“The Handmaid’s Tale” Series Review

Handmaid's Tale Poster The Handmaid’s Tale (2017) 

“There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.” (Atwood, 1985:34) 

Humanity is so adaptable, my mother would say. Truly amazing what people can get used to as long as there are a few compensations.” (Atwood, 1985:283) 

The 2017 dystopian web TV series is based on an award -winning novel of the same name written by Margaret Atwood in 1985. It is about a young woman, Offred, who recounts her time living under the totalitarian regime of Gilead, where women have few rights and their main function is to reproduce in a controlled environment. Pronounced “a TV sensation” overnight, “The Handmaid’s Tale” had 10 episodes (although there is still Season II to come!), and starred such recognisable names as Elisabeth Moss (“The Square” (2017)) and Joseph Fiennes (“Shakespeare in Love” (1998)). I will review the series paying special attention to its faithfulness to the original novel and to the philosophical ideas behind the story.       

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“La La Land” Review

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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.

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“Elle” Review

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Elle (2016)

**SPOILER ALERT**

A Dutch director known for “Basic Instinct” (1992) and “Total Recall” (1990), Paul Verhoeven, has produced his first French-language film to date – “Elle”, based on a novel by Philippe Dijan (who is also known as a book writer behind “Betty Blue” (1986)). “Elle” has already competed for a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival 2016, and deals with a very sensitive topic of a rape perpetuated on a successful businesswoman Michele Leblanc, whose complex relationship with her family and the deeply-seated psychological childhood trauma lead her to have an unconventional response to the attack. This film is as disturbing as it is engrossing, and, overall, proves to be a very satisfying experience, thanks to the outstanding performance by Isabelle Huppert (“The Piano Teacher” (2001)) and to the masterful (though also confusing) mix of a psychological thriller, a Hitchcockian detective story and French black humour.        

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Previews: “Carol”, “Experimenter” and “By the Sea”

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Carol (2015)

Story: Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith “The Price of Salt“, “Carol” is a romantic drama set in the 1950s in New York. It is about a young department-store clerk, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), and her “forbidden” relationship with a much older affluent woman, Carol (Cate Blanchett), who goes through a bitter divorce.

Director: Todd Haynes.

Leads: Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

Analysis: The film has to be outstanding regarding its directing and acting merits. “Carol” competed for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival 2015, where Mara won the Best Actress Award (shared), and the film also topped the Golden Globe nominations. Highsmith’s novels enjoyed quite a success on screen, for example, both Anthony Minghella’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999) and Hossein Amini’s “The Two Faces of January” (2014) were reviewed positively by critics; and the in-depth exploration of same-sex relationships on screen is becoming quite a trend, for example, see “Blue is the Warmest Color” (2013) and “Clouds of Sils Maria” (2014). Overall,  no fault found so far.

Conclusion: Carol” promises to be a touching film, full of inexplicable emotion and depth. A definite must-watch.

Predicted score: 10/10 Continue reading “Previews: “Carol”, “Experimenter” and “By the Sea””