Passion (2012)

Written & Directed by Brian De Palma

So I recently watched a YouTube video of Edgar Wright, “What’s In My Bag” in which he mentioned a Brian De Palma film I had never heard of before. Having studied Carrie for my horror module last year, I thought I was pretty confident in all things De Palma related. Turns out this film was only released in 2012/13 and is a remake of the French film Crime d’amour. So I searched Netflix and lo and behold, it streams the film I was looking for. Passion.

Starring Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace (a collaboration of two of my all-time favourite actresses), Passion is a tale of lust, revenge and bloody murder.  All of my favourite things in one film, the Film Gods must have been looking down on me that night. It starts as a tale of two business associates with very clear sensual underlying chemistry, a forceful Blonde, Rachel McAdams’ Christine, in which she channels some of the old Regina/ Mean Girls evilness, and Noomi Rapace’s Isabelle a quiet underling whose sanity comes into question, just as she comes into her own. It begins as a tale of a ball busting executive taking credit for an assistant’s work, harmless enough unless you bring into that adultery, psychosis and, my old favourite, cold bloody murder.

As a Brian De Palma film, not only do you expect to be presented with the lustful male gaze, but the lustful male gaze intricately hidden through incredible camera work and editing decisions such as the split screen of a Ballet and beautifully choreographed throat slashing, as well as the “was it a dream or was it real” sequences which is one of my favourite directorial motifs of De Palma. As a De Palma fan, you will not be disappointed.

De Palma’s focus on the two, possibly even three, female leads is refreshing, these women do not need men to help with their plans, men are used and abused then thrown to the dogs. I may sound a bit harsh on the male gender here, but as it is directed by a man, and therefore supposed to be viewed this way, I think I should be forgiven. These are two/three beautifully complicated characters in the male orientated world of work, for which Brian De Palma should be praised, he has characterised his women perfectly.

If you are going to watch this film for anything, do it for the anticipation of the tiniest bit of blood so beautifully put on the screen that it is as if De Palma has inverted his 1976 masterpiece, Carrie, proving he can create the same reaction without going to the extremes. If I could some this film up in two words it would be Subtly Beautiful. Or Complete Mind-fuck. You make the decision.

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The Cornetto Trilogy – Classico Flavour – Hot Fuzz (2007)

Written by Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright

Directed by Edgar Wright

This film will always hold a special place in my heart as the first rated 15 that I ever got into at the cinema. I was lucky enough to study it at film A Level and so gained so much more enjoyment from the repeated viewings which I was able to get away with as “revision” for my exam. The more I watched/ studied this film, the more I fell in love with it. The constant movie references means that each time I watched it, I gained more, understood more, laughed more. Its one of those films made by film fans for film fans and yet can be enjoyed on a surface level as well. It is because of Hot Fuzz that I watched Straw Dogs and Point Break, two amazing films that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Appearances from British comedy actors and favourites of the trilogy, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy and Steve Coogan just add to the classic British-ness of the film. The cameo from Peter Jackson as a bad Santa will make every film nerd chuckle to themselves.

Taking inspiration from heritage Britain films such as the Wickerman (1973) and big budget American cop films such as the mentioned Bad Boys 2, Hot Fuzz combines so many genres it will be hard not to find something you like. It is set in the small town of Sandford, which happens to be played by Wrights hometown of Wells, Somerset, and houses a true police bromance that is tested when the idealistic village of the year plays host to some suspicious accidents. Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is a top London cop sent to a small town police station because he is showing up the rest of the force. Upon arrival in Sandford, Nicholas angel gains a warm welcome by the village including Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton), Mary Porter (Spaced’s Julia Deakin) and Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), and a not so warm welcome from his fellow police officers, the Andys (Paddy Constantine and Rafe Spall) and Sergeant Turner (Bill Bailey). As the film goes on, Nicholas realises the influence of the Neighbourhood Watch Alliance on the village’s upkeep and their focus on “the greater good”. These suspicious accidents seem to be connected and it is up to Nicholas Angel to uncover the truth about Sandford.

The bravest opening shot I’ve ever scene, one long almost static take of Nicholas Angel walking towards to camera, which I for one would have been too scared to make last that long, opens this film with high expectations of incredible camera work. You will not be disappointed. Along with the typical editing that we as an audience have come to expect from an Edgar Wright movie, there are plenty of quick cut montages to go around. A surprising turn of events allows us to revel in Pegg and Wright’s story telling abilities, as well as revelling in the amount of quotable lines that will get you every time.

As one of my favourite films, Hot Fuzz is a definite recommendation. This action/ heritage Britain parody will have to you in stitches as well as covering your eyes at shock gore moments. This is one for the film collection; it just gets funnier each time.

The Cornetto Trilogy – Mint Flavour – The Worlds End (2013)

Witten by Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright

Directed by Edgar Wright

My most anticipated release of 2013 provided appearances, within the first 60 seconds, from Peirce Brosnan, Michael Smiley and Bloody Mary from Shaun of the Dead. My first thought: how am I going to afford all the repeated viewings I’m going to need to fully appreciate the brilliance of this film?

Determined to finish the ‘Golden Mile’ in his home town of Newton Haven, Gary King (Simon Pegg) rounds up his gang of friends, now family/ business men, to finish what their 18 year old selves could not. To reach The Worlds End. When they arrive, their town is not what it used to be, and the name of the final pub takes on a whole new meaning. Appearances from previous Wright/ Pegg/ Frost collaborations will not leave cult fans disappointed, and the mixture of Bromance, Rom-Com and Dystopian end-of-the-world sci-fi genres are guaranteed to reel in the imaginations of new fans.

I was lucky enough for my local cinema to be showing the full Cornetto trilogy along with the midnight release of The Worlds End and so my mind was refreshed and ready for the newest instalment of my favourite trio. I was happy to notice that the classic Edgar Wright montages are again present along with incredible performances from classic British actors, such as Martin Freeman and Rosamund Pike, and inside jokes that I know I will be sharing with my friends for a long time to come.

What sets this apart from the other two films in the trilogy is the much deeper back story to the main character, which some fans may find shocking as it is emotionally a lot darker than the other films. Also the much stronger willed character of Nick Frost, who plays T- total wingman turned business man Andrew Knightley as opposed to the unemployed Ed of Shaun of the Dead or inept police officer Danny of Hot Fuzz. As those of you who have seen interviews with Wright Pegg or Frost will know, the film also contains less direct references to other films which I have become accustomed to when watching a film by this trio, but it does not take anything away from the film, it was just a decision by Wright to pay a more subtle homage  to Sci Fi literature. Never the less,  The Worlds End has the funniest most unpredictable ending I have seen in years, relatable to everyone in the cinema, you will love this film.

As I have been waiting for this final instalment of the trilogy for so long it may come as a surprise that it actually met and exceeded my expectations! Although my favourite will always be Hot Fuzz, this is an incredible ending to my favourite zom-rom-com-police-parody-dystopian trilogy. I woke up with my ribs hurting from laughing so much from the screening last night, that’s the best way I can describe how much I adored the film. Literal rib cracking laughter. Words cannot describe how much I love this trilogy, but I have tried. For anyone who is yet to go and see The Worlds End, be prepared to wake up as I did, sides hurting from the continuous laughter, and for those who already have … Lets Boo Boo.

Suspiria (1977)

suspiria header

Directed byDario Argento

Written by Dario Argento & Daria Nicolodi

A film set in a German Ballet academy, directed by an Italian film maker and spoken in the English language is bound to have a mixture of influences, but what struck me about Suspiria is the cinematic influence it has had on many of my personal favourite films. Never has a film reminded me so much of so many others. The story, although long and a bit slow, is clearly a classic tale of good and evil, with an American student travelling halfway around the world to study her passion at a dance academy when some strange occurrences start happening . After a gruesome death reminiscent of the slasher genre, the story follows Suzy as she struggles to fit into the academy, whilst trying to ignore the signs of things not being quite right in her new residence. Inspired by such gothic stories as those of the Grimm Brothers, this film uses many horror conventions to send shivers down your spine.

Suspiria reminded me of some of its contemporary films such as Carrie (1976) with the significance of blood to the story as well as later films such as The Shining (1980) through the use of a red setting, like the blood red of The Shining’s Bathroom scene, and the red exterior of the academy in Suspiria, giving a bloody first impression of the place. This visual choice by Argento gives the ominous effect of the supernatural, making it seem as if the walls are dripping with blood, clinging to the setting as the centre of the haunting atmosphere. The cinematography and tinkling music in an interesting non dialogue scene where the blind piano player walks through the town is also reminiscent of the famous Tubular Bells walk near the start of The Exorcist (1973). The similarities extend to the foreboding elements that the two scenes suggest and the suspense, the waiting for something to happen, the tense atmosphere just waiting to be released through a scare or shock. This era of American cinema has to be one of my favourites, and this film fits so well into that category, amongst some of the best horror films of all time, it seems it’s only a matter of time until its remade by some Hollywood studio, as is happening to all truly great horror films, no doubt with Chloe Moretz playing a lead role.

To me it also seems to have influenced more modern films such as the quick editing style of Edgar Wright, the suspense caused by it, the almost waiting to be scared through contrasting this with long takes of the country side, again, waiting for something to happen. It also has such images as this …

… devil’s snare anyone?

Although not the most imaginative of narratives or endings (without giving too much away), the cinematography, editing and just composition of everything are amazing, I have never seen anything like it, never watched a film and been in complete awe of the visual aspects of it. The way everything is placed on the screen, how one shot suggestively slides into another, the narrative, which I always focus on, comes second in my eyes to this astounding artistic piece of cinema. There’s one particular shot in which a glass of wine is being drunk, the deep red matches the almost black background of the door, in deep focus, it’s like the wine is pouring into or away from it. There are so many shots like this; I’ll be amazed if you can’t find just one shot that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

There isn’t much focus on the dancing aspect of this film as it is a horror not a musical, but one of my favourite scenes is that of Suzy, dancing on point (dancing term for standing on the tips of your toes), feeling faint and staggering, still on point and then her falling from such a height. Seeing this from a high angle, the helplessness of her is presented. After which a close up on her face reveals pinky-red blood dripping from her nose. One of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing. The utter helplessness of our protagonist fighting against the music to dance, a stark contrast with how the other girls are dancing, shows the significance of her to the story, her inability to fit in, to keep up could possibly save her.

It’s so difficult to explain just how enchanting the composition of this film is without watching it. So that’s my advice to you. Watch this film, guaranteed you will be as lost for words as I was when I first saw it, which Is why I took so long to write this review. It’s difficult to put into words just how chilling and mesmerising and tense this film is. Not necessarily scary but you will get a few jumps out of this, but mainly the effect of the film is the fear of the jumps that you Argento takes his time setting up. You will not be disappointed.