Month: September, 2017

Lady Macbeth

Macbeth“I’m thick skinned”—a seemingly innocuous opening statement from Lady Macbeth’s protagonist speaks volumes about the film’s central character, Katherine (played by Florence Pugh) and its exploration of liberation within an oppressive marriage.

Read my full review on the NZ Herald’s website here.

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Tommy’s Honour

tommyPamela Martin’s first feature screenplay has seen the fledgeling screenwriter transfer her writing talents from the New York offices of Playboy magazine to the windswept greens of St. Andrews. Quite a significant change of scenery, one would think.  Based on the book of the same name by Kevin Cook (Pamela’s husband), Tommy’s Honour tells the true story of Old Tom Morris and his son Tommy—both historical juggernauts of the modern game of golf.

Read my full review on the NZ Herald’s website here.

Darren Aronofsky

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“Director Darren Aronofsky appears to make a conscious effort to bring the spectator towards the sensory experience of the protagonist, specifically so that the spectator experiences the physicality of his cinema. The underlying purpose of his construction and deployment of such cinema is not merely entertainment. Instead, it is an existential statement, or enquiry into our place in the world — a place where understanding and meaning are brought about through the spectator’s examination of “self” prompted by the physicality of the cinema.”

It’s good to see that much of my thesis still holds true for Aronofsky’s latest film mother!  So, why not celebrate … here’s my thesis in its glorious entirety.   Now you can wade your way though Vivian Sobchack’s phenomenological framework, or douse yourself in Don Ihde’s five operational hermeneutic rules and then set yourself alight with Martin Heidegger’s existential rantings.  All to the backdrop of Aronofsky’s filmography. It will feel like swimming in molasses. Wonderful stuff!

The Cinema of Darren Aronofsky – A Phenomenological Case Study*

*Usual academic rules apply–please don’t reproduce, quote etc. without acknowledgement.

I Am Not Your Negro

ianyn“The future of the negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country.” This provocative statement by black activist James Baldwin may, on the surface, sound reductive but his stance is unflinching and he unapologetically uses black lives as the benchmark of America’s success as a nation … and in Baldwin’s words, “It is not a pretty story.”

Read my full review on the NZ Herald’s website here.

mother!

mumDirector Darren Aronofsky is very comfortable with making sensory arresting films that divide opinion and court controversy.  With many of his films garnering critical appreciation long after release (Pi, The Fountain), some argue that the director is ahead of his time. After the divided response to his latest film, perhaps this will be the case with mother!

Jennifer Lawrence’s character is only known as “mother” (all but one character are named with lowercase initials). She lives in an idyllic country house that she and her husband, Him (uppercase “H”), played by Javier Bardem, are restoring.  It is their personal paradise, of sorts, until one day a man appears at the door and is allowed to stay. The man’s wife arrives soon after—the couple pushing the boundaries of the offered hospitality until they are caught tampering with a forbidden ornament in Him’s out-of-bounds study.  Sound familiar yet? It was to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why. I’ve written a thesis on the director, in theory I should know his game backwards, but here the master of the allegorical parable dangled me like a puppet clueless as to why the film’s opening felt so very familiar. It was only after the two arguing sons arrived on the doorstep, that it finally struck me.  This is the Christian story; God, Adam, Eve, Kane, Abel, Jesus, they’re all there. But what of Jennifer Lawrence’s character? Mother Nature is an obvious fit, although there is a suggestion that she is also part of the holy trinity. At one point someone yells “there she is, Inspiration!”—again, an expression of Mother Nature, or as many Christians will tell you, the Holy Spirit.

The film’s final chapter is a head-scratcher. It descends into anarchic chaos and delivers a sensory onslaught that will test the most thick-skinned cinephile. As throngs of people arrive at their house, the claustrophobic camera-work clings to mother, following her everywhere, rarely leaving her porcelain face. The lack of musical score enhances Aronofsky’s brutal vision of humanities ugly side. Thankfully, Aronofsky’s intention appears to be for his audience to read mother! as an allegorical telling of humanity’s failures rather than a literal reading (which would otherwise render it a sick and sadistic torture story).

Towards the end mother pleads with Him, “Please … make them go away!”  And in light of the worlds current political and environmental climate, I can understand her anguish. The film does offer a release valve, an out, an ending that goes beyond its Biblical roots … but I won’t spoil it for you.

mother! may not be for everyone—it requires a great deal of tolerance and a willingness to embrace the unconventional. But put in the effort and you’ll be rewarded with a stunning film that is both an illuminating and damning criticism of the human race.
 

You can see my published reviews here.

A Ghost Story

agsWe’ve all been there in our younger years: cut eyeholes out of a sheet, throw it over yourself and roam the hall pretending to be a ghost. But despite Casey Affleck’s character looking the quintessential trick-or-treater, A Ghost Story delivers a haunting and ephemeral existential tale rather than cheap jump-scares.

See my full review here at Witchdoctor.

Wind River

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This simple murder-mystery set among the windswept snowscape of a Wyoming Indian reservation offers a heady blend of modern western, thriller, and neo-noir sensibilities.

Read my full review on the NZ Herald’s website here.