The sound design in films is one of the most important things in a thriller. The audio and the sound is what draws you in and really makes you feel that tension even more. The new South Korean thriller Midnight does this so well and it’s such an engaging thrill ride.
The reason why sound is so important in Midnight is because the main character is deaf. The film follows Kyung-Mi, a deaf woman who works in a call centre. However, one night, Kyung-Mi witnesses an attempted murder and psychopathic murderer Do-Sik starts chasing her, and he won’t stop until she’s dead.
What follows is a fairly simple premise as the two basically play hide and seek for the rest of the film but it’s the most suspenseful game of hide and seek I’ve ever seen. When the film switches points of view between the killer and Kyung-Mi and everything goes silent from the latter’s perspective you can hear your heart beating rapidly as you’re so scared for her life.
To help build the suspense, the killer is always so close to the crime scene. He’s always hanging around and you never know whether he’s just about to be caught or if he’s just about to kill his next victim. But it does cause a few too many conveniences.
Whilst the film is incredibly tense, sometimes you can’t help but think just how convenient everything is for the killer. Everything seems to happen in their favour. There’s even a scene where Kyung-Mi and her mother (who’s also deaf) are in a police station with the killer himself, but because they can’t speak to the police, the officers don’t take them seriously and the killer gets away.
It’s quite infuriating, firstly that the police are so stupid and don’t take them seriously, but also how throughout the whole film everything goes in the killer’s favour. Yes, the film would be significantly shorter if it didn’t but despite the ridiculously tense scenes you’re watching, you can’t help but stop for a moment to realise it’s all that bit too convenient. And as the film goes all this continues happening and everything continues going in their favour which can just get a bit tiresome.
Midnight isn’t the best thriller to come out of South Korea in recent years but nonetheless it’s packed full of tension and is a thoroughly engaging and electrifying thriller.
Midnight played as part of this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival.
Triangle of Sadness | Movie Review | Cannes Film Festival 2022
The last time Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund was in Cannes he went home with the Palme D’or for his satire on the pretentious world of art culture; The Square – that was back in 2017. Now 5 years later he has returned to the croisette to debut his shape-related follow-up; Triangle of Sadness which has caused the most noticeable slice of fanfare in the festival lineup this year. Östlund’s new film received an 8 minute standing ovation after its gala screening – the longest (and loudest) of the festival thus far. Might he be looking at back-to-back Palmes? We shall find out in a few days time.
At first upon hearing the title of this film I presumed the “triangle of sadness” might refer to a love triangle within the narrative. However, as explained in the opening scene when model Carl (Harris Dickinson) is practicing his catwalk for a panel of casting agents. The triangle actually refers to a triangular patch of skin between a persons eyebrows and across the bridge of their nose – which Carl can’t seem to relax. They mutter that the twenty-something might need botox.
Knowing his best days as a model are in the rear view mirror, Carl and his fellow catwalk model girlfriend Yaya (Charlbi Dean) hatch a plan to travel the world as a pair of super-hot influencers. They see their relationship as transactional. A means to boost each others followings so that when their expiration date arrives on their youth, they can live off the earnings and sponsorship deals they acquire off of Instagram. They’re given a free trip aboard a luxury yacht which brings us to act 2 appropriately titled “the yacht”.
That’s as far as I’m going to go into detail regarding the plot because anything else would be spoiling it. But let’s just say from here on out the remainder of the film is wild.
Triangle of Sadness is definitely a less-you-know-the-better prior to going into but it is a rapturous delight. I laughed so hard it actually hurt. Marketing for this film has been very scarce (and for good reason), what happens on board the yacht can only be described as pandemonium. It’s best to just go into this one and let the madness unfold.
Östlund has always been a filmmaker who likes to make his audience squirm. The Square was jam-packed with deliciously awkward scenes which see typically privileged characters being subjected to uncomfortable circumstances. And he’s brought the same serrated satirical wit to Triangle of Sadness.
There’s so many brilliantly awkward scenes in Triangle. In fact the opening act is simply one long argument between the Carl and Yaya about who should pick up the cheque at a restaurant. It’s a humorous unpacking of societal expectations when it comes to gender roles. And when it comes to the subject of money, class and wealth – Östlund leaves no stone unturned.
There’s numerous pointed little scenes onboard the yacht which highlight the tone-deafness of it’s predominantly white and exceedingly wealthy guests. One snobby passenger isn’t happy with the cleanliness of the ships sails – despite the fact its a motorised yacht which has no sails. There’s a very telling shot where Vicki Berlin’s head steward is getting her team of Aryan crew members to stomp and clap like a New Zealand rugby team. Screaming to “always say yes” in hopes of a receiving a generous tip. Östlund then immediately cuts to the deck below where the ship labourers are cramped into one room and all have brown skin.
With its jabs at the privileged, Triangle of Sadness is in many ways a companion piece to Östlund’s The Square but when it comes to the comedy he’s really cranked it up a notch in Triangle. This time he’s gone more raucous. There’s an entire set piece that revolves around projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea – which I found thigh-slappingly funny. Normally I find toilet humour a bit cheap but the way that Östlund gradually builds to this audacious set piece is a masterful display of set up and payoff. And because Östlund’s script is so biting and sharp, when it does come to the gross-out stuff it feels truly earned.
Triangle satirises class, white privilege, the fashion and modelling industries, influencer culture, gender politics and the super rich. It’s not saying anything that we don’t already know but it’s very much in on the joke.
There’s a recurring theme in the film that everybody is equal but this sentiment is often hilariously juxtaposed by the ships crazy-rich guests which highlights that while they see themselves as equal – some are clearly more equal than others.
The performances are wickedly fun to watch. Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean make a wonderfully vacuous pair of self-absorbed influencers. There’s also fantastic work from many of the ships characters such as Zlatko Buric who plays a Russian philanthropist who made his millions in fertiliser and got dubbed “the king of shit”. He has a marvellous scene with the ships boozed-up captain played brilliantly by Woody Harrelson. And Dolly De Leon also gets a memorable part as the ships toilet manager Abigail.
As for negatives; the film will probably be a bit too long for some at two hours and thirty minutes but Östlund’s screenplay is such a joyous laugh-a-minute ride that it can be easily forgiven. At times its a little self-indulgent and a couple sequences go on a fraction longer than they need too. There’s a few minor scenes that could’ve been taking out easily without the film losing its message – such as a scene about engagement rings and another where a character finds some aftershave.
Triangle of Sadness is tremendous follow-up for Ruben Östluand. It’s off-the-rails but in the most entertaining way imaginable. A probing satire about the elite 1% which will have you howling at the cinema. Make sure to catch it in cinema surrounded by others.
Triangle of Sadness premiered in competition at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. Stay up to date with Luke’s coverage from the Cannes Film Festival via Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and TikTok @lukehearfield
Cha Cha Real Smooth | Sundance Film Festival 2022 Review
After his first feature film Shithouse won the Grand Jury Prize for Best narrative Feature at SXSW in 2020, writer/director/actor Cooper Raiff is back with his second film, Cha Cha Real Smooth, and it’s sure to be the crowd-pleasing film of Sundance 2022.
After having recently graduated from college, 22-year-old Andrew (played by writer/director Cooper Raiff) is stuck back at home living with his family in New Jersey unsure of his career path going forward. After taking his younger brother David to a bar mitzvah, Andrew discovers one thing that he is very good at- partying. This makes him the perfect candidate for a job starting parties at all the local bar and bat mitzvahs.
It’s at one of these bar mitzvahs that Andrew meets single mother Domino (Dakota Johnson) and her autistic daughter Lola (played by Vanessa Burghardt, an autistic actor) and he finally discovers a future that he wants after striking up a strong bond with both Domino and Lola.
Much like with his first film Shithouse, Raiff fills Cha Cha Real Smooth completely full to the brim with emotion and with characters that feel so real and honest. Raiff proves himself as an absolute gem both behind the camera and in front of it as it’s a film that has so much heart to it. The cast are all fantastic which only fuels these characters and makes them stand out even more so that they really feel like real people.
Once again Raiff has created such complex characters with so much beneath the surface to the extent that if anyone of these characters were the protagonist it would still be an interesting film. If the film focused on Andrew’s brother, or his mum, or Domino or Lola instead of making Andrew the protagonist it would still be just as interesting a film. And so to have Andrew as well as all of these other characters makes for a really compelling film.
As the title of the film hints at, we do get to experience the Cha Cha Slide at one of the bar mitzvahs in the film and it’s a wild one. But as well as being very funny, Cha Cha Real Smooth is incredibly emotional. There’s a conversation around the midpoint of the film about depression and about what it feels like and the writing hits so hard, along with Raiff and Johnson’s fantastic delivery that you can’t help but start welling up.
Cha Cha Real Smooth is charming in every single aspect and it’s the best film of Sundance 2022 so far. Raiff is certainly one to watch going forward.
Cha Cha Real Smooth premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Living | Sundance Film Festival 2022 Review
Remakes seem like such a frequent occurrence these days that there’s often very little reason to make them beyond people liking the original so the filmmakers hope the remake will be just as successful. And with Living being a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 classic Ikiru it was always going to have big shoes to fill. Whilst Living never fully justifies its own existence, nor does it get anywhere close to the heights of Kurosawa’s classic, it’s still a powerful watch nonetheless.
Living switches up the setting and takes place in 1950s post-World War II Britain where we meet Mr. Williams (Bill Nighy) a veteran civil servant and bureaucrat working in a government office. Much like in the original film, upon discovering he has a terminal illness his outlook on life completely changes and he looks for the meaning of life. He realizes that he’s spent his whole life passively going about his day and he hasn’t truly lived. And it’s only now that his days are numbered that he wants to experience life to the fullest.
He keeps the news of his condition from his son and daughter in law and uncharacteristically starts avoiding the office in search of meaning in his remaining days. He’s determined to get a children’s playground built that the local mothers have been campaigning for despite the fact that him and his colleagues have failed to do so yet.
Oliver Hermanus directs this reimagining with poignancy and to some level he captures the essence of Kurosawa’s film. The film’s London setting works well for the story and 1950s London is lovingly recreated with such great detail and the film displays an incredible look to it that right from the opening really makes you feel like you’re there in post-war Britain. Nighy excels as Mr. Williams with a graceful performance that in tandem with the film’s charming score and elegant writing makes for a stunning film about what it means to live.
However Living never fully hits anywhere nearly as hard as Ikiru does. After finishing Ikiru the film leaves you completely floored and contemplating your entire existence as a human being on planet Earth. After watching Living you don’t come out with that same feeling. Granted, it is a very difficult feeling to capture and to reproduce and Living does get some part of the way there, it’s representation of life’s purpose never quite feels as strong as it does in Kurosawa’s film. And as a result, Living’s own purpose as a film is never fully expressed. It’s an excellent film that does really touch you at times, it’s just a very pale shadow of Ikiru.
Living is one of those films that on its own merits is a very good film, anchored by a remarkably moving performance from Nighy, it’s just that Ikiru in all its glory looms over the film and it just can’t escape that and it never reaches anywhere close to the greatness of Kurosawa. It was always going to be a difficult task and Living does take a pretty good stab at it, but it still didn’t really need to be made.
Living premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
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