Tag: Douglas Booth

Mary Shelley

Mary1It is apt that Haifaa Al Mansour, the first female feature filmmaker from Saudi Arabia, has made a movie about a subversive feminist from yesteryear. Mary Shelley tells the true story of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (as she was known at the time), the author of one of the greatest Gothic horrors ever written; Frankenstein. While the misogyny of the day might not have recognised her fictional monster staring back at them, this film makes it crystal clear the reasons for its creation. 

Set among the cloying mud and muck of early nineteenth century London, Mary’s ill-advised fling with the dashing poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth), is in full swing. It is a romance that carries their elopement to Lord Byron’s bohemian holiday home where the first pages of her book were penned. As the dust settles on their relationship, we discover that Percy’s free-spirited and narcissist nature pushes Mary to the margins of his life. The casting of a very brooding and smouldering Elle Fanning (20th Century Women) matches a woman whose demeanour is one of hapless defiance.

The film only glances at her fascination with science, choosing instead to focus on other influences that brought about Mary’s lonely and neglected monster. Clearly, she saw herself as the creature of her creation: forlorn, outcast and abandoned.

Tonally, there are hints of Jane Campion’s Bright Star, minus the Kiwi director’s delicately infused feminist nuances or spell-binding cinematography.  This film is more conventional and literal in its scope, and screenwriter Emma Jensen’s rather safe approach to the subject matter might’ve benefitted from some more venom.  It is something that Fanning’s performance goes some way to compensate for. Her sullen portrayal is the driving force of this biopic and brings some rectifying depth to the film’s many double-entendres, innuendo and knowing looks.

As Mary says of her book; “It is a message for mankind” and it seems appropriate, in the current age of feminine resurgence, that this film has been made. And despite its conventional hand (and a slightly clumsy ending), Mary Shelley remains a fascinating and timely story.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.

Loving Vincent

lvThe process of animating over the top of pre-shot footage (rotoscoping) is a procedure that has existed since the dawn of cinema, most notably applied recently by Richard Linklater (A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life). Loving Vincent pushes the envelope further, with Directors Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela (and an army of artists) making the technically ambitious decision to turn their film into a Van Gogh oil painting through the arduous process of hand painting each frame. While some might find this a painstaking exercise in gimmickry, there is little doubt that the result is an immersive experience, nudging you ever closer to the work of the famous Dutch painter. Certainly, Loving Vincent is a film where you could hang any one of its overwhelming 65,000 frames on your wall—although at twelve frames per second, the resulting animation takes a little adjustment.

The film investigates the months leading up to Vincent Van Gogh’s death. Postmaster’s son Roulin (Douglas Booth) has been charged with the task of delivering Vincent Van Gogh’s posthumous letter to his now late brother, Theo.  Upon arriving in the Parisian suburb of Auvers-sur-Oise, home to a close companion of Vincent, Roulin discovers that the locals have conflicting accounts of Vincent’s apparent “suicide”.  The mysterious events surrounding Vincent’s death become a fascination for Roulin as he sleuths his way around the town looking very much like a gumshoe wanting to crack a murder case.

Van Gogh aficionados will be quick to point out that each character is inspired by, or in some cases is the actual subject of, Van Gogh’s paintings—and although this bolsters the authenticity of the film, it is somewhat jarring to see very recognisable actors playing these parts. An unmistakable Jerome Flynn (Bron, from Game of Thrones) in oil on canvas feels a little odd at first, but you soon get used to it.

It is evident that writing is not Welchman and Kobiela’s strength and the beautiful visuals, unfortunately, can’t hide a screenplay which feels at times trite and stagey.  Nonetheless, Loving Vincent remains a visually unique film that piques enough narrative intrigue to be worth watching.

Read the full review for the NZ Herald here.