Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love) reteams with Tilda Swinton for this fresh, tricky drama about four people whose lives are inextricably intertwined. A remake of the 1969 French classic La Piscine, it's a twisted story packed with insinuation: fast, funny and surprising. The actors infuse each scene with a spark of lusty intrigue, while Guadagnino makes everything look gorgeous.
It's set on an isolated island off the coast of Italy, where rock goddess Marianne (Swinton) has gone to recover from vocal chord surgery, so she can only speak in a whisper. She's accompanied by her long-time younger boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), and as they relax naked together in the sunshine their idyll is invaded by Marianne's hyperactive ex and Paul's old friend Harry (Ralph Fiennes), who proceeds to strip off and cavort around the pool, as if he was invited. He brings along his moody daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson), who immediately begins to flirt with Paul. It's clear that Harry wants Marianne back after all these years, so there's some real tension quietly gurgling up between these four very different people.
Each of the actors gives a remarkably open-handed performance. Swinton and Schoenaerts are enjoyably evasive, firm in their feelings for each other and united against this onslaught. Johnson is terrific as the surly outsider who conceals her agenda to everyone except the movie audience. By contrast, Fiennes is hysterically talkative, never sitting still as he pushes everyone's buttons with his strong opinions and riotous actions. It's the film's flashiest performance, and it's utterly magnetic. And all of the actors are wonderful at suggesting things about their characters' inner motivations that perhaps they don't want to admit to themselves. Yes, this is a story about the deepest elements of being human, animal instincts that can cause problems in the modern world if we forget that they're part of what makes us alive.
Continue reading: A Bigger Splash Review
Director Tom Hooper deploys the same style he used in The King's Speech for this much darker story about the first man to undergo gender-reassignment surgery. It's an odd mix of rather too-pretty visuals with an edgy series of events that perhaps demands a lot more raw honesty. But the story is fascinating, and the cast is excellent, delivering astute, introspective performances that reveal the much earthier narrative under the lovely surface.
It opens in 1926 Copenhagen, where husband and wife painters Einar and Gerda Wegener (Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander) are hoping to start a family as they develop their careers. One day, Gerda talks Einar into putting on a dress to pose for one of her paintings, and the experience triggers long-suppressed yearnings from his childhood. Gerda and their friend Ulla (Amber Heard) encourage him to attend a party in drag, and Lili Elbe is born, Einar's female alter ego who immediately attracts the attention of a lovelorn man (Ben Whishaw). After they move to Paris, they find another friend in Gerda's agent Hans (Matthias Schoenaerts), who was Einar's childhood pal. But while the French doctors think Einar is simply crazy, Gerda sticks by him as he decides to undergo a radical experimental surgery offered by a doctor (Sebastian Koch) in Germany.
Hooper's usual directorial flourishes include off-centre compositions, painterly sets and emotive close-ups, which bring out the internal struggles of the characters in beautiful ways. But this also has a tendency to simplify a story that is seriously complex. By emphasising the social conflicts and relational melodrama, the entire movie begins to feel rather thin, never quite grappling with the more provocative or disturbing aspects of the issues at hand. There are hints of what might have given the film an edgier kick, such as a moment of Hitchcockian obsession or the shifting of power between the male and female characters.
Continue reading: The Danish Girl Review
Marianne Lane is ready for a relaxing European vacation, re-energising after a particularly busy time in her rockstar career with her younger filmmaker boyfriend Paul on the sun-kissed Sicilian island of Pantelleria. While enjoying their break, however, Marianne gets news of her record producer former boyfriend Harry bringing along his daughter Penelope for a visit. She's thrilled at seeing her old friend again and invites him and his daughter to stay with them, to the great displeasure and suspicion of Paul. Marianne and Harry's close relationship incites a bubbling pit of jealousy within Paul, especially when it becomes clear that Harry wants to replace him in Marianne's life. There's tension between everyone, and when Penelope begins to take an interest in Paul, it seems all relationships are forced to a breaking point that none of them can control.
Continue: A Bigger Splash Trailer
Einar Wegener is a Danish artist, apparently happily married to wife of the same occupation Gerda. One day, Gerda persuades her husband to assist her as a female model while she paints, dressing up in a dress and stockings. An unexpected wave of clarity washes over Einar, who readily agrees to continue posing for Gerda. Dubbing the female persona Lili, Gerda takes her out for fun - but when it seems Lili is falling for her childhood friend Hans Axgil, she is heartbroken. She eventually understands that her husband is actually a woman in the wrong body, and stands by her woman as she undertakes groundbreaking gender reassignment surgery; a series of operations that could threaten her very life, let alone her marriage.
Continue: The Danish Girl Trailer
Matthias Schoenaerts has released three period films this year, and been in an Oscar-nominated movie - is he finally accepted as a leading man?
This week's release of 'Far From the Madding Crowd' is the third period film this year with Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts in the romantic leading-man role. Before starring opposite Carey Mulligan in the 1870s, he wooed Michelle Williams in the 1930s in 'Suite Francaise' and Kate Winslet in the 17th century in 'A Little Chaos'. For an actor who got his start in the Oscar-nominated 'Bullhead', then played a street fighter in 'Rust & Bone', these costume dramas must feel like a big change of pace.
Matthias Schoenaerts and Carey Mulligan in 'Far From The Madding Crowd'
There's also the fact that his character in 'Far From the Madding Crowd' is a sheep farmer, so there was a lot to learn. "I had to go to boot camp," he laughs. "Shaving, washing, everything, just so I can pretend, make it look like I know what I'm doing."
This new take on the Thomas Hardy classic vividly captures the story's modern themes through complex performances from a sharp cast. Hardy's story is twisty and surprising, a romance that certainly doesn't take the usual route to a happy ending. But even as it travels to some very dark places, we never give up hope that things will turn out right in the end. And the nuanced acting and filmmaking make it a fascinating, involving journey.
The story opens in the 1870s Dorset countryside, where Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) has gone to stay with her aunt. She can't help but notice the hunky farmer Gabriel Oak (Matthias Shoenaerts) next door, and he notices her too, proposing marriage. But she wants to live an independent life, so she turns him down. Some time later in another place they meet by chance, after she has inherited a farm that he helps save from a fire. She hires him to manage the farm, but he now has a love rival in the form of wealthy older neighbour William Boldwood (Michael Sheen). Then swashbuckling young soldier Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge) turns up, catching Bathsheba's eye. With three suitors to choose from, she still refuses to let a man define her. But she also knows that she can't hold out forever.
Yes, these are essentially the three types of man: good, safe and sexy. So Bathsheba's decision won't be easy. Or at least it shouldn't be. The problem here is that Schoenaerts has such a stunning, beefy on screen presence that the choice is a no-brainer (frankly, he's even more beautiful than the women in the film). This actually makes us yell at the screen as we watch Bathsheba give in to the swaggering Sturridge's far more outrageous flirtation. And the soulful Sheen's presence inspires a wave of sympathy. In other words, we get sucked straight into the melodrama, which plays out with Hardy's usual collections of coincidences, as fate seems to conspire to push people one way or another.
Continue reading: Far From The Madding Crowd Review
MTV Movie Awards bring out the stars, as does the Avengers 2 premiere in Los Angeles. Matthias Schoenaerts is accompanied by costars Kate Winslet and Carey Mulligan at two London premieres. And we get further glimpses of a Western with Michael Fassbender, the next Terminator action romp and Paul Rudd as a tiny superhero in Ant-Man...
The MTV Movie Awards caught the headlines this week, not for their offbeat winners but for the usual antics of the stars who were in attendance. Those on hand to walk the blue carpet included multiple winner Shailene Woodley as well as Jennifer Lopez, Scarlett Johansson, Hailee Steinfeld, Rebel Wilson, Miles Teller, Mark Ruffalo, Michael B. Jordan, Cara Delevingne and Nat Wolff.
Actually, all of the Marvel Avengers were at the awards, then reassembled two nights later for the Los Angeles premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron, which opens next week. This time the carpet was red, and attendees included Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Paul Rudd and Paul Bettany.
Audiences looking for a French historical costume drama should look elsewhere, but those who enjoy British period comedies will love it. With a pointed dash of history and politics, this is a silly movie about social status, and it's so well written and played that only cynics won't have a lot of fun with it. Thankfully, the talent both in front of and behind the camera keep the focus on the lively characters, which makes it engaging on a deeper level than expected.
The fictional story is set around real events in 1682 France, as King Louis XIV (Alan Rickman) was planning to move his court from Paris to Versailles, a vast palace still under construction. The final project there is the expansive garden, which landscaper Andre (Matthias Schoenaerts) has to complete on deadline and under budget. And everyone is shocked when he hires the little-known Sabine (Kate Winslet) to build an outdoor ballroom and fountain. But he has been smitten with her skill and passion for gardening, and there's also a gently gurgling romantic spark between them as well. The problem is that his high-society wife (Helen McCrory) notices this and sets out to sabotage Sabine's work.
There's not much here that's historically accurate, from the frankly outrageous costumes to the English filming locations and dialogue that buzzes with specifically British humour. But it's so breezy and snappy that all we can do is sit back and enjoy it for what it is. Those who do so may even find some underlying resonance in the discussions of order and chaos in landscape design, as well as the way honesty is like a blast of fresh air in a world constrained by status. Indeed, the film's most memorable scene is a gorgeously written and played chance encounter between Sabine and the King in which they initially don't know who the other is.
Continue reading: A Little Chaos Review
'Suite Française' has been miraculously adapted from one of the first pieces of World War Two fiction ever written, by one of the most tragic authors in history.
The new period romance starring Michelle Williams and Matthias Shoenaerts is based on a novel that survived World War II against the odds. Irene Nemirovsky was a well-known novelist in pre-war France, and as the Nazis occupied her country she began writing a sequence of five novels about life during wartime. But in July 1942, she was arrested as a Jew and deported to Auschwitz, where she was killed.
Matthias Schoenaerts as Bruno von Falk in 'Suite Française'
At the time of her deportation, she had only completed the first two books in the series, handwritten in notebooks that were collected by her daughters. Thinking they were journals, the women were afraid to read about their mother's wartime experiences, and left them untouched. More than 50 years later, elder daughter Denise looked through them, discovering the two novels written in microscopic handwriting over 140 pages. The two books were titled 'Tempete en Juin' ('Storm in June') and 'Dolce' ('Sweet'), and were published together as 'Suite Française' in 2004 along with notes from Nemirovsky including the outline of the next book 'Captivite' ('Captivity') and the titles of the final two books in the series: 'Batailles' ('Battles') and 'La Paix' ('Peace').
Continue reading: 'Suite Française' Adapts A Miracle Book
Even though it's made in a style that feels familiar, this World War II romantic drama takes a much more complex approach to the period, most notably in the way that it refuses to let anyone become a hero or villain. This is because author Irene Nemirovsky wrote the source novel at the time, not in retrospect, which gives it an unusual kick. And the film also benefits from an extraordinarily textured performance by Michelle Williams.
She plays Lucille, who in 1940 is living in the French country town of Bussy with her mother-in-law Madame Angellier (Kristin Scott Thomas). Since her husband is missing in action at the front, Lucille is feeling trapped in her life with the madame, who cruelly increases her poor-farmer tenants' rent even during these hard times. Then the Germans arrive to occupy the town, and officer Bruno (Matthias Schoenaerts) is billeted in their house. Initially a horrific presence, Bruno turns out to be a soulful young man who misses his family. As he composes music on Lucille's piano, she reaches out to him in friendship, surprised to find a spark of attraction. But things get more complicated when Lucille and the madame begin to help a neighbour (Sam Riley) who crosses the Germans and needs to be hidden from view.
Director Saul Dibb (The Duchess) shoots this in a fairly straightforward costume-drama style, with sun-dappled cinematography and lavish settings. But the film rises above the genre in the characters, who are never allowed to become the usual stereotypes. Both Lucille and Bruno are intelligent young people aware that they're in the wrong place at the wrong time, so it's hardly surprising that they are drawn to each other, and Williams and Schoenaerts spark vivid chemistry that never boils over into forbidden-love melodrama. Each of them is a bundle of contradictions, remaining sympathetic even when they make bad decisions. And Scott Thomas adds further texture as the harsh madame who reveals her own unexpected shadings.
Continue reading: Suite Francaise Review
After a long stint as a solider, Vincent decided that he's going to make a...
Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love) reteams with Tilda Swinton for this fresh, tricky...
Director Tom Hooper deploys the same style he used in The King's Speech for this...
Marianne Lane is ready for a relaxing European vacation, re-energising after a particularly busy time...
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This new take on the Thomas Hardy classic vividly captures the story's modern themes through...
Audiences looking for a French historical costume drama should look elsewhere, but those who enjoy...
Even though it's made in a style that feels familiar, this World War II romantic...
During the Second World War, France was quickly and violently taken over by the German...
In the palace of Versailles, a tremendous garden is maintained. One day, the builder and...
Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) is a beautiful young, yet poor woman. After saving the life...
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