2016 Catch up Triple Bill #2

Going to give the ladies some love in this triple bill. So much like any other weekend, AMIRITE?!
I'll take that withering look as a yes. Moving swiftly on.

Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016) is clever film in many ways. It's a clever premise, asking us to consider how exactly we would communicate with an alien species (and subsequently with our fellow man) if they rocked up in their spaceships one day. It's cleverly adapted by Eric Heisserer from the 'difficult' novella 'Story of My Life' by Ted Chiang. It's cleverly scored by Jóhann Jóhannsson with haunting compositions which complement the tone and themes of the film. It's cleverly directed by Villeneuve and just how cleverly is only apparent in retrospect as we realise how the story has been assembled for the audience. And it's cleverly acted, particularly by luminous leading lady Amy Adams who radiates intelligence as the linguistics professor called in to help humankind converse with its new arrivals. And yet, for all its cleverness it never really spoke to my heart - a film to be admired, rather than loved. Perhaps my that's my failing as a human, rather than the film's, but i still prefer the similarly themed Contact which dealt with similar material in a more affecting manner. But maybe that's because I just like maths more than languages. Still, it's clearly one of the best films of 2016 and if I were to boil it down to simple language for a alien race, I'd go for Interstellar Contact of the Solaris Kind.

Love and Friendship (Whit Stillman, 2016) is an adaptation of Jane Austen's novella Lady Susan, an epistolary comedy of manners revolving round the machinations of Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) as she schemes her way through upper-class societal relationships.  The tale is light but slight, so it needs strong performances to carry it, but reliable turns from Stephen Fry, Chloe Sevigny and the very funny Tom Bennett speak to that. However, this is Beckinsale's film from start to finish in a superlative turn as the scheming Lady Susan who may not be entirely nice, but is certainly very memorable and very attractive. As a result, the person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in this good film, must be intolerably stupid.

At first glance, Under the Shadow (Babak Anvari, 2016) sounds like a run-of-the-mill horror in which a mother is increasingly convinced that some sort of evil force has entered her home and possessed her daughter. But this is set in 1980s Tehran, during the Iran-Iraq war, which lends it an unusual context and thought-provoking undertones. Shideh (powerfully played by Narges Rashidi) is a smart, educated woman restricted in her ambitions by both the rules of her patriarchal society and the politics of the war. When an unexploded missile lands on her apartment block, it apparently brings with it a djinn, an evil spirit borne on the wind, which invades her home and affects her young daughter. Is the haunting real? Or is it a manifestation of the forces that are keeping her down? Or both? Thus, the scene is set for a slow-build horror which delivers some good scares. Plus any parents watching will identify fully with the despair that accompanies the inability to find a child's favourite toy - a truly horrifying situation.  It has drawn comparison with The Babadook and whilst it is not as good or as scary as that film, Rashidi's performance and the setting makes it's worth a look. For instance, just look at what happens when Shideh does exactly what people in horror films should do and gets the fuck outta the house with her daughter, only to discover a entirely different type of oppression on the street outside. Now that's real horror.

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