It is time to draw the curtains on Mondo Movies following the death of my beloved Bruce, hiding forever. À bientôt.
The world’s most charming and cine-literate cat died in my arms at 1120 today following a very short illness. Gilbert was the light of my life and accompanied me everywhere, including my travels on the internet to which he was a keen contributor and editor via this diary. I thought of a lot of things but not this. Now he is on the wild road with his brothers and sister. Vaya con Dios, amigo. You are the best of everything and Mondo Movies and I will not be right without you.
We had already liked Kirstie Alley in Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan when she showed up in the addictive historical TV mini-series North and South and then she only went and became mega as insecure Rebecca Howe on the beloved and ingenious comedy show Cheers. Then came multiplex fame with the Look Who’s Talking trilogy co-starring with her great friend John Travolta. From the beginning she was feisty, funny, multitalented. And that hair!! She’s still our favourite Gloria Steinem, a role she played in A Bunny’s Tale. She was a household name who devised, wrote and executive produced many of her own TV movies and shows and frequently riffed on her own persona with Veronica’s Closet, Big Life, Fat Actress and Kirstie, somehow mastering that art of performing both comedic and dramatic roles and making reality TV work for her – Oprah Winfrey built her a kitchen! – all the while shooting hit movies like Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry and cult pageant comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous. She managed to turn her weight issues into TV gold and won over a new generation of fans by showing up in Celebrity Big Brother and Dancing With the Stars. She won awards but mostly she won our hearts. Kirstie Alley was fabulous.
Are you trying to seduce me? New York City, 1998. Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) is a young American housewife feeling neglected, abused and left sexually frustrated by her workaholic psychiatrist husband William (Richard Boyle). She is comforted by the love story of England’s lost king Edward VIII and his lover and wife Wallis Simpson. Wally travels to Sotheby’s auction of the Windsor estate which showcases items used by Wallis and Edward in their lifetime and evokes their relationship. In 1930, Edward (James D’Arcy) throws a party at his new home at Fort Belvedere in Windsor Great Park where he meets Wallis (Andrea Riseborough) through their mutual friend, his mistress Thelma, Lady Furness (Katie McGrath). They are attracted to each other despite Wallis’ marriage to Ernest Simpson (David Harbour) and they eventually become lovers when Lady Furness travels to the USA and extends her three-month stay by one month, featuring in the gossip columns because of a liaison with Aly Khan. At Sotheby’s Wally is interrupted by a Russian guard, Evgeni (Oscar Isaac) who is interested in her. Edward and Wallis continue their affair while touring arond Europe, where he gives her jewels and adopts the initials W.E. By the end of 1934, Edward is now obsessed with Wallis. He introduces her to his parents King George V (James Fox) and Queen Mary (Judy Parfitt) but she is disliked and criticised by Edward’s sister-in-law Elizabeth (Natalie Dormer). Now distraught at the difficult situation, Wallis wants to end their relationship but Edward pacifies her and it continues. In New York, William refuses to conceive a child with Wally so she turns to IVF. She finds herself attracted to Evgeni and they go out on a date. Wally asks Evgeni about Edward and Wallis’ story and she ponders her own unsatisfying relationship with William. After attending the auction and spending ten thousand dollars, Wally returns home to a drunken William and they fight violently, leaving her injured.The National Government of Great Britain refuses to recognise Edward and Wallis’ relationship because she is a divorcée. On 11th December 1936, Edward announces by radio to the nation and the Empire that he is abdicating the throne in favour of his brother King George VI, called Bertie (Laurence Fox): I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King, as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love. Wallis, who has fled to Villa Lou Viei near Cannes hears the speech and reconciles with Edward … Attractive, my dear, is a polite way of saying a woman’s made the most of what she’s got. Written with her former documentary collaborator Alek Keshishian and directed by Madonna, this casts two of the most exciting actresses of recent times in a story that entwines both women’s stories with contrasting and affecting passions. Told from the perspective of a modern if diffident woman herself in a marital trap and excited by the lure of a new relationship, this positions the controversial Thirties story in the benign light of romantic drama. Wally’s obsession with Wallis and the King is endearing and nicely structured, suggesting a variation of Wallis’ early abusive marriage in this present day New York situation alongside Wally’s dawning knowledge that the controversial pair’s relationship and the circumstances of their exile are far from the fairy tale they at first appear. The parallels of the women’s lives, their childlessness, the way men respond to them, all these factors create echoes that reverberate down the years. Told through the objects that Wally finds at Sotheby’s, twisting incidents from the past into the present and vice versa, this is – if we may – a very female way of storytelling, as though emotions and sensations can be transmitted through time. Riseborough captures the strangeness of Simpson as she ages from 28 to 70, her understanding of her limitations. her triumph in using style to overcome her looks, her reaction to incarceration as an international parasite. Cornish has a less obvious role, the neglected wife whose desire for an escape within an unsatisfying and potentially violent union requires the safety valve of romance – anyone’s, Wallis’, perhaps her own – to survive. They provide a fantasy mirror for each other. A word too for D’Arcy, persuasive as the immensely charismatic folk legend whose legendary promiscuity led to his downfall when he couldn’t control his obsession with this sexual sophisticate. It’s immensely appealing if not always logical or true to what is now known about what lies outside the personal of these historical transgressors including the reality of the former King’s treasonous conduct, namely his close engagement with the Nazi regime. That is a very different story but this is beautifully made and performed with such succinct intelligence and the costumes by Arianne Phillips are simply to die for. Tonight, I love the whole pathetic, glorious, ridiculous world… and you, my darling, most of all and more than ever
The Critics’ List:
1. Jeanne Dielman (1975)
The late Chantal Akerman’s 1975 cult classic has topped the once-a-decade poll, toppling Vertigo (hanging in there at number 2) and joining Bicycle Thieves and Citizen Kane (at number 3) in the vaunted position as voted by critics, curators, academics, archivists and programmers. At three hours and twenty-one minutes this formalist account of three days in the life of a widowed housewife performing her repetitive domestic chores before going to her other job as a prostitute to support her teenage son and killing a client is a feminist classic and a challenging watch. It’s the first time a film directed by a woman made the top ten. Food for thought.
2. Vertigo (1958)
3. Citizen Kane (1941)
4. Tokyo Story (1953)
5. In the Mood for Love (2000)
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
7. Beau Travail (1999)
8. Mulholland Drive (2001)
9. Man With a Movie Camera (1929)
10. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
The Directors’ List:
The list differs this time round with Tokyo Story toppled and falling to fourth place, with Citizen Kane the previous poll-winner relegated to second. Nobody can argue with their first choice, can they? Or perhaps feverish debate is the point.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
2. Citizen Kane (1941)
3. The Godfather (1972)
4. Tokyo Story (1953)
4. Jeanne Dielman (1975)
6. Vertigo (1958)
6. 8 1/2 (1963)
8. Mirror (1975)
9. Persona (1966)
9. In the Mood for Love (2000)
9. Close-Up (1989)
I am not annoying and I’m pro choice. Matt (Ed Helms) is a forty-something successful app developer, and is interviewing Anna (Patti Harrison) a twenty-something who works at a coffee shop, to become his surrogate. Matt wants to become a father without getting married and Anna wants to get into college and get her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, which requires money. During the first trimester Dr Andrews (Rosalind Chao) tells Matt and Anna that everything is going well, which makes Matt very happy. He asks Anna to go to dinner with him as a celebration, to which she agrees. Afterwards, Matt tells his brother Jacob (Timm Sharp) and his parents Adele (Nora Dunn) and Marty (Fred Melamed) about the pregnancy; his mother seems very unhappy with his decision. At dinner, Matt and Anna talk about pro-life and pro-choice life philosophies and how nervous they are in making conversation with each other. While ordering dinner, Matt makes a weird, annoying sound when Anna chooses to order potato over salad, saying it is not good for the baby, as what she eats the baby eats. He orders pasta with bacon. After the waitress (Vivian Gil) leaves, Anna says that she matters only for the next nine months but he matters for next 18+ years, so he should also be eating healthy food. Matt agrees and asks why she didn’t made a weird sound and she says it’s because she is not annoying. They attend a therapy session together, where Matt tells their couples analyst Madeline (Tig Notaro) that he is very excited and wants to share the pregnancy news with everybody; he is surprised at Anna saying she is not going to tell anyone. Coming out of therapy, Matt asks if she wants a bite of candy and tells her that he once went to couple’s therapy with his ex, and after coming outside they would hold hands and eat candy. At the coffee shop, Matt brings special pregnancy tea and clogs for Anna. She takes the tea, but says that she doesn’t need the clogs. Her co-worker Jules (Julio Torres) is mystified. Matt takes the clogs to Anna’s house, where he meets a guy Anna has just hooked up with. He;s upset as she didn’t mention having a boyfriend and he thinks it’s not safe for the baby. They go to the hospital, where Anna makes it clear that he cannot stop her from having sex for a whole year and it is safe as many married women have sex while they are pregnant, which the technician Jean (Sufe Bradshaw) confirms is correct and she asks if they want to hear the heartbeat. Matt is very happy to listening to it. At their next therapy session, Matt says that it was very exciting and he wants to hear that sound all the time, while Anna says that it was nice to see Matt so happy. Madeline asks them if they are having any conflicts other than the clogs, and they share Matt’s concern over Anna having sex. The therapist tries to clear any doubt, but Matt remains sceptical. During the second trimester, Anna tells Matt that she is going to use the money to get into an accelerated degree program so she can complete her bachelor’s and master’s degrees within three and a half years. Matt shows her the to-be nursery, and she helps him pick a color for the nursery, which she enjoys. They appear to have found common ground after finding their mutual surrogacy therapy groups offer conflicting advice. They have a deep conversation about how they have both found themselves alone. They start hanging out more and decide that they should use a gender-neutral name to refer to the baby until they get to know the birth gender, settling on ‘Lamp.’ At the mall, shopping for maternity wear, Anna meets her sister’s friend and lies that she works in the store because she doesn’t want her sister or her parents to know that she is pregnant, as they would get mad at her, like they did the first time round. Then Matt asks Anna to move in with him until the baby is born … Have there been any conflicts that have come up – aside from the clogs? That’s what therapist Notaro asks this odd couple as they try to keep to boundaries that are constantly shifting according to their own perceptions and the expectations of everyone around them – from co-workers to their equally awful families to a bemused obs technician (an hilariously deadpan Bradshaw) to appalling ante-natal class instructors. Writer/director Nikole Beckwith steers this very well observed pregnancy and parenting scenario in very funny directions without mocking either the situation or the people whose opinions almost drown the protagonists with negative energy and inappropriate comments as the weird rules of etiquette concerning relationship around surrogacy are made up on the spot and navigated to both parties’ satisfaction. At the centre of this are two startlingly realistic and empathetic performers. Matt’s sheer joy at the prospect of fatherhood and his all-in desire to share everything the charming Anna experiences makes this totally human as they get to know each other bit by bit and watch the entire box set of Friends, trimester by trimester: she of course has never seen it because he is the pop culture nerd and she is decades his junior. This is a delightful comedy of modern manners. I never pictured us being friends
I don’t like heroes. During World War Two newly promoted Major Geoffrey Stringer (Jose Ferrer) of the Royal Marines devises a novel idea for a raid. By using collapsible canoes he thinks it is possible for a group of commandos to reach enemy-held Bordeaux harbour undetected and blow up ships with limpet mines. He is given command of a small group of volunteers. However, he clashes with his veteran second-in-command, the cynical, by-the-book Captain Hugh Thompson (Trevor Howard) who is old school and whose entire career has been in the service. The two officers represent the clash of cultures in the Royal Marines in the Second World War and the postwar period: Stringer is the enthusiastic promoter of commando operations requiring daring and initiative but lacks experience leading men or operations; whereas Thompson represents the old guard of the traditional ship’s detachments. Sergeant Craig (Victor Maddern) trains the men following Stringer’s directions however Thompson disapproves of the commander’s lax methods. When a test mission ends disastrously Stringer is forced to admit his mistakes and he turns to Thompson, who soon whips the marines into shape. Marine George Ruddock (David Lodge) goes AWOL due to marital problems. Thompson gets to Ruddock’s wife (Beatrice Campbell) first and finds her with her civilian lover (John Blythe) but leaves when they insult him. He goes to the local pub for a drink where he finds Ruddock. Thompson gives him enough time to beat up his wife’s paramour then they return to camp together.The raid is launched by submarine in HMS Tuna under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Greaves (Christopher Lee). The commandos are lowered into the sea close to the mouth of the Gironde river in their Cockle Mk II collapsible canoes as Greaves resubmerges and HMS Tuna disappears … Who does he think he is? The 1950s was the key era for British war films and while we might see some as redressing or revising history others are pretty straightforward celebrations of heroism and this men on a mission movie falls into that category. Directed by star Ferrer, it has two movements: the first half sees him in conflict with Howard until that goes wrong with missteps and out of control men; with a night club song acting as a bridge, the second half regroups the team and after some false starts ultimately undertakes what amounts to a suicide mission. Adapted from George Kent’s 1951 Reader’s Digest story (based on Operation Frankton) by Bryan Forbes and then rewritten by Richard Maibaum, the rivalry between the wise career man and the blow-in opportunist structures the dramatic tension; while the repercussions among the men – their resistance, their lack of teamwork and some frank (for the time) explorations of their domestic difficulties featuring a startling scene with Dora Bryan as a prostitute – stymies Stringer’s attempts to get things going. You don’t begin to understand your men. The mission is fantastically well put together and accurately depicted but of course the conclusion is not fun for anyone bar the Germans. Among a familiar cast – including Anthony Newley, Percy Herbert and Peter Arne – it’s fun to spot Sam Kydd driving a fish truck and Sydney Tafler as a policeman. Walter Fitzgerald and Karel Stepanek turn out for the Gestapo. Your men give the impression of being an ill-disciplined rabble. And they’ll never get to Bordeaux that way.This is wonderfully presented in CinemaScope (a first for an independent British film) and shot by John Wilcox in Southsea, Hampshire; North Woolwich; and Portugal. It was one of a number of projects from Warwick Film Productions including The Red Beret aka Paratrooper (also co-written by Maibaum) which followed a similar formula for producer Cubby Broccoli who would of course deploy the services of the same Maibaum to a certain James Bond franchise in the following decade. Several scenes featuring Howard were reshot behind Ferrer’s back (mainly by co-producer Irwin Allen and attended by Forbes who would later direct many films) along with the insertion of some comic episodes that undoubtedly contributed to box office success – with the result that Ferrer left the production. I’ve never seen such an appalling exhibition in my life
Is this lines or is it real? 1973, California’s San Fernando Valley. Precocious 15-year-old actor Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) meets Alana Kane (Alana Haim) a 25-year-old photography assistant plagued with self-doubt, at his school picture day for the yearbook. She rebuffs his advances but they strike up a friendship. When Gary’s mother Anita (Mary Elizabeth Ellis) cannot chaperone him on a press tour performance in New York, he invites Alana. She begins dating his co-star Lance Brannigan (Skyler Gisondo) making Gary jealous, but they break up after he says he is an atheist during a Shabbat dinner conversation with her Jewish family (played by Haim’s sisters and parents). Gary begins selling waterbeds after coming across one at a wig shop and reconnects with Alana at a teenage trade expo, lowering the price and devising a clever ad campaign. He is suddenly arrested by LAPD officers when he is mistaken for a murder suspect and Alana runs after him to the police station but he is soon released. She joins his waterbed business, acting seductively on the phone to land a potential customer. After introducing Alana to his talent agent, Gary is upset that she is open to nudity but refuses to show him her breasts. Alana impulsively does so, but slaps him when he asks to touch them. They open a ‘Fat Bernie’s’ storefront for their waterbeds and Alana is hurt when Gary flirts with his classmate Sue Pomerantz (Isabelle Kusman) later making out with her in the back room. Jealous Alana peeks in on them before kissing a complete stranger on the street and storming off home in her bikini at dead of night to her father’s dismay. Gary’s agent Mary Grady (Harriet Sansom Harris) gets Alana an audition for a film starring veteran actor Jack Holden (Sean Penn) who brings her to the Tail of the Cock restaurant, where Gary and his friends are also dining. An inebriated Alana makes Gary jealous and Holden’s friend, film director Rex Blau (Tom Waits) convinces him to recreate one of his motorcycle stunts on a nearby golf course, bringing the entire restaurant along. Alana topples off the bike as Holden jumps over a flaming sand trap, and Gary runs to her side. Again reconciled, they walk to the waterbed store, where Gary stops himself from touching a sleeping Alana’s breast. The oil embargo crisis sweeps the country, forcing the waterbed manufacturer to close. Alana, Gary and his friends make one final delivery to the home of Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper) where Peters humiliates Gary while on his way to visit his girlfriend Barbra Streisand, threatening to strangle his brother if Gary damages the house. Setting up the waterbed, Gary intentionally leaves the hose running while filling the waterbed in the master bedroom, with Alana’s approval. They drive away but are waved down by an agitated Peters, whose car has run out of gas. Driving him home to retrieve a gas canister, they take him to a crowded gas station but leave him behind after he violently commandeers a gas pump. Gary stops to smash Peters’s car but they run out of gas as well. Alana maneuvers the truck backwards down a long hill to a gas station, impressing Gary but causing Alana to question her recent decisions and leading her to volunteer for Councillor Joel Wachs (Benny Safdie) in his mayoral campaign … Fuck teenagers! At first glance this seems like an inconsequential, woozy, even narcotising view of early Seventies suburban Los Angeles, or Encino, to be precise. There’s a lot of driving, running, being free in the San Fernando Valley. Then its true intention reveals itself, bit by bit. It’s no accident that Cooper’s scene-stealing sequence as celebrity hairdresser turned movie producer Jon Peters is the hilarious midpoint in a narrative about social climbing and entrepreneurialism: it’s a reference to Shampoo which had a similar pussy-chasing longhaired dude with a fancy motorbike but whose ambitions were not as easily achieved. But then George Roundy wasn’t sleeping with Barbra Streisand. And this sequence has a great payoff. It’s the oil crisis and Nixon is on the TV again, so that film is also being plugged as a form of socipolitical comment emerges from the cracks with Taxi Driver bumper stickered when Alana does a Cybill Shepherd (for one of the Safdie brothers, no less). And with the absurd New York show that proves to be a last hurrah we’re reminded of the great pageant satire Smile made by director Michael Ritchie. Gary is an ageing child actor on the skids at 15 with all kinds of ideas as to where his life will take him with an enterprising mom serving as his main template for hustles. This isn’t just an age-gap romance then (naturally, we think of Harold and Maude) amid all the carefully adumbrated scenes – the characters effectively change roles. Alana gets lucky in an audition and dines out with a famous and crazy alcoholic actor (based on William Holden) who doesn’t give an eff even when she falls off his motorbike; Gary winds up being wrongly arrested by the notorious LAPD and running a pinball emporium, forever cheerfully turning his hand to whatever works. They literally meet cute at the conclusion outside a movie theatre where Live and Let Die and The Mechanic are playing on a double bill. And they crash into each other. Some things are just meant to be. You’ve got to hand it to auteur Paul Thomas Anderson – he just went and smuggled a message into a film that is as relaxed and apparently lazy and as far removed from the prissy, awful, controlled and unappealing Phantom Thread as it is possible to get. It feels like we’ve got Stockholm Syndrome as we fall captive to something that falls over us as delicately yet determinedly as Silly String in this cunningly created episodic structure. It’s a poem to the era in LA, from the title (a chain of record stores), to the portrait of Jerry Frick (John Michael Higgins) who opened the Mikado Hotel and Restaurant and it returns to one of Anderson’s themes – what becomes of the Former Child Star, something he dramatised with William H. Macy in Magnolia. Here Gary is the avatar for Gary Goetzman whose story is liberally borrowed. Goetzman has long been a Hollywood player and is Tom Hanks’ producing partner so this is literally a Valentine to the possibility of spirited reinvention of the self in a time of chronic failure and political mistakes. There are those ethnic references which people dislike – and regular allusions to Haim’s Jewish look: but then recall why there was an oil embargo – America’s support of Israel. And waterbeds need oil for their manufacture so this is a carefully woven dramatic economy. With Leonardo DiCaprio’s counterculture dad George selling those waterbeds; Christine Ebersole riffing on Lucille Ball; and Destry Allyn Spielberg as one of those girls who just seem to hang around everywhere, all the time, this has fun with its movie mosaic. It’s like what Umberto Eco said about books, except here it’s a film speaking of other films and filmmakers and even director Benny Safdie plays the ambitious politico. Comic performer Maya Rudolph graces her director husband’s set in a small role; while the character of talent agent Mary Grady is based on the real-life agent whose son Don was a Disney Mouseketeer and daughter Lani starred in Eight is Enough before her tragic demise. Debuting actress Haim (a family friend of Anderson) and young Hoffman are unexpected delights. In a weird retrofitting nostalgic way we’re trying to figure out where the late Hoffman Sr. sits in the landscape that a few years later is the subject of the preternaturally gifted Anderson’s masterpiece Boogie Nights, as we can easily imagine his heavyset son figuring out that porn is the way to go a few years before that is set and in the same milieu. Shot by the director and Michael Bauman on 35mm, this feels just right. We’re crazy for the music too, from Bowie to McCartney and The Doors to Seals and Crofts in a score by Jonny Greenwood. Do you dig it? Do you love it?
Aka An Cailin Ciuin. Which one is she? Rural Ireland, Summer 1981. Nine-year-old Cáit (Catherine Clinch) is one of many children, living with her impoverished and neglectful parents in the southeast. Cáit’s mother (Kate Ni Chanaonaigh) is pregnant again and is fed up of her daughter whom they call The Wanderer for constantly running out of the school where she is bullied., Her parents decide to send their quiet daughter away to live with the mother’s middle-aged distant cousin Eibhlín Cinnsealach (Carrie Crowley) and her husband Seán (Andrew Bennett). Her feckless drunken father (Michael Patric) drives her there and the contrast with her own dysfunctional household is obvious. Eibhlín immediately welcomes Cáit into the Cinnsealach home, a well-appointed but old-fashioned farmhouse. Cáit arrived without luggage because her father drove home with it. Eibhlín places her in a spare bedroom and initially dresses her with boys’ clothes left in the wardrobe. Eibhlin shows the child love, brushing her hair, talking to her,and teaching her how to do chores around the house and outside on the farm. She also shows Cáit a freshwater well on the property, claiming that the water has healing powers but warns her that the well is deep and to be very careful if she is ever retrieving water. She later buys Cáit new girls’ clothes but only on Sean’s insistence, apparently unwilling to leave the house. Seán, on the other hand, is withdrawn and initially acts coldly towards this supposed foster daughter. One day when Eibhlín is away, Cáit accompanies Seán to the far side of the farm where he cleanings the cow sheds. While he is occupied, Cáit wanders off. Once Seán notices that she’s gone he panics and searches for her all over the property. After locating her, he scolds her and orders her to never wander off again. Frightened by this sudden bout of anger, Cáit runs back to the house. Seán eventually expresses remorse and begins to make a real effort to bond with Cáit. She slowly opens up to her foster father and the two become much closer, with a quiet coded way of communicating with each other. When they attend a neighbour’s wake, Cáit’s first, she becomes restless. Eibhlín and Seán comfort their friends. A gossipy neighbour (Carolyn Bracken) offers to look after her for a couple of hours. Eibhlín hesitates but agrees. While the woman and Cáit walk together to the woman’s house, the woman reveals that the Cinnsealachs had a young son who drowned in the family slurry pit years before Cáit’s arrival and that they’ve obviously been making her wear the dead boy’s clothes for the past month. When the Cinnsealachs collect Cáit from the woman’s house, they notice the girl is withdrawn and ask what was said. Cáit tells them the truth, which quietly upsets the older couple, but they do not deny the story. Several weeks into her stay, Cáit’s mother has given birth and has requested for the Cinnsealachs to return Cáit in time for the start of the school year … Strange things happen sometimes. The most successful Irish-language feature to date, this adaptation of the novella Foster by Claire Keegan tells its apparently simple story in masterful fashion. An air of fatalism hangs over it, with its beautiful framing, instinctive perspective of an unworldly, neglected yet sensitive little girl and its complete rebuttal of sentimentality. This is a child who might have taken too much or might be just clever enough to say as little as possible while observing the surrounding chaos and abuse. Many’s the person missed the opportunity to say nothing. Delicately played, this hides a reservoir of feeling in every gesture and scene. They say misery loves company but it is in the home of people who have truly loved their late son that this silent and withdrawn child finds something akin to humanity. Little things matter. There is significance in every move, every word. Casual carelessness or unintentional oversights can have tragic outcomes as the foster parents sadly know. The contrasting behaviour, attitudes, actions and tells of the adults in the child’s life reveal a chasm of morality and decency. Lyrical, compassionate and quietly devastating, this is wonderfully shot by Kate McCullough with every frame a painterly gem and the production design by Emma Lowney is pitch perfect. Written and directed by debut feature filmmaker Colm Bairead who makes every silent still a camouflaged scream. Daddy
Is this a man comfortable in his skin or does he plan for greater things? Chicago, 1956. Leonard Burling (Mark Rylance) is an English cutter who runs a custom tailor shop in a neighborhood controlled by Irish-American gangster Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale). Roy’s son and second-in-command, Richie (Dylan O’Brien) and his chief enforcer Francis (Johnny Flynn) use Leonard’s shop to stash dirty money. Leonard tolerates this arrangement as the Boyles and their men are his best customers. Leonard also shares a complicated relationship with his shop receptionist Mable (Zoey Deutsch) who, unbeknownst to Leonard, is also Richie’s girlfriend. Mable has no interest in Leonard’s trade and ownership of the store: she wants to travel the world. One night, Francis shows up at the shop with Richie, who’s been shot in the belly after a confrontation with the rival LaFontaine family, a black criminal organisation. Foorced at gunpoint to treat Richie’s wounds and sew him up, Leonard then has to hide a briefcase containing a copy of an FBI wiretap recording with detailed information on the crew’s operations, which was provided by the so-called Outfit, a nationwide syndicate founded by Al Capone that protects criminal groups from the law. Francis gets in touch with Roy and leaves, leaving Leonard and Richie alone. The two men start to bond and Leonard takes advantage of Richie’s naivety to convince him that Francis is an informant and plans to hand the tape over to the FBI. When Francis returns, Leonard intercepts him, claiming that Richie is light-headed and delusional from blood loss. Richie then threatens Francis, who kill hims in self-defence. He and Leonard then hide Richie’s body just as Roy arrives with his bodyguard Monk (Alan Mehdizadeh). Leonard and Francis lie, telling him that Richie left the store on his own; Francis volunteers to go find him. However, Roy notices his son’s coat in the store’s backroom and threatens Leonard, demanding the truth. Francis then returns with Mable in tow, claiming that he found Richie’s blood in her apartment. When Roy orders his men to torture her for information, Leonard distracts him by revealing the reason why he came to Chicago: his wife and daughter were both killed in a fire at his former tailor shop and home on London’s Saville Row. When the shop’s phone rings, Leonard answers it and tells Roy that Richie is still alive and waiting for him…. A man has a choice in his world how he uses his tools. Screenwriter Graham (The Imitation Game) Moore makes his directing debut with what is effectively a stage play – shot in one studio set this is a constantly surprising rattling good yarn that belongs in the theatre and reminds us of what Hitchcock said – you buy a property for its structure and don’t mess with it, a quote that comes to mind when we think of this in relation to Dial M for Murder and look at the great poster (above, our favourite of those available) with its canny reference stet. Like a well-made suit, this is a well-made play and for once perhaps renowned stage performer Rylance is well cast: we don’t particularly care for him and whenever the late Hilary Mantel was asked what she thought of the TV adaptation of Wolf Hall in which he starred as Thomas Cromwell she appeared to swerve to the theatre production in which she was heavily invested and which starred Ben Miles. We get it. That small face, the winsomeness, the weirdly deliberate and fey vocal delivery. We cannot stand it and even our regular attempts to re-view the otherwise wonderful Bridge of Spies come to naught when he appears. I want so bad to be good. The title’s meaning eventually unrolls via regular as clockwork (every ten-minutes) plot shifts and twists so that we figure out this cutter (not a tailor, who just hems trousers and stitches buttons, as Rylance tells us sniffily) has a life that conjoins the two – clothing and gangs. This isn’t his first time at the rodeo, turns out. Flynn excels as his vicious nemesis and when he says to Leonard, Welcome to the family, we wince. Deutsch has fun as part daughter figure, part femme fatale. When another theatre great, Russell Beale shows up we want to laugh but he’s an Irish transplant and scary with it. I’m the rat. The spiralling tension escalates at minute 60 when Roy recognises Richie’s coat, minute 70 when the telephone rings, and so forth, so that all the screenplay beats are hit as the true character of Leonard is undressed, layer by layer and the narrative thread unspools. It may not be cinema but its action is all by design, after all and with Zac Posen doing the costumes it has a certain fascination for fashion fans. Written by the director with Johnathan McClain who plays an FBI agent. He cares about what he does and that’s why he’s the best at it
Don’t try to exorcise your demons – use them. Made with the active participation of the actor’s three sons Jared, Damian and Jamie, all of whom are in the business of show, this is a frustrating account that leaves the titular subject rather out of reach, his shade still haunting the film dedicated to his story. And what a story – years later when helpfully bringing an NBC crew around his childhood home town of Limerick he directed them to a broken down cottage miles out of the city, where he said he had been brought up. Sadly for him they had done their research, turned the car around and escorted him to the fine red brick Victorian villa where his wealthy milling family had actually resided with their household staff. Richard Harris was always telling stories. What does he have to be to be a successful actor? This features mostly Irish interviewees including producer Lelia Doolan who recalled going to Kilkee every summer with the players from University College Dublin’s DramSoc where Harris fancied a bit of acting himself when he saw them doing their thing, while he himself was taking a break from his life as a star rugby player from his school on his family’s annual holidays. Doolan says they all thought he was useless on stage. Did you ever know Dickie Harris? Two years later he was a star with the Royal Court in London and she found herself interviewing the rugger player once known as Dickie for RTE a few years later again. How that leap was made is never quite clear. He often said the greatest part he ever played was Richard Harris. Much of the audio of Harris himself which narrates the film is from interviews he did with his biographer Joe Jackson (briefly featured) but according to Jared in print accounts, his lies in that account are easily unpicked. So Harris didn’t even come clean to his own biographer. Here it’s admitted that when he took on the role of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series it was for his beloved granddaughter (who appears with her own newborn, the great-grandchild he would never meet) and on the red carpet at the premiere for the first of the two films he made, he told waiting journalists she had threatened never to speak to him again if he didn’t because she so loved the J.K. Rowling books. She happily tells the story of that night and cheerfully says Harris made it up on the spot because he knew all the cameras would lap it up: he knew how to get and keep an audience. (And he also took on the role because doing Gandalf in New Zealand would take him away from London at the Millennium – that’s how we discover Ian McKellen was second choice for the role in the Tolkien trilogy). Living well is being free. Framed around a search through a lock-up containing Harris’ belongings, an emotional hunt for his offspring, son Jared also takes up brief residence in London’s Savoy, where Harris maintained a suite for twenty-eight years. The man who might have made the Munster squad were it not for a bout of TB appropriately ended up making a splash onscreen with This Sporting Life and his manipulation of director Lindsay Anderson due to the late director’s infatuation with him is described. He went to Hollywood for Major Dundee but what isn’t mentioned is that his numerous affairs in that period led to the breakup of his marriage to Elizabeth, the mother of his children. Co-star Vanessa Redgrave recalls why she took the role opposite Harris in the screen version of Camelot and hints she was rather in love with him – what she doesn’t mention is her set relationship with her other co-star Franco Nero and their son, and eventual (recent) marriage. Harris’ swerve into a singing career features an interview with songwriter Jimmy Webb, his MacArthur Park collaborator, a young prodigy who tells of the end of their friendship when Harris discovered just how much Webb was earning – they never spoke again, which clearly upsets Webb to this day. In fact Harris had amassed great wealth from canny investment in the stage production of Camelot, not that it’s mentioned here. It was a wild time. He marked his divorce from Elizabeth with a lost weekend tour of Europe, accompanied by a photographer whose daily dispatches to newspapers contributed to the star’s hellraising image. His acting was dangerous – physically so, according to Stephen Rea who was intimidated by him on Trojan Eddie in a scene excerpted in a documentary which doesn’t examine enough of his screen performances and certainly doesn’t analyse them in the manner expected of a career retrospective. Who was Richard Harris? That’s the question that this doesn’t get around to answering, content with too many talking heads without a proper anchoring perspective – it seems everyone knew a different facet of the man and that extends to his sons who all have different perceptions of him, frequently dropping into their lives for the first half of a football match at their respective boarding schools and disappearing back to London in his limousine. Actor, singer, writer, rugby player, father and husband – he was married twice and remained friends with both Elizabeth and his second wife, the model and actress (and co-star) Ann Turkel, another situation elided here – Harris was many people. Authentically masculine. Authentically sentimental. Authentically a storyteller. This received negative reviews at the Venice Film Festival and director Adrian Sibley went back to the edit room and apparently inserted more of the usual about Harris – his rabble rousing, drinking and cocaine taking – but it still doesn’t seem quite right, its subject not quite in focus, elusive ever after. I’ve lived every minute of my life