Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Critical Week: Lost in La La Land

I had never seen Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Russ Meyer's notorious 1970 romp that gets a special edition DVD release in the UK next week. So of course I had to sieze the chance to catch up with it ... and it's even more bonkers than I imagined. This is the raucous story of three young women who take their rock trio to Hollywood and fall in with all kinds of decadence, hedonism and wanton debauchery. Roger Ebert's script is so freeform that it feels like a spoof, especially with the hilariously moralistic epilogue. It's completely nuts. But also thoroughly groovy.

Also seen this week: Sebastian Silva's offbeat comedy-drama Nasty Baby, in which he stars with Kristen Wiig as best friends trying to conceive a child against the odds. It's strikingly well made, but the plot points are a bit heavy-handed. Benicio Del Toro is superb in A Perfect Day, a comedy-drama set in the Balkans in 1995. The M.A.S.H.-like vibe works, and the cast is great, but it feels oddly superficial. And Mavis! is a documentary about Mavis Staples, whose 50-year-career has spanned just about every genre of American pop even as she continues to fill her songs with hopeful messages. Not particularly notable as a film, but she's amazing.

This coming week we have screenings of the Casey Affleck action thriller Triple 9, the Oscar Isaac thriller Mojave, the Tim Roth drama Chronic, the Juliet Stevenson drama Departure, the Brazilian drama Aya Arcos and the adventure doc Meru.

And of course Sunday is the London Critics' Circle Film Awards at the May Fair Hotel - of which I am the chair - so organising the event is taking up most of my time this week. Watch this space for a full report and pics!

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