There is a particular glamour to party nights in cities like Beirut or Tel Aviv – the proximity of the sea, the dark starry nights, suntanned boys and girls dancing the night away at impromptu gatherings, smoking on balconies and rooftop terraces, sometimes encountering that unexpected spark of attraction.
Mayhem reigns wherever Moonee (Brooklyn Prince), an irrepressible six year old, leads her friends. She is a little tornado of mischief, and has an answer for everything. Whatever trouble she concocts, her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) stands up for her.
Pull back, and the reality of their home is revealed. Moonee and Halley live in poverty in a cheap motel in Florida, just off a busy highway. The motel is called the Magic Castle. A lure for unsuspecting tourists, and a long-term dormitory for the dispossessed. In the distance, Disney World – the Florida Project.
What better way to start the New Year than with a bracing dose of existential fear and trembling?
The BFI kicks off its Ingmar Bergman centenary celebrations with the revival of Bergman’s 1966 film, Persona. Deeply absorbing, it is another of the director’s lavishly symbolic films, playing with the ideas of artifice, the self, and imbalances of power.
A wild night in New York starts calmly enough. In a psychiatrist’s office, a young man, Nick (Benny Safdie), speaks haltingly. He is being assessed for cognitive function. It becomes obvious, that his capacity for understanding the complexities of the world is limited.
The big camera close-ups on his face amplify his discomfort. He is about to explain something about himself, something that maybe he shouldn’t, when peace is abruptly shattered. A young man, rough, wild, angry, erupts into the room and drags him out. His brother, Connie (Robert Pattinson, almost unrecognisable). He is agitated. Frenetic. The two brothers rush out – and go rob a bank.
Like all the most accomplished fairy tales, Guillermo del Toro’s latest world of wonders, The Shape of Water, opens with a sense of promise, of magical things to come, and inevitably, with an undertone of darkness.
Through a door, ajar, the camera slips into a dark, blueish, watery home. The sound of creaking wood, a low rumble, a swoosh, as if one were at sea in an ancient sailboat. A sunken sailboat: everything is underwater, floating dreamily in a tranquil space cluttered with old fashioned furniture – a Victorian side-table, an old lamp glowing in the gloom, a chaise-longue, and on the chaise-longue, a blissfully sleeping woman. ‘If I told you about her, the Princess without voice’ the unseen narrator begins to tells us, with a warm kind voice…
Utterly charming and bucolic, a meandering story of a summer idyll unexpectedly builds up into something deeply moving and memorable.
Summer 1983, somewhere near Crema, Lombardy. A landscape of sleepy village squares baking in the afternoon sun, of lazy rivers to bathe in, grass to roll in, of gardens with trees bearing luscious fruit.