Tag Archives: Noir

The Whistlers (Corneliu Porumboiu, 2019)

A slick country-hopping noir riff with bloody shootouts and occasionally lavish locations, The Whistlers would seem to be a rather surprising swerve into mainstream crowd-pleasing territory for writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu, one of the poster boys of the Romanian New Wave. But while some of his earlier features, such as 12:08 East of Bucharest and Police, Adjective, certainly fit the realist and/or minimalist mode of the types of Romanian films that have broken out internationally in the last decade-plus, the pattern of his career has been as eccentric as the onscreen tone and characters of his movies.

For one of the odder one-two filmmaking punches of recent memory, the movie he made directly before The Whistlers was Infinite Football, a documentary about a proposed reinvention of the rules of the beautiful game, which looks like it cost as much to make as one night’s rent at the motel in this film. Unlike Infinite Football’s civil servant, Porumboiu doesn’t seem to be looking to reinvent his chosen subject (noir) with The Whistlers, although it is still full of strangeness in line with his other works. For one thing, there’s its distinct hook for a crime movie, as hinted at in its title for English-speaking territories…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Corneliu Porumboiu talks ‘The Whistlers’

Following his breakthrough feature, 2006’s 12:08 East of Bucharest, Romanian writer-director Corneliu Porumboiu has become known for veering between similarly satirical comedies, meta-textual documentaries (The Second Game, Infinite Football) and ostensibly more traditional dramas (Police, Adjective). His most recent film, The Whistlers, which premiered in competition against Parasite at Cannes, is a departure from all of them.

With a touch of the Coen brothers in tone, The Whistlers is a comedic noir with a twist: it’s largely set around La Gomera, a Canary Island with an ancestral language, “El Silbo Gomero”, based around whistling. Cristi (Police, Adjective star Vlad Ivanov) is a cop who’s a whistle-blower for the mafia, under police surveillance himself in Romania thanks to his ties to a shady businessman. Tasked with helping to get that same mobster out of prison – and lead the way to a hidden €30m stash – Cristi ventures to La Gomera to learn the coded language, so as to secretly communicate across long distances and stifle police detection.

It’s certainly an interesting hook for a heist movie, and viewers acquainted with the Romanian New Wave can rest assured that, while certainly a more mainstream crowd pleaser, The Whistlers does not see Porumboiu drop his eccentric streak.

With the film now available on Curzon Home Cinema, alongside his previous feature Infinite Football, we speak to Porumboiu about more than if he knows how to whistle like Lauren Bacall…

Full interview for VODzilla.co

Blow the Man Down (Bridget Savage Cole/Danielle Krudy, 2019)

Blow the Man Down opens with an attention-grabbing group rendition of the eponymous sea shanty, which originated in the 19th century, with alternate lyrics referencing the New England port town of the film’s setting. Thanks to a montage of misty skies, icy-looking water and squelchy sea creatures, as well as the region and shared taste for anachronistic music, viewers may initially be reminded of Robert Eggers’ recent The Lighthouse.

Instead, writer/director pair Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy present a multi-layered contemporary mystery that’s less stylistically outlandish than Eggers’ film, though certainly full of its own memorable idiosyncrasies. To name just one, those singing fishermen reappear as a Greek chorus of sorts, popping up throughout the film with a song and the odd fourth wall-breaking glance to camera…

Full review for Little White Lies

 

Aaron Katz on ‘Gemini’, LA, noir, and Bad Influence(s)

A few years on from his mystery comedy Cold Weather, affectionately dubbed ‘mumblenoir’ by some, writer-director Aaron Katz returns to the narrative territory of a non-detective investigating a crime. And this one’s set in Los Angeles, the home of film noir.

Led by Lola Kirke and Zoë Kravitz, Gemini concerns the complex relationship between a personal assistant and her Hollywood starlet boss. After maybe 30 minutes of getting to know the pair, the film switches gears and sees the PA, Jill (Kirke), go sleuth, after she is connected to a major crime, with a suspicious detective (John Cho) on her trail. Michelle Forbes, James Ransone, Nelson Franklin, Reeve Carney and Ricki Lake are among the supporting cast.

With Gemini now available to rent or buy on UK streaming platforms, here’s our conversation with Katz about Hollywood films, noir, and him not being the biggest David Lynch fan…

Full interview for VODzilla.co

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…

Full interview for The Skinny