Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Critical Week: Sheer ambition

Last week was one for screenings of seriously ambitious movies. Stalingrad is one of the biggest budget Russian epics ever made, documenting the historical pivotal WWII battle as a massive 3D show of heroism. Not exactly the most delicately nuanced movie of the year, but utterly riveting. And then there was Lars Von Trier's two-part Nymphomaniac, a four-hour exploration of the complexities of human sexuality, specifically the feminine variety, through the eyes of a woman who thinks she's an extreme example.

Smaller films were no less inventive. From Belgium, The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears is a mind-bending odyssey that folds David Lynch into Italian giallo in ways that are disorienting and rather awesome. And from the USA, An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is an involving, kaleidoscopic look at a relationship that never quite was, mainly due to expectations.

As a counterpoint, we had the blunt simplicity of the car racing romp Need for Speed, starring Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper and Imogen Poots, and the British melodrama The Fold, starring Catherine McCormack as an Anglican priest grappling with grief over the death of her teen daughter. Eerily, both of these costar actresses named Dakota - Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey) and Blue Richards (The Golden Compass), respectively.

This coming week we have Liam Neeson's airborne thriller Non-Stop, Aaron Eckhart in I Frankenstein, the animated adventure Mr Peabody & Sherman, the remake We Are What We Are, the festival favourite The Rocket and the doc Beyond the Edge. I'll also have a report on the 34th London Critics' Circle Film Awards, which are being held on Sunday night.

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