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Friday, 24 November 2017

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, On Body And Soul, and The Killer: Your Week In Film (November 20-26)

Method man: Jim Carrey "channelled" Andy Kaufman on set during Man On The Moon

The best and worst of the week's UK new home entertainment releases on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD. All the films mentioned are available to buy, rent and/or stream now, unless otherwise stated. This is the second of two columns this week...

Ratings guide:  WWWW - Wonderful  WWW - Worthwhile  WW - Watchable  W - Woeful 

Watching Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton (Netflix) WWW, I was reminded of that (possibly apocryphal) story from the set of Marathon Man. Dustin Hoffman had been going full method, staying up 24 hours straight in a bid to realistically capture his character's dishevelment and exhaustion. Co-star Laurence Olivier asked why he was putting himself through such an ordeal, and Hoffman explained he wanted to be convincing. Sir Larry drily replied: "Try acting, dear boy."


It's a piece of advice Jim Carrey wouldn't have had any truck with on the set of Milos Forman's 1999 Andy Kaufman biopic, Man On The Moon, the making of which forms the basis of this fascinating documentary. Carrey went method to a degree that even Hoffman would have found head-spinning, staying "in character" as the late US comedian the entire time (even off-set) and generally being a colossal pain to other cast and crew as a result (there's a moment when Danny DeVito looks utterly exasperated by his behaviour).

Chris Smith's film consists of never-before-seen footage, shot at the time, intercut with a lengthy new interview with Carrey, in which he tries to explain what on earth was going on. It seems the star of The Mask and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective became convinced he was "channelling Andy" in some weird way and, possessed by his anarchic spirit, would do pretty much whatever came into his head, including picking fights with professional wrestler Jerry Lawler (Carrey ended up in hospital as a result) and spending long periods with a brown paper bag on his head as Tony Clifton, Kaufman's debauched alter-ego.

I'm not quite sure what is more disturbing – Carrey as he was then, convinced his body had been somehow hijacked by the puckish spirit of a dead man, or the actor as he is now, massive of beard, spouting all sorts of New Age mumbo-jumbo, and in semi-retirement from Hollywood. Whatever, I suspect Kaufman – who, despite his great talent, never seemed to take himself at all seriously – would have cracked a rib laughing at the whole absurd, but riotously entertaining, pantomime.

Bad Moon rising: Carrey runs amok and upsets cast-mates

Hungarian writer/director Ildikó Enyedi hadn't made a film since 1999's Simon, The Magician but more than makes up for her time away with On Body And Soul (MUBI) WWWW, quite the strangest love story you'll experience in this or any year.

Set for the most part in an abattoir (complete with images of animal slaughter), it tells the story of Endre (Géza Morcsányi), the company's financial director, and Maria (Alexandra Borbély), its newly-appointed quality controller. He has a disability, she has Asperger's. It transpires they share dreams of being together in an Eden-like forest as deer, and slowly, over the next two hours, this seemingly mismatched pair grow closer in the real world too. It's a film that doesn't sound that promising on paper but spend 20 minutes or so in its company and there's magic aplenty waiting to hook you in. You quickly come to care about Enyedi's characters, especially lonely, vulnerable Maria, whilst marvelling at the sheer chutzpah of the setting and a good deal of the storytelling too.

The slaughterhouse scenes and deer dreams perhaps take a bit of getting used to but act as metaphors for romantic love. The perfect stillness and beauty of the forest is love's ideal, the abattoir its stark and brutal reality. There's humour of the pitch-black variety here too, Enyedi taking some bold narrative risks that provoke a series of different emotions all at once. It's been a while since a film has prompted me to actually shout at the screen ("Noooooo!"), but that's precisely what I did here. On Body And Soul might be a slow burn, but it's also something of an emotional roller-coaster.

Enyedi is not well known in this country (checking amazon, My 20th Century, from 1989, is the only one of her previous films even available to buy), but I fervently hope that might change very soon. On Body And Soul was awarded the prestigious Golden Bear at this year's Berlin International Film Festival, and is Hungary's submission for the 2018 Oscars. I suspect we won't have to wait 18 years for what she does next.


Deer heart: Maria and Endre meet in their dreams

The Killer (Netflix) WWW is a down and dirty Brazilian revenge western that reminded me of Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy – it has dirt beneath its finger nails, a mouth full of rotting brown teeth, and would happily shoot you in the head for a bottle of half-decent sipping whiskey. 

Something of a shaggy dog story (there's a framing sequence in which a mysterious cowpoke spins a yarn to two would-be assailants), this latest Netflix Original sees feared bandit-cum-assassin Seven Ears (Deto Montenegro) discover an abandoned child, Cabeleira (Diogo Morgado), who he raises as his own son. Many years later, fully grown but practically feral, Cabeleira leaves his remote desert home when Seven Ears goes missing. Eventually locating the nearest town, he starts looking into what might have happened to his guardian and is employed as a hired killer by the town's mayor, Monsieur Blanchard (Etienne Chicot). Of course, it doesn't take a genius to surmise that the corrupt Blanchard has something to do with Seven Ears' disappearance, and that as soon as the none-too-bright Cabeleira works that out too, sparks are going to fly.

Writer/director Marcelo Galvão has a background in advertising and that makes sense because everything about The Killer is big, broad, loud and dramatic. If ever a movie could be accused of turning it up to 11, it is this one. Characters are boiled down to only a couple of simple traits, in many cases they are little more than caricatures. Blanchard is outrageously French and outrageously villainous, his son and wife sadistic monsters. There's an ugliness about these people, even the ones we're rooting for, including Seven Ears, who is named for what hangs on the necklace he wears. After a while, though, you learn to wallow in this world's toxicity – there's a weird purity about its sheer unpleasantness that is almost invigorating. The Killer is dubbed into English but, for the full gritty effect, you'd be wise to turn on the subtitles and instead watch it in Brazilian Portuguese – Galvão's film really isn't the same otherwise.

Natural born Killer: The down and dirty western is back

Film of the week: On Body And Soul

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