BFI London Film Festival 2021: Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog [2021]★★★★1/2

Deliver my soul from the sword/My darling from the power of the dog” (Psalms, Preface to Thomas Savage’s novel The Power of the Dog (1967)).

The Power of the Dog centres on two very different brothers Phil and George Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons) living on a big ranch in Montana in 1925. If Phil is the very definition of a brutal force and “no-nonsense” attitude, his brother George is more subdued and caring. When George takes notice of a lonely widow Rose (Kirsten Dunst), falls in love her, and moves her and her alienated teenage son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) into Burbanks’ property, the gap between the brothers only grows and soon full psychological warfare is raging. Through the film’s atmosphere alone (including production, camerawork, score and setting), as well as Cumberbatch’s mesmerising-in-its-zealousness performance, The Power of the Dog is a film of uncanny beauty and subtle power, whose biggest asset is the curious interplay of contrasts of all kinds: physical power vs. powers of intellect, kindness vs. ruthlessness, refinement vs. roughness, innocence vs. corruption, hypocrisy vs. honesty, and love vs. hate.

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Cannes Film Festival 2021: Official Competition Selection

This year’s Cannes Film Festival has got to be very different from the others, not least because of the pandemic and its consequence for the film industry. This year, the festival is held from 6 to 17 July 2021, and the Jury of the Main Competition are: Spike Lee, Mylène Farmer, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jessica Hausner, Mélanie Laurent, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Tahar Rahim and Song Kang-ho. It is hard to talk intelligently about individual films (since so few details are yet known about them), let alone try to guess winners, but I have decided to single out just five films out of twenty-four competing entries in the Official Selection and talk about them.

I. The French Dispatch by Wes Anderson

From the director of Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) comes The French Dispatch, “a love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional twentieth century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in “The French Dispatch Magazine” (IMDb). This is not the only film in the festival that blurs reality and fiction, and the cast here is “to die for”: Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan, Benicio del Toro, Léa Seydoux, Timothée Chalamet, Willem Dafoe, Elisabeth Moss and Edward Norton, to name just a few. It promises to be a fun and aesthetically-pleasing cinematic experience that also apparently pays tribute to such French classic films as Mon Oncle (1958) and Le Cercle rouge (1970) (the trailer).

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Cannes Film Festival 2019: Official Competition Selection

Cannes 2019 Poster

A day ago, the Cannes Film Festival unveiled its Official Competition selection, and this post is to comment on some films that were selected to compete in the main category. I will comment on roughly half of them – nine out of nineteen, but that does not mean that others are not great or will not win and become big. This year’s selection is varied (a comedy, a science-fiction film, a war movie, a period drama and a psychological thriller are all competing alongside other drama films), and I am also pleased to see Pedro Almódovar, Terrence Malick, Ken Loach, Dardenne Brothers and Xavier Dolan competing in the same category. The expected name of Quentin Tarantino and his film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was not announced because the film is still, apparently, being edited. The films below are listed in no particular order.

Pain and Glory Poster

I. Pain & Glory by Pedro Almodóvar

This film by Almodóvar stars Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, and is about a film director who “reflects on the choices he’s made in life as past and present come crashing down around him” (IMDb). I love Almodóvar, but he has not been too even in quality regarding his latest films – though I thought The Skin I Live In (2011) was great, his film I’m So Excited! (2013) was misguided. It is nice to see Almodóvar pairing again with his muse – Penélope Cruz, and something tells me this movie could be good since the director again is in the territory of drama. The trailer certainly looks both artful and moving, and perhaps comparisons will be drawn with Federico Fellini’s 8/12 (1963). 

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BFI London Film Festival 2018: Peter Strickland’s In Fabric

In Fabric [2018] – ★★★ in fabric poster

👗 A critique of consumerism and employment culture invades a ghost story, and with the 1970s aesthetics, and enough eccentricities and humour, culminates in a very unusual viewing experience.

Peter Strickland is known for such unusual and, in some way, “brave” films as Berberian Sound Studio (2012) and The Duke of Burgundy (2014). In In Fabric, he takes his boldness and unconventionality to a whole new level and crafts a film which is an eerie ghost story involving a dress on the one hand, and a critique of consumerism with much humour, weirdness and some shock thrown into it, on the other. Can horror and comedy, and a consumerism critique and a ghost premise be fused together successfully? Strickland thinks they can, and, probably, only he can pull off such a mix of premises without a film becoming a disaster. The story here is that a woman, Sheila, stumbles upon a gorgeous, silky red dress, without realising that it is possessed by a ghost of a woman who modelled it before. Sheila goes on a blind date wearing the dress, but also develops a strange rash after wearing it. Then, the ghostly dress ends up in the hands of a mechanic and his girlfriend, while also having evil intentions. In the meantime, in the department store that sold the dress, strange, shocking rituals take place, with sales assistants, knowing the power of the dress only too well, now wanting it back. The plot may sound a bit ludicrous and not everything works out in this film, and what become memorable are the film’s aesthetics, music, colour, feel of the 1970s decade, recalling Italian giallo movies, as well as strange humour.

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BFI London Film Festival 2017

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Yesterday was the last day of the BFI London Film Festival 2017, which ran between 4-15 October 2017, and I thought I would comment on the Best Film Award winner, on some other nominees, as well as on some of the films that took part in various special galas. The films of the Festival reflected today’s global challenges, while also emphasising various nations’ peculiar traditions and highlighting personal stories behind broader themes.

I. Official Competition – Best Film Award: 

Winner – Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev)

Coming from Andrey Zvyagintsev, the man behind such critically-acclaimed films as Leviathan (2014) and The Return (2003), Loveless is another well-made film about a couple who lose their son during difficult time of divorce. Loveless has already made commotion (in a very positive sense) at the Cannes Film Festival, and all points to a drama which as emotionally devastating as it is thought-provoking. 

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