Tag Archives: Bong Joon-ho

‘Ad Astra’ director James Gray’s American masterpiece… and why UK audiences never saw it

Until going up the jungle in The Lost City of Z (2016) and now into deep space with Ad Astra, the films of American director James Gray – from Little Odessa (1994) to Two Lovers (2008) – all told stories of New York, with many focusing on immigrant families. His 2013 ode to classical melodrama, The Immigrant, was the culmination of that interest.

Set in 1921, it sees Polish immigrant Ewa (Marion Cotillard) tricked into a life of Manhattan burlesque and prostitution as she tries to fund the release of her ill sister, who has been confined to Ellis Island. She also finds herself caught in a toxic love triangle between Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), the charmer pimp who got her there, and his chivalrous magician cousin, Emil (Jeremy Renner).

Featuring contenders for Cotillard and Renner’s career-best performances, reliably magnetic work from Phoenix, and cinematography from Darius Khondji that simultaneously evokes 19th-century painting, silent cinema and the 70s highpoints of Godfather cinematographer Gordon Willis, The Immigrant is a beautiful and devastating slow-burn drama. Its closing act, particularly the lingering final shot, must count among the finest American filmmaking of this decade.

So, why was the film never released in the UK?

Full feature for the BFI

Locarno Film Festival 2019: The Skinny’s Highlights

Founded in 1946, Switzerland’s Locarno Festival is one of the world’s longest-running film festivals, known for its arthouse-favouring programming, extensive retrospectives and nightly open-air screenings in the Piazza Grande, which can seat 8000 spectators. The latter is by no means the only venue, but it’s the one most associated with the festival. Having attended for the first time last year, we often recall the memory of seeing Ethan Hawke’s directorial effort Blaze amid a rare torrential downpour in the otherwise scorching town.

Taking place by Lake Maggiore at the southern foot of the Swiss Alps, Locarno can be quite pricey to attend because almost none of the food on offer is cheap, but the very welcoming atmosphere makes up for a lot. The intermingling of public, industry and press attendees every night, particularly at select pubs open until 3am, is unlike any other festival we’ve experienced. Where else might you see Béla Tarr exit an otherwise amicable-seeming conversation with Pedro Costa with a “fuck off” before getting in a car? Hopefully that’s how he says goodbye to everyone…

Full feature for The Skinny

Bong Joon-ho on ‘Okja’ & Netflix

“Someone said it’s very difficult to define, this movie. For me, that is the biggest praise.” South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho is speaking of his latest project, but such a query of genre and tonal classification could easily be applied to most of his prior features as a director – from debut Barking Dogs Never Bite to Memories of MurderThe HostMother and Snowpiercer. With pretty much all of them, you think you know what you’re going to get based on a glance at the plot synopsis, only for a considerably different beast to emerge during viewing; sometimes multiple different beasts…

Full interview for The Skinny