Guillermo del Toro: A Brief Retrospective

When considering Guillermo Del Toro’s work, mythical creatures, terrifying monsters, and of getting lost in a wonderful world of his creation for a couple of hours seem typical statements of his work. So when I saw the trailer for his new piece Pacific Rim, I couldn’t help but think that it was a little out of keeping with his style of storytelling. If we look back over some of his most influential and successful works however, and make a point of looking past his distinctive stylistic vision and storytelling technique, it soon becomes evident that, thematically, Pacific Rim is simply an extension of an ever present subject matter. In each of his works, Del Toro questions what it means to be human, the tolerability of immortality, and the causes of monstrosity. Questions which, judging by the trailers, will be at the forefront of his latest offering. In preparation for the release of this action packed instalment on July 12th, we look back over some of his pervious works, and follow his thematic journey through cinema.

Del Toro’s 1993 offering, Cronos, is a constant blur between the line of humanity and immortality, with the essential mythical monster thrown in for good measure. It questions when, if ever, is immortality the answer? If you had the choice between a normal life of aging then death, dying of a terminal illness, or immortality with a number unknown side effects and restrictions, what would you choose? The story focuses in on the protagonist, Jesus, and what his state of being is. He remains convinced throughout that he is in control of his actions, particularly his use of the Cronos device. A device which prolongs the user’s life, making them feel, and even appear more youthful, but at the price of becoming slave to its use. Even after his death, and resurrection, Jesus remains convinced of his humanity. It takes the slow realisation that his new lifestyle of nocturnalism, blood draining, and consumption, is in fact completely inhuman, for him to become aware of his current state. His personal battle with what it means to be human (love, family, freedom) brings about his demise. Upon the realisation that he can no longer experience these simple pleasures, and in turn, can no longer be called human, he sacrifices himself, and consequently, saves his daughter from death. His last act of compassion and humanity.

2004’s Hellboy, and 2008’s Hellboy II pose similar questions about humanity, immortality, and monstrosity, again questioning when, if ever, is immortality the answer? And what defines a character as monstrous? In these films however, Del Toro explores these questions from the point of view of what would traditionally be labelled as monsters, changing the expectations of his audience, and forcing us to examine the possibility that often we, as humans, are the monsters. Following the story of Hellboy (literally a creature from Hell found on earth), we see how this ‘monster’ works with both humans and other fantastical creatures in the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence, in order to keep the world, and in particular the human race, safe from members of the occult. In both films, humans are at the source of all the problems, as they attempt to gain more power, achieve immortality, and rule the world and all its races for all eternity. In these films, Del Toro proves it is possible to be human without being humane. Monsters can come in all shapes and sizes, but it is often those who seem the least monstrous that prove to be the most nefarious.

 

In 2006, Del Toro brought us the world of Pan’s Labyrinth. A visually striking film filled with fairies, fauns and fantasy. The piece is set between two contrasting worlds. The world we know, and the world of Princess Moanna. Princess of the underworld. Set during post Civil War Spain, we are instantly given cause to question what it means to be human, as we witness the emotionless Falange Soldiers, in particular Captain Vidal, kill, maim, and torture for both information and entertainment. How can these beings be called human when they treat others with such disdain? How can one inflict so much physical and mental pain upon others without causing suffering to themselves? This is truly the behaviour of a monster. However, monstrous traits are also displayed by the mythical creatures of the film. The faun, who appears initially as a guide and mentor, abandons the protagonist, Ofelia, when she fails to carry out her assigned task to the letter, and even attempts to convince Ofelia to sacrifice her baby brother. Hardly the behaviour of the righteous. Del Toro demonstrates how circumstance can play a huge part in behaviour patterns. Cause and consequence. Beings react to their situations and the way those around them react. Had there been no civil war, perhaps the soldiers would not have become such violent beasts. Had Ofelia not angered the faun, she may not have suffered in solitude. Monsters do not simply come into being, they are created by circumstance. A creature is not a monster for having horns and hoofs, but for using them to inflict pain on others.

So what can we expect from Pacific Rim? Evidently, plenty of strong men, big machines and battle scenes, but what of the story behind the visuals. The trailer itself states “In order to fight monsters, we created monsters of our own”. I am confident that Del Toro will present us with many more interpretations of what defines humanity, monstrosity, and immortality, and prove that he can work with any genre of film, and make it his own.

 

 

Jenni Wright

 

Pacific Rim is now showing at the Grosvenor Cinema. Click here to book your tickets.

Fraser McFadzean’s Alternative Movie Posters II

Fraser McFadzean -the Grosvenor Cinema’s very own poster boy- gives us a second installment of his second looks at movie paraphernalia for upcoming talkies which will be coming to the Grosvenor Cinema.

One of Scotland's cult classics. Having very rarely seen the sun, Scots tend to eulogize about seaside holidays without any reference to the fictional nature of Ferness.

One of Scotland’s cult classics. Having very rarely seen the sun, Scots tend to eulogize about seaside holidays without any reference to the fictional nature of Ferness

Anyone who has seen the awesome trailer of 'Man of Steel' will instantly recognize this minimalist take on the flight of  the Man of Steel. The steely blue, matte colours only add to it

Anyone who has seen the awesome trailer of ‘Man of Steel’ will instantly recognize this minimalist take on the flight of the Man of Steel. The steely blue, matte colours only add to it

The movie is about Alan, right? It's always been about Alan. And so Fraser has immortalized this fact with the bearded- wolf himself.

The movie is about Alan, right? It’s always been about Alan. And so Fraser has immortalized this fact with the bearded- wolf himself.

Tom Cruise oozes the Eighties: so does this neon-drenched poster for the Grosvenor Cinema's upcoming 'Cocktails and Dreams' night

Tom Cruise oozes the Eighties: so does this neon-drenched poster for the Grosvenor Cinema’s upcoming ‘Cocktails and Dreams’ night

 

All artwork courtesy of Fraser McFadzean

A Thoroughly Sideways Cheese-Tasting with IJ Mellis

In Sideways Paul Giamatti plays Miles, a struggling author, juggling his job teaching English to high school kids and the emotional void left when the love of his life left him with a broken heart two years previous, does what we would all do in his situation: he turns to the bottle. But what could be construed as borderline alcoholism is in fact a thoroughly middle-class penchant for wine-tasting. As Miles takes his friend and failed actor, Jack (Paul Haden Church), on a wine tasting trip to San Ynez wine country in the week leading up to his marriage the pair share laughs, memories, some of their successes, all of their failures and of course a glass of pinot or two.

sidewyas (2)

The witty dialogue produced in the eponymous novel by Rex Pickett is thrown up onscreen producing a poignant and droll panorama on the lives of people wearied by life but who rejoice in it all the same. When it was released to widespread acclaim in 2004 it picked up 107 awards including the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. 10 years later and like a vintage red, it has aged very well.

Sideways at the Grosvenor Cinema will be accompanied by a wine and cheese tasting, along with mouth-watering canapés in the Grosvenor Café on Wednesday 24 April, which altogether comprise ‘A Thoroughly Sideways Evening’.

The cheese for the evening will be provided by IJ Mellis, Glasgow, the West End’s best artisan cheesemongers. In its twentieth year, Mellis have a rich history of specialising in the maturing, retailing & wholesaling of farmhouse cheeses from Britain & the Continent. With  five cheese shops and one wholesale department with maturing rooms, they offer a wonderful blend of the traditional and modern delivering an unrivalled cheese experience.

Their current manager, James Stuart arrived at Mellis, Glasgow via sojourns in Naples and Sicily. This sturdy, modest man does not claim to be an authority on cheese, nor does he carry the air of a superior when he discusses his products with you. He offered to taste with me a selection of cheeses in the run up to ‘A Thoroughly Sideways Evening’ so that I, at least, will have a better understanding of the true place of cheese in a cheese and wine evening. Given my experience in film, and with wine, I yearned for the rounded completion a crash-course in cheese would bring. And I fancied a few free samples.

As I thought about the cheese tasting I toyed with the question: just how important is the cheese portion (pardon the unintentionally delivered but intentionally retained pun) of a cheese and wine tasting evening is. From my own perspective I often find the cheese-tasting the most interesting part, because the sheer variety of cheese out there means that there are not just taste differences but aesthetic differences, differences in texture, and of course differences in smell, which gives cheese-tasting a highly varied quality which wine doesn’t obviously yield, even it cashes out into an equal- or indeed greater – pleasure principle for those tasting it. But I found myself convinced that while wine tasting spoke for itself, the pleasures of cheese-tasting required a strong voice. So, to James, I turned.

Before we began, James offered a few helpful insights into my conundrum.  ‘Having hosted a few cheese tastings myself in the past I can say that there isn’t as much baggage when it comes to cheese-tasting when compared to wine tasting which I think helps’, he said. ‘and this means people are willing to talk to each other rather than listen to me, and I don’t claim to be an authority on what they’re tasting’. He did however offer some inside tips for cheese-tasting, including crushing the cheese between your finger and thumb. Although it may appear strange there is certainly method in the madness. Crushing the cheese allows the taster to involve as many of the senses as possible and can help to release the aromas of the cheese, to heighten the smelling sensation so crucial to cheese tasting. ‘You can really involve as many of the senses as you like when tasting cheese’, he suggested, ‘although I haven’t quite worked out how to listen to the cheese myself’. He also recommended tasting at room temperature to release the aromas and flavours, provided that the room is not stuffy and sweaty with the heating on full blast. With that I felt thoroughly versed in the dark arts of cheese-tasting and was ready to begin.

So what cheeses should we expect at the Grosvenor’s ‘Thoroughly Sideways Evening’?

chhhhhe

James’s provisional cheese board – which in showing me he seemed hesitant to call it the finished article – was comprised of a heterogeneous bunch of cheeses from places as far away and as different in character as Cashel in Co. Tipperary, the Isle of Mull and Sussex.

James started off with a goat’s cheese from Golden Cross, a small operation specialising in goats’ and sheep’s cheeses based in Sussex. It is interesting that James chose to start with a goat’s cheese. Often used in starters, whipped or in tarts, with balsamic vinegar or with walnuts, goat’s cheese seemed like a poetic, even natural place to start the Grosvenor’s ‘Thoroughly Sideways Evening’.

The Golden Cross has several distinctive characteristics alongside its choice cheese companions. Like a cross –section of a cylinder the rounded goat’s cheese has a bloomy, white rind which contains a dark layer underneath, which, explains James, can give you clues into how the cheese is made. The dark layer is the remnants of ash, traditionally used to help the cheese age in a particular way, but it is also multifunctional, helping to develop a certain type of rind which helps draw out extra moisture to create a slightly drier centre, and lastly it acts as a pesticide.

The texture of the Golden Cross is firmer than more common varieties of goat’s cheese, with a mellow taste holding citrusy, even zesty notes. In the mouth the Golden Cross had a texture akin to praline which James summed up to a tee, describing it as the inside of a Fererro Rocher.

Moving on to the second of the five cheeses, James produced a segment of cheese he revealed was a ‘Berkswell’ from the Ram Hall Farm in the Midlands. James used this cheese as exemplar of modern cheese-making as a craft and, increasingly as a science. The Berskwell is an original cheese which draws upon a range of influences including Caerphilly cheeses and Italian and Spanish pecorino cheeses. A cheese of an orange, dusty hue which made it distinct from a cow’s milk cheese, this sheep’s milk cheese had a dry, grainy and weather-beaten look to it, protected from the elements by its own natural rind, which is scrubbed off when the cheese has matured.

The Berkswell is a real taste explosion, something altogether surprising given its outward appearance. ‘I chose this cheese – a part from it being a personal favourite of mine – because it goes well with a few different types of wine, particularly sweet wines’, revealed James, ‘it has the right amount of fruitiness and tanginess to retain its taste without overpowering the wine it is accompanying – so it will go well on the evening’. His words however came with a warning: do not eat the rind.

Cheese

The third cheese in James’ provisional selection was a French Camembert. A popular cheese with a white, bloomy mould Camembert has found great success in cheese-making, people can come to this cheese with a relative pedigree of knowledge and experience James’ sample was  pale, yellowish, and sporadically golden colour characteristic of cows’ milk with a dry, somewhat chalky centre. So what does the Camembert cheese taste and smell like? James suggested that it smelt of raw mushroom, with a sweet taste that develops with age. He did point out that often it could have hints of cabbage. Personally speaking the Camembert was delicate and delicious and worthy of its popularity.

Next up was an Isle of Mull cheddar. Distinct in character and manufacture than a West Country or a Somerset cheddar and hailing from Mull, this cheddar comes from cows who graze on the lush grass of the Scottish Island and draff, which is the left over grain after fermentation in the whisky making process. This unique grazing process is evident in the distinctive taste of the Mull cheddar. It is deliciously smoky, peaty and musky. But it is known to change in taste, texture and colour over the year. The sample James sampled with me was made from summer milk, giving it a brighter colour given a more savoury experience. For a variety of reasons including hailing from Scotland and its versatility, explained James, the Mull cheddar proves the most popular in I.J. Mellis’s Glasgow store and continues to give Scotland an excellent and worthy reputation among cheeses from the most prestigious cheese-making regions of Europe.

The last cheese was well worth the wait, and was expertly left to finish. Cashel Blue cheese from Co. Tipperary. Cashel looks soft, creamy but with a paste-like consistency peppered by blue specks with veins of blue running down its centre. To taste Cashel is creamy and salty, ans much milder than other blue cheeses that IJ Mellis stock. Its aroma is sweet, suggesting aniseed and cardomom.  This milder flavour gives it a delicacy which makes it the ideal accompaniment for wine, even whisky, because it doesn’t overpower the taster. But in finishing with the Cashel James was keen to stress that all things in the world of cheese are provisional and the line-up for tasting could change as he looked to find interesting and provocative combinations with the wines that will also be used.

My ‘partially Sideways’ experience left me eager and keen to experience James’ cheese being tasted by a wide variety of people, all explaining their own personal thoughts on the cheeses they were tasting. One thing that can be said to the credit of  cheese-tasting is that is an anarchic endeavour, set apart from wine-tasting by its lack of social baggage, by its multifarious nature and by broad range of flavours, smells and textures it can produce. It is an experience to be replicated and relived, with wine surely, but with friends: certainly.

Alan Mahon

IJ Mellis will be providing cheese–tasting at the Grosvenor Café as part of ‘A Thoroughly Sideways Evening’. To book your tickets for the event click here.

‘In the unexcpetional lies the extraordinary’: A Pedro Almodóvar Retrospective

Pedro Almodóvar: A visionary. One of the few Spanish-language filmmakers to have experienced such international acclaim and success, and quite rightly in my opinion. For a man with a wealth of successful film credits to his name, his own production company, and countless awards on his shelves (including an academy award) what is the next step? Having built his name on his distinctive style, inspired by melodrama, pop culture, strong colours and vibrant women, Almodóvar returns to his roots, as he brings us the quick witted, light hearted comedy I’m So Excited (Los Amantes Pasajeros). In the lead up to it’s UK release on May 3rd, we look back over Almodóvar‘s cinematic journey and discover what has made him such a prolific name in contemporary international cinema.

Right from the beginning, with his 1988 breakthrough feature length, Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown (Mujeres al Borde deun Ataque de Nervios), it is clear that Almodóvar has a strong sense of style. The bold colours, sweeping camera movements, and sharp cuts, which have become such staples of his work, are all incorporated in abundance. Yet despite this strong identity of mise en scene, Almodóvar ensures that the themes of the film are accessible to everyone. Ok, so maybe the majority of us have not been a voice over artist who has fallen for a married man, whose wife has spent time in a mental institution, whilst our best friend has been held hostage by terrorists, but we can all relate to the general scenarios. A time when our love life is not going the way we thought. When a friend has been in need of help. Or when we simply have our priorities in the wrong place. Almodóvar’s creative choices, stylistically, and story wise, enable him to take such everyday scenarios and makes them incredible, therefore creating an audience for the unexceptional, wherein lies the extraordinary.

In creating such scenarios from the unremarkable, Almodóvar empowers his characters to be decisive, act upon their situations, and drive the story forward. This type of character is another of his signature characteristics. The strong, decisive, leading lady. It is evident, even from his early works, that the females are the focus, and driving force behind the narratives, such as Pepa from the afore mentioned Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown, and Talk to Her’s Lydia.

It is 2006’s Volver, however, which truly exhibits this, as not only is the film led by the headstrong Raimunda, but she is surrounded by an almost entire cast of unfaltering women. Initially, Raimunda, played by Penelope Cruz, seems uncharacteristically subdued due to the wealth of strong females around her. However, upon the murder of her husband Paco, the only male to impact upon the story (even if he is nothing more than a narrative device), she takes decisive action to do something with her life, changing the course of not only her own life, but everyone’s around her. A sort of ripple effect if you will. Being the leading lady of her family, the absence of Raimunda’s leadership directly impacts the family unit, as her sister, daughter, and eventually mother are forced to take action in their own lives. Which brings us to the final staple of Almodóvar’s work. The importance of the family unit.

Most of Almodóvar’s works are centred around one family, with the storyline being directly affected by the state of that family. This is why we rarely see a complete family unit (or the nuclear family) within his works, as we would only have one simple narrative to follow, lacking in depth, intrigue and suspense. Almodóvar’s 2011 offering The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito) is anything but simple however.

Here, we uncharacteristically follow the story of the man of the family, Antonio Bandaras’ Robert, as he attempts to cope with the loss of his wife and daughter. With the family unit in desolation, the storyline becomes disjointed and non-linear, relying on multiple flashbacks in order divulge the full story. Not a typical narrative technique of Almodóvar, he adapts his stylistic choices in order to suit. The film is stripped of colour, reflecting the tone of the piece, and the usual quick fire dialogue is replaced with long, often uncomfortable silences in the absence of people to converse with. And of course the usual strong, empowered women are missing, causing the world of the man to collapse around him, resulting in his ultimate demise.

With The Skin I Live In taking such a different tact from Almodóvar’s previous works, it will be interesting to see what I’m So Excited will present us with. Whether Almodóvar continues to explore and pursue a new style, or return to ‘tradition’ and his much traversed stylistic identifiers , one thing can be said with prophetic confidence: we can expect a visual spectacle with laughs, some tears, and a great deal of entertainment.

Jenni Wright

I’M SO EXCITED! UK Gala Launch Screening followed by a Satellite Q&A with Pedro Almodóvar Live from Hackney Picturehouse will be hosted by the Grosvenor Cinema on Tuesday 23 April. Tickets for the evening can be purchased here.

almo

 

@BaftaScotland Screening: The Place Beyond the Pines

At what point do an awful series of events begin, and how can they brought to an end? Derek Cianfrance toyed with such questions in his previous feature Blue Valentine – the difficult story of two lovers bound to one another for reasons beyond immediate understanding, despite the intense misery their life together entails. His latest film goes beyond the claustrophobic intensity of a dysfunctional relationship to examine the inevitability of fate and of failed attempts at redemption across a tapestry of tragically connected stories. The Place Beyond the Pines is the story of  a carnival daredevil (Ryan Gosling) whose failed bank robbery leads him to a tragic episode with an idealistic cop (Bradley Cooper), changing the fate of both men, and their families forever.

It is Cianfrance’s genius in Beyond the Pines is to explore, through these intricately and intimately woven stories, the unfolding tragedies that, through human weakness, cannot be confined to a discrete moment in time. As the narrative unfolds the audience is constantly drawn to look closer at the chain of events in perspective, towards the minutiae of the circumstantial and seemingly trivial happenings from the beginning of the movie, that suggest that if things had been different the terrible fate of that befalls the two men – and their sons – could have been avoided.

Ryan Gosling plays Luke Glanton, a  nomadic motorcycle daredevil whose work on the carnival circuit brings him into fleeting contact with Romina Gutierrez (Eva Mendes), with whom he has a son, Jason. The new found knowledge of his paternity drives Luke to attempt to provide for all three; first through employment as a mechanic and then through a series of bank robberies inspired by his employer Robin, played ably by Ben Mendelsohn. The bank robberies themselves provide short, spasmodic scenes of intense, dizzying and nauseating action, the speed of helps to portray the fundamental recklessness and impulsiveness of Gosling’s character.

When taken at face value, Gosling’s part in the narrative of Beyond the Pines chimes familiarly with his role in Drive – a mechanic-cum-bank-robber drawn to care for a mother and her child – an it is tempting to make the equation. Yet the character of Glanton is very different to the Meursault-esque character played by Gosling in Drive. Glanton is sociopathic, talkative and highly emotional young man, whose reasons for caring for the welfare of the mother and child are obvious – somewhat the reverse of Gosling’s part as ‘Driver’, despite their obvious similarities.

Bradley Cooper plays Avery Cross, who enters the film during a stand-off with Glanton. Heralded first as a hero, the  idealistic young police officer becomes entangled in the corruption of his fellow officers, only to emerge as someone unrecognisable from his former self, transformed by guilt.

The story then migrates from one generation to the next, focusing on Jason (Dane De Haan), Glanton’s son and the unhappy circumstances which have become his life given what to him are  the unexplained circumstances of his father’s death. This final transition completes the circle as Avery’s wayward son, AJ (Emory Cohen), befriends Jason after arriving

Cianfrance must be credited for managing to hand the plot, like a terrible burden, from character to character through a series of memorable breaks which serve to enrich rather than punctuate the films storyline. In taking pages from the American cinematic playbook – bank jobs, broken homes, car chases, crooked cops and violence – Cianfrance imbues them with an intense realism that accentuates the film’s gritty, somewhat vulgar feel, putting the human suffering that these things cause at the centre of the story, rather than as a peripheral concern.

The emerging director’s penchant for bringing to the surface the regrettable side of human nature can, at times, make   The Place Beyond the Pines uncomfortable to watch, but this is surely a part of its engrossing effect. Trading on themes of catharsis, responsibility and guilt, fate and inevitablity, as well as  masculinity and the role of a father, Cianfrance manages to make a film that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. With Ryan Gosling recently announcing an indefinite hiatus from acting it places an imperative on his fans to catch the last glimpse of an actor whose direction is far from certain.

Alan Mahon

The Place Beyond The Pines will be released at the Grosvenor Cinema April 12. For ticket information visit www.grosvenorcinema.co.uk

The Pan-Asia Film Festival 2013

The 6th-17th of March was an exciting time for world cinema fans as the Pan-Asia Film Festival ran for it’s fifth year in London. Organised by festival director Sumatro Ghose, the festival features challenging films which reflect the changing nature of Asia from Iran to Japan. Along with bringing films by both established and young directors to the UK for the first time the festival also features events and Q&A’s with directors and the films’ stars.

Twelve films ran spanning a wide spectrum of genres including comedy, drama and even animation with the best chosen from a short-list of six on March 18th as the winner of the festival’s Best Film Award. While most of the action took place in venues across London there were also special satellite screenings which took place in Glasgow, Brighton and Leeds.

The festival opened with the UK première of Gf*Bf by Taiwanese director Ya-Che Yang followed by premières of  Headshot (Dir. Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Thailand), Poor Folk (dir. Midi Z, Burma), Patang (dir. Prashant Bhargava, India),   The Revolutionary (dirs. Irv Drasnin, Don Sellers, Lucy Ostrander, USA) and the Hong Kong Young Filmmakers Shorts Programme in conjunction with the Fresh Wave Film Festival which also included and international discussion via Google Hangouts. The première which eventually went on to win the PAFF Best Film Award though was 111 Girls by Iranian director Nahid Ghobadi.

Aside from premières the festival also featured a screening of Outrage Beyond, the latest work by Japanese director Takeshi Kitano as well as The Reluctant Fundamentalist (dir. Mira Nair, India), Material (dir. Craig Freimond, South Africa), animated feature The King of Pigs (Yeon Sang-ho) and the festival’s first ever late night screening with Tormented 3D by Japanese director Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge).

There were two films shown at the GFT in Glasgow. The first was Gf*Bf which tells the story of a love triangle between rebellious high school friends Aaron, Mabel and Liam. Aaron likes Mabel, Mabel likes Liam but Liam only has eyes for Aaron. The film spans just over a decade which begins in 1985 Taiwan, during a time of martial law, then through to 1990 and ending in 1997 showing how the relationships between the three friends has held up during a time of political unrest.

The second film was Patang which is set in the Indian city of Ahmedabad and gives viewers an insight into India’s largest kite festival. While the festival sets the backdrop of the film, the storyline revolves around a successful Delhi businessman bringing his daughter back to his home town and being forced to face up to the family troubles he left behind. Performances are provided by both professionals and non-actors but both are eclipsed by the bright and colourful cinematography as millions of kites take flight during the day and fireworks light up the sky at night.

 

The Pan-Asia Film Festival seems to have enjoyed a very successful run in 2013 and it will be interesting to see what they have in store next year.

 

Garry MacDonald

5 O’clock(ish) Review: The Paperboy

The Paperboy feels a long time coming. It was released nearly a year ago in the US and received a cool reception at Cannes in 2012. But now here it is, sweat soaked and urine stained.

Nicole Kidman plays Charlotte Bless, a sexually charged ageing blonde with a ‘thing’ for bad men. Her would be lover Hilary (Cusack) is in jail for a murder he may or may not have committed and Charlotte persuades Ward Jansen (McConaughey) to return home with his writing partner Yardley (Oyelowo) and tell the real story. Ward’s younger brother Jack (Efron) acts as driver for the investigation and becomes besotted with Charlotte. Set in Florida during a heat wave and in the age of polyester, it is humid in every sense.

 

As director, Lee Daniels has pulled no punches in amped up action that revels in colour. High angled, bright lit camera work uses the glare of the everglades to great effect in moments of lustful dreaming or loss but elsewhere it feels overdone. The plot and pace jar with each other and as one holds back the other surges forward sloppily. The smaller scenes that require intimacy, notably between Jack and Anita (played by Macy Gray) are better pitched and the story as whole still comes together. Adding to this is the fine wardrobe choices create a cohesive aesthetic and crystalise the standing of each character.

A lot has been said of the “jellyfish scene” (that’s where the urine comes in) but really it is less shocking than the tension surrounding the less than complete de-segregation of the swampy town around it. More eye-popping is the very public conjugal visit between Charlotte and Hilary. Some spectacular violence that doesn’t shy away from guts in the most literal sense weaves in and out, underpinning the visceral nature of the story on a swamp.

Excellent performances all round, and especially Kidman as a woman oozing sex whilst remaining vulnerable. Zac Efron has thoroughly shrugged any Disney overhang lithely lounging as Jack and the McConaughey resurgence continues in fine style.

Some laughs, more shocks, a great story with unexpected turns slightly overblown plus buckets and buckets of fluids.

The Paperboy is now playing in the Grosvenor Cinema. For ticket information visit grosvenorcinema.co.uk

 

Naomi Walmsley