Thursday 30 June 2016

The Last 5 Films I've Seen

Past imperfect: Remainder boasts a mind-boggling ending 

Next week I'll be posting a list of my 10 favourite films of the year so far. One or two of these might even be on it...

1. Embrace Of The Serpent (2015): Colombian director Ciro Guerra's film is a hard sell - it's subtitled, black and white and contains two separate but linked story strands that run alongside each other. But please don't let any of that put you off. It tells the story of shaman Karamakate and his relationship (sometimes friendly, sometimes not) with two European scientists - 40 years apart - as they descend into the Amazon's heart of darkness searching for a mythical plant with great healing properties. Big themes, rich cinematography and moments both disturbing and thrilling make for an intoxicating brew indeed. It's been compared to Herzog and Coppola, but I'm not sure I've ever seen anything quite like it.

Amazon Prime: Embrace Of The Serpent is truly intoxicating

2. Remainder (2015): Tricksy but inventive memory-loss drama in which Tom Sturridge (Far From The Madding Crowd) forgets vast swathes of his past when he is hit on the head by an object falling from a London office block. Eventually out of hospital, and now very rich thanks to a multi-million-pound compensation payment, he sets about recreating his memories using actors and the vast resources he can now access. Omer Fast's film has you constantly on the back foot as you aren't sure what's real, what's imagined or simply wrongly recollected, the plot shifting from downbeat melodrama to surreal crime caper as it glides effortlessly through the gears. The final 20 minutes - complete with mind-boggling ending - are cracking. 

Mind games: Remainder keeps you on the back foot

3. Evolution (2015): You'd be hard pressed to find a stranger film this year than French director Lucile Hadzihalilovic's dizzying and disturbing Evolution. Set in a seaside town populated only by young boys and women, it evokes David Lynch, David Cronenberg and, perhaps most of all, HP Lovecraft. The boys are given weird medicine and fed disgusting-looking food by the women, who then conduct medical experiments on them at a local hospital. I'm deliberately holding a lot of stuff back because my words couldn't do justice to just how otherworldly and odd this film is. Not only that but it's hauntingly beautiful to look at, too. 

By the sea: Evolution has a Lovecraftian vibe

4. A Bigger Splash (2015): A relationship drama-cum-thriller which sees stadium rock star Tilda Swinton recovering on the Italian coast from a throat operation. But her sun-kissed idyll, in the company of lover Matthias Schoenaerts, is gatecrashed by a boorish old flame, played by Ralph Fiennes, and his daughter (Dakota Johnson). The first half is light and funny but proceedings soon head down a somewhat darker path as lingering tensions rise to the surface then grow uglier and uglier. It doesn't entirely work but is elevated by the performances (especially Fiennes and Swinton) and a gratifyingly caustic take on the lifestyles of the rich and famous. 

No fun in the sun: A Bigger Splash is gratifyingly caustic

5. The Conjuring (2013): One of those modern chillers that relies on "boo" moments and not much else. James Wan's film sees Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play married ghostbusters trying to help a family bedevilled by a dark supernatural presence in their house (the Amityville horror, basically). For the most part, it's nicely told (I particularly liked the Annabelle doll subplot) but starts to unravel a bit towards the end. I never believed any of the characters were in grave danger either, which isn't really what you want from a supposed horror film.

Horror-lite: The Conjuring just isn't scary enough

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