Moonlight (2017 dir. Barry Jenkins)

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Image result for Moonlight film posterIf I told you that this film was about a gay man from the Miami housing projects, his drug addicted mother and his friendship with a local drug dealer what would you expect? Dark imagery, gratuitous scenes of sex, drug abuse and violence?  Probably. However this film is not typical or is it stereotypical of the people it depicts. Instead it is a beautifully shot, delicate, very thoughtful and thought provoking look at sexuality, masculinity and the moments that shape us.

Based on the semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin Mccraney it explores the coming of age of Chiron in three acts as he progresses towards adulthood. His mother, played by Naomi Harris, is addicted to crack and through this neglect he meets and befriends local drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali). Chiron is an outsider, he is chased by local boys in the film’s opening and viciously bullied as a teenager and although he grows into a muscled adult who can defend himself he is vulnerable throughout.

The most explicit scene in this film is between a man and a women yet the film explores gay masculinity and sexuality. It does this through inference, using gesture codes and sound in a way which is sensitive and sincere.

The cinematography in Moonlight is beautiful. The frames are filled with colour and light which reminds the audience that this story unfolds in sunny Miami and the shot types and angles capture the characters’ emotions, vulnerability and point of view.

I went to see the film at the Ritzy in Brixton with my sister, who, as I am, is full of praise for this artistic piece of moving image. After the film there was a Q & A with the director Barry Jenkins, who says that he was given full artistic freedom on the film, and playwright Tarell Alvin Mccraney. Here is an extract from the discussion.

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La La Land (2016 dir. Damien Chazelle)

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With 14 Oscar nominations, La La Land is a triumphant musical  about Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist, and aspiring actress, Mia (Emma Stone). The story line focuses on the changing states of their relationship while they seek out their dreams in Hollywood.

Both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have received much praise for their performances and it is well deserved. Ryan Gosling is utterly charming as the dexterous Sebastian and his tender looks draw the audience in closer and create empathy.

I loved this film, the colours, the characters and the chemistry between the leads but the best thing about La La Land, much as I expected, is Justin Hurwitz‘s musical score, holding the narrative together, keeping the film’s pace and making the audience relate to and revisit the protagonists’ journey.

 

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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Shame (2011 dir Steve McQueen)

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Sandra’s Verdict 

There are a lot of bits in this film and I’m not talking about the narrative, in fact within the first 2 minutes of the film we get to see a completely nude Michael Fassbender and shortly after it is Carey Mulligan’s turn as McQueen introduces the strangely sexual relationship between the on-screen siblings.

Shame is a tense and emotionally charged British drama set in New York which portrays a few days in the life of the sex obsessed and emotionally dysfunctional professional Brandon Sullivan who can sleep with multiple prostitutes but not with women who he fancies. Cissy (Mulligan) and Brandon both seem to have a very odd relationship to sex and it is suggested, although not developed, that this may be due to a childhood of abuse.

The film contains a lot of graphic scenes designed to cause discomfort and pity for the main characters as they continuously press the self-destruct button.

This is an affecting film that shocks you initially but then draws you in. By the end of the film you are no longer repulsed but instead empathise with the unbalanced characters.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2 thoughts)

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Andy’s Verdict

So another visit to the Coronet Cinema and the magic of the small screen showcase that tonight is a cult classic. The film, Martha Marcy May Marlene starts off like a classic docu drama of a runaway cult member but quickly becomes a rather emotional and tense drama that is unsettling and nervous. We witness the psychological damage of  a young innocent wanderer retold through memories and dreams that intensify and affect her waking moments. Even in the safe surroundings of what would be an idyllic get away villa her mind remains trapped in the cult. An affecting film with themes of manipulation, loss, anger, and paranoia.