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|Shadows off the beaten path|
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|See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 15.Oct.23|
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Danny Madden
scr PJ McCabe
prd Eli Raskin, Nance Messineo, Casey Bader
with Will Madden, Angela Wong Carbone, Hilty Bowen, James Babson, Shirley Chen, Hannah McKechnie, Skyler Bible, Courtney Dietz, Donna Allen, Brianne Moncrief, Jim Cummings, Erik Leupp
release US 13.Oct.23
Is it streaming?
Even with its low-budget vibe, this thriller offers chills in its sinister privacy-violating premise. Although director Danny Madden undermines the point by setting up the sex and violence with awkward staging and timid camerawork. But even if the premise never quite holds water, the film is enjoyably committed to it, happily unsettling the audience on a range of layers while charging full-pelt into a genuinely nasty final act.
On their first night in their new home, Cam (Madden) and his wife Sky (Carbone) watch a TV show about the Slumlord (Babson), who planted cameras throughout his properties, including this one, which is why it was so cheap. And Sky's recently single sister Caroline (Bowen) moves into the spare room. Then Cam finds a secret hatch, behind which is a monitor for the cameras laced throughout the house, as well as the one next door. But someone is watching the house from a white van, and Caroline's ex (Bible) is threatening to come round.
There's a nice sense of momentum as the nastiness cranks up and the Slumlord emerges from the shadows. It wouldn't take much rewriting to get rid of the nagging plot holes, or to make the characters a bit more textured. But there are some nice touches along the way, including how the script notes the dark irony that the one girl (Moncrief) who escaped from the Slumlord is now under constant surveillance. And there's also a wry final kick to the narrative.
While Madden plays Cam as a likeable guy, he's clearly a dim-witted lowlife creep who is far too excited about watching strange women taking showers. So it's impossible to sympathise with him at all. Instead, we worry for Carbone's oblivious Sky, and wonder how she ever fell for him. She's more proactive when she realises what's going on, but by then we just want her to get away from Cam. The other characters are little more than plot points, vanishing when the script doesn't need them.
Rather than make some intriguing comments about the issue of voyeurism and transgressive behaviour, the movie merely uses these things to make the audience squirm. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but because the movie has so few points of identification, it remains little more than an enjoyably gimmicky bit of nastiness. It's well enough made to hold the interest, and where it goes is intriguing and tense. But it's difficult to care when it's so clear what's going to happen.
I Know Where Im Going!
Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir-scr-prd Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
with Wendy Hiller, Roger Livesey, Pamela Brown, Duncan MacKechnie, Finlay Currie, Murdo Morrison, George Carney, Nancy Price, Petula Clark, Catherine Lacey, Valentine Dyall, Jean Cadell
release UK 17.Dec.45,
restored UK 20.Oct.23
Is it streaming?
Powell and Pressburger's classic romantic comedy holds up well after nearly 80 years, with its sparky characters, spectacular visuals and a love story that's thoroughly involving without giving in to sentimentality. So even if the outcome is predictable, a sharp sense of humour keeps everything buoyant, spiralling around a wonderful mix of people who are quick-witted and quirky. And while the effects work is dated, it's still properly thrilling.
Fiercely determined since birth, Joan (Hiller) has decided on a wealthy husband, so she's travelling from London to the Hebrides to marry him. The epic journey goes well until the last leg, when she's stranded on the Isle of Mull, awaiting calmer seas to get to her destination Kiloran. Torquil (Livesey) is also trying to get home, and Catriona (Brown) takes them as the storm rages. While waiting, they visit friends and attend a lively ceilidh. But Joan is impatient to make the crossing, so she hires young boatman Kenny (Morrison) to take the risk.
Crackling dialog fills a story that's as brisk as Joan's over-active mind. The way she has to be in control is hilarious, introduced in a terrific London scene with her father (Carney) before she attacks her cross-country journey with gusto, stymied at the final hurdle. Meanwhile, she can't help but dream about her future as a blushing bride and gracious lady of the manor, as if she could possibly be either. It's also enjoyable to see her so focussed on this intentional path that she's missing what's happening around her.
The film subverts the traditional cliche that a woman needs a husband, as Hiller creates a character who's more than enough on her own. Joan doesn't depend on her unseen intended Robert, or the distraction Torquil, so the performance cleverly hinges on what she doesn't know. Livesey is superb as the casual aristocrat at ease with his lack of money, enjoying life as it comes. Surrounding characters are hilariously eccentric, while references to the ongoing war add an edge of context.
Above all, this story is a gorgeous cry for living in the present. Joan is so single-minded that she has lost the ability to see the world around her and make allowances for the idiosyncrasies of people and nature. Even with the amusingly ironic title (echoed from the folksong), Powell and Pressburger are puncturing modern attitudes with knowing precision, reminding us that there is more to life than planning and goal-setting. So the film feels even more timely than ever.
Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir-scr Naqqash Khalid
prd Juliette Larthe, Mary Burke
with Nabhaan Rizwan, Amir El-Masry, Rory Fleck Byrne, Aston McAuley, Josie Walker, Antonio Aakeel, Shahad Ahmed, Jamie Ballard, Gana Bayarsaikhan, Clare Burt, Sarah Jane Potts, Hussina Raja
release UK Oct.23 lff
Is it streaming?
With its witty, observational approach, this British drama is a knowing exploration of a struggling actor's life. First-time writer-director Naqqash Khalid adeptly captures the soullessness that infuses the industry, which is especially felt by people of colour. The focussed, internalised tone is powerfully involving, leading the audience into intensely provocative places. This is bracingly ambitious filmmaking, performed with daring audacity by Nabhaan Rizwan. And it's often devastatingly sharp.
Looking to get his acting career on the move, Aden (Rizwan) is trying out for anything he can find, feeling increasingly down about himself due to both rejections and racial typecasting. But he gives his all in a range of auditions, and even takes work playing a painful real-life scene with a woman (Walker) who has lost her son. But things get increasingly tough. Meanwhile at home, his housemates are going through their own challenges: Bo (Byrne) as an overworked junior doctor and new arrival Conrad (El-Masry) as he breaks into the fashion industry.
While much of the film inventively plays with ideas of performance in everyday interaction, this is a punchy depiction of intensely demanding situations actors find themselves in regularly, such as a dehumanising anonymous audition, an incomprehensible acting class or playing a dead body on the set of a dully repetitive police procedural series. These actors are merely numbers to casting directors who offer appallingly insensitive instructions and feedback. And being treated like this filters into their self-image in everyday life.
A seriously talented performer, Rizwan shines in a role that demands every shade in the spectrum from goofy comedy to dark contemplation. The varying characters he plays in auditions are vividly focussed, and the layers of emotion Aden feels throughout each moment are easy to identify with, right up to an astonishing instance of mistaken identity. El-Masry provides some casual relief as a self-assured guy who's where he wants to be. And Byrne's emotive role is engaging, sympathetic and also somewhat harrowing.
Even if some of Khalid's more surreal, metaphorical swings don't quite connect, this is a bold, fiercely well-made film that expands to cover much more than an actor's experiences. It's about people who are seeking balance and meaning in their lives against a range of obstacles, including those that are endemic or even invisible. And the danger is a loss of the self. Equating Bo's situation feels like a stretch, because the racial element is so pivotal to Aden's and Conrad's experiences. But this feeds into a heart-stopping scene later on.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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