Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an authoritarian dictator. A blending of fact and fiction, this award-winning film has a remarkably visual sensibility thanks to actor-turned-director Brady Corbet and his intense cast. It's a bit relentless in its murky atmosphere, but there are flashes of genius all the way through.
The story opens in 1918 Paris, where an American diplomat (Game of Thrones' Liam Cunningham) is knee-deep in negotiations that will lead to the Treaty of Versailles. His wife (The Artist's Berenice Bejo) and pre-teen son Prescott (Tom Sweet) are rattling around their country house waiting for him to come home, and there's also a loyal maid (Yolande Moreau) and an observant nanny (Stacy Martin). But Prescott is a handful, refusing to cut his hair and challenging everyone around him by throwing a series of epic tantrums. With his father busy with work, his mother is so lonely that she turns to family friend Charles (Robert Pattinson) for company. And it doesn't help that the maid indulges Prescott's every whim, leaving the nanny unable to control him.
Where all of this goes is elusive and complex, hinting at a variety of secret activities happening just out of reach. Since everything is depicted through Prescott's immature perspective, the film's plot feels suggestive and seemingly irrational, and yet there's a driving sense of logic to it as well. And by mixing in newsreel footage to root everything into this pivotal point of history, Corbet offers haunting echoes of the young lives of populist tyrants like Hitler and Mussolini (and maybe Donald Trump). All of this allows the cast to dig deeply into their roles, offering a glimpse beneath the surface at every step. At the centre, the remarkable young Sweet is fierce and also fragile, eerily likeable even as he behaves so monstrously. Meanwhile, Bejo's helpless sensitivity is cleverly contrasted with Cunningham's distance.
Continue reading: The Childhood Of A Leader Review
With Ozon's usual sharp writing and direction, this black comedy is a fabulous series of provocations, challenging us to explore how we see, or perhaps imagine, the people in our lives. It's also a playful exploration of the nature of storytelling itself, using a teacher-student relationship to reveal all kinds of uncomfortable truths.
The teacher and student in question are Germain (Luchini), who's tired of teaching literature to illiterate students, and shy 16-year-old Claude (Umhauer), a gifted young writer. His essays spark Germain's imagination because they continue on from each other to serialise his encounters with the family of his friend Rapha (Ughetto). As Claude writes about flirting with Rapha's mum (Sagnier) or becoming pals with his dad (Menochet), Germain becomes gripped by the story. And so does his wife Jeanne (Scott Thomas), who sees this as a wonderful escape from the mundane pressures in her life. But in a private tutoring session with Claude, Germain crosses an ethical line. And things start to get strange.
Writer-director Ozon is wickedly blurring the line between fact and fiction, as everyone who reads Claude's essays imagines the people in ways that fuel their own fantasies. So events unfold through a variety of perspectives, some of which must surely be imagined, especially as Germain and Claude adjust the characters to reveal hidden secrets. Yes, this brings out the voyeuristic tendencies in all of the characters, and in us as well, since we too are living vicariously through people whose lives seem so much more interesting than ours. Even if they are supposed to be us.
Continue reading: In The House [Dans La Maison] Review
As she celebrates her 80th birthday, the iconic French filmmaker compiles an impressionistic collage of photographs, home movies, new scenes and clips from the classic films she had a hand in. She recounts her career alongside Godard and the Nouvelle Vague, and links her memories together with beaches from near her birthplace in Belgium to Los Angeles by way of Cuba and Cannes. She also installs a beach on a Paris street, occupied by female members of her staff.
Continue reading: The Beaches Of Agnes [Les Plages D'Agnes] Review
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