LFF review: David Lynch – The Art Life

David Lynch – The Art Life (dirs. Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, and Olivia Neergaard-Holm, 2016) ★★★★


Before David Lynch was a filmmaker, he was a struggling painter, whose lifeblood was to “drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, and paint.” That’s what he dubbed “the art life,” and what an image – as featured in the many contemporary photos seen in this new documentary – it is, the bequiffed 20-something Lynch sitting back in his Philadelphia studio, composing transgressive abstract artwork. Bookmarked by footage of Lynch working on his latest paintings in his Hollywood Hills penthouse, the wonderful new documentary David Lynch: The Art Life showcases the artistic developments of one of America’s most singular directors.

The review continues at The Film Stage

LFF review: Mifune – The Last Samurai

Mifune: The Last Samurai (dir. Steven Okazaki, 2016) ★★★


This well-assembled documentary on the life of actor Toshirô Mifune, the long-time Akira Kurosawa collaborator, should be a worthy introduction to one of Japanese cinema’s greatest icons, if a little light on more revelatory findings. With a softly-spoken narration by Keanu Reeves and talking heads from the likes of Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, as well as the sons of both Mifune and Kurosawa, Mifune offers a personal and professional tribute to an actor who reinvented the hero for a post-World War II age.

For more of this review, go to The Film Stage

#Cannes review: Spartacus & Cassandra

Spartacus & Cassandra (dir. Ioanis Nuguet, 2014) 

Spartacus & Cassandra

A real gem hidden deep in the Cannes’ ACID sidebar, Spartacus & Cassandra follows two Roma children in France coming to terms with the fact that their parents – and their living situation – may not have their best interests at heart. At four years old Spartacus was begging on the streets. At five he started school. At seven he moved from Romania to France. At eight, he was stealing car radios, and at ten he was escaping from a hostel for disadvantaged kids. At the age of thirteen, when we meet the young energetic scamp for the first time, French authorities are deciding whether to put him and his sister Cassandra into care, away from his friends and family but perhaps to a brighter future.

The rest of the review is up on CineVue

#Venice2013: Round-up Time!

Moebius (dir. Kim Ki-Duk) 
The Canyons
(dir. Paul Schrader) 
The Armstrong Lie
(dir. Alex Gibney) 
Tom at the Farm (Tom à la Ferme)
(dir. Xavier Dolan) 


Ooh ‘eck, we’re only a couple of days from the end of 2013′s festival, and since I’m not going to get the chance to review everything in full before I’m back, have a gander through some of the other films I’ve taken a chance on.

Last year’s Golden Lion winner Pieta is released this week in the UK, but already director Kim Ki-Duk has revealed his newest ultra-violent mindfuck at Venice, Moebius.

It was briefly banned earlier this year in South Korea for being too extreme, and from the opening frames, you’ll be getting to know the brace position. We’ve got castration, rape, incest – it’s all there – but remarkably it’s actually rather funny. With no dialogue but full of rounded, emotional characters, it’s clearly directed by someone who knows what he’s doing, threading discordant notes about the male psyche around an orgy of deliously violent images. It’s definitely a wild ride that’s not recommended for anyone except the most hardy, but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded.

More madness comes in Paul Schrader’s The Canyons a spiteful erotic thriller-cum-Hollywood satire that comes across more as a way to leer over Lindsay Lohan’s dying career.

The acting is poor across the board, including porn actor James Deen as Lohan’s boyfriend, a vile, sex-pest movie producer, who’d be laughably ridiculous as a character if Brett Easton Ellis’ dreadful script hadn’t reduced the movie to po-faced characters and stuck as a b-movie without ridiculous artistic pretensions.

But most of the pity should remain for director Schrader, who made such touchstone American movies as American Gigolo and Cat People, but has descended to this dreck at the twilight of his career.

On the other hand Lance Armstrong’s career is already consigned to the waste heap, hopefully as a footnote to the sport of cycling that has been drained of credibility since revelations of his doping were confirmed.

Alex Gibney’s documenatry The Armstrong Lie takes its title from a 2005 L’Equipe headline “La Mensonge Armstrong”, which alleged the cyclist had taken EPO in 1999. It’s findings have now, of course, been vindicated.

Armstrong Lie

Gibney began filming Armstrong in 2008, as he was about to make his comeback to the sport for 2009 Tour de France after seven wins between 1999-2005. But when the doping accusations hit in 2012, that film was shelved. Gibney’s documentary shown follows closely that 2009 tour, a insightful, although certainly not extensive, look at Armstrong’s remorseless, vicious drive to win, and his even more intense desire not to lose.

It’s a snappy, entertaining documentary that will enlighten newcomers to the story but leaves little new to report for those already initiated. It doesn’t have the jaw-dropping news value of Gibney’s Enron film, nor the harrowing must-be-told story of 2007′s Taxi to the Dark Side, and I felt Gibney wasn’t angry enough at Armstrong. All that the director gives us that’s new is a recent, post-confession sit-down interview where Armstrong is allowed to give his polished, media-prepped narrative that we can see through, but aren’t give to chance confront.

In Tom at the Farm, confrontation is the name of the game. The fourth film by 24-year-old Xavier Dolan, something of a wunderkind in arthouse filmmaking, is a meditation on queer themes, unsurfaced masculinity, all wrapped in a thriller set on a rural Quebecois farm.

Dolan is Tom, visiting the funeral of his lover Guillaume. When he arrives, he discovers that Guillaume’s mother hasn’t heard of him, nor does he even know her son was gay, and Guillaume’s violent brother Francis wants to keep it that way.

It’s primary pleasure is in the sheer unexpectedness of the film, which twists and turns deliciously as Tom’s relationship with Francis starts to develop in mysterious ways. I wondered whether its depiction of homosexual repression was painted too broadly (“gay self-loating” as the Hollywood Reporter put it), but it’s otherwise a taught, Hitchcockian domestic thriller that reminded me, in content if not form, of Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen.

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