Toy Story 4
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While by no means as extreme as "Salo" - the concentration camp drama it sometimes seems to predict - it retains difficult, confrontational elements that were to recur in the no less oppositional New Hungarian Cinema of Bela Tarr, Kornel Mundruczo et al.: long, slow takes following characters on fruitless quests across wide open landscapes, a heightened appreciation of man's inhumanity to his fellow man... So stark and stripped-down it has little room for the context that might make the experience more comfortable for non-scholars of the Austro-Hungarian empire, it is at least equal parts art and movie: for its extraordinary, diagrammatic depiction of space, its rare grouping of people, it joins "Lawrence of Arabia", "L'Avventura" and "Last Year at Marienbad" among the select band of films that absolutely belong to the widescreen.
Winterbottom's travel supplement, never less than good to look at (cinematographer Marchel Zyskind allowing some sun into an initially black-and-white palette), sort-of informative (Keener has a thankless role as a glorified tour guide), and having not much of a story to tell. Being so in thrall in "Don't Look Now" - did the local church really have to be being restored? - probably doesn't help "Genova"'s cause, setting up as it does certain dramatic expectations Winterbottom and co-writer Laurence Coriat are either unwilling or unable to fulfil. Casting around gets them a performance that makes use of, rather than boring, Firth's essential ordinariness, and a few snatches of emotional truth between the two sisters, though nothing as excoriating as that mined by Catherine Breillat in "A Ma Soeur!". It's that extra level of engagement/commitment that's missing here - the ending, in particular, looks dashed off - but such is Winterbottom's working method... his motto, and I'm becoming less certain how useful it is to him, isn't Don't Look Now so much as Don't Look Back.
Attempts a couple of unions that don't entirely hold. You don't for a moment buy the link the film makes between teenage gangs and Al-Qaeda, which sounds like something cooked up in a Daily Mail features meeting. And the attempt to do "Bourne", only grittier, likewise falters on the specifics: having seen off a couple of murderous Chechens in the confined space of their car, our hero phones for back-up - "I've had a f**king nightmare, mate, can you come and pick me up? I'll stand on the main road" - as though he's only gone and missed the last bus home. Not the worst calling-card for director Hope - I think if you want to make these things, you have to go to America, where the underground car parks your characters meet in have slightly less of the whiff of NCP about them - but it could do with having its glumness-to-thrills ratio looked at.
A film where the underlying morality is as wholesome and edifying as the images are expensive and lush; think "Devdas" meets "Dr. Mabuse".
Perhaps too sombre to generate the fizzy energy of what remains the year's stand-out film from the continent, Abderrahmane Sissako's "Bamako", "Daratt" nonetheless forms another solid, narratively confident entry in the new wave of African filmmaking. Several taut stand-offs - truly, the baking of bread has never been so fraught - keep the film ticking over to a clever, worth-the-wait ending.