The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past. Unless it’s in Technicolor.

In the movies, the past has a certain specific look. Depending on which era is depicted, the film stock is different, the grain is more pronounced, colours are graded according to decade. The ’60s have the yellow-tinted look of an old photo, the ‘80s look neon, and anything before the First World War looks like a painting, its colours burnished. If the past doesn’t look like the past, well, it ain’t authentic, is it?

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Tainted love

Three women: a queen, fragile of body and mind. Her confidante, advisor and lover, ready to do what it takes to protect her monarch and her country – however much pain it will cause. And then there’s the social climber who, willing to do anything so she’s no longer a victim, tears them apart.

Add nonsensical social rules, wanton psychological cruelty, hilariously strange dancing and lobster references, and yup: we’re in Lanthimos Country.

The Favourite

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #6: The Last Jedi

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Tune in for episode 6 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture podcast, which returns us to a long time ago (all together now!) in a galaxy far, far away: what did we think of The Last Jedi? What role did that mega-franchise play in our childhood? And has Rian Johnson ruined or renewed Star Wars? Also, some thoughts on The Leftovers – the novel, not the series – and on Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

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Punishment, sadism and open-heart surgery

Even before bad things start to happen, it’s clear that something is seriously off in The Killing of a Sacred Deer. There’s a cringy neediness to teenaged Martin who goes to see cardiologist Steven at the hospital every single day, but it’s more than that: without ever spelling it out, he demands the older man’s attention and care, as if the heart surgeon owed him. As if the young man had something on him. There’s more than a hint of blackmail in the daily visits, the disproportional gifts he gets from Stephen, the teenager’s wheedling but insistent voice – and the complete absence of any resistance on Steven’s part. It’s as if he already fears the punishment that might follow.

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Lobsters, Parrots, Camels and Death

lobster3The Lobster is one of the most unsettling comedies I’ve seen in a long time. It might not be a comedy at all. What unsettled me was not only the world it is set in, but also some of the scenes of the movie. To wit: If you are single, the authorities pick you up and bring you to some cheerless high-end spa hotel where you have to find a partner because they are of the opinion that the world is a better place when there are two of something. This is why your one hand is tied behind your back for the first two days at the hotel. There are also silly dumb shows about how twosomeness is much safer. If you don’t succeed in finding a partner within 45 days, you will be transformed into the animal of your choice. The hotel manager (Olivia Colman) patiently explains that this will solve the problem of endangered animal species. That’s coercion for the greater ecological good; it’s a throwaway line because the movie also works without it, for instance as an absurd utopia, but it made my skin crawl.

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