ALISTAIR Harkness reviews the week’s cinema releases
Evil Dead (18)
Directed by: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Elizabeth Blackmore
* * *
THE trouble with remaking The Evil Dead is that Sam Raimi’s original low-budget video nasty was bursting with so much gonzo energy, the screen barely seemed able to contain it. Attempting, therefore, to wrestle what made it special – the “ram-cam” POV shots, the punky attitude, the DIY aesthetic, the goofy acting – into a modestly budgeted studio flick that tries to make sense of the story can’t help but take some of the edge off it.
Which isn’t to say that first-time director Fede Alvarez (hand-picked by Raimi) skimps on the gore. Indeed, if anything, he’s ratcheted up the gut-spilling, limb-lopping mayhem – particularly in the final third, when all the kitchen implements, car accessories and power tools telegraphed in the earlier parts of the film are put to uses for which they were never designed. But in simultaneously trying to play it straight by having its twentysomething protagonists retreat to the iconic cabin in order to help one of their friends kick their drug addiction, the film attempts to provide grounded motivations that don’t quite square up with the fact that idiotic horror movie behaviour (of the sort expertly skewered by The Cabin in the Woods) is still required to unleash hell.
Directed by: Mathieu Kassovitz
Starring: Mathieu Kassovitz, Iabe Lapacas, Sylvie Testud
* * * *
LA HAINE director Mathieu Kassovitz sets his sights on France’s colonial legacy in this complex, intermittently gripping political drama. Inspired by the real-life hostage situation that erupted when a group of separatist rebels in the French South Pacific territory of New Caledonia seized 30 gendarmes in 1988, the film details the ways in which the looming French presidential elections resulted in a disastrous hard-line response that escalated a violent situation rather than containing it.
Taking the lead as Philippe Legorjus, hostage negotiator for France’s elite police unit, the CIGN, Kassovitz begins the movie at the end and rewinds the action to show how Legorjus’s efforts to bring about a peaceful solution were doomed by political intransigence, even after winning the trust of rebel leader Alphonse Dianou (Iabe Lapacas).
As a filmmaker, Kassovitz is impassioned and full of righteous indignation about what went wrong and he does a good job of humanising the rebels and depicting their plight in terms that are understandable without being too reductive.
His blank turn as Legorjus misses the mark a little but this remains an admirably serious effort, one that rewards patience and illuminates a small but important issue.
Love is All You Need (15)
Directed by: Susanne Bier
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Trine Dryholm, Kim Bodnia, Paprika Steen
* * *
AFTER a run of heavy going melodramas – culminating in the 2010 Foreign Language Oscar-winner In A Better World – Danish director Susanne Bier (Brothers, After the Wedding, Things We Lost in the Fire) resorts to an ultra-lightweight piece of fluff with Love is All You Need. Revolving around a wedding in Italy in which the widowed father of the groom and the shy, put-upon mother of the bride gradually fall for each other, it barely bothers concealing the schematic nature of the plot: from the moment cancer-surviving hairdresser Ida (Trine Dryholm) accidentally crashes into emotionally reserved businessman Philip (Pierce Brosnan) en route to the airport, Cupid pretty much has their respective hearts in his sights.
Unfurling against the backdrop of Italy’s shimmering Amalfi coast, the ensuing wedding-related chaos only drives them closer together, particularly as Ida’s cheating husband (Kim Bodnia, from TV’s The Bridge) shows up with his younger girlfriend, and Philip’s overbearing sister-in-law (Paprika Steen) puts the moves on him for what we sense is the umpteenth time. As with nearly all of her films, Bier deals mostly in stereotypes and clunky ironies here, and yet she still manages to inject it with enough feeling to make it palatable.
Me and You (15)
Directed by: Bernardo Bertolucci
Starring: Jacopo Olmo Antinori, Tea Falco
* * *
BERNARDO Bertolucci’s first film since 2003’s The Dreamers (and his first Italian-language film in nearly 30 years) may not represent the Oscar-winning maestro behind The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris and The Last Emperor at the peak of his powers, but it does showcase his ongoing ability to wring drama out of characters trapped by their physical surroundings and psychological insecurities.
It’s the story of an anti-social 14-year-old called Lorenzo who bunks off from a school ski trip in order to hide out for a week in the basement of his family’s apartment building. Spending the money for the trip on supplies and enjoying a chance to retreat further into his own head away from his worried mother and the psychiatrist he’s obliged to see, he’s horrified when his 25-year-old junky step-sister Olivia (Tea Falco) shows up looking for a place to stay as she goes cold turkey. Destroying the tranquility of his self-imposed exile from the world, what follows is a slight, but energetic two-hander about the travails of youth and the need to engage with the world even when it feels as if everything in it is against you.
BAFTA Shorts (15)
Directors: Lynne Ramsay, Kriss Kelly, Fyzal Boulifa, Johnny Barrington, Eamonn O’Neil, Will Anderson, Muriel d’Ansembourg
* * *
THOUGH this selection of some of the live-action and animated short films nominated for the 2013 Baftas is ultimately a bit of a mixed bag, there’s some undeniable talent shining through. The animated films are the most striking. Will Anderson and former Fame Academy contestant Ainslie Henderson’s The Making of Longbird is an amusing and imaginative mock-doc account of an animator entering into a vexed relationship with one of his creations. Eamon O’Neill’s I’m Fine Thanks, meanwhile, provides a short, sharp and disturbing animated portrait of an angry young man dealing with depression. Then there’s Kris Kelly’s Here to Fall, an explosive, anime-influenced tale of a young girl running through a collapsing world.
The live action shorts are less uniformly interesting, although Tumult, Johnny Barrington’s Scottish-set tale of a group of ancient warriors who have an unexpected encounter in the wilds of the Highlands, is built around a great, well-executed gag and Fyzal Boulifa’s Moroccan-set The Curse deals with complex issues (bullying, gender inequality) in a convincing way, and gets strong performances from its young cast.
Muriel D’Ansembourg’s Good Night, however, struggles to sustain its tale of two 14-year-old girls experimenting with the darker side of adulthood, and Lynne Ramsay’s Olympics-inspired Swimmer is typically beautiful and poetic but not all that engaging.