Mamo #296: Sweet As

One month later to the day, Matt Brown returns from Middle Earth and Matt Price regales him with everything that’s happened in Hollywoodland since he’s been away. New Zealand travel tips abound! Plus, yet another random stranger asks our opinion about Episode VII! It’s like nothing’s changed at all.

To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo296.mp3

Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Instead of issuing birth control pills or contraceptives, one needs only to show Lynne Ramsay’s superb new film to high school classes as a deterrent to early pregnancy. For the eponymous child is a distillation of the collective fears and anxieties brought on by challenge and exhausted state of new parents. Eventually, when limited time allows, parents might even consider how to balance unconditional love with discipline and a healthy morality? The latter, big, questions are the unspoken crux of the relationship between two smart, educated parents that are saddled with the little boy from hell.

Visually, the film itself seems to reside in Hades, I suppose Tilda Swinton’s headspace after giving birth, and is in equal measure, soaked tomato juice, ink and bodily fluids and bathed in harsh red filters. here hasn’t been this much red in a film in some time and there is enough compulsive scrubbing on display to make Lady MacBeth blush. We Need To Talk About Kevin is a domestic drama that veers far more into horror film territory than either of Lynne Ramsay’s previous directorial efforts. She has put together only three films, all of which are masterpieces, over the past 12 years, and each of them has a particular attention to visual and sonic detail. but here she is particularly effective at assaulting the audience with her craft.

The film is singular in purpose and sense with signs and signifiers further enhanced with its flashback-slash-hazy-memory structure, such that one might consider the film the antithesis of Gus Van Sant’s clean-cut linear school shooting daydream, Elephant. Young Kevin seems marked from birth to be the Antichrist; the kind of child that his mother Eva’s (a moniker close enough to Eden’s failed female denizen, likely intentional) capacity for unconditional love stretched to and beyond the breaking point. Couple this with a well meaning but clueless father, John C. Reilly, who is both shuffled into the background and somehow still the driving force for family decisions, and there is a recipe for a polemic – borderline didactic – take on failed motherhood.

The film pushes so far into making its ‘points’ or providing reasons that it completely transcends criticisms of being facile, and moves into pure visual sensuality. This requires a particular kind of actress (one both chilly and sensual) who is capable of embracing difficult roles. Who better than Tilda Swinton? She makes Eva’s compromises, choices, and defeated guilt in the aftermath of a school shooting elicit a delicate empathy even as everything is stand-offish. This is no easy feat as Ramsay keeps upping the bar for shock and horror, almost to Gaspar Noe levels at times. A magnificent use of music which underscores the hazy emotional quagmire or adds ironic counterpoint to a scene rivals the director’s Movern Callar. Further use of sound design has a toddler’s constant screaming is cross-faded to a jackhammer as Eva’s life is in both a stasis and a tailspin, the sound of a suburban sprinkler as a harbinger of pure horror. Johnny Greenwood contributes a There Will Be Blood tinged score which is quite appropriate, considering both that film and this one involve broadly essayed human monsters.

With all of the advertisements and silly pap in the media landscape regarding raising a child in the 21st century, as well as the nascent ‘childless couple’ movement generating its own odd form of controversy, a new kind of culture war, We Need To Talk About Kevin, is to modern parenting what David Cronenberg’s Videodrome was to increasing sex and violence on cable TV. That is to say, unsettling, icky, and full of vigour.

Movies We Watched

Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.

Trust

2011 USA. Director: David Schwimmer. Starring: Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Liana Liberato, Jason Clarke, Viola Davis, Noah Emmerich, Chris Henry Coffey.

I had been avoiding David Schwimmer’s film about online sexual predators for a while because it had the potential to be an absolute disaster that mishandled the subject matter. Luckily that wasn’t the case. Although a little on-the-nose, Schwimmer’s latest effort is actually an affecting and powerful little film, one that should be important viewing for those wanting to know about the potential dangers of children surfing the web. Crucially it doesn’t paint the entire idea of using the internet as bad but just alerts to some of the possibilities. And it’s truly amazing Schwimmer went from Run Fatboy Run to this.
-ROSS

Netflix Instant (USA)

Repulsion

1965 UK. Director: Roman Polanski. Starring: Catherine Deneuve.

An early Roman Polanski masterpiece that tracks the mental breakdown of a young Belgian woman, Carole (Catherine Deneuve), as she tries to make a life for herself in the hustle and bustle of London with her sister. Imagine being a literate cineaste in the 1960s just having just seen the previous year’s candy coloured French musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (a coming out party of sorts for Ms. Deneuve as a major new film star) and then selecting Polanski’s film to get more of the same only to receive a black & white cramped apartment mind-fuck! Miss Deneuve tackles the role with relish, gets raped and has a sort of misplaced revenge before a climactic mental and physical collapse. Half is in the mind, half is in reality, but the audience gets the complete package of horrors doled with with an exacting precision that belies its loosey-goosey camera-work and overabundance of supporting characters. Repulsion has been called “Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho turned inside out” and certainly it has its own fair share of surprises and lasting images; not the least of which is reportedly the first on-soundtrack-if-not-onscreen female orgasm to be shown in regular British Cinemas. I’m not sure if there is a conscious subtextual inversion of Alice in Wonderland, but rotting and skinned rabbit is might be a clue. The closing shot may be a revelation of sorts as to why things are happening to poor Carole, (and it is a doozey in retrospect that is prescient of a litany of other Polanski themes) but here it is as much the journey as the destination.
-KURT

Netflix Instant (CANADA)

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Friday One-Sheet: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Lynne Ramsay’s new film on parenthood, the aftermath of school shootings, and the psychological horror that accompanies both has been gathering great press at festivals, including enthusiastic support from our own Kurt Halfyard. I’m definitely interested in anything Tilda Swinton does – she makes some bold choices in projects and is always more than up to the task of whatever a director can throw at her. The new one sheet is pretty sharp, and definitely reinforces my intention to see the film at AFI Fest in Hollywood this week, where it screens on November 7th and 8th. Tickets to AFI Fest screenings are free and available now at the AFI Fest website; they release tickets each day and the rush line usually gets in, so don’t give up if they show sold out when you check.

TIFF Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Instead of issuing birth control pills or contraceptives, one needs only to show Lynne Ramsay’s superb new film to high school classes as a deterrent to early pregnancy. For the eponymous child is a distillation of the collective fears and anxieties of the challenges of new parents: How to balance unconditional love with discipline and a healthy morality? These big questions are the unspoken crux of the relationship between two smart, educated parents that are born with the little boy from hell. The film itself seems to reside in hades, I suppose Tilda Swinton’s headspace after giving birth, and is in equal measure, soaked tomato juice, ink and bodily fluids and bathed in harsh red filters. There hasn’t been this much red in a film in some time and there is enough compulsive scrubbing on display to make Lady MacBeth blush.

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Trailer: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Oh, Ms. Ramsay, we’ve missed you a lot. It’s been almost 10 years since the shocking and effective Morvern Callar, and lord knows, we are due for another round of disturbing and slightly off-putting social behaviour. Judging by this trailer, (possibly the best cut trailer of 2011) We Need To Talk About Kevin, is looking to be just that. I’ll be there with bells on when it screens at TIFF.

Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly Star in another spin on the “School Shooting” film:

The mother of a teenage boy who went on a high-school killing spree tries to deal with her grief — and feelings of responsibility for her child’s actions — by writing to her estranged husband.

The trailer is tucked under the seat.
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