Indie to the core. Follows Marnie, a mid-twenties 'slacker' figuring things out. Awkward moments aplenty, its honest and realistic dialogue comes injected with a flurry of stumbling conversations. Centred around the interplay between platonic and romantic relationships, we observe a set of characters looking for love in places where it may not necessarily be found. Companionship and the many forms of human interaction are acutely observed with delicate detail. The lack of plot or driven narrative did not derail its power to remain intriguing. Part of the strength lies behind the convincing acting at play, producing a subtle yet involving piece.
Based upon a set of unpublished diaries by Anwar Hashimi (who delivers a great supporting role in the film) split into a 'pentalogy' - revealed by Google to be "compound literary or narrative work explicitly divided into five parts". 'The Orphanage' is the second part of this planned five-part series. We are invited into the life journey of a a teenager living in Afghanistan named Qodrat, observing moments of their upbringing within a community orphanage. Qadrat is a fan of Bollywood cinema, brilliantly showcased through his moments of daydreaming framed within a musical lens. A prime example encountered early on is his attraction to a girl sitting nearby in the same class, which culminates in a romantic singalong piece featuring colourful attire where they both run into each others arms on a luxurious beach, interspersed with upbeat music and close-up shots of the sun. These sections of musical satire were thoroughly entertaining (a la 'Flight of the Concords') whilst providing added depth as a sincere love letter to Bollywood cinema, alongside the power that film and imagination can provide for nourishing the soul. Palpable tension comes from a set of characters ruling the internal hierarchy by bullying others in the orphanage, running in smart parallel to the backdrop of volatile international politics played out during the course of the film. Its portrayal of the Soviet Union providing Russian language education and childhood pioneer camps within Afghanistan were revealing nuggets of history. It manages to capture honest glimpses of youthful connection, uncertainty and amusement, reminiscent of 'Stand By Me' to a degree - yet manages to retain a unique sense of identity, feeling very much its own piece. Boasting an incredible ability to jump from social realism (akin to the work of Ken Loach) towards surrealist escapism at the drop of a (musical) hat, without feeling forced or trite. The engrossing story-line ratchets up the underlying tension and energy as it progresses onward, resulting in a gripping finale. Various emotions are explored throughout, where even the humorous musical segments are laced with a bittersweet concoction of paradise and pathos. An all-encompassing film from director Sharhbanoo Sadat, which left such a strong impression that I am seeking Sadat's 2016 prequel (and first part of the planned five-series) 'Wolf and Sheep' as a matter of urgency.
Incredible take on the creepy idea a controlling and dangerous individual harnessing the power of invisibility for corrupted means. The story is based around the protagonist (played by Elisabeth Moss) fleeing her abusive boyfriend and later being told that he has passed away, yet feeling like he is somehow watching and observing her at all times. Using invisibility as a metaphor around physical and emotional domestic abuse creating a constant feeling of dread made this a powerful and weighty theme. Gaslighting that can occur within such relationships was greatly illustrated, where no other characters believe in the sinister happenings inflicting our main character making her feel ever helpless and stranded. Horror films can work best when they have a strong message to explore, and The Invisible Man achieves this by carrying its resonant underlying theme to substantially increase the fright factor. Its first half was especially suspenseful and really put me on edge, producing a constant feeling of unease. Latter parts lean towards more action/thriller oriented territory, which were still entertaining but less hard-hitting than the tense first half. Some moments had me uttering my dismay and shock at what was unfolding before my eyes. A perfect example of how horror should be done. Plus Elisabeth Moss is ridiculously good as always.
Regularly cited as one of the greatest films of all time. Would not be my personal favourite, but can see the reason this accolade exists with its interesting characters, critique of celebrity worship and frenetic energy. I preferred the old school classics 'Citizen Kane' and 'Casablanca' to this piece, which was perhaps due to 'La Dolce Vita' feeling a bit more challenging. Its meandering plot was potentially a reason for my lesser engagement - a counter argument could be this loose narrative being used as a tool to successfully portray the hectic and childlike lives of the upper echelons of society whose search for fulfilment across numerous parties is never truly satisfied. The sound being dubbed post-filming was noticeable at points, with some sections feeling out of sync. Able to get used to this after some time, but it does make it seem disconnected in places. Although memorable and important to watch, the messages and statements made registered with me more strongly than the overall enjoyment of the film itself. That being said, there were still amazing moments scattered throughout. The hustle and bustle of Rome was an excellent setting, including its various oddities and quirky nightlife. Flawed and broken characters were a major strong point, with the fountain and dancing scenes being a sight to behold. I also enjoyed a part where two children said to have seen the Madonna were followed by a manic crowd and had their story covered by various news outlets, alluding to needless sensationalism and hysteria that can ripple throughout society. Tragic moments being photographed and reported upon for means of producing news stories to please the masses was thought-provoking. Popularising the term 'papparazzi' based upon one of the photographer characters (paparazzo) makes for an interesting bit of trivia. The idolatry of fame and status was well-perceived, where we witness photographers and journalists surrounding the celebrities of this world (with multiple cameras snapping away) feeding their expanding egos. This central idea towards viewing and watching the lives of others for entertainment is greatly captured, and perhaps ever more prescient in our modern social media age.
As I share the hobbies of books and studying with the central protagonist this film clicked into place and felt refreshing. The sweet and sincere love story driving the narrative worked nicely. Plus it boasts a memorable scene where a group of characters have a folk jamming session in high spirits, playing out a Japanese language version of John Denver's 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' - a song which is referenced nicely throughout the plot and prompted me to add it on my Spotify playlist straight after viewing