Thursday 20 June 2024

Critical Week: You look marvellous

After a few days in France, I'm back in action in London, with a mercifully relaxed screening schedule for a change. Raindance Film Festival started here this week, but I'm observing that from a distance this year. Meanwhile, it looks like we're finally in line for some summery weather, so I hope to get out a bit more too! As for the films I've watched, easily the most unforgettable was the Cannes sensation The Substance, which stars Demi Moore as an actor in search of eternal youth in the most nightmarish road imaginable. It's unflinching, crazy and rather brilliant. Russell Crowe is back in demonic mode for The Exorcism, an oddly unscary horror movie that never takes advantage of its witty film-within-a-film premise. And the animated adventure The Imaginary is gloriously hand-drawn, with a wonderfully involving, emotional story, even if it feels a bit old fashioned.

Green Border • Kinds of Kindness
The Exorcism
I also watched the Aussie war drama Before Dawn, which stars Levi Miller as a young guy who travels from the sunny Outback to muddy World War I France. It's skilfully well-made, but not particularly inventive. From Canada, Queen Tut is a hugely involving and strikingly well-played drama about a young guy from Egypt who finds his voice through Toronto drag queens. And Egyptian filmmaker Ibrahim Nash'at put his life on the line to make the stunning doc Hollywoodgate, in which he observes Taliban leaders taking back power. It's unmissable. I also spent a few days at the Annecy Film Festival, where I spent time with the creative team who are making The Wild Robot (MY REPORT IS HERE), and I managed to see two films in my "spare" time...

Rock Bottom
dir-scr Maria Trenor; prd Alba Sotorra 24/Sp  ***.
A Spanish-Polish coproduction in English, this animated musical drama is based on the life of singer-songwriter Robert Wyatt and his partner Alfreda Benge. It's animated in a hand-drawn style using rotoscoped movement from actors, which gives it an eerie real-world feel even as things get rather psychedelic. The story traverses from a drug-infused party in early 1970s Manhattan back to swimming naked amid the rocks around Majorca, hinging on a momentous moment that completely changed Wyatt's life. Writer-director Maria Trenor creates a lovely music-infused vibe that pulls us in, augmented by vivid visual flourishes that are often dazzlingly colourful and imaginative.

The Birth of KitarĊ: The Mystery of GeGeGe
dir Go Koga; voices Toshihiko Seki, Hidenobu Kiuchi 23/Jpn ***
Based on the darkly fantastical manga, this prequel story tells a bizarre story set in the 1950s as a businessman heads to a strange isolated village to settle a complex issue, but finds himself in the middle of a wildly bonkers mystery involving supernatural beings. While the animation is artfully rendered with a staggering attention to detail, the story is tricky to follow for the uninitiated, and things move so briskly, with so many colourful characters and inexplicable goings-on that it's not easy to keep up. Fans on the other hand will love the complexity of the storytelling, especially as it tackles some big social issues in rather bleakly inventive ways.

This coming week I'll be watching Kevin Costner's Horizon: An American Saga Chapter One, Julianne Nicholson in Janet Planet, the Indian action thriller Kill, and the art film Dance Revolutionaries, plus the stage show Standing in the Shadows of Giants. I also have a lot of TV to catch up on before Dorian Awards ballots are due on Monday.

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