Five Inspiring First Watches of July

A few words on a few things that have inspired me in July…

 

Face PlacesAgnes Varda

Came out in… 2017

Watched on… Netflix

The first of two Agnes Varda films on this list, and truly a beautiful movie.  I will talk of my affection for Agnes later in this piece, for now, let’s focus on the film.  It is a categorically French documentary, blending soft reality techniques with staged narrative-driven set pieces, guiding us through small-town France meeting the people that actually live in this world.  Agnes and co-creator JR paste large photos on walls, building an adorable relationship, touching on aging, fame, art and the oh so sweet simple life that I am eternally jealous of.  The film is on Netflix, a French stroke of genius, that is incredibly watchable and universal right there waiting for everyone.

 

The Elephant Man

Came out in… 1980

Watched on… Mubi

I have had a level of trepidation about watching The Elephant Man for a while, mostly out of fear, and films don’t scare me easily, but David Lynch does.  He is one of my favourite filmmakers, because of his attitude to the process and the allure of his personality rather than his actual output, so why was The Elephant Man so intimidating to me?  Perhaps due to the image of the disfigured man, that everyone has seen, or the inevitable dull melodrama that a story like this brings.  I was wrong on the second point, and in the end this film might be Lynch’s greatest achievement as an artist, pragmatically at least.  He took the predictable tale of an abused misfit taken in, cared for, and transformed, and made it into a magical experience that is as strange as it is uplifting.  Legendary film critic Pauline Kael praised the film because Lynch created something marvellous from a zilch script, and of course I agree, however I would not recommend watching this at 10am on a Tuesday, it was a teary morning.

Midsommar

New release in cinemas

I wrote a full review of this here, so I’ll keep it brief.  The film is a fishless aquarium, with a breathing ecosystem waiting for it.  Sign me up.  Take your well-rounded characters and structured plot and throw it away, give me the green plant wrapping around the throat of the unsuspecting audience.

The Edge

New release

Rented on… Amazon, also available on YouTube, iTunes and Google Play

It’s very hard to write this without being incredibly biased.  This documentary is about the 2009-2013 England cricket team, a side that was the best in the world for a short time, a side that gave a lot of their life away to get there.  If you are a cricket fan, you will enjoy the film, because it highlights what makes the game special.  I love cricket, and I love that particular era of English cricket even more, so obviously I was gripped throughout.  However, there is space for the non-cricket fan, with the film focusing on the mental toll that the sport takes on a player, showing what it takes to achieve greatness.  Director Barney Douglas does a good job of presenting the mind games and struggles that many of that team went through by going away from archive footage to shoot staged scenes with the actual players.  The film leaves a lot out, and it’s tight in its execution, working for the uninitiated as well as the fanatic.

Varda by Agnes

New release in cinemas

Also available to rent on the BFI Player

agnes varda 2

Started with Agnes, and now finishing with her, as she ends her career by creating a retrospective of her own work.  The film is basically the legendary director talking to crowds about her output over the years, and the process, whilst she plays around a little.  What is instantly striking is her genius as a filmmaker, someone who was always messing with the form, trying a new thing with each film.  She is an artist who makes me happy and now that she is gone, this film will stay as a reminder for how wonderful she and her work was.  The sweetest parts of the film are when she talks of her late husband, another French filmmaking hero, Jacques Demy, a man who after decades is still the most important thing to her.  Her friendships and collaborations are also striking, showing that human interaction and love will never be beaten by a camera lens or the relentless passing of time.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Death of a Gentleman – Film Review

death-of-a-gentleman3

Before writing this I had to decide which blog to publish it on.  The cricket one I have that has maybe one tiny post, or this one?  I went with this one simply because I have picked up some steam with this site and also, well, it is a review of some kind.

The dilemma is that this film comes down to subject matter rather than stylistic substance, and that subject matter is cricket.  It’s a documentary about one of sport’s ‘biggest scandals’, except it’s revealed early on that this scandal is basically how world cricket is administrated and run.  As cricket is a major part of my life, I was deeply interested by this.  The well-being of cricket for me feels like an ill relative and if you’re clued up with any of the details you’ll understand it’s pretty much a terminally ill relative.

Being directed by two maverick cricket journos (Jarrod Kimber & Sam Collins), it takes a critical approach to the subject.  What follows is an investigation into things such as ICC (International Cricket Council) corruption, the problems with the IPL (Indian Premier League) and the the death of test cricket.  It is set up with interviews of the heads of cricket, and they really poke the tiger with some of them,  If you are unaware of these people, the discoveries may come across as shocking, though the whole topic is very non nonchalantly looked upon in the cricket world.  To back all this up, they elevate the film with Australian cricketer Ed Cowan, in a sort of fairy-tale story of success and failure.  For me, these were the strongest parts of the film as the love of the game really shines through.  And this is what the film does well; becoming a fond reminder of cricket at ground level, rather than of the corporate world.

As a documentary, the film portrays it’s story clearly in 99 minutes, however the problem arises from the subject.  It only works if you know cricket and have a admiration for the game, otherwise the film loses pace.  You could find yourself counting down the minutes to the end of the film if another jargon filled interview began to bore you.  A good way to describe it would be a corruption film filled with metaphors.  I guess this is what the film is about though; a real problem right under the eyes of the cricket world but no-one can see it, or choose to be ignorant to it.

Despite all of this, I consider the film to be of great importance and if their was a cricket school, this should be shown first.  It should be aimed at the heads of the bastards that are ruining cricket, and viewed as education for those in the dark about these issues.

 

[This is one of those that I could spend hours mulling over and possibly write a 3000 word essay about, but watching the film is all you will need. It’s on Netflix.]