A stun­ning, high-art de­but

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

THE CHILD­HOOD OF A LEADER Di­rected by Brady Cor­bet. Star­ring Tom Sweet, Berenice Bejo, Liam Cun­ning­ham, Stacy Martin, Yolande Moreau, Robert Pat­tin­son, Jaques Boudet. Club, lim­ited re­lease, 115 min

Now this is what we like to see when an ac­tor first slips be­hind the cam­era. Brady Cor­bet, the young star of Thun­der­birds and Mys­te­ri­ous Skin, has not made a film about cheese­mon­gers in Brook­lyn. Demon­strat­ing the reck­less­ness that comes only with youth, Cor­bet has em­braced his much-dis­cussed in­tel­lec­tual en­thu­si­asms and di­rected a 1970s Euro­pean art film. There’s a hint of Her­zog. There’s a smidgeon of Sch­lön­dorff. You can al­most smell the Gi­tanes baked into the faded An­to­nioni car­pet­ing.

Cor­bet starred in Michael Haneke’s US re­make of Funny Games and the plot car­ries hints of The White Rib­bon (a film that fits com­fort­ably into the tra­di­tion ref­er­enced above). Our own Liam Cun­ning­ham plays a US diplo­mat in France for the ne­go­ti­a­tions fol­low­ing the first World War. His Euro­pean wife (Bérénice Bejo) seems less than over­joyed to be dumped in a crum­bling pile some dis­tance from the ac­tion. Their young son (Tom Sweet) is al­ready go­ing barmy when the film be­gins and he gets steadily more dif­fi­cult as events pro- gress. We see him throw­ing stones at the lo­cal church. His re­fusal to eat his din­ner trig­gers a do­mes­tic cri­sis. He turns up nearly naked dur­ing a tense ne­go­ti­a­tion.

The ti­tle gives some clue as to where the story is head­ing. A quick cal­cu­la­tion and a con­sid­er­a­tion of the lad’s parent­age will con­firm that we are not look­ing at a younger ver­sion of Hitler or Mus­solini. But (as in The White Rib­bon) trails are be­ing laid down to­wards a fas­cist fu­ture. Child­hood of a Leader is more am­bi­tious still. The ti­tle char­ac­ter, im­plod­ing while the world is carved up in the ad­ja­cent room, is clearly meant to be the very per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of Europe. Phew!

The film is drenched in for­giv­able flaws. In the first 30 min­utes, the key char­ac­ters – among them Robert Pat­tin­son’s louche diplo­mat – spend too much time telling us who they are. But the fetid at­mo­sphere is de­li­ciously main­tained in a film that boasts an in­vig­o­rat­ing clash be­tween steady ac­cre­tion and high bom­bast. The per­for­mances are all strong. Lol Craw­ley’s win­tery pho­tog­ra­phy is first-rate. The MVP re­mains, how­ever, the peren­ni­ally ec­cen­tric mu­si­cian Scott Walker. Scor­ing the bril­liant open­ing mon­tage to a noise that sug­gests György Ligeti in a bi­cy­cle fac­tory, the great man pre­pares the ground for one of the year’s most ar­rest­ing de­buts.

We can barely wait to see what Cor­bet does next.

Liam Cun­ning­ham, Tom Sweet, Berenice Bejo and Robert Pat­tin­son in The Child­hood of a Leader

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.