All posts by Josh Slater-Williams

Josh Slater-Williams (@jslaterwilliams) is a freelance writer based in England. Alongside writing for Vague Visages, he is a regular contributor to independent British magazine The Skinny and has written for Little White Lies magazine, VODzilla.co, The Film Stage, and PopOptiq.

The 10 best films from the 2018 Locarno Film Festival

As an indication of its ever-growing stature on the international film festival circuit, the current artistic director of Switzerland’s Locarno Festival for many years, Carlo Chatrian, has been snapped up to help programme the bigger Berlin Film Festival from 2020. As such, the 71st edition of Locarno seemed to have a bittersweet quality for the talkative festival veterans, as things might be very different next year. Even so, 2018 lived up to expectations of the event as an exciting space for new arthouse fare and as a celebration of older cinema that takes more offbeat choices in terms of paying tribute. We were particularly touched by the inspired choice to give the honorary Vision Award to title sequence designer Kyle Cooper (Se7en, among many credits), and not just because it gave programmers an excuse to screen Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film from a 35mm print.

Our personal highlight was the wealth of delights in the festival’s extensive retrospective of American filmmaker Leo McCarey, particularly a screening of The Awful Truth (1937) that had a packed audience in hysterics. That said, the new films on offer were hardly lacking in quality. In an unranked order, here are nine premiering feature highlights, plus one short. We should mention we were sadly unable to catch Mariano Llinás’ 14-hour La Flor, perhaps the most publicised title in competition this year…

Full feature for Little White Lies

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Mark Cousins on ‘The Eyes of Orson Welles’, documentaries and Netflix

Director, critic and curator Mark Cousins returns with essay feature The Eyes of Orson Welles, a documentary, divided into five chapters, that explores the legendary filmmaker through a subject that’s rarely come up in the multiple existing biographical portraits of the man: his paintings and sketches, many of which have never before been displayed for public consumption outside of this film.

Invited to his Edinburgh flat to see a few of Welles’ drawings up close, prior to a summer exhibition in the city, we spoke to Cousins about collaborating with Welles’ daughter, Beatrice, avoiding clichés about the filmmaker, inspiring documentaries, Donald Trump, and his thoughts on Netflix’s handling of Welles’ final film, which is set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival…

Full interview for VODzilla.co

Too Late to Die Young (Dominga Sotomayor, 2018)

Recipient of this year’s Leopard for Best Direction in the International Competition at Locarno, Too Late to Die Young is not Dominga Sotomayor’s first feature since her debut breakthrough Thursday Till Sunday (2012), as the 58-minute Mar (2014) premiered in between. It does, however, feel like a direct continuation of that first feature’s preoccupation with the implications of parents’ life-altering decisions upon the children they take along for the ride. In Thursday Till Sunday, a road trip was the backdrop for a story of a teen discovering her parents may be separating, while Too Late to Die Young, which opens with another car journey, is concerned with multiple children being uprooted…

Full review for Sight & Sound

Locarno 2018. Interfaces and Headspaces

The so-called ‘desktop movie,’ a film visually told predominantly or entirely through the setup of a computer screen, has had a couple of high-profile examples over the last few years. Among these are Nacho Vigalondo’s Open Windows (2014), Patrick Cederberg and Walter Woodman’s short Noah (2013), and, most notably in terms of mainstream success, Levan Gabriadze’s Unfriended (2014). 2018 would seem to be a major year for the genre, if you can call it a genre just yet, with the wide release of sequel Unfriended: Dark Web, Timur Bekmambetov’s Profile playing festivals, and now the release, through Sony, of Aneesh Chaganty’s Searching. It is worth noting that Bekmambetov also produced the two of those 2018 titles he didn’t direct, so there’s at least one benefactor devoted to making the form catch on. With the exception of something like Kevin B. Lee’s essay film Transformers: The Premake(2014), the desktop movies that have gained critical or commercial traction have tended to stick to the mode of horror. Given that the Internet’s terrors seem endless, it’s an understandable creative instinct. Searching stands out, though, as it’s firmly in the mode of an investigative thriller: after his 16-year-old daughter disappears, a desperate father (John Cho) breaks into her laptop to find any clues he can in order to find her. At this year’s Locarno Festival, Searching played late at night to up to 8,000 attendees in the open-air cinema at the Piazza Grande. In the context of the festival as a whole, an interesting comparison to the film came in the form of an entry in the festival’s Signs of Life strand, devoted to experimental cinema…

Full feature for MUBI Notebook

Terminal (Vaughn Stein, 2018)

One of the funnier personality types in a good comedy is an incredibly stupid character who thinks they’re incredibly smart. On the other hand, one of the most unbearable types of film to sit through is one where a projection of wily intelligence proves to be masking a dunderheaded vacuum. On that note, here’s a review of Terminal

Full review for VODzilla.co

A Touch of Sin, A Touch of Class

Alongside directing some of the most vital Chinese films of recent memory (including A Touch of SinThe WorldPlatformStill Life and many more), Jia Zhang-ke is also a teacher at a Shanghai film school. As such, the director was happy to take some time out of his schedule as the President of this year’s Concorso internazionale Jury to speak to this year’s Filmmakers Academy class at Locarno, alongside members of the Critics and Industry Academies…

Full feature for Locarno Daily

Locarno: Leonardo Guerra Seràgnoli on ‘Likemeback’

Following his first feature in 2014, the Rinko Kikuchi-led “Last Summer”, Italian writer-director Leonardo Guerra Seràgnoli returns with “Likemeback,” a young women-led drama exploring smartphone addiction. This time around, he follows three Italian teenagers – played by Angela Fontana, Denise Tantucci and Blu Yoshimi – on a boat-based vacation in Croatia, celebrating the end of high school. They share everything on social media, but their addiction to those platforms, along with conflicts concerning their insecurities, take multiple dark turns that look to be life-ruining.

As “Likemeback” received its world premiere at this year’s Locarno Festival, Seràgnoli spoke to Variety about the film’s themes concerning social media, collaborating with his stars on the story, and the appeal of setting a social media cautionary tale out at sea…

Full interview for Variety