Re­views of The Killing of a Sa­cred Deer, Call Me By Your Name and The Lit­tle Hours, plus a pre­view of the Show Me Shorts fes­ti­val.

Stylised di­a­logue, jar­ring mu­sic and dis­com­fort­ing cam­era an­gles all con­trib­ute to a mem­o­rable work of art.

Metro Magazine NZ - - Contents -

RE­VIEW — DAVID LARSEN The Killing of a Sa­cred Deer Di­rected by Yor­gos Lan­thi­mos Opens Novem­ber 16

Some­thing is wrong. You will be a good way into the se­cond English-lan­guage fea­ture from Greek writer/ direc­tor Yor­gos Lan­thi­mos be­fore you know what, or why, or what will come of it, but the sense of some­thing pal­pa­bly amiss is per­va­sive and en­velop­ing.

Call­ing this a horror film would be ac­cu­rate in a tech­ni­cal sense, but also mis­lead­ing. It lives out on the far cinephile fringe of horror, where creep­ing un­ease re­places the jump-scare. I’m di­vided be­tween want­ing ev­ery­one I know to see it — it’s a grand and mem­o­rable piece of art — and want­ing to post warn­ing no­tices at the door.

The first thing we see is a close-up of glis­ten­ing raw flesh. It’s dis­com­fort­ing; for the squea­mish it will be worse than that, but even for those de­sen­si­tised by slasher films and hyper-re­al­ist med­i­cal dra­mas, the lack of con­text gives your mind too many places to go. The ex­plic­it­ness of the im­age is not typ­i­cal of the film, which is far more in­ter­ested in men­tal dis­com­fort than body horror, but that brief mo­ment of vis­ual dis­ori­en­ta­tion — are you see­ing open heart surgery? An act of tor­ture? The rit­ual killing of the ti­tle? — counts as fair warn­ing.

We cut to two doc­tors walk­ing down a hospi­tal corridor. One of them is Colin Farrell, and their con­ver­sa­tion has a dis­tinc­tive tang which will be fa­mil­iar to any­one who’s seen Farrell’s pre­vi­ous col­lab­o­ra­tion with Lan­thi­mos, The Lob­ster. The earnest over-shar­ing of that film’s di­a­logue is back, but here it has a very dif­fer­ent ef­fect, and Farrell is play­ing a very dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter: not a sweet no-hoper placed in a ghastly predica­ment by a satir­i­cally dystopian so­ci­ety, but a wealthy pro­fes­sional with a pic­ture-post­card life in a so­ci­ety that seems iden­ti­cal to ours.

We get hints quite quickly that there’s some­thing off about his re­la­tion­ship with his wife (Nicole Kid­man) and some­thing forced about his men­tor­ship of a needy teenage boy (Barry Keoghan), but the stylised di­a­logue means that every con­ver­sa­tion in this film feels a lit­tle wrong.

I’m di­vided be­tween want­ing ev­ery­one I know to see it — it’s a grand piece of art — and want­ing to post warn­ing no­tices.

It could just be Lan­thi­mos play­ing lan­guage games; it could be that th­ese are or­di­nary peo­ple speak­ing a height­ened cin­e­matic di­alect. Or it could be that the ar­ti­fi­cial ver­nac­u­lar is a form of dou­ble bluff. Maybe every re­la­tion­ship in the film re­ally is sub­tly poi­soned.

The sound­track and the cin­e­matog­ra­phy com­bine to re­in­force the ef­fect of the lan­guage, with jar­ring mu­sic cues and cam­era an­gles that de­fa­mil­iarise and dis­com­fort with­out quite ris­ing to the level of overt ma­nip­u­la­tion.

The per­for­mances are equally well judged and equally am­bigu­ous. It should not be sur­pris­ing to any­one at this late date that Nicole Kid­man can con­vey a com­plex in­ner life with one twitch of an eye­brow, though I’m still get­ting used to the idea that Farrell can match her. But the real sur­prise in the cast is Keoghan, last seen as a young fish­ing-boat worker in Dunkirk, and here a re­mark­ably strong pres­ence. Ex­actly where his char­ac­ter sits in the story takes a while to be­come clear, and the rev­e­la­tion is not a happy one. This is not, in fact, a happy film. But it re­in­forces my sense that Lan­thi­mos is one of the most orig­i­nal voices in today’s cin­ema.

RE­VIEWS — GEMMA GRACEWOOD Call Me By Your Name Di­rected by Luca Guadagnino Opens De­cem­ber 28

Call Me By Your Name is a long, sump­tu­ous com­ing-ofage tale that’s ut­terly worth not know­ing a thing about be­fore you let your­self sink into it. Un­less, of course, you have read An­dré Aci­man’s novel upon which it is based, in which case, as you were.

Di­rected with sen­sual at­ten­tion by Luca Guadagnino ( I Am Love, A Big­ger Splash) and writ­ten — af­ter years in var­i­ous hands — by the great James Ivory, who also adapted one of the im­por­tant gay-ro­mance films of the 1980s (E.M. Forster’s Mau­rice), we are in very good hands. Amidst heav­ing apricot trees and lazily chirp­ing crick­ets, Elio, a 17-year-old Amer­i­can-French-Jewish son of an aca­demic fam­ily, and Oliver, the 20-some­thing doc­tor­ate stu­dent who comes to live with them for the sum­mer in their gor­geous Lom­bardy villa, dance around each other for a lip-bit­ingly long time.

Tim­o­thée Cha­la­met is a di­vine Elio, all long eye­lashes and pre­co­cious tal­ents, un­sure of him­self around Oliver, yet cock­sure at the same time. Ar­mie Ham­mer as Oliver is a man-moun­tain of con­fi­dent Amer­i­can en­ergy, who re­veals his vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in de­li­cious lay­ers. (Thank good­ness for the 1983 set­ting; smart­phones and Grindr might have made this story so dif­fer­ent, and so much shorter.)

Call Me By Your Name has a lan­guid, un­struc­tured feel that serves as a mir­ror of its sum­mery set­ting, and as a blessed re­lief from Hol­ly­wood’s re­lent­less three-act struc­ture. Days blend into each other, hours go un­hur­riedly by, and char­ac­ters take their time, un­til sud­denly there’s not enough time left.

What’s re­ally lovely about the novel, and the adap­ta­tion, is that Elio and Oliver are able to un­der­take their jour­ney to se­duc­tion with­out the ap­par­ent weight of so­ci­ety on their shoul­ders. The peo­ple in their or­bit are in­tel­lec­tu­als and lovers; if they worry for th­ese young men and what they might face once sum­mer ends, they don’t let it in­ter­fere with love’s path. And there is a spec­tac­u­lar fa­ther-son mo­ment, one to die for, one that many will wish they had had in their own lives. It feels like an ex­quis­ite gift to the au­di­ence for our own pa­tience and care.

The Lit­tle Hours Di­rected by Jeff Baena Opens Novem­ber 16

The nun­sploita­tion genre gets a mod­ern-ironic twist in The Lit­tle Hours, an al­mosthi­lar­i­ous take on Gio­vanni Boc­cac­cio’s 14th-cen­tury folk tales. Known as The De­cameron, Boc­cac­cio’s short sto­ries were The Onion of their time, writ­ten in a postBlack Death pe­riod when the masses were start­ing to poke fun at the Catholic Church.

The film, like the sto­ries, is set in north­ern Italy in the 1300s. It’s a com­pact tale with a small cast of Amer­i­can com­edy reg­u­lars. Aubrey

Thank good­ness for the 1983 set­ting; smart­phones and Grindr might have made this story so dif­fer­ent.

Plaza, Kate Micucci and Ali­son Brie play Fer­nanda, Gin­erva and Alessandra, a trio of back-stabby, pot­ty­mouthed, sex­u­ally re­pressed nuns, with the bril­liant

Molly Shan­non as their woe­fully un­der-writ­ten mother su­pe­rior and John C. Reilly as the drunken Fa­ther Tom­masso.

There’s some­thing in­stantly funny about char­ac­ters speak­ing like thor­oughly mod­ern folk in a deep pe­riod set­ting (see Black­ad­der,

Monty Python), and the best laughs in The Lit­tle Hours come in un­ex­pected bursts of filthy di­a­logue. The three young nuns un­leash every f-bomb they know on the con­vent’s down­trod­den farm­hand, scar­ing him off. Soon, he is re­placed by the younger, buf­fer Mas­setto (Dave Franco, Ali­son Brie’s hus­band), who must pre­tend to be deaf-mute for rea­sons dreamed up by Fa­ther Tom­masso. High jinks and fer­til­ity rit­u­als en­sue, don­keys and tur­tles are in­volved, and the al­wayswel­come Fred Ar­misen turns up as a vis­it­ing bishop to read them all the riot act.

Writ­ten and di­rected by

Jeff Baena, with his real-life part­ner Plaza pro­duc­ing as well as act­ing, The Lit­tle Hours fea­tures cast mem­bers from Baena’s pre­vi­ous films Life Af­ter Beth and Joshy, which lends an in­ti­mate feel to its pro­duc­tion. There’s chem­istry and ease be­tween the ac­tors; you can tell they had a fine time mak­ing this in the Tus­can coun­try­side. The down­side is it’s a bit like watch­ing a live im­prov troupe in the mid­dle of a sketch that’s drag­ging on for the au­di­ence, but that the play­ers are still very much en­joy­ing. The Lit­tle Hours is hu­mor­ous and adorable (and vi­o­lent and ob­scene), but never quite hits the comic highs that its cast sug­gests it ought to.

ABOVE — Nicole Kid­man and Colin Farrell in The Killing of a Sa­cred Deer.

BE­LOW— The lan­guid Call Me By Your Name of­fers a blessed break from Hol­ly­wood’s three-act struc­ture.

TOP— In Blind Vaysha, a girl’s vi­sions are de­picted in wood-cut an­i­ma­tions.

ABOVE— Down­side Up shows a world where ev­ery­one has Down syn­drome.

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