Tag Archives: Biopic

A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies, 2016)

After a decade of difficulties with projects stuck in development hell, that British director Terence Davies now brings us his third feature in six years is a blessing not to be taken lightly. Arriving swiftly after his 2015 adaptation of Sunset SongA Quiet Passion sees him back in literary mode, albeit with a biopic of a writer icon, rather than an adaptation. This also marks the filmmaker’s first foray to narrative territory across the pond since 2000’s The House of Mirth, as this long-gestating, uh, passion project concerns American poet Emily Dickinson…

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Pablo Larraín rethinks the biopic with ‘Neruda’

When it comes to productivity, there aren’t many high-profile directors who come close to Japan’s Takashi Miike (who has made approximately five features since you started reading this sentence), but there are a select few who can be relied upon to give us at least one feature film a year, sometimes even two. Michael Winterbottom is good for this, while Steven Soderbergh was very good for it before his self-imposed (and now broken) retirement from film directing.

With three films in the last two years, Chilean director Pablo Larraín is making a case to join that select group. It’s also worked out that his two most recent films serve to complement each other very well (the odd duck is Catholic Church drama The Club). Larraín has just been through the awards season madness with his English-language debut, Jackie Kennedy biopic Jackie (which picked up three Oscar nominations), and his third film of the trio, Neruda (which hit festivals before Jackie), is a similarly slippery portrait of a political figure, in this case revolutionary Chilean poet-diplomat and politician Pablo Neruda…

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Neruda (Pablo Larraín, 2016)

Neruda, Pablo Larraín’s third film in the space of two years, is in some ways a blending of the modes of his prior Chilean filmography and his ostensibly different American debut Jackie. While Jackie’s break from political biopic convention was largely to do with a fractured structure, Neruda does so by establishing a fictional figure and narrative to intertwine with the story of revolutionary poet Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco)’s life after the Chilean government outlawed Communism in 1948…

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Barry (Vikram Gandhi, 2016)

Vikram Gandhi’s Barry is 2016’s second biopic about the (at the time of writing) current American President, after the Barack-Michelle first-date movie Southside with You, and it is similarly concerned with honing in on a specific short period of Obama’s life, using it as a means of examining how this time informed a path the man would later take, rather than attempting to tell an entire life’s story. It’s a completely different approach to Oliver Stone’s W., which was another film about a US President to debut at the tail-end of their tenure in the White House. While that messy chronicle suggested a veteran filmmaker having lost his game just a tad, Barry, as Gandhi’s non-documentary feature debut, suggests a promising new voice in American cinema…

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Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Gray, 2015)

The problem with most biographical dramas, particularly those concerning musicians, is that they can often play like greatest hits samplers rather than a cohesive, insightful character study. Some of the best music biopics are those that take a formally interesting approach that feels akin to the spirit of the artist/s in question, rather than trying to box their persona into a rigid formula; Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There is one example, as is the recent Love & Mercy, which offers a dual performance to depict two decades in the life of subject Brian Wilson, but also sonically innovative soundscapes to convey the troubled genius’ artistic process.

This is not to say that the traditional music biopic formula is of inherently dubious quality. As with any genre, execution is key. Straight Outta Compton, a portrait of N.W.A (though mainly members Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E) from director F. Gary Gray, is one such example of the formula done very well. Or, at least, up to a point…

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Pet Sights and Sounds: Brian Wilson biopic ‘Love & Mercy’

“I honestly grew up more as a Beatles guy than a Beach Boys guy, but I’ve admitted that to Brian, so he’s aware,” says Bill Pohlad with a little smile.

We’re speaking to Pohlad ahead of the UK premiere of his gorgeous and tragic Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and he begins by explaining how his musical alliances started to change. “As I got older, I think I started to appreciate The Beach Boys much more, and then, just spontaneously, about ten years ago, I got into Pet Sounds in a much deeper way. I mean, it’s something I always appreciated, but I didn’t really plumb the depths of it until more recently. And so when this project came along, I was kind of perfectly keyed up for it, I think…

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Big Eyes (Tim Burton, 2014)

With Big Eyes, Tim Burton takes a break from his spate of auto-pilot adaptations (be it butchering Alice in Wonderland or remaking his own early short films) to tell a more engaging tale than the dreary films of his recent creative slump. Based on true events which took place in the 1950s and 60s, it explores a decade in the life of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams, reliably strong in the lead), who spent years producing cutesy paintings of big-eyed, miserable children that captured the public’s imagination (and their cash). The only problem is that no one knew the paintings were hers, as emotionally manipulative husband Walter (Christoph Waltz) passed himself off as the artist and claimed all the fame…

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