13 October 2014-10-13

Home Entertainment Out in the UK This Week

Kidnapped (cert 18, DVD/digital)

From Spaniard Miguel Angel Vivas a home invasion horror which understands that for the film to work we have to be entirely on the side of the invaded. And also, that we have to feel their shock, disorientation and fear. He achieves both brilliantly in this brutal, relatively short film that takes place over one evening and does a lot with long takes, then switches pace with some excellent split-screen, up-close points of view. It’s the standard family – mum, dad, whingey teenage girl and, eventually, her boyfriend. But it’s far from a standard film. Where Vivas came from, I don’t know – the IMBD shows him puttering along for about the past 15 years – but on this evidence he’s going to go somewhere, though the relentless nastiness and refusal to apply any moral resolution is bound to lose a few along the way.

Kidnapped – Buy it/watch it at Amazon

Moebius (cert 18, DVD/digital)

Here’s a film that starts with a mother trying to cut off her husband’s cock, failing, and then cutting off her teenage son’s instead. Welcome back Kim Ki-duk, whose film-making faltered in the wake of Dream (an actress nearly died, which led to his masturbatory, unwatchable mea culpa Arirang). But he lost none of the visual flair and love of violence that’s been a hallmark of his films at least since The Isle in 2000. Here he’s on another formal experiment, making a film without words – a True Stories graphic comic without the speech bubbles seems to be the aim. And so Kim necessarily reaches for ideas and themes which we will all readily understand – sex, violence and the place where those two meet. You might not make it to the end – the relentless round of cockings, cuttings, rapes, frotterism and taboo-busting sex (chaps, don’t watch it with your mother) does get a bit wearying. But you’ve got to admire Kim’s style, his choice of mythic “needs no explanation at all” scenes and then ask yourself – which is what the film is really about, I reckon – why it is they need no explanation.

Moebius – Buy it/watch it at Amazon

Sofia’s Last Ambulance (cert E, DVD)

On first sight a documentary about a three-man ambulance crew driving around the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, and fixing up people who’ve drunk too much, done too much smack, had a stroke, broken a leg, and so on, doesn’t sound so very gripping. But on watching, it becomes clear why Ilian Metev’s film has been picking up awards at the festivals. It’s because it adopts a formal style and sticks to it. The style being a perplexing one, on the surface – to concentrate only on the ambulance crew, not the people they’re helping. In fact we never see anyone apart from this trio, which throws our focus onto the face of Krassimir the impassive and thoughtful doctor, Mila the sociable nurse and Plamen the good-natured driver. We read their job through their expressions, how tired they look, how pissed off, how desperate for the shift to end, how exasperated when dealing with the self-deluding heroin injector, or the drunk who won’t stay lying down. But, through it all, how united they are in their mission. Apparently there are only 13 ambulances in Sofia for 1.5 million people – though don’t come to this doc expecting facts or exposition, there is none, just our three noble jobbing life-savers. Intensely human, highly fascinating.

Sofia’s Last Ambulance – Buy it/watch it at Amazon

The Other Woman (cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD/digital)

The Other Woman is a comedy about a sweet, naive married woman (Leslie Mann) who discovers that her ratbag husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is seeing someone else. Except that the film is seen from the viewpoint of that sassy cynical someone else, and she’s played by Cameron Diaz. But instead of the ladies going at each other, they bond (eventually) after discovering that each has been duped. Then bond even more when they discover that there’s another, younger, hotter other “other woman” (Kate Upton). There are barf-y Bridesmaid-lite gags and jokes about getting revenge by hitting the scumbag male with laxatives and hair remover and worse. But mostly this is all about the bonding, which gives this film a duvet day element – it’s directed by Nick Cassavetes who has been ploughing the girltastic furrow since The Notebook. But it’s overstocked with characters – surely Kate Upton, lovely though she is, is one other woman too many (and only necessary, the cynic in me suggests, because Diaz is too old for what should be a younger woman role) –  and the brilliant Nicki Minaj, as Diaz’s secretary, really needs a comedy all of her own to accommodate her Mae West figure, outfits and spitfire one-liners.

The Other Woman – Buy it/watch it at Amazon

Camille Claudel 1915 (cert PG, DVD)

You know that feeling of inwardly bracing when yet another emotionally torrid film arrives from someone who specialises in putting their suffering mush up on screen? – Kate Winslet and Susan Sarandon spring to mind. I’ve added Juliette Binoche to that list, sadly, after one too many misery-memoirs. Camille Claudel 1915 being the latest in a line of worthies, this one being about the mistress of the sculptor Rodin and how she was banged up in an insane asylum because either a) she had a breakdown or b) Rodin got tired of her or c) her family wanted her money or d) her jealous fellow artists wanted her sketchpads. The film never quite decides which of these it is, though Binoche plays Claudel as a damaged spirit who looks like she might be a royal pain in the ass to live with. Meanwhile director Bruno Dumont makes questionable set-dressing decisions in a production that too often looks like an interior decorators’ catalogue in the Martha Stewart vein – that austere colour palette, those long, flag-paved corridors, those rooms sparsely furnished in a “make it look Van Gogh” style. The corridors do seem to be teaming with what look like genuine imbeciles though – the mentally ill and the mentally subnormal being lumped together in those days – but it surely wasn’t the film’s intention to impress us with its attention to gurning. However, as arthouse incarceration horror, you might just give Camille Claudel 1915 a pass.

Camille Claudel 1915 – Buy it/watch it at Amazon

The Notorious Mr Bout (cert 12, DVD/digital)

It’s pronounced “Boot”, in the Russian way, this documentary being about the genial Viktor Bout, the arms dealer played by Nicolas Cage in the film Lord of War. Except that with Lord of War we were left in no doubt that this opportunist who came of age as the Iron Curtain came down was in fact an illegal arms dealer. Here it’s slightly more equivocal. Bout was certainly operating out of all the world’s martial hotspots, thanks to an early introduction to the joys of the warzone after being drafted to Angola as a young Soviet army conscript. But was the adult Bout selling arms? Or just operating planes which others used to deliver weapons – his constant defence? And even if he was selling arms, what is the difference between legal and illegal arms selling? I suspect that this documentary withholds evidence to make its subject all the more ambiguous a character, but it’s an eye-opening story about a man who got very rich, very quick yet seemed to thrive on the chase, not the rewards.

The Notorious Mr Bout – Buy it/watch it at Amazon

Grace of Monaco (cert PG, Blu-ray/DVD/digital)

As with Naomi Watts and the Princess Diana film, so with Nicole Kidman and this biography of Princess Grace of Monaco – what was she thinking? The film focuses on the actress Grace Kelly shortly after she married Rainier (Tim Roth), prince of a speck of a principality between France and Italy, at the point where Kelly was forced to choose between a life of regal loftiness and a return to Hollywood and Mr Hitchcock’s latest thriller. Meanwhile, outside Monaco, General de Gaulle is rattling his sabre and preparing to pounce. A good enough story, though if you’ve ever wanted proof of the assertion that good taste is the enemy of art, here it is. Everything looks a gazillion dollars, from the clothes to the post-production work on the girlishly panting Kidman’s face, and the fact that it was shot in Monaco is probably enough to sound the alert that there won’t be anything untoward going on. So, no suggestion that the pre-princess Grace gave the best blowjobs in Hollywood, or any of that sort of thing thank you very much. Instead we’re given a friend-of-liberty, kind-to-kids, voice-of-democracy, crutch-of-the-lame beatification as Grace the actress “takes on her greatest challenge”, the “woman learns the skills of the princess”, these baubles strung onto an intrigue-at-the-palace plot which has half-hearted moments of trying to ape Hitchcock’s style. Car crash viewing, you’d call it, if that weren’t a joke in terrible taste.

Grace of Monaco – Buy it/watch it at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2014

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