In Fabric (2018)
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 not to want to have it back. The plot may sound a bit ludicrous and not everything works there, but it is the film’s aesthetics, music and colour, its feel of the 1970s decade, recalling Italian giallo movies, and its strange humour which all work best.
To follow from my Rome-location film list which I made last April, here is the list of 10 films that showcase the delightful City of Light – Paris, a permanent place for romance, charm, elegance and sophistication. As usual, this is a subjective, in no particular order, slightly “off the beaten path” films list.
I. Amelie (2001)
This romantic comedy, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Delicatessen” (1991)) and starring Audrey Tautou and Mathieu Kassovitz, could be described as the very definition of whimsical Paris. The film is set around Montmartre, a place that once nurtured great writers and painters, and is about a shy waitress, Amélie Poulain, who is seemingly on the mission to better the lives of those around her. Set in Montmartre, naturally, the film features the Basilica du Sacre-Coeur, and Café des Deux Moulins (15 rue Lepic) where Amélie works. However, the film also displays such sights as the distinctive staircase leading to the Métro Lamarck-Caulaincourt as well as the Pont des Arts.
II. Breathless (1961)
A “New Wave” film-critic-turned-director Jean-Luc Godard produced in 1960 his directional debut “À Bout de Souffle” or “Breathless“, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg as Michel Poiccard and Patricia Franchini respectively, and what a debut it turned out to be! Breaking from previous confined film traditions, “Breathless” is a thriller and a love story in one package, showcasing such famous landmarks of Paris as Avenue des Champs-Élysées, l’Arc de Triomphe, and the Notre-Dame de Paris, while action also takes place around Avenues Mac-Mahon and George V (George V Métro station) and the Boulevard Saint-Germain. The final tense scenes take place not far from the Boulevard du Montparnasse – Rue Campagne Première.
Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing” has the recipe to become one of a kind movie – thought-provoking, funny and engaging. In the film, Paul and Audrey Safranek (Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig) are a couple who decide to undergo a revolutionary “downsizing” procedure to become four inches’ tall people and, from then on, not only instant millionaires, but also the ones contributing to making environment better by reducing their carbon footprint. This fascinating concept and such stars as Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz and Kristen Wiig all promise a cerebral, astute social satire. What “Downsizing” ends up being? A disappointment. Strangely deviating from its own fascinating concept of small people, the second half of the film shouts bewildering environmental and political messages befitting more a climate or migration documentary, rather than a quality comedy/science-fiction film.
“Cleese’s work [here] is even better than anything he did for the Monty Python troupe. Yes, it’s that good.” (John J. Puccio, Movie Metropolis)
Debbie at Moon in Gemini is hosting The Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon, and my entry is a British TV series from the 1970s called “Fawlty Towers“. Written by John Cleese (“Monty Python’s Life of Brian” (1979)), and Connie Booth, the series has twelve episodes only, with six aired in 1975 and another six in 1979. The series spent some time winning over its critics, despite the love from the audience, but, it is safe to say now that “Fawlty Towers” is a pure classic of the British comedy genre, and is still enjoyed by generations old and young. The series is extremely funny, witty, ingeniously written and staged, and hugely entertaining overall. It will provide anyone not overly familiar with the British humour and mode of life with a real glimpse into the culture. However, that glimpse should never be taken totally serious, because comedy is comedy, and the series will play on some familiar stereotypes and misconceptions, as well as contain some dark humour, including some “shocking” punchlines.
La La Land (2016)
Universally acclaimed, “La La Land” is the kind of a film which could melt the most cynical and toughest of critics. As romantic as it is visually stunning, the main charm of the film lies in its simplicity: a guy, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), and a girl, Mia (Emma Stone) both dream of professional success in Hollywood, and first find true happiness in each others’ arms before the practical realities of their chosen star professions separate them. With an uncomplicated plot and an absolutely stunning soundtrack, “La La Land” has all the appeal of an old musical, while keeping things interesting and original with notes of modern music, the showcasing of modern technologies and with the demonstrations of a competitive side of today’s Hollywood business. In “La La Land”, Damien Chazelle (director) shows that, in the 21st century, it is still possible not only to make a financially successful old-school musical-comedy, but also to produce a real gem of a movie capable of leaving the audience breathless with its heart strings’ pulling and sheer inventiveness.
Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)
– “Was everyone laughing at me the whole time?” (Florence)
– “I was never laughing at you.” (St. Clair)
Directed by Stephen Frears (“The Queen” (2006) & “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988)), “Florence Foster Jenkins” is a comedy based on a true story of Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep), a New York socialite whose desire to be a well-known opera singer greatly surpassed her natural abilities. Unaware that she has a very poor singing voice and hearing, Madame Florence Foster Jenkins embarks on the career of a professional opera singer, hiring a talented young pianist Cosmé McMoon (Simon Helberg), and relying for encouragement on her devoted “common-law” husband St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant). Knowing how much music matters to his partner, St. Clair manages to keep the appearances of Florence having vocal potentials often enough, or maybe until the time Florence gives a thousand tickets to soldiers to come and hear her live at the Carnegie Hall, a large prestigious music venue in the centre of New York. “Florence Foster Jenkins” is the kind of a movie one is happy to have watched: it is funny in its individual scenes, and melancholic and moving in its overall presentation; Meryl Streep’s Florence is breath-taking, and Hugh Grant gives the performance of his career.