Time of Impatience

Time of Impatience is about twin brothers who want to swim in the pool belonging to a gated community.

It’s a long hot summer in Turkey, and brothers Mirza and Mirhat are Kurds living in a working-class neighbourhood, who can see, so close and yet so far, the relief of a luxury pool behind the walls of a rich, redeveloped, private housing estate. They scrawl up slogans asking why only the rich and white can swim there.

Their nemesis is Zeke, the janny tasked with keeping the riff-raff out. Every day Mirza and Mirhat go to bam him up, asking him questions, making jokes at his expense and generally goading him. He chases them off but they always return.

The film follows them trying a number of schemes to get into the gated community to swim in the pool. After each disappointment, they sit around sulking and talking about the unfairness of life.

With Time of Impatience, I think something was lost in translation a bit with a lot of the dialogue. It’s meant to be funny, but it’s not really. I also wasn’t a fan of the pacing. I found it too baggy. There was too much air between events. It drained the film of any momentum.

Bruno Reidal: Confession of a Murderer

Based on the written confession of 19th century French killer, Bruno Reidal. The murder puzzled everyone as Bruno was a quiet, intelligent, devout seminary student.

After my hand-wringing over Nitram, I pretty much give Bruno Reidal a free pass on account of it being really old and everyone involved being dead. Even though, if you think about it, all the same arguments apply. And Bruno Reidal is way more explicit than anything in Nitram. Like, WAAAAYYYY more explicit.

Beautifully shot, the film has all the scrumptious detail of a period drama, despite its dreary subject. We follow Bruno’s narration of his own life story. Born as a peasant in rural France, he tends his family’s cattle in the fields. He shows academic promise and is sincerely religious, so he is chosen to go to seminary school on a scholarship. Despite starting off behind all the other boys, who are from well-to-do middle-class backgrounds, he studies night and day and goes on to win 7 prizes in his first year.

But there is something no one knows. Since the age of 6, Bruno has been fantasising about killing other boys. The thoughts are obsessional and pleasurable, and once he comes to sexual maturity, erotic. He is a sexual sadist, reaching climax without thought of sexual interaction, but only violence. It is this that has driven his piousness, as he prays daily for God to rid him of this desire, and his academic achievement, as industry distracts him.

Because he is so articulate, you see his mindset clearly. He is devoid of empathy for others. His attachments are very shallow, his inner life predominates. His biggest relationship is with God, and he desperately wants to be obedient to God and reach Paradise in the afterlife. He feels guilt at his inability to abstain from masturbation but not really at the grief he’s caused by his killing. He frequently thinks of suicide but is prevented by fear of damnation.

The crime itself is super explicit. Like, seriously. And there is an unnecessarily explicit child molestation scene elsewhere in the movie. The director clearly had no qualms.

It’s a really well put together drama, but I realise the subject matter won’t be for everyone.

If you like this…

Vortex

I once asked my gran, “Gran, what’s good about getting old?” and she looked me dead in the eye and said, “Fuck all”.

That’s what Vortex brought to mind. It’s basically about the nightmare of old age. Elle, beautifully played by Francoise Lebrun, is a retired psychiatrist and writer who is now losing her mind to dementia. Her husband Lui, portrayed so vulnerably by Dario Argento, struggles to care for her, given that he is also elderly and has heart problems.

The film uses split screen to depict Elle and Lui’s lives, showing them at first together, happy and in sync, then diverging more and more dangerously. It also shows how Elle experiences the same events totally differently from Lui. He will be relaxed and chatting on the phone in the next room, and Elle will have done several circuits of their small flat, with an anxious but aimless pacing of someone lost and trying to make sense of where they are. Therefore any loud noise might barely register with him, while Elle will react as if she is in immediate life-threatening danger.

The film is actually shot in Cinemascope, then split in half, so each screen has that square appearance of old photos. And since their small, booklined flat is full of muted hues, they look like old pictures that the colour has ran out of, and are slowly dulling to sepia. Just as Elle is slowly dulling.

Elle and Lui are such a loving couple, and they care for each other with such tenderness, you are really invested in their wellbeing. They are alone together a lot of the time, apart from occasional visits from their son, and they rely on each other for everything. The opening scene is of them getting out of bed and starting their morning, and you can almost see a rhythm to it, something practiced over decades.

Elle, though, is beginning to lose her place in this dance. With the film following her while she’s on her own, you realise how much of the time she is looking for clues, clues to where she is, what she’s supposed to be doing, and where she’s supposed to be going. She takes the bins out, and as soon as the bag leaves her hand, she has no idea where she is or meant to be going. Someone has left the outer door to the close open, so she goes out onto the city street, because an open door suggests you go through it. Pacing around in a shirt pulled over her goonie, she stares fretfully in windows, trying to remember what she is out shopping for. When she sees toys in a shop sign, it seems to spark some memory of her son, so she goes in and is directed to the back. But she gets lost in the stacks, totally at a loss for where she is or how she got there or how to get out. Every small thing is terrifying, like at any moment she might fall off the edge of the world.

The split screen also emphasises how Lui can’t leave her alone for a second. If he takes a nap, she might leave the gas on. If he takes a shower, she might destroy stuff on a tidying rampage. And that’s just the stuff he catches her at. You as the audience have an even heightened sense of dread because you can see how many near misses she’s had that he’s not picked up on.

This is a horror movie. But without any metaphor to shield you, and no comfort of it being unreal. Lui and Elle, both once incredible writers, voracious readers, and partners in intellectual discourse, are now essentially trapped in frail and betraying bodies, watching as the very things that made them them are slowly stripped away.

The director prefaces the film with a dedication, “To all those whose brains will decompose before their hearts”. And that is what they are both going through, living decay. And the only endpoint for it will be certain death.

This is a film for the dark watches of the night. It is a 3am kind of film. When you lie awake and worry about how all you are and all you love will be wiped out forever, and all your worry will not change one thing nor stop it by a single second.

Goodnight kids.

If you like this…

Love, Life and Goldfish

So much fun, full of silliness and whimsy!

Love, Life and Goldfish is a musical about an uptight banker who is sent to work in a small town in the middle of nowhere where everyone is obsessed with goldfish. Scooping goldfish is a Japanese children’s game, something like hooking ducks at the shows is here. In this carefree little town, it’s the number one pastime, with grown men playing it on work’s nights out, and competing against one another.

Makoto is this buttoned-down bank clerk who is dedicated to his work, suppressing all his emotions. That hasn’t been working out too well for him lately, as he’s started to mumble his thoughts aloud, his feelings spilling out him when he least expects it. He messes up when he does this in front of his boss, and for his rudeness is exiled from Tokyo and its world of high-powered banking, to this small town in the sticks. His only goal is to rededicate himself to his work and redeem himself. That is until he sets eyes on Yoshino.

The beautiful proprietor of the local goldfish scooping establishment, Yoshino is a shy and innocent soul. She plays piano beautifully, but only when no one is around. Makoto falls head over heels for her, but is at a loss as to what to do with his feelings.

Luckily he is helped along by townsfolk who befriend him, almost against his will. First is a dreamy wanderer who drives a truck with a tank of live goldfish in it. Second is the lassie who returned home to run the family pub after failing to make it as an actress in Tokyo. Together they teach him a little about opening up and letting go.

The music is great, the singing is ace, and the whole thing is just so much fun. Really cheerful, upbeat, whimsical musical, a remedy for our times. Will definitely put a smile on your face.

Lost Illusions

Lost Illusions is Mean Girls set in Restoration France.

It’s the early half of the 19th century, after the Royalists retake France from Bonaparte, but Napoleon proved that you don’t need the right blood to wield power, and you can’t unring that bell. While the aristocracy go back to playing their games, beneath them, every man is out to see how far he can get. The scramble to acquire money and status has reduced every social interaction to a system of bribery and corruption.

We meet Lucien, the main character, before he steps into this cesspool. Out in the provinces, this doe-eyed country bumpkin is in love with two things, art and a highborn lady. The lady in question is Louise de (my brain just mumbles at this point). Anyway, she has a January-May marriage with no real affection, and she falls head over heals for Lucien, despite him being a commoner, working on a printing press. Lucien is a poet and his writings steal her heart. Lucien is incredibly happy being with Louise, and wants for nothing. His soul is untainted by avarice, envy or regret.

And then her husband decides to put an end to things. Louise is sent to Paris. In secret she makes a plan for Lucien to join her, where he might be published and rise to a high enough rank that her affair with him would be acceptable, but that falls to shit, and Louise feels she has no option but to end their relationship, as otherwise she will be shunned from society.

In order to feed himself, Lucien takes up work as a journalist. He makes one friend and one enemy, Lousteau played by Vincent Lacoste, and Nathan played by Xavier Dolan (the gorgeous wee cupcake he is). Together they teach him the rules of the game, how the money goes round. Bribes for applause, bribes for reviews, bribes for newspaper stories. It’s a racket, and everybody must pay for protection. The ability to make or break people with the stroke of a pen increases the power of the company owner, who can leverage it for acquisition of more media outlets. A capitalist publishing oligarchy who can influence politicians, bankers, sway the masses. Sound familiar?

Although this is a period drama, this is not a ballgowns and wistful sighs churn-out. This is a very relevant film about fake news, distrust of the media, and loss of faith in traditional institutions and sources of authority. Lost Illusions brings the timeless nature of Balzac’s novel to the fore.

As Lucien gets pulled down into the corruption, debauchery, and the moral vacuum of the media industry, we see its powerfully destructive nature at work. He is not simply a man, but the embodiment of all the values we claim to hold as a society. His degradation is our degradation.

Thoroughly enjoyable watch, even before you get to Xavier Dolan in his sexy high collar shirts.

If you like this…

One Second

The vistas in this are stunning. You forget just how vast China is, seeing a big ole country on a map doesn’t properly convey that this stretches from mountains to rainforest to desert. One Second is set on an immense desert steppe, and the panoramas are just spectacular.

Set in the 60s under Mao’s rule, the film follows Zhang Jiusheng, an escapee from a labour camp. He has travelled across the desert to see a film, one which is prefaced with a newsreel showing his daughter, who he has not seen in 8 years. Unfortunately for him, a young dishevelled girl, Orphan Liu swipes a film cannister and makes off. Zhang has to track her down and retrieve the cannister.

The centre of One Second is the cinema experience in the 60s. Because of government control, there would only be about one movie a month, and it would be a propaganda film, and it would tour from town to town. So when a new film arrived, it was a big deal. One Second shows practically the whole town stopping to pour into the town hall, bringing their own chairs, sitting or standing in every available space. They put up a projector screen, and the projectionist is god as he loads the film ready to show.

One Second is embedded with a love of this experience, even as it is aware of the darkness of these times. Zhang’s story is tragic, losing years of his life seperated from his family. Liu’s life is blighted with the kind of stone-hard poverty the revolution was meant to erase. Both represent the failing and crimes of the Mao era.

Yet when that film comes on, and lights up all those faces, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that the film is propaganda, it doesn’t matter that it’s one of only a handful they get to see, it doesn’t matter that they’re crowded in with hardly anywhere to sit. They light up with delight, are transported, are given respite from their daily woes, given an escape. They cheer at the high points and weep at the lows, and sing along with the songs, and leave feeling lifted. Whatever the darkness that surrounds it, their love of cinema is real.

One Second is a moving, beautiful, and at times funny film.

P.S. This film clearly has an ending, then another ending that the Chinese government has made them tack on, basically saying things are fine now. A bit like how the bleak crime noir Back to the Wharf has a blank end screen with text on it saying the government eventually brought everyone to justice. Just ignore that.

Nitram

There is always a sensitivity when films are made about true life crimes. You don’t want to aggrandise the killer nor exploit the acts gratuitously. Yet it is also undeniably true that people are fascinated by destructive events and the motives for unusual crimes. Can you present that in a way that walks that fine line?

Nitram tells the story of the man who committed the Port Arthur massacre, and what played into his mindset as he planned the crime. It basically asks the question, why?

There are two parts of me watching this. There is the part of me who was a kid who read everything I could about serial killers and poured through the internet for gruesome photos, fascinated by the extremes of it all. And there’s the adult I’ve become, who doesn’t find it extreme at all, just finds it wearily, exhaustingly familiar, the violence of men, their sense that they have the right to make their points on the bodies of others. The first part wants to know what the killer was like, what drove him, how he was able to arm himself like he did. And the second part doesn’t give a shit what this bastard was like, and knows that what drove him was quite simply that he wanted to and was too selfish to give a fuck who got hurt, and that he was able to arm himself like he did because as a white man he belonged to a privileged social group whose actions are not given the same scrutiny as the rest. Part of me really wanted to see this movie, and part of me worried that just by doing so I was contributing to the notoriety he so desired.

The filmmakers obviously felt that same worry, as he is not mentioned by name throughout the film. Nitram was a nickname he disliked, so that is the film title, as a big fuck you. Yet there is no getting around that the film is about him, and the title refers to him. They do make the right call by not actually showing the massacre.

However you might feel, Nitram is a good film. It is a profile of a man who is clearly not right in the head. Multiple diagnoses have been applied to the guy he’s based on, from a learning disability, to neurodivergence, to mental illness, to personality disorder. All anyone can agree on is he’s emotionally unstable and performs poorly academically and socially.

Caleb Landry Jones gives the performance of his career. Just superb. Portraying the main character with nuance and vulnerability without ever compromising on his violent and unempathic nature. This depiction doesn’t try to excuse or apologise for him – he has a supportive family, he doesn’t grow up in poverty or abuse, he is actually incredibly fortunate and lucky. Caleb’s portrayal is of someone who is aware that they are different on some fundamental level, that it is not simply that others think something is wrong with him, but he himself knows that there is, he just doesn’t know what it is and can’t fix it. He has the constant demanding nature of a narcissist, and the deep depressions that follow their frustration at their inability to have their every need met.

Essie Davis, that chameleon of the screen, shows up as Helen, the killer’s sole friend and benefactor. She’s a lonely older woman who has gone full Grey Gardens. Her large house is falling into ruin, while populated with the dozen dogs and cats she keeps as pets. She swans around in old costumes from her career on the stage, singing to old records. By accident of fate, she meets the main character, and his acceptance of her eccentricity is reciprocated by her acceptance of his oddness.

The other stellar performance in this is Judy Davis. She plays the mum of the main character. She is sharp, cold, and criticising, and at first I was worried the film was gonna use the tired old trope of “Mummy made me do it”. For decades it became behavioural science gospel that mass murderers all had domineering mothers, with implied cause and effect. In fact, killers were likely to the blame their mothers for their crime for a more obvious reason, that violent men usually blame women for the violence they perpetrate. And I didn’t want to see Judy’s character set up like that in the film.

I’m glad to say that wasn’t the case. Yes, she is short, sharp and relentless, but she is also clearly exhausted, weary to the bones, and ground down by years of grief from her son. She also seems to have her suspicions, which his father doesn’t, that her son is dangerous. She tells a story a little way into the film of when her son was 5, and he turned a game they were playing nasty, and just when she was in the most fear and anguish she could imagine, he began to laugh. And since then, she has never trusted him. There is more wrong with him than simple oddness or slowness that a mother could easily accept. She is relentless because she is frightened of what he will do if he doesn’t stick rigidly to her instructions, she is domineering because she is scared of what choices he might make on his own, and she is sharp and cold because she is impatient from years and years of toil, managing his destructive behaviour.

This is a hard subject to treat sensitively, but Nitram handles it with care, nuance, and honesty.

The Quiet Girl

What’s that in my eye? Nothing! I’m no greeting, you’re greeting! It you want to see a purely wholesome film, go see The Quiet Girl. It’s about how children blossom when given love.

Cait is the 4th of 5 kids, and her mother has another on the way. Worn out from her feckless bastard of a husband, they agree to send her to her mother’s cousin for the summer. That way she will be out from underfoot when the new baby comes.

Cait is neglected. There is simply no time for her in a house so full of kids, and her penniless mother can only do so much when her drunken, cheating, gambling husband keeps the place in a state of filth and disrepair. She wets the bed, for which her exhausted mum can only scold her. Her sisters tease and humiliate her. She has no friends. She has retreated into herself, and frequently absconds from school and home. Out in the countryside, she wanders under trees and among the long grass, finding a beauty and solitude that is like a sanctuary.

Her father drops her off at her mother’s cousin’s in just the clothes she’s standing up in, an old, faded, and dirty sundress and a pair of sandals. Eibhlin takes her in, delighted to have a child in the house, and showers her with affection. She lets Cait be her quiet self, but gently encourages her to come out her shell. When Cait wets the bed, she is anxious what reaction she’ll get, but Eibhlin exclaims, ‘oh I forgot these are weeping mattresses, what am I thinking putting you on one of them?’ and I fell in love with her for it.

Sean, her husband, is less enthused. Not hostile, simply uninterested. But as time goes on, he sort of takes her in out the side of his eye, sees her good and steady temperament, and with apparent indifference, makes more and more overtures towards her friendship. He is a solid farmer, and he appreciates her quiet, watchful, and helpful nature.

As I say, this film is so wholesome, watching all three characters blossom into a family. It is a film about how you fall in live with your real family. So touching.

Yuni

This film is absolutely gorgeous. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

I was so angry watching this film. Yuni is about a schoolgirl who has to decide between pursuing her education and getting married. Literally 3 adult men want to marry this 16-year-old schoolgirl. Like, what the fuck?! She’s a wean! But it would be wrong to put this all on the individual guys, because the whole school system is rigged against girls continuing their education. A nice teacher, Mrs Lis, tries to encourage Yuni to go to uni, since she excels at maths and science. But even the brochures for scholarships have the proviso that she will be ineligible if she marries.

On the other hand, it seems like the clock’s ticking on marriage as soon as a girl hits puberty. And not like, from other boys her age who fancy her, but from adult men, who for some reason see a wee lassie in her school uniform and think, she’s clearly ready for a lifelong commitment to a vastly older man. Gross, and shame on you, and also fuck you!

Anyway, putting a pin in the rage-inducing aspects of the story, Yuni is actually a really well-balanced, nuanced story about growing up. For all the struggle and strife, so much of it is joyful, full of the bonds of friendship, and the fun of being 16. Yuni and her pals go swimming, paint their nails, do their makeup and pose for selfies. They gossip about boys they like, which teachers they might have a crush on, and what they’ve heard about S-E-X. All the usual, normal, adorable things about being a young teenager.

And Yuni kinda blasts apart the silence of propriety that kinda hangs over these subjects in her community. It shows the girls whispering about sex, a subject they know almost nothing about, except as something with the potential to destroy their life, educationally, socially, familially. The scene is so universal, with them asking, does it hurt? Do you bleed? Do you have an orgasm, and how? All the while, half-scandalised themselves at the topic.

And in 2020, there is this weird disconnect from the irl life of modesty and unspoken-of subjects, and the online life where you can just google “female masturbation” and get thousands of explicit answers. Like, if someone was to find Yuni’s phone, they would have a totally different idea of who she was as a person, than the naive virgin she actually is.

To go back a bit to anger-inducing aspects, it is infuriating how much it seems to be everybody’s business whether you choose to fuck or not, or even if you’re thinking about it. The school proposes at one point introducing mandatory virginity tests for the girls, a bullshit impossibility that just seems like a scam to look up young girls’ knickers. This is so the school can ‘protect’ its reputation from pregnant unwed mothers and lassies who try to get an abortion. Like, what fucking business is it of any of yours?!

Anyway, as much as I was seething at each guy who brought her a marriage proposal, they are not portrayed as some awful creeps, they’re just ordinary, possibly even in another context, nice men, who are being told by society that there is nothing wrong with what they are doing. The fact they are completely derailing her education and putting pressure on a young girl to make life-changing decisions probably doesn’t even occur to them.

To me, Yuni really just spoke about how people are the same all over the world. Yuni and my teenagehood could not look more different from the outside. I was an irreligious queer lass studying to get into uni and helping my mate raise her kid alone. And yet the same things come up in Yuni’s life, folk experiencing unsupported pregnancy, rape, abortion, domestic abuse, being queer and in the closet.

Finally I’m gonna just say about the visuals, this film is unearthly beautiful. Like, stunning. It feels so colourful and vivid, it’s worth watching just on that merit alone. So, so gorgeous.

Yuni is just a film filled with human drama. Visually outstanding, it also tells a story at once identifiably Indonesian, but also universal, about how, so early in life, girls are forced to grow up.

Bergman Island

Now, I liked that more than I thought I would. Not to be cheeky but it’s about two filmmakers who take a residency on Faro, the island where Ingmar Bergman lived. So I was braced for it being full of insufferable wanks going, “The thing about Bergman is . . . blahblahblah . . . genius auteur . . . blahblahblah . . . master of his oeuvre”. Actually it’s got a warmth I wasn’t expecting.

Tim Roth plays Tony and Vicky Krieps plays Chris, an American couple who come to the island to work on their screenplays. Both love Bergman but for different reasons, and they discuss his works throughout the film. That might get you absolutely pepped for watching this film, or that might make you wilt inwardly, but really, what engages you is what you’re seeing about their relationship from their discussions. Tony can be quite flippant, and a bit dismissive of Chris, although he truly loves her. Chris needs a lot of time to herself, and likes to explore the island and other friendships without Tony, which Tony perceives as a withdrawal. Yet, cycling through the micro-moods of their day, they find a way to come back to each other each time.

Chris tells Tony about her screenplay, so we get a film within a film. In it, Mia Wasikowska stars as Amy, reconnecting with an old flame, Joseph, played by Anders Danielsen Lie, at a friend’s wedding on the island. This bittersweet romance takes place over the sand dunes and beauty spots Chris has been exploring. The film has a loneliness and yearning that Tony seems to miss, interrupting the story a couple of times to take phone calls.

Director Mia Hansen-Love is a obviously a big Bergman stan, and the film has been described as a love letter to him. And while his work, and filmmaking in general, is central to the movie, the real heart of the film is how we relate to those we love, how we manifest the invisible in ourselves, and how we share it outside ourselves.