Paradise: Love (2012 dir. Ulrich Seidl)

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Paradise: Love is a quirky black comedy set in modern-day Kenya. It is part of Seidl’s Paradise trilogy which features films Paradise: Faith and Paradise: Hope.

It is the final instalment and follows 50-year-old Teresa, a lonely over weight and stressed out Austrian, who goes to Kenya to meet up with a friend. Locally her friend is known as a “sugar mama” which basically means a kind of sex tourist, picking up young black Kenyan men for sex in exchange for money and expensive gifts, she boasts about buying her lover a motorbike as an investment toward her sex life and later buys a dancer to perform at Teresa’s birthday gathering with the intention of having sex with him.

At first Teresa is subdued, shy and giggly. Although intrigued by the Kenyan men she is uncertain about picking them up and literally runs away from her first sexual encounter.

At times the film is awkward as Teresa and friends talk about all the Kenyan hotel workers looking the same. The women objectify the Kenyan men referring to them as wild and exotic. During the story Teresa becomes less and less innocent as do the men she picks up.

Paradise: Love is a brave film which is both harsh and tender with an excellent performance by Margarethe Tiesel.

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An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (UK release 2014 dir. Terence Nance)

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Sandra’s Verdict

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is the debut film of young African-American filmmaker Terence Nance. The experimental film is semi-animated and difficult to place into a genre, it is a drama, a romance and as it claims ‘educational’, and although described as non-fiction often extends into ‘what if’ fantasy scenarios.

The film explores Terence’s feelings after his beautiful friend, and object of his desire, Namik Minter, calls to cancel plans she had made to visit his apartment one night in 2006. The narrator explains that the film is really two films, one about his feelings that night called How would you feel? made in 2006 and the other made much later after Terence shows his film to Minter called An Oversimplification of Her Beauty.

As well as exploring his feelings for Minter, Terence also recalls numerous past loves through animation, photography and film; all the while with his own academic narration.

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is an ambitious and refreshing film that will not be to everyone’s taste due to the narrative and artistic risks it takes. However I enjoyed it and would definitely see it again for its honesty and the beautiful images it paints and would urge you to give it a go. I think Nance is a refreshing new talent and cannot wait to see what he will create next.

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12 Years A Slave (2014 dir. Steve McQueen)

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Sandra’s Verdict

British director Steve McQueen does an excellent job adapting Solomon Northup’s 1853 biographical book 12 Years A Slave about his own experience when he was kidnapped and sold into slavery and sent to New Orleans. Northup, born a free man, lived in New York with his wife and two children, as an accomplished violinist he made his income playing society balls and as a carpenter, but was tricked by two white men and enticed to follow them to Washington to join a fictitious circus, whilst there they got him drunk, destroyed his identification documents and sold him to slave traders under the name of a southern slave called Platt Hamilton.

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s depiction of the conflicted Northup is captivating and heartbreaking as you see him forced to act against his conscience and I expect that he will be nominated for the Best Actor award at the Oscars in March. Likewise I expect Lupita Nyong’o to pick up the Rising Star BAFTA for her portrayal of the brutalised Patsey, the object of slavemaster Epp’s molestations. Fassbender, a McQueen favourite, is on form, as usual, as the cruel alcoholic Epps and Cumberbatch is equally good as the more forgiving but by no means less culpable Ford.

12 Years A Slave is the first Hollywood film to follow a slave narrative and I hope it has paved the way for more to follow. It is an absolute ‘must see’ for the insights, truths and contradictions that it presents. It would be a fully deserving winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture.

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Something Wild (1961 dir. Jack Garfen)

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Sandra’s Verdict

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I attended a small screening of Something Wild with the director, Jack Garfen, at the Renoir in Bloomsbury last week and was fortunate enough to listen to him introduce the film and be able to question him about the film’s themes and depictions after the feature.

Carroll Baker, Garfen’s wife at the time of filming, plays the 17-year-old protagonist Mary Anne in this formerly banned film with delicacy and agression. Although her character is raped early on in the film she remains immaculate and sophisticated (not a hair out-of-place) as she then goes through poverty, self-destruction and captivity. Having kept ‘what has happened’ a secret she leaves her parental home and prematurely moves into the adult world of Manhattan’s rougher quarter. During the course of the film she seems to tumble-down a rabbit hole, marching, floating and stumbling, she passes through various locations without finding peace and leads herself to the edge of Manhattan Bridge where she is pulled, ‘saved’ and captured by Mike (Ralph Meeker).

We are then taken through a series of scenes where Mike having failed to win her over with milk, bread and steak keeps her locked in his one-roomed basement flat. After a series of fracases, during which Mary Ann kicks out at her strangle holds and Mike attempts to show his admiration, though flawed and dependent, she is finally to reach an equilibrium again via Broadway and Central Park. It is unfortunate then that she returns to Mike’s needy embrace.

The craftsmanship of Something Wild is excellent from the script to set design to lighting. Nevertheless I could not understand why after being freed Mary Ann would return to wed her captor and I posed this question to Garfen at the end of the screening. Garfen of course defended his ending and talked of the praise that the film had got from some feminists because of the strong female protagonist. His interviewer pointed out that feminists, who argued that she was not truly liberated because she returned to her captor and thus suffered Stockholm syndrome, were missing the point.

The film according to Garfen dealt with a lot of issues that were in his subconscious at the time of making it, such as his having survived a Dachau concentration camp in Nazi Germany whilst his Jewish family were killed, his relationships and his emigration to New York. Garfen identied with Mary Ann having also been in captivity and consequentially unable to accept love from the women he had been involved with. This is an interesting comparison but I think it is important to accept that although Garfen attempts to give the film a romantic ending with Mary Ann being married and reunited with her mother, this seems hurried and unconvincing as she seems to have resolved everything over the course of a few months.

I enjoyed this film and accept that in its context it was a challenging film for audiences to watch; however I cannot help but feel disappointed by the backtracking at the end. I would have preferred it if May Ann had liberated herself and moved forward toward an alternative future rather than meet the expectations of marriage, children, and bondage.