Monday, 31 January 2011
Sunday, 30 January 2011
Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Monday, 24 January 2011
Passing through the corridors today, the "What happened to my sweet girl?", "SHE'S GONE!" duets were rife. It seemed Black Swan occupied everyone's lips, and when I was approached with numerous "oh my oh my have you seen it?"s, I gave an omniscient nod of recognition. Unless you've been in a cave for the past few weeks, you'll agree that Black Swan has caused quite a stir, with Natalie Portman winning the Golden Globe for Best Actress for her portrayal of Swan Queen Nina Sayers, an Oscar win sure. It is the understatement of the year then to say that the film had quite a lot to live up to.
Nina Sayers is a good place to start, the character's mental deterioration the subject of Black Swan. Heavy, I know. The film consists of Nina who, encouraged (and sheltered) by her overly-pushy mother, wins the part of the much-coveted Swan Queen in a New York ballet company's production of Swan Lake. In productions of Swan Lake, the main protagonist, the White Swan, and the evil Black Swan, are traditionally played by the same person. Nina, having been sheltered and trained by her mother, wins the role of the virginal White Swan with ease, executing the choreography perfectly. However, when it comes to the Black Swan, Nina lacks the fire, charisma and, well, seductiveness, the role requires. It is this portrayal of the Black Swan, and Nina's quest for perfection, which causes her to go, for lack of a better word, insane.
Perfection is one of the key themes of the film. Nina, in everything in her life, strives for it; at the start of the film, we see Nina wake up, and then soon after begin to stretch and warm up. She has the body of an 8 year-old boy, and is in optimum physical condition. She is unbelievably focused, choosing not to mix with the other ballerinas (who consequently see her as uptight), and not really having a social life at all. Theoretically, Nina should be perfect. But the role of the Black Swan demands much more than perfection on paper. The role demands attitude, ferocity, volatility, all of which Nina doesn't have. In order to achieve this, coach Tom (Vincent Cassel) tells Nina to let go. It is when she does this, when she immerses herself in the role, she really begins to lose her mind. Nina is her own worst enemy - Nina has the talent to be one of the greats, but in order to do that she has to "delve into her inner self", the only obstacle in her way being herself. Mirrors are a noticeable motif in the film. There is one particular scene where Nina stays behind to put in some extra practice (exemplifying her dedication), and she sees her reflection turning around and smiling. In the film, Nina is forced to address issues which have had a huge impact on her life; her pushy mother, who is living her failed ballet career through her daughter, sheltering her and taking away her liberty in the process. The film is largely a reaction to Nina's imprisonment, this reaction stimulated by the introduction of Lily (Mila Kunis).
Lily is everything Nina isn't. Sexually charged. Charismatic. A smoker, a drug taker, the Black Swan to Nina's White. Lily (played excellently by Mila Kunis) befriends Nina, and exposes her to a scene of which Nina is totally naive. Not even a scene, merely a way of life. Lily, like Nina, is extremely talented, but we get the impression that she doesn't take things as seriously. She is late for the audition of the Swan Queen. As I said, she smokes. And even the little things; when Nina is in the bathroom, and opens the door to a "bursting" Lily, Lily casually takes off her tights and asks Nina to stay, a concept which makes Nina extremely uncomfortable and awkward. With Lily's introduction comes another theme of the film, jealousy. Throughout the film, Nina is ridden with paranoia, convinced that Lily is after her role. Nina feels threatened by Lily, for said reasons. However, Lily is a character who in the audiences eyes is utterly sweet, and genuinely kind and pleasant. Lily's friendly gestures are interpreted by Nina as calculated attacks. Jealousy is also seen in Nina's mother. Nina's mother seemingly has Nina's best interests at heart, but especially towards the end we get the impression that her mother is sick with jealousy, her manipulation of Nina retribution for her own failures. The theme is epitomised with Winona Ryder's character of Beth, the older ballerina who Nina replaces, Aronofsky clearly more than influenced by the renowned All About Eve. A ballerina's career is over at 25; it is simply the nature of the extremely fickle business. One scene shows the ballerinas in the dressing room talking of Beth as if she is old and withered. Whilst waiting for her audition, Nina sees Beth enraged, trashing her dressing room and screaming obscenities. Beth later corners Nina, asking her what she did to get the role. Nina is extremely apologetic, and acts innocent to her accusations. But when Nina is faced with the same situation with Lily, Nina, like Beth, quickly becomes obsessed with clinging onto the role.
Natalie Portman is outstanding. There aren't enough superlatives. I was speaking to a friend today who has done ballet for years, who claimed Portman was a terrible dancer. But for a lowly philistine like me, Portman gives a fantastic performance, the final scene showing the first night of the production one of the best scene's in recent years, Portman, red eyes and and all, crazed and utterly mind-blowing as the Black Swan. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen even if there was free popcorn. If she doesn't get the Oscar, I - there's no point in complaining, she will. Mila Kunis is also outstanding, thoroughly deserving a nomination if not a win for her portrayal. Unfortunately, I felt Cassel's character didn't really work. His lines highlighted flaws in the script, and for me the character just wasn't a strong one at all. But I'll forget about that.
Director Darren Aronofsky said that the film should be seen in conjunction with it's predecessor The Wrestler, and you can definitely see why. The film is shot in very much the same way, Aronofsky opting for a handheld camera, causing claustrophobic and intimate viewing, the high and low art forms being depicted with the same grit and dirt. One can see Portman's porcelain skin whilst also seeing Rourke's cuts and scrapes. The grungy concrete dressing room is reminiscent of the Wrestler's backstage gymnasium, as well as both films featuring moments of wince-worthy gore. Black Swan also takes to following Portman from behind, again causing claustrophobia and tension much in the way it did in The Wrestler. My favourite scene may be the club scene, in which Lily and Nina are seen dancing in red and black strobe lighting. It is mesmerising, the audience only catching staggered intervals of the dancing, ecstasy-ridden silhouettes. Aronofsky has done a fantastic job, and without this personal, up-close approach the film wouldn't be half of what it is.
I was torn between whether to give this film four stars or five. But what tipped me over the edge was the questioning and discussion the film provokes. The film is an experience - it is harrowing, and lingers long after the first watch. Immediately, me and my friends were nattering away, giving our interpretations and discussing the characters. The film is disturbing and provocative, and as much of a mind-boggler as Inception. I implore each and every one of you to see this film.
Posted by A Bonfire of the Vanities at 13:13
Saturday, 22 January 2011
Labeled as the "androgyny" issue, the cover shows Kate Moss kissing transsexual model Lea T, Ms. Moss showing no signs of losing her cool. Katie Grand has produced a miracle with this magazine. Long Live LOVE. Out 7th Feb.
P.S: Chanel leather gloves anyone?
Posted by A Bonfire of the Vanities at 15:12
Thursday, 20 January 2011
Monday, 17 January 2011
All images - GQ
This week saw the Burberry Prorsum show in Milan, and, as always, was a memorable one. The emphasis was on the coats, as it was last year. Check, as seen above, was featured in various different colours, a refreshing change from the autumnal colours of last A/W. The duffel coat was there, and of course the trusty trench, as well as numerous double breasted numbers and pea coats (including one cow hide coat - maybe if you're Mick Jagger). I noticed also the chunky-soled boots, similar to the ones seen at Prada S/S. I am a big fan of these. I expect to see check undergoing the shearling treatment, and think this will be a big high street hit in winter. The slim wool trousers were also winners for me, and I got my annual fix of beautiful crew neck jumpers. The show began with a video of falling rain projected onto the wall of the catwalk, and the show finished with actual rain (yes, actual rain) on the catwalk (one model even slipped, causing a few titters from behind). As the rain poured, battalion of transparent anoraks paraded down the catwalk, making Burberry the only company in the history of ever to make the anorak cool, and a punch in the arm to the everlasting British weather joke. A brilliant show.
Posted by A Bonfire of the Vanities at 14:22
Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Tuesday, 11 January 2011
Monday, 10 January 2011
Sunday, 9 January 2011
Saturday, 8 January 2011
I had to drag a very reluctant friend to see this. "The King's Speech? As in the one about the King with a stammer? Really?", is an example of the enthusiasm displayed. After well crafted persuasion (three members of the Harry Potter cast present being the clincher) he begrudgingly agreed. Little did he know the treat he was in for.
For The King's Speech is not what it looks like. My friend's lack of enthusiasm is understandable: on the surface, this could be seen as a stuffy, uptight, solemn documentary about the stammer of King George VI. Not exactly gripping to say the least. The film is anything but, slaying any reservations in the first five minutes. For one, the film is funny - laugh out loud funny, actually. The cinema rang with laughter, with David Seidler's painfully witty script to thank. The script is definitely the winner of the film, making a seemingly esoteric film extremely accessible. An example of said humour is when the King's speech therapist Lionel, played by a remarkable Geoffrey Rush, suggests swearing as a way of venting the King's frustration, and as a possible stimulant to fluent speech. What follows is a slur of obscenities, which considering his status as King, is hilariously funny. I never thought I'd see the day were a King uttered "fuck fuck fuck fuck shit balls" in one sentence. Or at all, for that matter. It is humour like this which causes you to be totally behind the King. Not only this, but his humane portrayal - the first scene sees the then Duke of York giving a speech at Wembley Stadium, stammering so much hardly a word emerges. From this, we can see the embarrassment and awkwardness a stammer causes for the speaker. Without this support, the film would crumble.
This support is also gained by an outstanding Colin Firth. He is impeccable. At the end of the film you have to pinch yourself, because Firth is George VI. His stammer is flawless. But not only that, he portrays the King with a likability which I doubt any other actor could achieve. The King has the audience laughing one minute (when asked if he knows any jokes, he replies "timing isn't my strong suit"), then holding back tears the next (the titular King's speech one of the best pieces of acting I've ever seen). He's not just a King, but a father (to a Princess Margaret played by Outnumbered's Karen, if you thought you recognised her), a husband (to a terribly quick Queen Elizabeth, played by a magnificent Helena Bonham Carter), a brother (to Guy Pearce's frivolous King Edward VIII) and a son (to Dumbeldore's, I mean Michael Gambon's trying George V), filling these difficult roles with wit and compassion. Alas, he struggles at the role which may seem the easiest, being a friend to Rush's Lionel.
Rush's Lionel is another winner of the film. He provokes the most laughs, refusing to acknowledge the King's superiority. To promote a pleasant atmosphere, he asks if he can call the King "Bertie", audacity like this consistent throughout the film, every time having the audience in stitches. If he, Firth and Bonham-Carter don't get Oscar nominations (or wins) for their roles I will lose faith in all humanity. If Firth's sublime performance in "A Single Man" wasn't enough for the Best Actor gong, then this is award-winning given to the Academy on a plate. The film is also a feast for the eyes. We are given a sneak peek into the King's domain whilst still Duke of York, Balmoral, Buckingham Palace, these regal palaces extremely beautiful, oozing decadence and wealth. The costumes are also brilliant. There is not much colour in the film, although I can't imagine there was in the inter-war period. It is rarely sunny, the weather usually raining or grey, this lack of colour possibly adhering to the severity of the situation, or reflecting the supposed sincerity and reserved class of the Royals. For two hours, we are sucked into early 20th Century England, and are held with a tight grip.
This is a film which will linger in cinema-goers conscience for a very long time. If I haven't stressed it enough, it is terribly funny. The film has a tenderness and uplifting ending which will provoke nothing but sheer joy in the viewer. This is a classic which will be watched again and again, and I sincerely hope it will be acknowledged with the numerous awards it deserves.
Posted by A Bonfire of the Vanities at 14:07
Wednesday, 5 January 2011
Tuesday, 4 January 2011
Monday, 3 January 2011
I saw Coppola Jr.’s films in totally the wrong order. First, Marie Antoinette, the biopic about the titular Queen of France, famed for her extravagance and hedonistic lifestyle. The film polarized critics; some argued it was style over substance. The film featured gorgeous people eating gorgeous food and generally being rich, whilst managing to look eternally bored (In my opinion, what’s not to like?). Jokes aside (if I may call that a joke) the film was beautifully shot; the pastel colours, the costumes, the film was truly a feast for the senses, which some critics argued was a fault. The loss of my Coppola-ginity was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I was left eager to see more. Next I saw her debut, The Virgin Suicides, which saw four Catholic-raised sisters battling teenage angst in the 70’s, who in the end... I don’t want to spoil it. Work it out. The film was quietly brilliant, with silence and mood reigning, the sisters’ yearning for freedom made tangible through subtle glances and awkward silences. Colour, again, was a main factor, the seventies in suburbia being depicted through wispy yellows and oranges. Anyway, enough pretense, the film was great. So my second Coppola experience was even better than the first, and I considered myself a fully formed Coppolite. But, I now only realise, it was all a build up to the stellar Lost in Translation.
Lost in Translation sees two Americans, Charlotte and Bob, stuck in Tokyo. Charlotte is the bored wife of an ambitious photographer in Tokyo working. Bob is a seemingly accomplished actor who’s career is on the blink, in Tokyo to shoot a whisky advert. There is the one main motif throughout the film - boredom. The characters are bored. Charlotte (played by an excellent Scarlett Johansson) is in Tokyo because of her husband. She has no job. She is seen lazing around her hotel room, at one point crying to her friend because she hates the trip so much. Bob (again, played excellently by Bill Murray) is on his own, getting paid two million dollars for an advert, even though it is hinted that he doesn’t need the money. He’s bored. He receives a phone call from his wife asking about what colour should the carpet be in their new study. Pretty exciting. This film captures the zeitgeist of our time as much as Mad Men does of the fifties - and what is the zeitgeist of our time? Nothing. Nothing is exciting. Bob is getting payed two million dollars for an advert, which isn’t exactly stimulating or fulfilling. The characters aren’t doing or achieving anything. This boredom is highlighted by Coppola’s suppressed use of colour in the hotel, as well as (fantastic) shots of the concrete jungle that is Tokyo.
By the way I have described the film so far, it doesn’t exactly sound fun. But, plain and simply, the film is laugh out loud funny, moments of hilarity really giving Murray a chance to shine. There is a particularly funny scene in which a “masseuse” (wink wink) is sent to Bob’s room, telling him to “lip her stockings”, really adhering to the title of Lost in Translation. The film is also extremely sardonic, again a reflection of our time. Whilst walking through the hotel with her husband, Charlotte meets the embarrassingly stupid Kelly, an actress in Japan promoting her latest film under the stage name of “Evelyn Wah”. After forced small talk and lots of oh my god’s between her husband and Kelly (Charlotte looking on, a wry smile on her face), they arrange to meet for dinner in the hotel restaurant, another painfully funny scene. Kelly tells Charlotte’s husband of her father’s anorexia, in all seriousness, which had me laughing at not only the stupidity of the content, but Charlotte’s difficult suppression of laughter. It’s easy to see why this won the Oscar for best original screenplay. This film is all the great things about Coppola’s previous films amalgamated into one superfilm. It has style: Charlotte’s relaxed attitude and cynicism exude cool. The sweeping shots of Tokyo are breathtaking, as well as the subdued colours being very effective in capturing the sense of mundane. But crucially, it has substance. The film will be hilariously funny, then through Bob and Charlotte’s chemistry will tug at your heartstrings.
It is this chemistry which really makes the film. You really empathise with Bob and Charlotte, want the best for them. You may even want them to get together. Through their insomnia, they meet in the early hours of the morning in the hotel bar, and through their feeling of being lost, alone, they strike up an unlikely friendship. Contrasting to the title, Lost in Translation is about communication, the bond that forms between the two characters. There is one moment which we realise their friendship - Bob is singing Roxy Music’s “More Than This” on a karaoke machine. Glancing back to Charlotte, their eyes meet, with an electric chemistry that is rarely seen on screen. This summarises their relationship - Bob sings “there’s got to be more than this”. And that is what the film’s about. Two strangers, alone in a Japanese hotel, as cheesy as it sounds, trying to find themselves. This feeling that there has to be more than this. I am doing this film an injustice by making it sound clichéd. When I think about it, this story probably would be cheesy in any other film. But the films acerbic wit, and again amazing performances, which makes the film feel anything but. The film is carried along by a ridiculously good soundtrack, “Young Love” by “Phoenix” being my particular favourite. But there’s also Peaches. And Roxy Music. This film has everything.
Surprisingly, this is a feel good film. It’s funny, heart-wrenching, with brilliant performances and a great soundtrack; all you could ask of a film. See it. Please.
Posted by A Bonfire of the Vanities at 13:52