Tuesday 30 June 2020

Jungle to jungle: "The Dead and the Others"

The great global success of 2015's Embrace of the Serpent has opened up a pathway leading off the beaten track and into the jungle, reconnecting the cinema with underexplored territories, underfilmed people, undiscovered stories. As our movie centreground narrows to safe, franchisable bets, there is certainly scope for fringe filmmakers to become more adventurous: with this week's MUBI premiere The Dead and the Others, directors Renée Nader Messora and Joao Salaviza enlist several representatives of northeastern Brazil's Krahô people to play variants of themselves in a fictionalised retelling of actual events. Initially, Messora and Salaviza seem to be scrabbling around on unfamiliar turf, trying to find their bearings; you wonder if the damn film is ever going to start. It's not that nothing's going on: we meet Henrique (Henrique Ihjãc Krahô) and Raene (Raene Kôtô Krahô), a young couple with a small problem in a child who can't sleep and a bigger one in the form of Henrique's late father, who has taken to stalking his son in spirit form, refusing to set out for the land of the dead until his offspring has laid on a funerary feast. It's just that there's so much stillness around these characters that any urgency tends to slip away unnoticed into the surrounding woodland. The cicadas come to seem like the busiest creatures on screen, their back legs providing the movie's characteristically hushed soundtrack. But relax: this line of approach proves to be tactical. Each new scene serves to pull the agitated viewer a little further away from the perma-stimulation of social media and 24-hour news, and a little deeper into the forest, the rhythms of Krahô life, the spaces these people inhabit and the challenges they face. Twenty minutes in, I was restless; an hour later, I'd slapped on the warpaint, stripped down to my underwear and gone at least half-native. Heaven knows what the neighbours made of the sight.

The lack of overt signposting that Messora and Salaviza provide along the way obliges the viewer to learn to read the same signs Henrique reads - markers you simply wouldn't find in the pages of any conventional screenwriting handbook. What, for example, to make of the terrifying-looking macaw that tails our hero's progress? Is it spirit or augury? Just when you think you're beginning to get the lay of the land, the film pulls a further switcheroo by packing Henrique off to the city - and The Dead and the Others suddenly, organically becomes a study of what it is to be a migratory being like that bird (or ghost-dad), to have to build a nest and life many miles away from one's home. Set against the colour and texture of the jungle scenes, the city strikes the eye as cold, banal and alienating; it's some measure of the film's achievement that it sets even those of us who wouldn't dream of leaving our hot running water and broadband behind to peer through the looking glass so, to yearn for the unplugged delights of the back of beyond. Much of that is down to Ihjãc Krahô's expressive central performance, which holds the camera's gaze and viewer sympathies alike for two hours. The film that develops around him is a truly independent expedition, one with no agenda save to look, listen and learn, and then report some of its makers' findings back to us. Renouncing those generic adventure-movie trappings Embrace of the Serpent provided to act as rope bridges between its wilderness and our so-called civilisation, it makes for an odd but rewarding experience, beholden to nobody, subject to its own laws of dramatic gravity, with elements that plainly exist beyond any attempt at translation. Yet the sense of discovery it leaves you with is uncommonly strong: long spells here were so vivid and absorbing that I wondered whether it might be an idea to keep malaria tablets and mosquito spray close to the laptop.

The Dead and the Others is now streaming via MUBI UK.

Filth: "Fanny Lye Deliver'd"

I was hardly his biggest fan, but I cannot deny that the writer-director Thomas Clay introduced a new note to British cinema at the start of the millennium. That note was a low, ominous hum or rumble, some indication that terrible violence was on its way. It was there, getting louder by the second, in his 2005 breakout The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael, a film altogether too in thrall to the punitive Noe-Breillat-Haneke strand of the New Extreme Cinema; it was present to a lesser degree in Soi Cowboy, Clay's mopey 2008 drama about sex tourism. A decade on, with Brexit a tragic fait accompli and the British film industry concluding there's now only money available to make exportable period drama, Clay has returned with Fanny Lye Deliver'd, an odd, ragged tale set in 17th century Shropshire; it reacquaints us with that signature note as early as the film's opening scene, showing a surrogate Adam and Eve - as naked as the day they were born, suggesting some new, costumeless approach to period drama - being chased through a forest by jackbooted riders. The couple - unmarried lovers Thomas (Freddie Fox) and Rebecca (Tanya Reynolds) - find sanctuary in a household where the eponymous Lye (Maxine Peake) tends the kitchen and son of her retired Army husband John (Charles Dance), and they come bearing new ideas, a certain freshness of attitude. The look on Thomas's face as he ogles a ladder-bound Fanny reminds us we're mere centuries away from Leslie Nielsen's Frank Drebin doing similar to Priscilla Presley in The Naked Gun. Yet these free-love fugitives represent exactly the kind of mischief and individualism, the general going against the grain, that was being stamped out under the conformist Cromwell. Clay's thesis, set out in an opening title card, is that this period was formative in establishing the make-up of British society. I'm not sure that entirely holds, but he's at least coming at history from a different perspective than the cosily conservative Downtonites.

He shows up armed, too. Those first features did much to suggest Clay was a British filmmaker possessed of a properly cinematic sensibility, someone who knew how (and was willing) to move his camera. You spy that again here, not least in the early travelling shot that watches the Lye clan set off for church, then follows the movements of an especially well-trained goose across a courtyard to where the nude arrivistes are making their entrance. The question hanging over Clay has always concerned the ends to which he deploys such virtuosity. His earlier works were glumly pessimistic about the state of the world, programmed to travel in one direction alone: downhill. Fanny Lye Deliver'd is heading that way, too, but it has the nous to disguise it for a while in a way that feels beneficial for director and audience alike. Here is proof of what happens when an independently minded creative, scrabbling round on the fringes of an industry that may or may not want him, suddenly takes delivery of the money that will keep him going a few months longer: there is, in the new film's early scenes, a lightening of mood that actually becomes Clay's filmmaking. He's interested in how this social experiment plays out, and we see him troubling to set up this world before it's either dashed or changed forever. Production designer Nenad Pecur gifts him with an authentic-looking 17th century habitat, and the fresh air surrounding the Lyes' muddily modest estate seems to do everyone good: for once, Clay's typically tightly-bound, oppressive universe opens up. What ensues unfolds as a more collaborative exercise than either The Great Ecstasy... or Soi Cowboy, which felt like forceful impositions at best, demanding performers and audience alike bow down in the gutter, and think long and hard about everything they've witnessed; the actors here simply never look as cowed, and respond more variedly to the task at hand.

Only late on does Fanny Lye... betray its maker's heavyhandedness, what we might call its feet of Clay. It's present to some degree in Reynolds' voiceover, which feels like the result of the extra meetings that come with bigger budgets, and tends merely to spell the film's subtler developments out in florid archaisms; it's there, too, in Clay's own score, thunderously underlining images that might have been better off being allowed to breathe. The 112-minute running time starts to feel punitive: we get bogged down amid the second act, where the couple plant their feet more aggressively under the Lyes' table and we have to wait for the change they represent to take effect (aided, on screen, by a flagon of wine laced with magic mushrooms). The film that eventually pulls itself over the finish line resembles less the grand statement it wanted to be than evidence of an ongoing work-in-progress. You sense Clay straining with every fibre to turn in something less inflexible than his earlier works, and thus show his paymasters that he might still have a career; but the strain, which is the strain of making compromises and finding a balance he can live with, remains the issue. In the French film industry, where any wannabe auteur gets to shoot a film a year, that issue would be worked out within five years, a decade tops. In the UK, where funding is far less forthcoming, Clay has made three films in fifteen years, and still isn't there yet. There's a nagging hypocrisy at the heart of this filmmaker's project that hasn't been resolved: he's drawn to sex and violence but - disdainful of the popular genres that would allow him to revel in such filth - he feels obliged to frame them as part of some lofty social critique. The parallel Fanny Lye Deliver'd sets up between Britain Then and Britain Now falls apart and fades in the mind; but as a reflection of the tensions inherent in Clay's thinking - continue to plough the same lonely, rectitudinous furrow, or loosen up and make some dough - this tale of woe proves curiously revealing.

Fanny Lye Deliver'd is now streaming via Curzon and the BFI.

Monday 29 June 2020

1,001 Films: "Tongues Untied"

The hour-long video essay Tongues Untied is the kind of urgent bulletin Godard might have logged if Godard were black and gay and living in the US under the Reagan and Bush administrations; it's a report from the very margins, composed some way outside the usual channels of production and distribution. Director Marlon Riggs places front and centre a core (and corps) of testimonies - some spoken, some sung, some rapped - reflecting on the dual prejudice faced by black and gay men in the moment of AIDS: under attack both for their skin colour and sexual preferences, from evangelist preachers and notionally woke pop culture (Riggs cites the homophobia embedded in Eddie Murphy's stand-up and Spike Lee's early movies) alike. It may sound dour on paper, but on screen it unfolds as a work of astonishing formal invention: the soundtrack pops with and pirouettes between performance poetry, hard house and barbershop quartets, while supremely on-point editing - splicing together litanies of derogatory epithets, and tangible images of bodies in motion - is matched by writing that keeps finding funny, earthy ways to frame its central quandary: asked whether he identifies as black or gay first, one speaker retorts "which do you prefer: your left or right nut?" Rather than embark on some scholarly shuffle, Riggs intends to make a scene: that Tongues is out and proud might be discerned from its segment on vogueing (scooping the celebrated Paris is Burning by a full year) or the sequence schooling viewers in the art of fingersnapping. Yes, issues are raised, but here too is some of the huge fun of being black and gay: it's a party at which any number of subjects come up for discussion, but one where the primary objective is to make a noise, and thereby make anyone in the vicinity - be they black, white, gay, straight or otherwise - sit up and take notice. Nearly three decades on, no matter that the parameters of this discussion have shifted to varying degrees, we still do.

Tongues Untied will be released on DVD through the BFI on October 19.

Sunday 28 June 2020

On demand: "Cairo Station"

Egyptian cinema's international breakthrough Cairo Station - one of a dozen Youssef Chahine titles to have reached Netflix this month - approaches the venerable old transport hub enshrined in its title as a living, breathing ecosystem, much like the hotel in Grand Hotel. All human life as it must have been in the Cairo of 1958 is here: commuters, vendors, hepcats, restless workers, unyielding management, plus a reported killer for good measure. The one element who doesn't obviously fit into this panorama is the hobbling, bobble-hatted vagrant Qinawi, who's developed an obsession with one of the vendors (local goddess Hind Rostom, dubbed the Arabian Marilyn Monroe) and has taken to lining the walls of the corrugated iron shack he's claimed as makeshift housing with pin-ups he's snuck off with from his day job as a cross-platform paperboy. In an enduring note of self-criticism, this solitary oddball - forever popping up at windows, peeping in on a world that doesn't much want him, and which he can barely even begin to understand - is played by the director himself. On many other fronts, however, Chahine was doing perfectly fine. 

One reason the film travelled beyond local borders, you soon realise, was its uncoupled expressivity: once set in motion, the project simply couldn't be contained. Thinking substantially bigger than his peers, Chahine fills the screen with abundant characters, declamative performances that possibly owe more to Bollywood than Hollywood (or, likelier still, a pre-existing Egyptian acting style) and an unabashed lustiness that remains striking this far into the 21st century. Qinawi's pin-ups are but a mild serving of cheesecake, but a scene highlighting the voluptuous Rostom in a diaphanous underskirt would probably have cued censorial conniptions the world over in 1958. It's not a subtle film, then - in several places, characters (and actors) step out in front of locomotives exiting sidings at a fair old clip - but Chahine seemed to realise, from this very early stage in his career, that the most resonant cinema often isn't. His close-ups loom out at us; his imagery is bold and unapologetically blatant. Take the cut from Qinawi peeping on his beloved's tryst with another man to an insert of a departing train's wheels flattening down a loose stretch of track: if you can't understand how this guy feels from that, then your career in film studies may have to terminate here. I spied a particular correlation between Cairo Station and those Eastern masala movies juggling six different narratives and modes simultaneously, though other influences are equally visible: you sense Chahine planting two feet square in the middle of the 20th century and striving to synthesise everything that had come before him (old-school glamour, a dash of neo-realism) with everything that was going on around him at the time. The film that emerges from this process is - somewhat amazingly - only 77 minutes in duration, but it's one heck of a marker, a point from which an emergent creative could travel in any number of directions, and an offshoot of a cinema that already contained, and sometimes struggled to contain, multitudes.

Cairo Station is one of twelve Chahine titles now streaming on Netflix; details of the others can be found here

Saturday 27 June 2020

On demand: "Burning"

Burning, the Korean director Lee Chang-dong's adaptation of the Haruki Murakami short story Barn Burning, is what happens when you stage a ménage à trois with three fundamentally rootless characters. It first introduces us to Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), a farmboy from a broken home who's done nothing very much with himself since graduating with a creative writing degree. While in town one day, Jong-su bumps into Hae-mi (Jun Jong-seo), an old schoolpal he initially fails to recognise as a consequence of her apparently substantial plastic surgery. The two momentarily hook up, and she recruits him to look after her cat while she departs for an African holiday. When she returns, however, she does so in the company of the older, worldlier Ben (Steven Yeun), and stating a desire to vanish altogether, like the sun she saw setting over the Kalahari. On a visit to Jong-su and Hae-mi's village - a destination so close to the 38th Parallel that, on a quiet day, you can hear the North Korean propaganda broadcasts - Hae-mi notices that her childhood home has been pulled down, while Ben confesses to the hobby that gives the film its title: he burns down outhouses for the purposes of letting off steam. In the background, the newly inaugurated Donald Trump looks on from the TV. If I had to narrow down what this more than faintly cryptic drama was about, I'd say it was that most 21st century of subjects: insecurity.

The antsiness fostered on screen soon radiates in the general direction of the audience, although the measured, not inelegant pace Burning unfolds at allows Lee to better feel these characters, their fears and neuroses out, and allow them to take a curious hold on the viewer's imagination. What's epsecially curious - it might even become fascinating, if you let it - is that there's no ready point of identification here. (We're deprived of even that comfort.) Jong-su is notionally the Murakami surrogate - he's what a writer would be, if he failed to build on his early successes; a voyeur without a métier - but he's also plainly a dope, his passivity explained as his reaction to the rage he reports in his father. When he asserts any agency, he comes across as mightily possessive of Hae-mi, which isn't likely to win our sympathies back. Hae-mi is livelier, but she's also flighty, flat broke, and a little cruel in the way she keeps her puppyish pal around to watch her stoking a new flame. Which brings us to Ben, played by Yuen as a model yuppie who, even before the revelation of the barn-burning business, makes the sociopath's confession that he's never shed a tear in his life. When Jong-su tells Ben he loves Hae-mi, Yuen summons up a glibly dismissive cackle - and still Jong-su falls under the spell of this flash Harry, scouting out future venues for arson.

It's just possible you won't really like these characters while feeling the strange sensation of being in a similar boat to them: fumbling, clumsy, prone to short-termism, unsure what happens next. Some kind of magic is thereby cast, and when Burning takes a sharp right turn into romantic mystery - obliging the previously plodding Jong-su to shape up and play private investigator - we find ourselves quietly hooked. That measured quality means even 90 minutes into Burning, there's a lingering uncertainty as to who these characters are, and what they're capable of doing. We have first impressions and mounting suspicions, but that's about all we have; the figures on screen remain, almost to the very end, locked-room puzzles, emotionally out of reach. The crucial line in this script is almost thrown away by a passing promo girl, reflecting on one of her scattier colleagues: "They all seem fine, but you never really know their story." It's a thesis that can make for frustrating cinema, as it sometimes makes for frustration in life: the finale resolves some of the tension between these characters, while leaving the mystery around them intact. It is, granted, quite the mystery, and it yields a more robust adaptation of the evanescence central to Murakami's prose than 2010's rather fey Norwegian Wood. Lee and cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo get some of their best effects by shooting at dusk, in the last light of another day drifting away; they know that's the time when the ghosts and phantoms of this world materialise - and real people begin to slip away out of sight.

Burning is available to stream via Amazon Prime, Curzon and the BFI Player.

Friday 26 June 2020

For what it's worth...

My top ten streaming picks (for the week beginning June 26, 2020):

1 (new) Just Don't Think I'll Scream (uncertificated) **** (MUBI)
2. The Australian Dream (15) **** (via Amazon, Curzon, BFI)
3. The Uncertain Kingdom (15) **** (Curzon, BFI)
4. The County (12A) **** (Curzon)
5 (new) Lynn + Lucy (uncertificated) *** (BFI)
6 (new) The Booksellers (15) *** (Curzon, Amazon Prime)
7 (new) On the Record (12A) *** (Curzon, BFI)
8 (new) The Dead and the Others (uncertificated) *** (MUBI)
9.  The Day After I'm Gone (uncertificated) *** (MUBI)
10. Virus Tropical (uncertificated) *** (MUBI)

DVD/Blu-Ray/Download top ten: 

1 (re) Birds of Prey, or... (15)

2 (3) Dolittle (PG)
3 (2) 1917 (15) ***
4 (28) The Personal History of David Copperfield (PG) ****
5 (1) Sonic the Hedgehog (PG)
6 (6) Bad Boys for Life (15) ***
7 (4Onward (U) ***
8 (11) Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (12A)
9 (re) The Call of the Wild (PG)
10 (7) Jumanji: The Next Level (12)

(source: officialcharts.com)

My top five: 
1. Parasite

2. The Personal History of David Copperfield
3. Ordinary Love
4. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
5. Vivarium

Top five films on terrestrial television:
1. God's Own Country (Sunday, C4, 11.10pm)
2. 3:10 to Yuma [above] (Friday, BBC1, 10.45pm)
3. McFarland, USA (Saturday, BBC1, 11.30pm)
4. Touching the Void (Thursday, C4, 10pm)
5. 1985 (Sunday, C4, 1.10am)

At LIFF: "Moothon"

Geethu Mohandas's Moothon represents the latest phase in forward-thinking producer Anurag Kashyap's ongoing project to decentralise a film industry most closely associated with Mumbai. It opens, for one, with a breezy sketch of island life. A young boy, Mulla (Sanjana Dipu), raised by ogre-like guardian Moosa (Dileesh Pothan, who resembles an especially irascible Luis Guzman), submits to bullying from his contemporaries, and confesses to missing an older brother who apparently served as his protector. One dark night, with a storm blowing in, Mulla sets off in search of this sibling in a small sailboat, only to be swallowed up by a giant wave and spat out on the banks of a bustling, unnamed city. (This is Mumbai, but Mumbai made unfamiliar, mythic.) That drift, it transpires, isn't the only movement going on here. Moothon is the Indian cinema detaching itself from Shakespeare, wellspring of so many of its narrative tropes, and tacking instead in the direction of the Dickensian. The island looks like an analogue of the marshland of Great Expectations; the city scenes suggest an Asian rewrite of Oliver Twist. The kid escapes from an orphanage to fall in with a gang of criminals headed by the Nancy-like moll Rosy (Sobhita Dhulipala, far less upright and decorous than she is in Amazon's Made in Heaven) and the hulking Bhai (regional superstar Nivin Pauly), who takes delivery of the boy as if he were a rescue dog, and whose idea of mentoring is to encourage Mulla to slit a goat's throat. 

All of which should warn you that the emergent, very promising Mohandas (better known as an actress in her homeland) and Kashyap (who gave us 2017's Mukkabaaz/The Brawler and the grand guignol of Netflix's Sacred Games) aren't pulling any of their punches here. These filmmakers have clearly been drawn towards the darkness in Dickens, yet Moothon proves altogether more unflinching in its depiction of cruelty than the vaguely comparable Slumdog Millionaire, venturing some distance beyond the boundaries of the Oscar winner's 12A certificate. Don't allow very young viewers in sight of it; chances are they'd be scarred for life. Mulla faces stark peril everywhere he turns: pestered by a pederast at the orphanage, he's later scooped up by thugs who gag and hogtie him before relieving themselves on his helpless form. "Everyone likes a fairytale," we're told early on; what follows suggests an effort to restore the Grimm blood and bruises that the Disney corporation has spent the best part of a century photoshopping out. (I saw the film on the same day the PG-rated Maleficent sequel opened in multiplexes worldwide: the contrast between the two projects is stark, to say the least.) This Twist comes with a twist, however.

At its halfway mark, Moothon undergoes a rupture, not unlike those in certain Apichatpong Weerasethakul movies, and re-emerges in gentler, more lyrical territory: back on the island we started at, where Bhai, the film's Fagin, gets what is essentially an origin story both for his scars and his apparent heartlessness - a deviation that sheds new light on young Mulla's quest. In this Bhai's growing friendship with a Deaf man (Roshan Mathew, using his hands most eloquently, where everyone around him is talking with their fists), we spy a tenderness, and perhaps the possibility of something more besides: one Moonlight-inspired tableau of the two men bathing at sundown had a packed house at last year's Mumbai festival holding its breath. (Things are loosening up in India... just gradually.) Such nuanced, adult material will come as a jolt to anybody still labouring under the mistaken belief Moothon is a kiddies' adventure movie, and it's the kind of jolt by which Kashyap productions have typically aimed to shake the complacency out of a narrative, audience and industry, chasing the pummelling with something poetic, suffixing the film's uglier effects with a quietly beautiful and touching cause. A third act returning us to the present day, while as unpredictable as anything else here, plays like a bit of a stumble - but there's also plenty of evidence that regional cinema is where the Indian film industry is presently taking most of its biggest swings. In Moothon, more of these make contact than not.

Moothon streams as part of this year's London Indian Film Festival at 8pm tonight; it streams again next Friday at 8pm. Tickets and further details can be found here.

Thursday 25 June 2020

À rebours: "Just Don't Think I'll Scream"

The French essay film Just Don't Think I'll Scream opens with a caption bearing quite the claim: what we're about to watch will apparently be made up of images taken from the 400 films director Frank Beauvais watched between April and October 2016. The claim will likely occasion a brisk bout of cinephile maths. 400 movies in six months? That's between sixty and seventy movies per month, so two-and-a-bit per day, three if you wanted time off for good behaviour. It's certainly doable (and Beauvais brings the receipts: you'll find a complete filmography unfurled at length amid the closing credits), but it may also be dependent on having nothing else to do. The terse, in places outright harried monologue layered over this visual pick-'n'-mix provides the explanation we need. Fortysomething Beauvais spent most of that period living in virtual isolation in the Alsace, recovering from a break-up, friendless, insomniac, and faced with a dearth of cultural options. These movies - these fragments of movies - were, in the end, all he had to cling onto at this time. The plight he describes is more universal than it perhaps first sounds. What Beauvais is getting to is the experience of living in a small, conservative town and longing for an escape, even if it involves no more than escaping into dreams and fantasies; the film shapes up as a Diary of a Country Recluse, setting the rapid flow of those images against the weighty doubts and fears tumbling out of the director's mind and onto the soundtrack. There will be those of us who've knocked off a hundred more films than usual during our time in Covid lockdown, and those titles would have provided perhaps the only variation in our daily routine. Like it or not, we are all Frank Beauvais now.

Possibly it sounds depressive or film bro-ish, and there are undeniably elements of both in Just Don't Think...'s DNA. What makes the film such a jolt, though, are those images, and how they've been assembled. By his own account, Beauvais used seclusion to become a whizz at tracking down those obscure and leftfield titles lurking in the Internet's furthest corners. (Presumably these would be easier to excerpt than the bigger blockbusters: individual copyrights may have lapsed, or the texts been passed back and forth digitally so often that everybody involved has forgotten whose property they are.) Either way, it shows. Writing as someone who's seen a lot of films in my lifetime, I doubt I could place more than 5% of the snapshots that flash before us here. Even as the Beauvais heard on the soundtrack becomes mired in the deepest woes - what he labels, with not untypical self-awareness, "introspective onanism" - the visuals keep catching, holding, dazzling the eye; he illustrates why these films comforted, consoled or simply distracted him. How could you not be amazed by the sight of a live cockroach sitting upright in a tiny chair made of paperclips wired up to the mains? Wouldn't that make you forget about a broken heart, diminishing career prospects, the encroaching spectre of one's own mortality etc., if only to make you think: well, where did that come from? (Answers on a postcard, please.) From Beauvais' smartly phrased, passionately spoken testimony, meanwhile, two realisations begin to emerge.

One is that 2016 was a formidably crapulent year, wherever you were; something thick, heavy and unavoidably toxic - be that populism or some other form of man-made pollution - was in the air, compounding the day-to-day worries we were all working through. The film's a Brexit and Trump-free zone (some relief), but Beauvais notes the passing of Prince, the Florida nightclub shooting, and the Nice terror attack. In so doing, he captures a very modern sensation - doubtless exacerbated by the rise of social media - that the news from without is now as dire as the news from within, that our news and mood cycles have become inextricably linked. Two bulletins a day used to be enough - now it's as relentless as Beauvais' imagery, 24/7, unfair and unbalanced, crushing if you let it be. The second thought - backed up by a cursory glimpse at that viewing list - is that the filmmaker wasn't watching anywhere near enough comedies. M. Beauvais, in brief, n'est pas un happy-chappy, and his narration reflects this, rarely deviating from that formidable loftiness typically associated with the French intellectual class. He sneers at a crowd of football fans ("triumphant idiocy"), seeing in them none of the solidarity he admits to swooning over in Soviet Bloc melodramas. If this were a movie movie, our hero would likely be played by a malcontent like Louis Garrel; in reality, there are spells Beauvais records when you might say it was for the best that he wasn't getting out much. We leave him in a healthier, happier place, thankfully, but over these 75 minutes, he does a fine job of explaining where this loftiness and huffiness - a loftiness and huffiness common to critics of any stripe - comes from, and even this struck me as understandable, relatable. It comes, I think, from a feeling that society as a whole could do better in its choices, and that until we do, we will be denied lives that match the beauty, rapture and stimulation that the best movies set before us. A lot of us felt that way back in 2016; suffice to say the feeling hasn't diminished notably in the years since. 

Just Don't Think I'll Scream is now streaming via MUBI UK.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Malpractice: "On the Record"

The story On the Record has to tell probably won't come as a complete surprise, just as the revelation that Harvey Weinstein was up to no good came as no real surprise to those with open eyes, ears and minds: its message is that there are things going on behind the scenes of the music industry that would chill the marrow of any reasonable observer. What's new is the insight the film provides into the processes by which such stories come to light. In November 2017, filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering sat down with Drew Dixon, a highly respected, since-retired A&R woman for Def Jam and Arista, to talk about her experiences in the rap game. For a while, her testimony yields the kind of anecdotes that would be manna for any celebratory Friday-night BBC4 doc. She gurgles with pride while recalling her first recorded shoutout (via Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, an act she signed); she discusses how she helped Puff Duffy decide on the Tammi Terrell sample that helped to make Method Man's Mary J. Blige collab "You're All I Need" what it was. Her credentials are impeccable. But note the date of the meeting: post-Weinstein, with the #MeToo hashtag beginning to circulate. Heed, too, the sporadic audioclips in which Def Jam boss Russell Simmons privately - but forcefully - indicates his preference for "tall, skinny bitches". Evidence is being assembled; a case is being made. We can but hope someone will answer for it, but equally we know now just what it takes for justice to be achieved.

What we'll watch, in these 95 minutes, is but the tip of an iceberg, both in terms of music-industry malpractice and the extent of the filmmaking: heaven knows how many hours were spent in lawyers' offices ensuring that the film was litigation-proof. (Simmons' response has been to go into retreat on the island of Bali, which - as On the Record notes in a waspish end-credit - has no extradition treaty to the United States. Weinstein must be kicking himself with his gammy leg.) Clearly, there was a degree of waiting around for Dixon's story to be factchecked and go to press, but the filmmakers use that time constructively, in the main. For one, they endeavour to ensure Simmons is viewed not as a solitary bad apple, but representative of a wider misogyny within the industry. Dick, exhibiting the same pop-cultural savvy he brought to 2006's This Film is Not Yet Rated, traces it at least as far back as the era of the Beatles and the Stones, although rap misogyny tends to strike the ear with more force than, say, Tom Jones boasting of slaying the errant Delilah. Context is everything here: I sensed Dixon had reached out to Dick and Ziering almost as a back-up - to allow her to get her story out to receptive, sympathetic listeners before she and the New York Times went public with her accusations - and there are clear reasons for this defensiveness. This case was further complicated by issues of race: Dixon is a light-skinned WOC, who joshes about "light privilege" but appears all too aware such privilege stretches only so far. As the author Michele Wallace puts it: "You're worried, as a Black woman, that you'll say something that will have consequences you hadn't anticipated - even down to calling the police." Dixon admits she was reluctant to describe Simmons as sexually aggressive because it might have been perceived as perpetuating a racial stereotype, but there were others - it turns out many, many others - who had similar, in some instances near-identical stories. There was more back-up than Dixon dared hope.

The film's strength resides in setting the viewer down alongside a rape survivor as her story goes live, develops, is debated in the court of public opinion: there's something fascinating, never prurient and hopefully emboldening in seeing how Dixon navigates her situation, doubles down or develops coping strategies, and finally draws her own strength from the realisation she wasn't as alone as she may first have thought. Equally, though, Dick and Ziering can't help but spot the toll these extremes of emotion take on a woman busy enough with the everyday work of living a life. We're right in the thick of it, which may explain why the structure gets a little ragged or wobbly in places. Evidently, this is a documentary that had to change shape to accommodate new voices coming forward, and doubtless suggestions from the legal department. (Oprah Winfrey had an executive-producer credit scrubbed after disagreements about the film's scope.) Yet On the Record is so focused on making the case against Simmons that it badly fumbles the Dixon biography. Having spent some while setting up marriage and motherhood as the route that allowed the film's subject to turn her back on the business and find renewed happiness, the final reel nonchalantly lets slip she's now divorced, a revelation to which the only possible response is: oh. Unintentionally, the film opens the door for a well-paid defence lawyer to argue a certain inconsistency of character, and for an ever-patient prosecutor to point out, once again, that erratic behaviour and a haphazard personal life can in themselves be proofs of injury. It's a pity, because there is an undeniable rhetorical force in hearing so much testimony, much of that corroborating, recounted at such close quarters. Here's a film about trauma - a trauma Dixon and her fellow plaintiffs would maintain is all too commonplace - which dares the viewer not to believe it.

On the Record will be available to stream from Friday.

Tuesday 23 June 2020

Problem child: "The Girl with a Bracelet"

Nothing so decorous or flattering as that noted pearl earring, rather a location monitor slapped less than delicately around the ankle of a young woman under suspicion. From its opening tableau of police interrupting a family day out at the beach to drag 16-year-old Lise Bataille (Melissa Guers) away into custody for reasons unknown, Stéphane Demoustier's The Girl with a Bracelet delights in raising questions the courtroom drama at its centre takes a long, hard think about answering. What crime could a girl from such a conspicuously well-appointed household have committed? Why - when her case comes to trial two years after this prologue - do her parents (Roschdy Zem and Chiara Mastroianni) suddenly appear estranged? Why are a concerned group of citizens, paid interrogators, going to such great lengths to establish what went down in the course of a teenage sleepover? From the manner in which she stares down the uptight prosecutor (Anaïs Demoustier, the director's sister), we understand Lise herself will be providing no easy answers; while we wait for the relevant particulars of the case to be entered onto the record, the camera submits her to a level of scrutiny previously only experienced by the heroines of certain 1940s melodramas.

Does this problem child merit and sustain such scrutiny? It's true that Guers' mercurial performance stands as by far the film's strongest suit. Observed within the confines of her parents' home, her Lise could be any other, slightly sullen teenager; but lead her anywhere beyond the boundaries permitted by that bracelet - up into the dock, say - and she defaults to a dead-eyed, heavy-lidded stare that indicates something's seriously off with this girl. The viewer's task, over the course of these faintly tinny 95 minutes, is to judge whether that something is latent sociopathy or just mortified shame, for that element of melodrama is a remnant of the old Scarlet Letter plot, most recently worked out as comedy in 2010's Easy A. This case, it transpires, turns on the existence and circulation of that most 21st century of macguffins, a viral video clip. For a while - in what constitutes the film's most involving stretch - it looks as though Demoustier is attempting to cram into one courthouse some of the sprawling complication of last year's strong Australian series The Hunting, the better to observe what happens when adults try to regulate burgeoning teenage sexuality, when schoolyard crushes become a matter of law.

That's a noble aim, and it's possible to imagine The Girl with a Bracelet sparking bridging conversations in some forums between teens feeling their way out into adulthood and parents who never had to worry about their first fumblings finding their way onto Pornhub. Narratively and stylistically, however, Demoustier's film comes to feel a touch limited; it may just be more effective as a talking point than it is as drama. The Hunting pulled the adults into the mess their kids made, seeing it as a logical consequence of their failure to understand what their offspring were doing with the freedoms they had to fight for. Here, the same grown-ups are merely shuttled on and off as character witnesses; though Zem and Mastroianni make credible statements when called, there's never enough going on away from the courtroom for them to become active participants in the film. What that leaves us watching is basically an episode of Crown Court with sexy new subject matter and rather more money at its disposal. Inevitably, a lot comes to rest on the verdict, and whether the film will stump up the answers it's spent much of its running time withholding. No spoilers from me, save to say the final moments are less about the crime than court mechanics - precisely the film's least engaging aspect. It's disappointingly characteristic of Demoustier's direction after that intriguing start: he's too interested in what that bracelet represents, and not nearly interested enough in the girl wearing it.

The Girl with a Bracelet will be available to stream via Curzon from Friday.

Minor frets: "Carmine Street Guitars"

Incoming: a wave of nostalgia for bricks-and-mortar retail, either because Covid-19 means we've forgotten what it is to pop to the shops, or because popping to the shops is ultimately a phenomenon destined to go the way of the dodo, Covid or no Covid. Next week sees the release of The Booksellers, a documentary centred on the kind of poky holes-in-walls that have achieved the impossible and held out against the tyranny of Amazon 1-Click™. This week's doc Carmine Street Guitars pays fond, slightly indulgent tribute to an emporium that offers a service and experience you'd be hard-pushed to find online: a bijou Greenwich Village mainstay, run by Rick Kelly with assistance from his mom Dorothy, which deals in the manufacture, sale and repair of instruments carved by hand out of wood retrieved from prominent New York City landmarks. (A Kelly guitar has a story to tell even before it strikes up a tune.) The narrative writer Len Blum and director Ron Mann (who may just have the exact right name to be directing a documentary about a guitar shop) have constructed to show this place off in its best light is a mellow week-in-the-life number. Musicians drop by, sometimes playing a few chords; Kelly, a stalwart of the Greenwich Village scene dating back to the Hendrix era, dredges up an anecdote or two; and somehow, somehow, the shop staves off the forces of gentrification for another day.

The film that emerges from this selective observation is a cross between those reality-TV shows set in testosterone-filled backrooms and Wayne Wang and Paul Auster's enjoyable, under-revived collaborations Smoke and Blue in the Face. (Jim Jarmusch, whose cameo was a highlight of the latter movie, shows up again here, and promptly contrives a very Jarmuschian riff about beetles eating his elm trees.) It was often a bit too reality-TV for this viewer's preference, to be completely honest. You see and hear the directorial prompting when peroxide-locked apprentice Cindy Hulaj confronts Kelly as to his indifference to the shop's Instagram account ("You need to get into the 21st century"); the point is that Kelly values craft over celebrity, and sure as hell doesn't need the easy affirmations of the digital age, but it's as artlessly made as it would be by the average episode of Salvage Hunters. Rather more appreciable is the joy the film takes in simply hanging out (god, remember that?), whether in the CSG workshop, where Mann's camera appears fascinated by the planing, bevelling and application of varnish, by sawdust floating into the air; or front-of-shop, where we invariably find one of New York's hipper residents gawping at some new artisanal wonder Kelly sets before them. A closing-credit hat-tip to the late Jonathan Demme just about feels right, though it's a film that requires some patience, a pre-existing interest in guitars as pieces of kit, and possibly the ability to be starstruck in the presence of Jamie from The Kills. Either way, there almost certainly won't be a 2020 release more specifically tailored to a demographic of 45-to-64-year-old males - but then, heck, it was Father's Day last weekend. Dads need playthings, too.

Carmine Street Guitars will be available to stream from Friday.

Monday 22 June 2020

On demand: "Jallikattu"

As a filmmaker, the Keralan maverick Lijo Jose Pellissery would appear to be fascinated by the mob, a feature that sets him in illustrious company. (Hitchcock and Lang would count among his cinematic forebears.) It also leaves him well-placed not just to comment on modern India, but the wider world: he spots that which is primal and tribal in the everyday. This fascination manifests most obviously in Pellissery's swirling, hectic, apparently uncontrollable crowd scenes. The fisticuffs that broke out in the backalleys of 2017's Angamaly Diaries grew to occupy what seemed like half of Kerala, whether the locals were in on the action or not; the extraordinary funeral rites of 2018's Ee.Ma.Yau provided the perfect capper to that film's thesis about the draining hard work involved in allowing a man to rest in peace. Jallikattu, Pellissery's most stylised and yet most commercial-seeming venture to date, opens by chopping together proofs of a jungle village's manic ebb and flow; these images come to congregate and jostle one another like people. Much of the attention is focused on the village meat stall, seen doing a roaring trade, although at the umpteenth shot of a cleaver tearing through animal flesh (this is not, at least not initially, a film for vegans), an idea is planted that this way of life is unsustainable; something's got to give. And so it does: the rope tying the butcher's pet buffalo frays, enabling the vengeful beast to go on the rampage through the surrounding area, and leaving the villagers to either gang and tool up in a bid to halt it, or - more wisely - get the hell out of its way. That's right: Jallikattu is Sharknado played more or less straight, Unstoppable with the runaway train replaced by 500 pounds of horned beef. If that doesn't get you salivating somehow, then the cinema may not be your natural home.

Important to note, however, that we barely see this unit once loosed - more notable is the crisis it prompts. What makes Pellissery so special is that he's one of the few directors currently working anywhere in the world who is as adept with social commentary as he is with action, who can stick the big-picture stuff audiences have traditionally thrilled at and deft character beats that yield subtler, more thoughtful responses. He's John Woo with the brain of Henry James, an ironist who loves setting things off. Everyone's on edge in Jallikattu even before the rumble of approaching hooves (there's a Peeping Tom doing the rounds, and a wedding being planned, which you fear can only go the same way as Ee.Ma.Yau's funeral); after trampling a herb garden and crops, and running amok through the bank, the buffalo succeeds in sowing further anxiety, division and confusion in its wake. The first responders are the local alpha males, although it's soon clear they don't have a coherent strategy beyond charging out with sleeves rolled up to their biceps; other men flood in from neighbouring villages, get drunk and look to make a night of it; the growing consensus seems to be that brute force is the way forward, which is why, though they vastly outnumber their quarry, the men wind up outthought at every turn. Nobody seems to have considered the fact that hundreds of blokes charging round in the dark with sticks and guns will likely incur some form of collateral damage; no-one seems willing to let the buffalo go, for the thorny matter of male pride is at stake. (Even when they have the poor creature cornered, the hunters are too busy arguing over who gets to kill it to actually do the deed.) Jallikattu builds on the burial rites of Ee.Ma.Yau, in that it extrapolates from one event a complete, immersive picture of a society, here one with one foot in the present and the other very firmly in the Stone Age. 

The bonus is that it should generate such an exciting picture. The controlled chaos of Pellissery's shotmaking is gripping in itself, even when it's not immediately clear what's going on from a narrative perspective. You never can tell which way these meathead characters (from the buffalo on down) are going to enter or exit the frame, or where this camera - which assumes some of the elasticity and stamina of the camera in any Looney Tunes cartoon - is headed. It leads to remarkable setpieces (a Fitzcarraldo-like effort to haul the buffalo out of a well, a final-reel pile-on that carries everyone back in time), but Pellissery can also mix things up via droll sketches of those less testosterone-y villagers idly watching TV or scrolling through their phones, effortlessly showing up the primitive idiocy of this wild moo-se chase. His ever-swelling ensemble are good either way: they can fade into a crowd, or step up to add some new note of satire. I don't think Pellissery is rolling his eyes at the stupidity of Man so much as actively and enthusiastically enumerating the many and distinct ways in which men are capable of being stupid; still, he cuts briskly through them, taking just 94 minutes to outline an entire, crazy world, the grunts and hollers he addends to his soundtrack providing their own succinct comment. Nine months on from the film's release at home, we find Kerala being cited as a model for dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak, its leaders celebrated for listening to experts, taking swift action, and thereby avoiding the death toll being racked up elsewhere. Think deeply, act decisively: that's also Jallikattu's moral, although the cherishably perverse Pellissery chooses to underline the point by filming what happens when growing numbers of people don't do this. A few years ago, the results might simply have stood as a cautionary tale; as we charge headlong into the third decade of another turbulent century, Jallikattu now unspools as that rare action movie you could cite as a teaching aid.

Jallikattu is streaming on Amazon Prime.

Sunday 21 June 2020

On demand: "Honey Boy"

Honey Boy sounds some way more conceptual (let's say it, wankier) than it actually is: a film in which Shia LaBeouf plays a version of his own father, and - as writer-star - strives both to describe the process whereby he was launched on the world as a child star as the 20th century gave way to the 21st, and confront the effect that success had on him as an adult. Some of the names have been changed to protect the debatably innocent. Our onscreen LaBeouf surrogate is called Otis - he's writing about himself in the third person - and played by a newly pumped-up Lucas Hedges as an easily bored, quick-to-drink tearaway first seen on set being shot at by robots that look awfully like those damn Transformers. An enforced spell in rehab cues flashbacks to Otis's youth, when - now incarnated by Noah Jupe as a guileless moppet - he was shuttled to and from the set of a successful kids' show (for which we presumably read Even Stevens) by his heavy-drinking, casually abusive father James - and here's where the real LaBeouf comes in. James could have been just another showbiz monster, this century's Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. Instead, the casting of LaBeouf has a balancing effect: for ninety minutes, we watch as a son tries to work out why his father behaved as he did, and more specifically yet, why he behaved as he did towards him. Director Alma Har'el has been scratching around on the indie fringes in the company of non-professional performers (Bombay Beach, LoveTrue); here, she achieves something genuinely radical with a star, forcing a young millionaire to take a long, hard look in the mirror and separate that part of his bad behaviour that was passed down in his genes from that for which he - and he alone - must finally bear responsibility.

Perhaps that gives Honey Boy the air of a therapeutic exercise, possibly one best achieved behind closed doors, but it's a revealing one, both for what it conveys about LaBeouf family dynamics and more generally about family ties. With Mrs. LaB out of the picture via an earlier divorce - an unseen Natasha Lyonne takes a prominent credit for contributing one telephone conversation - the focus is exclusively on that father-son bond, the default axis of mainstream American cinema. Yet Har'el takes it seriously, and goes deep with it; the problem here isn't that this kid didn't have anyone to throw a baseball around with back in the day. Rather, it would appear from this account that dad - an altogether odd, failed former TV personality trailing Mick Miller hair and inexplicable schtick with chickens - was attempting to live out his own fantasies through his child: hence his drill-sergeant manner of parenting, hence his inappropriate comments towards the girls who recognise his boy. Is it possible that Otis/Shia was set on guard for so much of his youth that he was bound to feel boredom even amid the hyper-stimulation of those giant robot movies - that his problems derived from the fact there was no longer anyone threatening to clip him around the ear? If so, that's one heck of a breakthrough for a movie - and a movie star - to make. You can imagine the lessons of Honey Boy being applied to a hundred other cases in the wider Los Angeles area, and an appropriate course of treatment being prescribed.

What's in it for us?, you might well ask. Well, for one thing, Har'el - and her great cinematographer Natasha Braier (In the City of Sylvia, The Neon Demon, Somers Town) - give these images a subtle, haunted beauty commensurate with the sight of people attempting to banish their ghosts and demons. The editing keeps making deft, delicate connections between the present and the past, the child picking through the junkyard adjacent to his roach motel and the young adult lost in the woods surrounding the clinic. And the performers do their bit to ensure the psychology stitches together: the previously milquetoast Hedges assumes some of LaBeouf's confrontational sincerity, that singular need the actor has displayed in his public appearances for others to take him as seriously as he does himself. Perhaps they will from here on out. Backed up by his similarly committed, unsentimental work in last year's The Peanut Butter Falcon, this does look like a breakthrough moment for LaBeouf, the point at which he revealed an emotional maturity no previous director - not Michael Bay, nor Lars von Trier - troubled to coax out of him. What ultimately raises Honey Boy above and beyond the crowded ranks of Hollywood vanity projects is that it's a maturity even those of us who weren't raised as child stars might recognise: the ability to forgive the sins and flaws of our fathers, take whatever love they put in our pocket growing up, and with it resolve to go one better as we plot our own path through this world. At this stage in the 21st century, it's undeniable that the putting on of shows has generated almost as much damage and trauma as it has entertainment, but there have been a few souls for whom the creation of moving images has become therapy, a way of straightening out their own wrinkles, keeping themselves honest and making sense of the universe. LaBeouf is following this path now; watching this deeply affecting act of personal catharsis, we can but hope he carries onwards.

Honey Boy is available to stream via Amazon Prime.

Saturday 20 June 2020

On demand: "A Question of Silence"

A major arthouse talking point back in 1982 - since quieted by falling out of wider circulation - Marleen Gorris's feminist parable A Question of Silence absolutely merits rediscovery now that it's been uploaded to YouTube by the good folks at Solidarity Cinema. Three very different women - a meek housewife (Edda Barends), a garrulous café owner (Nelly Frijda) and a bright secretary (Henriëtte Tol) - are arrested around Amsterdam on suspicion of murdering a shopkeeper; they surrender without protest, on the assumption whatever's waiting for them in custody will be easier than what they've had to endure day to day. It's down to a female psychologist (Cox Habbema), notably more empathetic than those male colleagues writing off these women as mad, to interview them, their loved ones and their colleagues, and thereby understand a) where they were coming from and b) whether this most violent of crimes was premeditated, and not just the result of a sudden snap. As whodunnits go, it's an open-and-shut case, with no other suspects in the frame; what Gorris understood was that such cases are more usefully approached as whydunnits, taking the extra time to find out just what drives a woman to breaking point.

That inquiry is presented within the framework of a highly constructed narrative, designed to point the viewer in a certain direction - or at least to nudge him or her towards further consideration. Two elements keep A Question of Silence from becoming unduly programmatic. Firstly, it's shot almost like a TV documentary of the period, following these women through airless front rooms, nondescript shopping malls and drab office spaces in which they invariably find themselves pushed into the background, then into a system where (up until the trial, when they face the condescensions of the judiciary) they at least have the advantage of being free from the micro-aggressions of the opposite sex. Secondly, the women's testimony is offered up in the form of jabbing fragments that require the viewer to do much of the work, figuring out what brought these three strangers together to kill a fourth. Very strong writing and playing personalises and differentiates these women: Frijda's proprietress laughs off the flak she gets, but Barends' homemaker internalises it, and Tol's eternally overlooked PA apparently feels so liberated by the act of murder that she turns a trick on the way home, which can't help but seem a decidedly Dutch response.

Gorris also shows us how these women respond to the psychologist's questioning in markedly different ways. "I could murder someone for some chocolate," joshes the café owner; the housewife, rendered all but mute by long afternoons with no-one to talk to, is reduced to drawing clues for her interrogator. Frans Bromet's camera is deeply alert to the body language that might well be ignored by more restless and brusque investigators: a lot of this story's clues are hidden in plain sight. Some of its details are inseparably 1982, like the Casio score, credited to Lodewijk de Boer and Martijn Hasebos but all too clearly the work of John Shuttleworth. And in the wake of subsequent provocations from Catherine Breillat and the Baise-Moi dames, the murder scene plays as a little quaint when we eventually alight upon it. (Far more unnerving is the supervising mortician's assessment of the corpse: "The genitals were almost unrecognisable as such." Now there's a line to make the gents in any audience stop manspreading.) Watching it in 2020, I could well imagine some bright spark updating it as Steve McQueen did Widows - but it remains unusually potent as is: a film to make women think, and to make men think twice.

A Question of Silence is now streaming on YouTube, and can be found here.

Friday 19 June 2020

For what it's worth...

My top ten streaming picks (for the week beginning June 19, 2020):

1 (new) Just Don't Think I'll Scream (uncertificated) **** (MUBI)
2. The Australian Dream (15) **** (via Amazon, Curzon, BFI)
3. The Uncertain Kingdom (15) **** (Curzon, BFI)
4. The County (12A) **** (Curzon)
5 (new) The Day After I'm Gone (uncertificated) *** (MUBI)
6. Virus Tropical (uncertificated) *** (MUBI)
7. Days of the Bagnold Summer (12A) *** (via Amazon, Curzon, BFI)
8. Guest of Honour (uncertificated) *** (Curzon)
9. Woman at War (12A) *** (MUBI)
10. Dating Amber (15) *** (Amazon Prime)

DVD/Blu-Ray/Download top ten: 

1 (37) Sonic the Hedgehog (PG)

2 (3) 1917 (15) ***
3 (1) Dolittle (PG)
4 (2) Onward (U) ***
5 (re) Bloodshot (12)
6 (5) Bad Boys for Life (15) ***
7 (10) Jumanji: The Next Level (12)
8 (7) Little Women (U) ****
9 (8) Frozen II (U) **
10 (6) Cats (U)

(source: officialcharts.com)

My top five: 
1. Parasite

2. The Personal History of David Copperfield
3. Ordinary Love
4. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
5. Vivarium

Top five films on terrestrial television:
1. The Magnificent Seven [above] (Sunday, BBC2, 2pm)
2. Leviathan (Sunday, BBC2, 1am)
3. Skyfall (Saturday, ITV, 8.30pm)
4. A Knight's Tale (Sunday, five, 1.15pm)
5. The Man in the Iron Mask (Sunday, five, 3.55pm)