ScarletLion's Movie Log

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'The Arbor' (2010)

Dir.: Clio Barnard


An extremely tragic, bleak account of the life and family of playwright Andrea Dunbar. I enjoyed Clio Barnard's 'The Selfish Giant', which was based in Yorkshire, and have been meaning to get round to 'The Arbor' for ages; I've no idea why I waited so long - it's a brilliant piece of work. Andrea Dunbar was just 15 when she wrote her first play, and 10 years later, 'Rita, Sue and Bob too' was developed for the big screen. She was a flawed talent, and lived in extreme poverty on a council estate.

It's basically presented in two formats - actors 'lip synching' to recorded interviews of Dunbar's family; and her plays acted out in real time on the streets of Bradford. In that sense this is like a hybrid version of a documentary and movie - in much the same way that 2016's 'Notes on Blindndess' was.

The events of Dunbar's life and her daughters' lives are told through these interviews and on screen plays. Some of the stories are extremely moving and tragic. But the way in which Barnard captures them and films the actors is quite brilliant. This should be talked about far more than it is, and may even be one of the great British documentaries.




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'1917' (2020)

Directed by Sam Mendes


This is a technically astounding film. Roger Deakins has pulled off some quite unreal sequences here. He had to light up locations with fireworks and wait for days for the weather to match that of the previous shot. The editing was done on the fly and on location in order for consistency. The cinematography is the best part of the movie - there are some scenes that leave the viewer completely puzzled as to how they achieved them. For that reason alone it's worth watching.

The film itself is a little cliched and the two leads aren't exactly brilliant. It's a very "allied" war film as opposed to a European war film, and for that reason alone it will get many of the big awards. The plot centres around two young soldiers that have to go into enemy territory to warn another squadron about a German ambush. We see in (almost) real time - their efforts unfold.

The score manipulates the viewer into feeling the feels at the right times, and there are many similar shots and subtext from plenty of other war movies. It is at times predictable, but the movie isn't pretending to be anything other than a flamboyant, in your face war blockbuster, so it works on that level. There are some questionable character choices and subplots, but the movie wouldn't be the movie it is without them, so it's hard to mark it down for those reasons.

If nothing else, watch it for Deakins.




I skimmed your 1917 post, sounds awesome. I didn't want to risk spoiling too much since I'm already sold on it. What I gleaned was that the cinematography is the best part, and the acting and some cliche narrative aspects prevented it from getting a higher rating. Does that pretty much sum it up?



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I skimmed your 1917 post, sounds awesome. I didn't want to risk spoiling too much since I'm already sold on it. What I gleaned was that the cinematography is the best part, and the acting and some cliche narrative aspects prevented it from getting a higher rating. Does that pretty much sum it up?
A perfect summation.



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'Weekend' (2011)

Directed by Andrew Haigh


Superb emotional drama about 2 days in the life of Russell (brilliantly played by Tom Cullen) who has a one night stand with Glen (Chris New), and falls in love with him. It's refreshing to see a 'love story' done so realistically. The dialogue is outstanding. One scene in particular where they act out Russell coming out to his parents is incredibly moving. Andrew Haigh has made several very accomplished films now (Lean on Pete, 45 years). I'm eager to see what he does next.

7.7/10




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'Sorry we missed you' (2019)

Directed by Ken Loach


Ken Loach's latest is a typically dour portrayal of working class that is saved by a terrific final third. Halfway through the film I was thinking that Loach has misfired. The use of what seems like the casting of many non-actors was perhaps not the best choice, as the performances didn't deliver the dialogue adequately. The main protagonists are fine, especially Kris Hitchen, who plays hard working delivery van driver Ricky. But the periphery characters at times delivered script like they were reading it from the ceiling. This detracted from the experience.

Despite that, the final half hour or so redeems the film somewhat as Loach hammers home the left wing message of broken Britain. We see Ricky try to earn more and more money with the aim of buying a house for his family. But as he works harder and harder, the more his family unravels and begins to suffer. There's a fantastic hospital scene towards the end where Ricky's wife Abby (Debbie Honeywood) breaks down - Loach is so good at moving the audience's emotions but staying just the right side of the melodrama / sentimental line.

The film is bleak, dour but real. Loach wants us to look at how families are being driven apart by the need to survive and provide. it's a similar setting to his previous movie 'I, Daniel Blake', but it doesn't have the performances to match.




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'Birdy' (1984)

Directed by Alan Parker




Beautiful film. One of Alan Parker's best. Told in flashbacks and non linear time. Covers friendship, the psyche, war, PTSD and also finding your place in the world. There are so many themes and layers in this movie, a mini review wouldn't do them justice.

Nic Cage and Matthew Modine are both excellent. Some of the early images are similar to Kubrick's in Full Metal Jacket. Peter Gabriel's score is excellently spooky too.

A great film.




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'Waves' (2019)

Directed by Trey Shults


Trey Shults is growing as a film-maker. His 3rd effort is his best yet. Meticulously crafted with some startling performances, aspect ratio changes, brilliant editing, sublime lighting and camerawork. It's all here. The movie is tragic and poignant. Families lives intersect and interweave. How people deal with loss, love and the effects of tragedies. It's a great great film that had just the right amount of tension and emotion. The OST is banging too.




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'Waves' (2019)

Directed by Trey Shults


Trey Shults is growing as a film-maker. His 3rd effort is his best yet. Meticulously crafted with some startling performances, aspect ratio changes, brilliant editing, sublime lighting and camerawork. It's all here. The movie is tragic and poignant. Families lives intersect and interweave. How people deal with loss, love and the effects of tragedies. It's a great great film that had just the right amount of tension and emotion. The OST is banging too.



This is definitely one of my most anticipated films, so glad you liked it. Shults has a really big future ahead of him.
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This is definitely one of my most anticipated films, so glad you liked it. Shults has a really big future ahead of him.
He has. Jeff Nichols was right when he touted him as one to watch. You can see that Shults worked on a couple of Mallick films with this one - there are lots of natural / spiritual shots. I can't stop thinking about it. It's a brilliant film. 8.6/10 at least.



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He has. Jeff Nichols was right when he touted him as one to watch. You can see that Shults worked on a couple of Mallick films with this one - there are lots of natural / spiritual shots. I can't stop thinking about it. It's a brilliant film. 8.6/10 at least.

Brilliant. I'll watch it asap but the setting definitely has to be right with this one!



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'Bait' (2019)

Dir: Mark Jenkin


Superb drama about a Cornish fishing village. Presented in in monochrome on 16mm film, it is bordering on experimental. Effects and sound all done in post production. It's creepy at times, and gives off a huge atmosphere mostly due to the brilliant sound design. The plot revolves around 2 brothers who are both struggling to make ends meet and have fallen out with each other. The dialogue is deliberately stunted and odd in places (Cornish idioms etc). Some of the direction is reminiscent of French new wave, and some of the cinematography is almost Sven Nykvist like. A rewarding experience.




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'The Double Life of Veronique' (1991)

Dir.: Krysztof Kieslowski


A thoroughly absorbing film, and one of the best looking I've ever seen. I was transfixed throughout. Almost every frame is compelling. Kieslowski uses colour like very few other directors do. In most of Veronique, there is a sepia / greenish haze that appears around characters, on walls and through doors and windows. It gives the film an almost ethereal quality, like we are watching someone's dream. There are prominent reds too, presumably signifying caution, similar to his Three Colours trilogy.

The beautiful Irene Jacob is perfect for the part of Veronique / Weronika, and at times she appears hugely vulnerable. The movie focuses on two versions of the same woman - one Polish and one French. We watch as their stories intersect and Veronique tries to work out the connection and why it is that she feels grief for the loss of another she never even met.

Kieslowski's triumph here is to explore themes that would normally appear fanciful, cheesy or sentimental - a film about dopplegangers exploring existentialism just wouldn't work outside European cinema in my humble opinion. But he manages to create something so bewitching and elegant that it's hard to fault this film in any way. The viewer is perhaps reminded of films that came before it (Bergman's 'Persona') and after it (Villeneuve's 'Enemy'), but it is it's own beast, and another of Kieslowski's masterpieces. Surely one of the most beautiful films ever made.




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'The Double Life of Veronique' (1991)

Dir.: Krysztof Kieslowski


A thoroughly absorbing film, and one of the best looking I've ever seen. I was transfixed throughout. Almost every frame is compelling. Kieslowski uses colour like very few other directors do. In most of Veronique, there is a sepia / greenish haze that appears around characters, on walls and through doors and windows. It gives the film an almost ethereal quality, like we are watching someone's dream. There are prominent reds too, presumably signifying caution, similar to his Three Colours trilogy.

The beautiful Irene Jacob is perfect for the part of Veronique / Weronika, and at times she appears hugely vulnerable. The movie focuses on two versions of the same woman - one Polish and one French. We watch as their stories intersect and Veronique tries to work out the connection and why it is that she feels grief for the loss of another she never even met.

Kieslowski's triumph here is to explore themes that would normally appear fanciful, cheesy or sentimental - a film about dopplegangers exploring existentialism just wouldn't work outside European cinema in my humble opinion. But he manages to create something so bewitching and elegant that it's hard to fault this film in any way. The viewer is perhaps reminded of films that came before it (Bergman's 'Persona') and after it (Villeneuve's 'Enemy'), but it is it's own beast, and another of Kieslowski's masterpieces. Surely one of the most beautiful films ever made.


Been a while since I've seen it but its a wonderful film.



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'For Sama' (2019)

Dir.: Waad Al-Kateab & Edward Watts



A Deeply upsetting documentary about a woman determined to have some sense of family in war torn Syria. One of the most hard-hitting pieces I've ever seen. Some of the images will stay with me for a very long time, such is the harrowing nature of the content, and I had to look away from the screen several times; which almost reflects how the Western world looks upon the events of the film. The film-makers owe me 2 new tear ducts.

It does feel like an extremely important film though. How the families in Syria kept their spirits up, kept smiling, kept living - is just remarkable. They set up hospitals, they run low on food, they spend their lives evading the brutal regime, the children experience things no child should ever see. There is one moment involving a newborn baby that is so jaw dropping that I audibly gasped. And yet some people in the West still refuse to acknowledge why first world countries must accept immigrants and refugees.

Humans are awful. This is essential viewing.




I have been wanting to find a way to see For Sama for months....good to hear you recommend it



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I have been wanting to find a way to see For Sama for months....good to hear you recommend it
It's on demand (catch up TV) here in the UK I think. So should be readily available.



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'Corpus Christi' (2019)

Director: Jan Komasa


A well made film with a fabulous central performance from Bartosz Bielenia, who plays a young offender trying to start afresh, with the help of God. It's a little engineered in paces as the plot gets ahead of itself slightly, but there is some terrific acting and directing, with little nods and facial expressions telling the audience what they need to know. Themes of right and wrong, faith, rehabilitation and the pedestal we put leaders on are explored, as well as the hypocrisy and ignorance of mob mentality.

7.6/10