : Joe Swanberg




Luke and Kate are co-workers at a Chicago brewery, where they spend their days drinking and flirting. They’re perfect for each other, except that they’re both in relationships. Luke is in the midst of marriage talks with his girlfriend of six years, Kate is playing it cool with her music producer boyfriend Chris. But you know what makes the line between “friends” and “more than friends” really blurry? Beer. (Imdb)

The Observer, Sunday 3 November 2013

The bonding and the deadening effects of beer are exhaustively and excellently explored in this post-mumblecore (that is: cheap, improvised but no longer absolutely infuriating) effort from Hannah Takes the Stairsdirector Joe Swanberg. It enjoys the same complicated relationship with its leading lady that all his films seem to. In this case, it’s Olivia Wilde as the only woman at a boutique microbrewery in Chicago. She wears vests, starts boozing when she clocks in for the day and hangs out with the guys before heading to the flat of her boyfriend (Ron Livingston) for a quick shag, before cycling home on her fixie. She’s best friends with a co-worker played by Jake Johnson, and they’re about as silly and intimate as you can get without actually being a couple; he’s engaged to the slightly more prim Anna Kendrick.

Then the foursome go away for a weekend and the tension begins to bubble, spilling over in ways both inevitable and unexpected. At its crassest, Drinking Buddies succeeds because it holds an aspirational mirror up to a generation (though if anyone ever guzzled as much as Wilde’s character they’d weigh in at about 20 stone). But it’s also more mature than its plot, premise and even its ancestry suggest. There are emotional razors amid the wooziness.



By     –   August 22, 2013

A conventional way to describe Kate and Luke’s relationship would be to say they’re just friends. But “just” hardly captures the intensity of the bond between them. Co-workers at a thriving Chicago microbrewery, Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) have an effortless, comfortable intimacy. They get each other’s jokes and never tire of each other’s company. Daily lunch companions, they often extend the nightly busman’s holiday of after-work beer-drinking until closing time. They snuggle up in booths and couches, sometimes dozing off, but more like puppies in a box than lovers in bed.

Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson are co-workers at a microbrewery in “Drinking Buddies,” in which their friendship threatens to become something more.

Anyway, they both already have lovers. Kate is dating a slightly older guy named Chris (Ron Livingston), while Luke lives with his slightly younger girlfriend, Jill (Anna Kendrick). A two-couple trip to Chris’s family’s vacation house near the dunes in Michigan brings about some interesting complications, as lines of romantic interest and platonic devotion become entangled and boundaries of sexual ethics are tested. There is a stolen kiss, a late-night swim, episodes of tactical insomnia and moments of awkward silence.

In a different kind of movie — or rather, in the same old kind of movie the Hollywood studios have been churning out, usually in February, for the past decade or so — the Michigan high jinks would commence a crescendo of complications leading to a predictable happy ending. But“Drinking Buddies,” Joe Swanberg’s nimble, knowing and altogether excellent new film, refuses to dance to the usual tune.

“Drinking Buddies” is funny and sweet enough to qualify as a romantic comedy, except that the phrase implies a structure as well as an attitude. The genre depends on tidy mathematics, a calculus of desire that produces the same result every time. Mr. Swanberg, a prolific investigator of the makeshift mores of the young, prefers a kind of fractal geometry, leaving room for contingency, confusion and randomness in his search for emotional and behavioral truth. In the past, his explorations have sometimes been waylaid by formal sloppiness and a leering, distracting commitment to filming women without clothes. Still, he has become an undisputed expert on the group activities (filmmaking among them) of post-collegiate urban white people, and a pioneer of the cinematic manner that may define the current generation of 20- and 30-somethings.

The word Mumblecore is stuck to this cohort like a piece of gum on the sole of a shoe, but “Drinking Buddies” — along with other recent movies by Lynn Shelton and the Duplass brothers — represents an advance, not only toward the entertainment mainstream but also toward a more polished and confident style. “Drinking Buddies” follows the eddies and digressions of everyday life. Mr. Swanberg’s camera weaves through bodies at rest, at work and at the bar in no particular hurry, and his script captures the idioms of men and women who are equally inclined to waste words and to say very little. But the busy tedium of their lives is given shape and direction by the skill of the cast and by the precision of the director’s eye, ear and editing instincts.

Mr. Livingston looks credibly tired and confused as a guy who has stayed young for too long. Mr. Johnson is cranky and likable, playing a fully bearded variation on his gruff, needy “New Girl” character. Ms. Kendrick beautifully conveys Jill’s anxiety as she tries to reconcile her own needs with the unspoken imperatives to keep everything happy and casual. When she and Luke talk about getting married, their negotiations are pitch-perfect meta-conversations — they talk about someday talking about the things they claim not to be talking about at all — delivering the insight that passive-aggression is nowadays less a personal trait than a cultural norm.

But it is Ms. Wilde’s determined, slightly manic energy that keeps the story going. Kate is constantly in motion, navigating an otherwise all-male workplace with easy, one-of-the-guys humor and zipping from the bar to Chris’s apartment on her bicycle. In an early scene, Chris, who always seems to be brooding about something, interrupts their foreplay with a gift: a copy of John Updike’s “Rabbit, Run,” whose wayward, impulsive hero he says reminds him of Kate. This is a fascinating and unlikely idea, since Rabbit Angstromhas been, for generations of readers, the very embodiment of entitled male narcissism. Is Chris just taking a weird literary swipe at Kate, or has he glimpsed a truth about gender relations in a post-Updike world?

In many ways, though, “Drinking Buddies” proposes a corrective to the Updikean assumption that sexual intercourse is the ground and horizon of modern male-female relations. Kate and Luke are obviously in love, and for a while, the operative question seems to be not whether they will sleep together but when.

But as the emotional weather — between them and between each of them and their partners — starts to shift, other questions intrude. Why should they? What if they do? What if they don’t? Can they be friends? The triumph of this movie is that the answers matter a lot, even if they are ambiguous.