ALISTAIR Harkness delivers his verdict on the rest of this week’s big screen releases
Sound of My Voice (15)
Directed by: Zal Batmanglij
Starring: Brit Marling, Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius, Davenia McFadden
MUCH like she did with Another Earth, up-and-coming American actor Brit Marling writes herself another intriguing leading role in yet another high-concept indie movie that bites off more than it can chew. Sound of My Voice, which Marling co-wrote with the film’s director Zal Batmanglij, certainly offers her a perfect vehicle to put her willowy screen presence to slightly more sinister use. She plays Maggie, a passive-aggressive cult leader whose small band of sad-sack, desperate-for-enlightenment followers have come to believe is a refugee from a civil-war-ravaged future, sent back in time to prepare them for what’s about to happen – almost like a touchy-feely version of The Terminator. Intent on exposing her and her secret-handshaking cabal as frauds are aspiring filmmakers Peter (Christopher Denham) and Laurna (Nicole Vicius), a slightly smug pair of hipsters whose relationship is put to the test as they infiltrate the cult and inevitably find Maggie’s insights to be more penetrating than they expected. Whether she’s fake or real is the mystery the film strives to maintain, but it’s also one it ultimately cops out of confronting courtesy of an ambiguous finale that’s more nonsensical than enigmatic.
7 Days in Havana (15)
Directed by: Benicio Del Toro, Elia Suileiman, Gaspar NoÉ, Juan Carlos Tabío, Pablo Trapero, Laurent Cantet, Julio Medem
GIVEN the old too-many-cooks adage almost always applies to anthology films, it’s a wonder they still get made at all. Yes, on paper the notion of bringing together multiple directors to see what they might do with a specific idea or theme sounds irresistible, but even when the assembled filmmakers are among the most revered in the world, their collective efforts always seem to have a kryptonite effect on the film as a whole. 7 Days in Havana is the latest argument against the process. Featuring seven directors telling seven stories set over seven days in the Cuban capital, interest wanes long before the excessive two-hour-plus running time nears its end. Perhaps inevitably, then, the earlier instalments prove the most bearable by virtue of their position in the film. Benicio Del Toro’s tale of a young American actor (played by Hunger Games star Josh Hutcherson) who gets more than he bargains for after picking up a woman in a bar is predictable but endearing, and Pablo Trapero’s ditty featuring Serbian director Emir Kusturica trying to escape a film festival has an amusing knowingness, but the rest, even Gaspar Noé’s stylish take on voodoo rituals, feel more like extended promos for the drinks company that funded the project.
Mission to Lars (12A)
Directed by: James Moore, William Spicer
THE Lars in the title of this documentary is Lars Ulrich, drummer with Metallica. The mission is that undertaken by siblings Kate and Will Spicer to fulfil their brother Tom’s dream of meeting him. The drama, meanwhile, comes from the fact that the Lars-obsessed Tom also suffers from Fragile X, a form of autism “with bells on” that makes it difficult for him to communicate and hard for him to deal with crowds or loud noise. What follows is a rather touching and informative, albeit slightly contrived, documentary detailing not just the Spicers’ efforts to track down Metallica on their US tour, but also Kate and Will’s evolving relationship with their brother as their understanding of his condition deepens. True, the combination of these elements does initially feel slightly contentious thanks to the concept feeling like a needlessly complicated and narcissistic way for journalist Kate and filmmaker Will to assuage some of their own guilt for not always being there for their brother (as someone points out in the film: don’t Metallica tour the UK?). Nevertheless, the results are admirably unsentimental and, as the film progresses, it’s hard not to warm to all involved – with Ulrich himself proving a bit of a sweetie.
Eames: The Architect and the Painter (12A)
Directed by: Jason Cohn, Bill Jersey
THIS James Franco-narrated documentary about Charles Eames and his creative partner and wife, Ray, may be conventional in scope, but it still offers a fascinating insight into one of the most famed and influential American designers of the postwar era. Though notable for altering the way Americans thought about furniture (the affordable, ethically made and exquisitely designed Eames chair has been in constant production for five decades), their partnership was about so much more – and was so much more important than the prevailing sexism of the day gave it credit for. Indeed, though Charles, a trained architect who never got his licence, was seen as the driving force of the partnership (something perpetuated by his unwillingness to share credit), the film makes clear that his technically minded outlook wouldn’t have thrived without art-school-trained Ray’s painterly flair, her attention to detail and her aesthetic brilliance. Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey’s film does a good job of getting into the particulars of their private life to show how it shaped their work – which extended to innovative films, art exhibitions and conceptual thinking for nascent computer giant IBM – as well as showing how their work and success shaped their relationship.
Directed by: Daniel Lindsay, TJ Martin
WINNER of this year’s Academy Award for best documentary feature, Undefeated retrospectively seems like a shoo-in for the award. It is, after all, an uplifting underdog sports movie in which underprivileged black high school football players are coached to victory by benevolent white teachers who, along the way, become much needed parental figures. On paper, then, there are undeniable similarities to the likes of The Blindside, yet Undefeated is much more compelling than this comparison suggests. Its multiple tales of heartbreak, hard work and good old-fashioned American triumphalism bringing a lump to the throat through genuine, humanistic storytelling rather than emotive music or tricksy editing. In fact, the film’s closest comparison is really Steve James’s magnificent basketball documentary Hoop Dreams – although Undefeated’s year-long time frame means it can’t quite compete with that film’s epic scope. Nevertheless, in following three students and their impassioned volunteer coach over the course of a season playing for a desperately underfunded school football team in North Memphis, director’s Daniel Lindsay and TJ Martin present a challenging portrait of what it takes for these kids to even get into a position that might allow them to seize the basic opportunities that most of us take for granted. Inspiring stuff.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West