What kind of cancer is it?
It’s, uh, it’s lung cancer.
You don’t smoke.
No. I can now.
Let me start in a cheeky and derogatory tone. Let’s take Jack Sparrow, promote him to be an eloquent university professor teaching literature and tell him that he’s terminally ill. If you watch the movie “The Professor” (the original movie title was “Richard says goodbye“) with a dismissive attitude, you could utter such a statement. Well. Johnny Depp may have the tendency to use the ever-drunk pirate character. But otherwise, this entertaining tragicomedy doesn’t have much in common or many similarities with the Caribbean pirate spectacle. Even if the film is steeped with dark humor, a deeply tragic subject can still be discovered. A message about acceptance and an attitude of resignation. Though, Richard’s (Johnny Depp) way of acceptance and resignation can be called very rigorous.
The bad news is life-changing.
Instead of a tough treatment against the proliferating ailment, Richard decides to let things carry on as they are and completely change the course of his life (the subtle Sparrow-references come to mind spontaneously). That means enjoying life to the full. In short, exploiting the saying “Carpe Diem” in an extreme way. Richard gets dead drunk continuously, smokes pot on a regular basis and ventures into unabashed free sex. In fact, with both sexes and with the approval of his wife who confessed she’s having an affair with Richard’s boss. So you can say that the bad news told by his doctor, caused a groundbreaking turn in his personal life. For the bystanders, however, it seems as if he has become completely insane.
This is without a doubt one of the most successful interpretations of Depp in years. Here this energetic actor shows he can act for sure. I fully understand that he was given this part. The rebellious character of the egocentric figure Richard fits effortlessly with a figure like Johnny Depp. Perhaps his personal private situation provided the appropriate state of mind to play this indifferent intellectualist. His sarcastic view on life produces amusing scenes. The recklessness with which he plunges into adventures, causes others to frown. As a viewer, you understand this turnaround much better. As a result, Richard finds himself in some fairly bizarre situations in which his wife Veronica (Rosemarie DeWitt), daughter Olivia (Odessa Young) and best friend Peter (Danny Huston) are involved. By the way, I didn’t think the acting performance of these last actors was that bad either. Apart from the theatrical drama of Danny Huston.
It should go out with a bang.
“The Professor” probably won’t appeal to a younger audience. It’s not really a movie that will make you happy. I guess it applies to all films that deal with this terrible disease. Yet “The Professor” succeeded in transforming this tragic fact into something humorous. That the end would become more emotional (you could use the expression corny as well) was of course inevitable. Serious films where you are confronted with the concepts of finiteness and death clearly does something with a person. It makes you think about the meaning of life and what you have achieved. And I agree that as I grow older my thoughts sometimes drift away into that area. After seeing this film, I think I will drastically revise my opinion and also take a “Je mon fou” attitude like Richard. So I can fully enjoy everything in the time that’s left. That seems a more pleasant way to end my earthly journey.
My rating 7/10
The Zone Of Interest Is A Bleak Reminder of the Horrors of Holocaust
The Zone of Interest is Jonathan Glazer’s latest feature loosely based on Martin Amis’ novel of the same name. It stars Christian Friedel and Sandra Huller in the lead roles. The German-language feature was a major breakout from the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, where it also won the Grand Prix award. It is based around one of the darkest chapters in human history and serves as an important reminder of how brutal and evil humans are capable of being.
Glazer is known for having carefully crafted frames with plenty of nuances which is the case here as well. He intricately designs each and every scene for maximum impact. Before we enter the first scene, the screen fades to black with a chilling score in the background that sets the viewer up for everything they are about to witness. Black is also the colour of evil which hints at what aspects of human nature this story will explore. The cinematography is also top-notch. The use of natural lighting works really well to complement the setting of a warm family atmosphere. Also, there are a few moments where the visual style changes and those scenes are thoughtfully captured as well.
Christian Friedel and Sandra Huller are both fantastic in their roles. Friedel is absolutely convincing as Rudolph Hoss, the commander of the Auschwitz concentration camps, and Huller plays his wife Hedwig, who steals a lot of scenes with her emotional range. The editing is also careful and patient. Each scene gets time to breathe and settle properly resulting in a lot of extended scenes of the daily life of the family. The background music is minimal, but whenever it kicks in, it makes sure to elevate the scenes with creepy and ominous sounds.
The plot may seem basic and simple on the surface level, but we gradually see the layers unfold as the narrative moves forward. The story gets darker and darker with time and can be utterly shocking and horrifying at times, especially in the third act. It is no doubt a slow burn In terms of its pacing and takes its own time to set things up and we keep getting to see more sides of the characters in the second half of the movie.
It is utterly shocking how a family man who reads his children bedtime stories and loves his wife wholeheartedly can do the things that Rudolph Hoss does. But that level of brutality and faithfulness to reality is among its biggest strengths. The movie doesn’t have too many weak aspects, but it is slow and takes a while to get going. Also, it will turn out to be difficult to follow or comprehend for general audiences and it might be difficult to follow for some. It demands patience and attention.
The Zone of Interest is a kind of movie that subtly and slowly horrifies you with its brutal and harrowing storytelling. Jonathan Glazer is at the top of his game. The lead performances are top notch and the conclusion leaves a heavy impact on the viewer. It won’t work for everyone, but will certainly find the appreciation it deserves.
The Zone of Interest will release in cinemas on December 8.
‘Past Lives’ Review: A Transcendent Cinematic Journey
Hollywood has a knack for producing extraordinary movies year after year, but there comes a time when the industry exceeds all expectations with a gem of a movie like ‘Past Lives.’ A mesmerizing film directed by the talented Celine Song takes audiences on an unparalleled journey of self-discovery and the exploration of our interconnectedness through time. This thought-provoking movie connects various lives, blurring the boundaries of reality and immersing viewers in a transcendental tale.
The romantic drama showcases Song’s remarkable storytelling ability, presenting a narrative that delicately balances emotion and intellect. ‘Past Lives’ starts with Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), Nora (Greta Lee), and Arthur (John Magaro) sitting at a bar. An unseen couple watches and tries to guess their relationship. We are taken back in time and get all the vital details about the relationship they have been sharing throughout various parts of their lives. One of the best aspects of the movie is how Son interconnects the lives of diverse characters across different periods and unveils the secrets that bind them together. The film’s nonlinear structure allows for a gripping exploration of multiple storylines, ensuring an engaging and enthralling experience.
Visually, ‘Past Lives’ is an absolute feast for the eyes. The poignant visuals heighten the emotional resonance of the narrative, leaving a lasting impression on the viewer. Accompanying the stunning visuals and sound design is an enchanting score that perfectly complements the film’s ethereal quality. Beyond its visual and musical splendor, the movie invites viewers to contemplate profound themes and philosophical questions. The film raises thought-provoking inquiries about the nature of existence, the way people’s lives are connected, and the impact of our actions across time. The script forces the moviegoers to reflect on the concept of destiny, choices, and the ripple effects they create.
Furthermore, the performances in ‘Past Lives’ are nothing short of extraordinary. The ensemble cast, led by seasoned actors, delivers nuanced and heartfelt portrayals, breathing life into their respective characters. Greta Lee is enchanting as Nora and delivers a performance that is undoubtedly going to give her all the buzz during the awards season. Meanwhile, Teo Yoo is just as brilliant. The talent on display evokes genuine empathy, enhancing the overall experience.
Even though the awards season is far away from where we are, we have already got a strong contender for Best Picture and top acting categories in the form of ‘Past Lives.’ It is quite rare these days to see a romantic story that provides such an immersive experience and we are glad that Celine Song’s film has given us a movie that makes us wonder why such romantic movies are not made anymore.
‘Past Lives’ is a modern masterpiece.
A Kind of Kidnapping – Dark Comedy with Politics
Written and directed by Dan Clark, this fairly star studded independent film follows a young couple who are stuck in a financial situation, and decide to kidnap a sleazy conservative politician in order to receive a ransom, that will allow them to escape their static lives.
Patrick Baladi (The Office) plays Hardy our creepy politician, Kelly Wenham (Double Date) plays Maggie, a complex woman who seemingly is always drawn to the “bad boy”, Jack Parry-Jones (The Crown) plays Brian our voice of reason within all of this, or is he?
The character development is well written and allows the space for character arcs, unlike a lot of small films, where there isn’t that room in the script. The three main leads feel very grounded and familiar, everyone knows someone like this in their life or perhaps public figures in the media.
The performances of the main three lead actors are great, if it wasn’t for them, I don’t think this film would work as well. Alongside the strong performances, the editing of the film helped to navigate this non-linear plot and allowed the film to peel aways the layers of backstory which all helped to create a stronger character driven piece.
As the film was nearing the final act, it felt as though it was dragging a little. Dan Clark mentioned in the Q&A after the screening how this was a short film before and I can definitely see how it could work in a confined setting really well. Maybe there was a bit of padding in second to third act to reach that feautre length requirement that didn’t aid certain character moments.
If you want to hear my full thoughts, the best thing to do is check out my review over on YouTube and let me know your thoughts in the comments.
When independent film is fighting for its life, A Kind of Kidnapping is the light in the dark. This is one of the better British produced indie films I’ve seen in a long time.
A Kind of Kidnapping is out on digital on 24th July on iTunes, Amazon, Google and Sky.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the [series/movie/etc] being covered here wouldn’t exist.
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