Heart-ham­mer­ing ge­nius

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Film Theatre -

CRITIC’S CHOICE Whiplash 15 cert, 106 mins þþþþþ A promis­ing young jazz drum­mer (Miles Teller) at a New York mu­sic school is sin­gled out by a pas­sion­ate tu­tor, Ter­ence Fletcher (JK Sim­mons, in an Os­car-wor­thy per­for­mance), for fu­ture great­ness. Sounds a lit­tle like Fame, or Mr. Hol­land’s Opus, right? In fact, Damien Chazelle’s heart-ham­mer­ing de­but fea­ture is closer to Full Metal Jacket. Sim­mons plays Fletcher as a drill sergeant in a black turtle­neck, who puts his young pro­tégé, An­drew, un­der an in­creas­ingly in­sane de­gree of pres­sure in an at­tempt to knock his raw tal­ent into ge­nius. Chazelle, who shot Whiplash in a head­spin­ning 19 days, looks at one point to be ma­noeu­vring An­drew’s pur­suit of mu­si­cal great­ness to­wards a con­ven­tion­ally happy end­ing, but then sud­denly the rug is whipped away, and the film top­ples into an elec­tri­fied fi­nal act that builds to­wards one of the most glo­ri­ous, sat­is­fy­ing fi­nales in re­cent cin­ema. Rob­bie Collin ALSO IN CIN­E­MAS Tes­ta­ment of Youth 12A cert, 129 mins þþþþ Once or twice, in Swedish ac­tress Ali­cia Vikan­der’s glo­ri­ous per­for­mance as Vera Brit­tain in Tes­ta­ment of Youth, you can hear a tell­tale Scan­di­na­vian vowel drop. It’s worth the trade. Vikan­der pro­duces a thrillingly as­tute por­trait of a young Ox­ford un­der­grad­u­ate whose ideals are beaten into shape by heart­break and gru­elling trauma. Brit­tain (on whose me­moirs this is based) vol­un­teered as a nurse dur­ing the First World War and suf­fered an appalling cat­a­logue of per­sonal loss over the next four years. Later, as one of our great paci­fist thinkers, she ad­mit­ted with an un­flinch­ing rad­i­cal­ism that the cruel culling of a gen­er­a­tion meant noth­ing. Tim Robey

ISticks and stones: Miles Teller (left) and JK Sim­mons ex­cel in Damien Chazelle’s glo­ri­ous ‘Whiplash’ Wild 15 cert, 115 mins þþþþ After years of reck­less be­hav­iour, a heroin ad­dic­tion and the de­struc­tion of her mar­riage, Ch­eryl Strayed (played by the ex­cel­lent Reese Wither­spoon) makes a rash decision. With ab­so­lutely no ex­pe­ri­ence, she sets out to clearly re­mem­ber it was at a party in East Hamp­ton in 1998 that another guest grip­ping a glass of cham­pagne asked me, by way of an ice­breaker, “Do you… col­lect trees?” I had been told on the way to the party that our host was famed for his tree col­lec­tion. He had spent a for­tune on the things. Some spec­i­mens were worth tens and even hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars. hike more than a thou­sand miles on the Pa­cific Crest Trail – a backpacking chal­lenge of fa­bled ar­du­ous­ness and rugged beauty. Like Into the Wild and Tracks, this odyssey is a pu­ri­fy­ing tonic and the sound­track is es­pe­cially fas­ci­nat­ing. TR One, in par­tic­u­lar, was so cov­etable that it was ru­moured to have its own ded­i­cated se­cu­rity de­tail. So the ques­tion was a le­git­i­mate open­ing gam­bit, but I re­mem­ber think­ing at the time, “My, oh, my, I’m a long way from Boscombe, now, mama.” When I was a child, we had a plum tree in the gar­den, and pick­ing and eat­ing warm plums is one of my ear­li­est mem­o­ries. My chil­dren’s favourite tree is a huge fallen oak at Amer­i­can Sniper 15 cert, 132 mins þþþ Clint East­wood’s sec­ond film in 12 months is a re­turn to form for this gruff gi­ant of US cin­ema. He has adapted the me­moirs of Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper, who’s bulked up to the size of a lar­gish bot­tle bank for the role), a four-time Iraq veteran and the dead­li­est marks­man in US Navy Seal his­tory (he has the stats to back it up). East­wood has given us a story of the kind of ar­che­typal lone gun­man he was once fa­mous for play­ing – tac­i­turn but with roil­ing depths, work­ing law­less plains and war-torn town­ships, try­ing to square his bru­tal ac­tions with his rigid moral code. The film lacks the ide­o­log­i­cal heft of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker, but it’s still a tense and com­pelling por­trait. RC the bot­tom of the val­ley. It has kept them en­ter­tained for years: they have clam­bered over it, built dens un­der­neath it and swung from it. A ma­ture tree is a won­der­ful thing for kids. Zip wires, tyres and odd lengths of rope hang from boughs all over the place. But of all the things on the farm it’s the fruit trees that have, over the years, given me the most joy for the least pain. When we ar­rived, all that re­mained of the once ex­ten­sive or­chards and nut­ter­ies were a dozen or so trees in an over­grown cor­ner in the back gar­den, still crop­ping heav­ily, and a cou­ple of them bear ap­ples that I still haven’t seen any­where else. Ev­ery year I’ve tried to plant a few more fruit trees, but this spring I’m re­ally go­ing for it. The Brog­dale Na­tional Fruit Col­lec­tion, near Faver­sham, Kent, has 6,500 va­ri­eties Ap­ple of my eye: a fruit tree is a joy from which to choose. Young seedlings, or “whips”, cost as lit­tle as a few pounds. They don’t need much nur­tur­ing and will start to bear fruit within two or three years. They look fan­tas­tic in blos­som and in leaf. The rule of thumb is to get trees in the ground by Easter, which sounds like a long way off, but it does take a bit of think­ing about. If you get the right com­bi­na­tion of pol­li­na­tors, it should be pos­si­ble to have fresh ap­ples more or less year round; the more trees you have, the bet­ter ev­ery­thing works. Nuts will have to wait un­til next year when I’ve land­scaped a bit more of the far side of the yard. I’ve al­ready run out of space this year and I’ve only got as far as dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of plum. My re­sponse to the ques­tion at the Long Is­land cock­tail party was an in­vol­un­tary snort that re­sulted in a small amount of cham­pagne com­ing out of my nose. Look at me now, mama. Turn to page 23 for Bunny Guin­ness’s ad­vice on choos­ing trees

Worth the trip: Reese Wither­spoon as Ch­eryl Strayed in ‘Wild’

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