Tag Archives: Film

The company of wolves: how we made snowbound mystery ‘January’

In snowy January, two men and a bird in a remote mountain cottage complex are greeted by a series of strange guests. Each one seeks an audience with Petar Motorov, the residence’s owner, who has disappeared in the woods with his sleigh. Then his horse brings back the sleigh minus its owner, but carrying instead a dead, frozen wolf. As various members of the group make their own journey into the mountains, the sleigh continues to bring back eerie, stiff wolves in the place of human drivers. What is going on? And is Petar Motorov ever coming back?

An international co-production, January presents an unusual proposition on paper: a black-and-white absurdist tale, with folk horror leanings, by a Bulgarian director who’s previously only made documentaries, and co-written with a British filmmaker who’s veered between fiction and nonfiction. Andrey Paounov (Walking on Water, 2018) is the director, with his co-writer being Alex Barrett, whose last feature was the modern silent film London Symphony (2017). Together they reinterpret Yordan Radichkov’s allegorical play of the same name for a universal audience. But, as the above synopsis may indicate, that doesn’t mean they’ve made it any less weird…

Full interview for the BFI

Estate Agency: The Authorised Music Biopic Debate

Directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou [1997], Harriet [2019]) and written by Anthony McCarten (Bohemian Rhapsody [2018]), I Wanna Dance with Somebody (2022) follows the life of late American pop icon Whitney Houston, played by Naomi Ackie. Among the film’s executive producers is Clive Davis, the record producer who discovered Houston, while close involvement from Houston’s estate has reportedly come through representative Pat Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law and long-time intermediary.

Much like print tome biographies, an authorised music biopic presents a veneer of authenticity. Consultation with living artists, or their family members and close confidantes if they have passed, would seem to ensure a certain degree of verisimilitude, rather than solely depending on unsubstantiated hearsay. When it comes to films, it’s also a considerable benefit to have access to the artists’ actual recordings (the 2020 David Bowie biopic Stardust suffered in this regard). Clive Davis, speaking to Variety about the Houston movie, said, ‘For me, it was important for the film to answer all questions honestly, authentically, about who Whitney was. Whether it was her sexuality, whether it was her addiction, whether it was how she and I worked together… We wanted to get it right. We wanted to get the music right, above all.’

And yet, despite such seemingly honourable intentions, authorised biopics still manage to inspire heated debate among both film and music critics, as well as the fanbases of the respective artists; the more famous and beloved the artist, the more passionate the debate. The genre can so often be defined by the things left out of a story, as opposed to the effective adaptation of what’s kept in…

Full feature for Curzon Journal

Where to begin with James Cameron

It may seem silly to construct a guide to exploring a filmmaker who directed two of the three highest-grossing movies ever made, and also created one of the most successful science-fiction media franchises of the last 40 years. When it comes to James Cameron, it seems much of the globe has already begun. Yet since his real-life-disaster-inspired romantic melodrama Titanic conquered the world a quarter of a century ago, his directing jobs have been rare. An 18-year-old today would have been five when the last Cameron film – 2009’s alien planet war-epic Avatar – came out…

Full feature for the BFI

Hold Me Tight (Mathieu Amalric, 2021)

Clarisse wakes at dawn, careful not to stir her sleeping husband. She packs a few belongings and takes one last look at her sleeping children; then, deciding against leaving a note, she departs her house. The implication is that she’s abandoning her family, with a surprising giddiness in the car-driving sequences that soon follow. How could someone do this to their loved ones, and with such gleeful abandon? And why might they?

Cutting back and forth between Clarisse (Vicky Krieps)’s new bearings and her family adjusting to the abandonment, Mathieu Amalric’s latest feature as writer-director – based on Claudine Galea’s play Je reviens de loin – seems like it might be one of those disorienting character studies that withholds any semblance of answers until the climax. Instead, Amalric resolves the initial mystery early. It’s near impossible to meaningfully elaborate on what the film is doing without delving into the reveal that comes roughly a third in, so consider this your first-act spoiler warning…

Full review for Sight and Sound

7 romantic horrors to watch after ‘Bones and All’

Reuniting Call Me by Your Name pair Timothée Chalamet and director Luca Guadagnino, Bones and All is many things. It’s a horror movie. (It’s more specifically a cannibal horror movie.) It’s a road movie. It’s a coming-of-age tale. But perhaps most crucially, it’s an empathetic portrait of romance rooted in unsavoury origins.

Bones and All sees young Maren (Taylor Russell) embark on an American odyssey to track down her roots, after her latest cannibalistic outburst sees her finally abandoned by her father (André Holland) and left to fend for herself. Encountering other ‘eaters’ like herself, she forms a connection with drifter Lee (Timothée Chalamet), and the two fall in love while navigating their need for human flesh.

Your typical love story, then. If Bones and All has you salivating for more romances wrapped in bloodlust, here are seven horror gems (in chronological order) that have love or infatuation at their centre. Given the genre involved, it should be no surprise that few of these films end on a happy note. And since they are romances in horror movies, their inclusions here don’t necessarily reflect healthy relationships or advice to follow. i-D accepts no responsibility if you watch these films and then attempt to reanimate your deceased partner in a suspicious laboratory…

Full feature for i-D

Nine Songs: Howard Shore

He’s a three-time Oscar-winner who’s composed music for over 80 films, yet – excluding when he’s returned for sequels or spin-offs of movies he previously worked on – no Howard Shore score sounds quite like another.

There’s a chameleonic quality to the oeuvre, perhaps reflective of how he tells me that every score he works on is deeply personal in its own way. Somewhat to my surprise, when speaking about his Nine Songs selections, each a pivotal composition in his life, Shore nominates just one piece purposefully written for a film: Nino Rota’s title theme for Federico Fellini’s 1973 film Amarcord.

“It’s pieces that influenced me,” Shore says of his final choices. “Mostly when I was younger when I was developing my ideas. It took quite a process, actually, because I was trying to show a range of influences.”

Talking with the great Canadian composer proves fascinating for how even the smallest attribute of a track can get the mind’s gears going for an artist finding their own voice. Bar one piece by someone he’s collaborated with in the past, it’s not immediately obvious, until he elaborates, how many of his jazz-heavy selections could have been a direct influence on his output for film, television and stage. But then, it’s perhaps daft to try assuming what Shore’s influences might be when his work is so eclectic in its own right.

In the mainstream consciousness, Shore is likely best known for the music of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for which he received his three Academy Awards – one for the song “Into the West”, co-written with Annie Lennox and Fran Walsh. But while he’s worked on many grand epics (Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and The Aviator, plus Jackson’s later Hobbit films), he’s just at home with small-scale comedies (High FidelityBigMrs. Doubtfire) or low-key dramas (SpotlightPhiladelphia). Or in the weirder fringes of studio films, such as Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, David Fincher’s Seven and The Game, and his iconic work on Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs.

His latest full score, for the sci-fi Crimes of the Future, is his 16th feature with director David Cronenberg. His earliest frequent collaborator, Shore has composed the scores for all of Cronenberg’s features since 1979’s The Brood, excluding 1983’s The Dead Zone. For as much as films like VideodromeThe FlyDead RingersCrash and A History of Violence may linger for their transgressive material and shocking images of human bodies in distortion, they’d not be nearly as impactful without Shore’s soundscapes in accompaniment…

Full interview for The Line of Best Fit

Hunt (Lee Jung-jae, 2022)

Although Hunt was already in production before the global phenomenon premiered, Squid Game’s success looks set to ensure even more eyes pay attention to the directorial debut of that show’s star, Lee Jung-jae, who also co-leads this film. Luckily, Lee’s feature should withstand the extra scrutiny, thanks to its qualities as a stylish, energetic espionage thriller executed with clear confidence…

Full review for Little White Lies

Park Chan-wook on ‘Decision to Leave’

Josh Slater-Williams speaks to Park Chan-wook about Decision to Leave, the latest characteristically genre-slippery film from the great South Korean director of Oldboy (2003), The Handmaiden (2016), Thirst (2009) and many more. The story sees a happily married detective get a little too close to someone under his surveillance: a wife suspected of wrongdoing regarding her husband’s mysterious death in the mountains.

A warning: while director Park doesn’t give away explicit plot spoilers in this interview, he does discuss a tonal shift in the film’s second half and also alludes to one specific scene from that section…

Full interview for Curzon Journal

Truth & Movies: A Little White Lies Podcast – ‘Halloween Ends’ | ‘Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile’ | ‘The Lost Boys’

I joined Leila Latif and David Jenkins to discuss David Gordon Green’s Halloween Ends, Josh Gordon and Will Speck’s Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, and Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys  on Truth & Movies: A Little White Lies Podcast.

Listen here

Klokkenluider (Neil Maskell, 2022)

When a familiar actor switches to directing, there is the temptation to look for parallels with the films of directors they’ve worked with, particularly when there have been numerous collaborations. With British character actor favourite Neil Maskell, his debut feature as writer and director actively invites comparisons to Ben Wheatley’s early work to a small extent, given that Wheatley has an executive producer credit (Maskell is perhaps best known for his breakthrough lead role in Wheatley’s hitman horror Kill List).

But while Klokkenluider features a similar tension to Wheatley’s films in its combination of bleak comedy, deceptively mundane settings and the potential for kneejerk violence, Maskell’s speedy film displays a distinctive, eccentric voice of its own, even while bearing clear DNA from the likes of Harold Pinter plays and conspiracy thriller classics. Were it not for the occasional detours to other locales, it would near enough be a chamber piece, and it’s easy to imagine this material being transferred to the stage with some success, but a stagey feel is avoided through clever editing and blocking tricks…

Full review for Little White Lies