Yorgos Lanthimos Killing of a Sacred Deer is so nice that I had to see it twice, at different festivals on opposite sides of the world. All of the posters for his films have been noteworthy, and while this one is not quite as remarkable as the first poster, which happens to be my favourite one-sheet of 2017, it is a curious design. Upside down, kind of collage-y and I’m not exactly sure if Nicole Kidman’s neck is really that long, or it is just a trick of the eyes with the superposition. But this one is certain to cause double takes if it happens to be hanging at the local multiplex.
Cannes is happening now, and as per every year it looks like the festival has a diverse and wonderful line up. This includes the latest from “New Greek Weird” standard bearer, Yorgos Lanthimos. And the poster designed for its festival debut is easily my favourite one sheet of the year. Look at those glorious vertical lines, that create a medical space that absolutely dwarf Colin Farrell. White matting, and some strange varied typesetting on the mouthful of a title, which of course involves an animal, as per Lanthimos’ previous films, Dogtooth and The Lobster. Speaking of the latter, Farrell was so good in that film as the dumpy protagonist, he is again collaborating with the director. If this poster is any indication of the tone and style, expect great things for The Killing of A Sacred Deer.
Back on track with Shane Black. The boys are able to reconvene this week with not one, but two main theatrical reviews for your spoiler pleasure. We start it off this week with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in a good old fashioned buddy-cop, action/comedy The Nice Guys. It really ties the room together.
Next up is Yorgos Lanthimos’ first English language film, The Lobster. This one is a little bit more difficult to parse out. It stars one Colin Farrell and one Rachel Weiss among others; it is a twisted and comedic (deadpan?) look at love, relationships and dating in a world painted like only this particular director can portray. Kurt and Andrew attempt to hash out what it all means. Kurt revisits the glory days of Saturday morning cartoons and Andrew just wishes he had seven bowls of Captain’s Peanut Butter Crunch.
As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!
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After a long lap around the festival circuit, from Cannes to TIFF and beyond and commercial releases in most of Europe at this point, The Lobster, the latest bit of satiric weirdness from Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth) nears its domestic release on this side of the pond. And thus, a new trailer, which should be quite familiar to those who remember the previous trailers, only this one has more Olivia Colman which is always a good thing.
For the uninitiated, The Lobster is Lanthimos’ internationally star-studded English language crossover, and features Colin Farrell as a lonely man who goes to a specialized singles resort to find love, at the risk of being transformed into an animal, if coupling is unsuccessful. There he meets several men and women in the same predicament, including John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Angeliki Papoulia and Léa Seydoux. Things come to a head with the boutique hotel after he runs away with Rachel Weisz.
Delightlfully unorthodox, and gorgeous to boot, Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos’ english language debut, The Lobster, gets a new trailer in which Colin Farrell’s pants are too tight, he flirts with Rachel Weisz and he walks his brother around on a leash. All of this deadpan weirdness is perfectly in sync with the music.
“There are many types of lighting receptacles, that come in both professional and consumer grades.”
“Cold is a word that winter swimmers do not know.”
This is the icy-precise line-reading one comes to expect from writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos. Those who got an offbeat intellectual charge out of his weird fable Dogtooth or simply enjoyed the alien-dance moves of actress Aggeliki Papoulia are in for more of the same with ALPS, perhaps a spiritual sequel which features similar visuals and narrative beats. Things are taken out of a singular location of the Greek director’s previous film, and the insular family dynamic is scaled up to a group of people who form the eponymous organization. The business concept behind ALPS is one of role-playing and empathy. People who recently lost of a loved one can hire an ALPS employee to impersonate the deceased for a few days or weeks to ease through the grief process. As the film demonstrates exceptionally well, the barrier between indulging a client’s grief and devolving into a form of prostitution is a rather thin and permeable one. The domineering boss of ALPS, a gymnastics coach who does not indulge his star pupil (also an ALPS employee) in song choices for her routines. Instead he makes unexplained demands: “You are not ready for pop music.” As CEO of ALPS he is more like a pimp. When his star employee (Papoulia), a nurse who spots potential clients from the pool she encounters – families attending to their dying loved ones at the hospital – decides to go rogue and take on a customer outside of ALPS, justice is swift and bloody, an arbitrary. It takes the form of a chastising game which obfuscates the use of naked power and authority.
Speaking of over-using songs, is that the start of the O Fortuna! Movement from Carmina Burana? No matter, this is the quite esoteric teaser for the new film from the director of Dogtooth; if you want strange, you got it.
A nurse, a paramedic, a gymnast and her coach have formed a service for hire. They stand in for dead people by appointment, hired by the relatives, friends, or colleagues of the deceased. The company, ALPS operate under a discipline regime demanded by their leader. The nurse doesn’t…
The teaser is tucked under the seat.
“Art is lies that tell the truth.” On one hand it is easy to dismiss such a graphic oddity such as Yorgos Lanthimos Oscar Nominated provocation Dogtooth (David’s Review). On the other, its brand of pitch-black comedy and hybridized cocktail of surrealism and lizard-brain-intellectualism (David Lynch, meet Michael Haneke) does get at exposing some things about how society functions at the microscopic level: Indoctrination and conformity to what you have been taught. Are you Christian because you parents were, because you were born in a certain part of the world? Muslim? Buddhist? Liberal? Conservative? If anything Dogtooth is a bit optimistic that we can all transcend, but boy-oh-boy if you do not have a basic toolkit, you are likely still going to be in a truck-load of trouble.
Rearing children is and is not dog training.
You can argue nature vs. nurture until you are blue in the face, but Dogtooth spends a lot of time equating the discipline of children to obedience training of canines. The title even derives from the made-up concept told from the parents to the children that people become adults when they lose their large incisor, their “dogtooth.” (left or right side is not important.) Cats are the ultimate enemy on the outside (and occasionally the inside) of the family compound. Rubbing the nose in the crime is shown by the assault of a VHS tape (duct taped to father’s hand like a training mitt) after watching forbidden films. The the arc of the film is this: How long can these kids (presumably late teens to early twenties) be stuck at adolescence playing low-stakes children games, collecting stickers (or giving a lick to a body-part as an act of soliciting a gift) before they find a way to grow up, with or without the help of their ‘masters?’ How entrenched in the human psyche is ignorance and submission? Children are bound to explore the extent of their own limits, well beyond any sort of disciplinary action. In short, kids grow up and dogs stay dogs.
Parenting may be a full time job, but over-parenting is performance art.
The lengths that the two parents go to in Dogtooth to raise their 3 children (possibly 4 at one point) sheltered from everything is both inspiring and disturbing. Nobody is more dedicated (or deluded) as these two thinking that they can be the only act of influence on their children’s lives. Horror (and satire) is best executed by taking an aspect of society and exaggerating it beyond recognition. The parents depriving their children of any form of coping mechanism to their emotions (other than some minor rewards and a new set of anxieties and fears) is one of the key sources of conflict in Dogtooth, something underscored by how the female security guard paid to service the son eventually seeds the destruction of the whole family, simply by interacting in brief fits and starts with three children. And some times you should just let your kids watch big American blockbusters such as Jaws, Rocky and Flashdance; if nothing else than it livens up the household charades night. When the security guard is removed from the picture, incest is the only viable option that will keep their sons urges in check and not upset the harmony of the household. Yup, performance-art.
Xenophobia creates the worst kind of monsters.
Watching the youngest daughter get a little miffed at her older brother and slash him with the kitchen knife, or later, offscreen, whack him with a hammer, tends to underscore that willful ignorance and sheltering from any engagement to the outside world is the worst possible thing you can do for human beings. There is a reason for the phrase anti-social behavior. Certain aspects of Japanese culture (one of the most ‘culturally pure countries’ (i.e. Xenophobic) over the centuries have also produced some of the worst atrocities (their treatment of the Chinese and Koreans over centuries), while ‘Fortress America’ operating unilaterally starting with Vietnam and moving into the 21st century has its own brand.
Xenophobia with a healthy dose of righteousness and hypocrisy is worse.
Certainly the worst aspects of religion (from Muslim extremists to the Westboro Baptist Church) are brought about by the leaders preaching one thing and doing something else. When the parents shelter their kids of damning influences of the outside world but need bad pornography to get the romantic spark going in their own relationship, well, what then? Dogtooth never drops the full set of intentions of the two parents with any easy exposition or explanation, but one imagines in their strange minds, they have only the best intentions for their young ones.
Life Will Find a Way
The climactic losing of the ‘dogtooth’ by the eldest demonstrates Ian Malcom’s (the mathematician played by Jeff Goldblum from Jurassic Park) theory that all forms of control will only spur on new levels of inspired biology and instinct. When language and vocabulary show a solution to ‘growing up and getting out of the house’ she is not above speeding things along with a set of running-weights. This scene is graphic and messy and evolution at its best.
Who would have thought that one 94 minute film that is violent, suspenseful, entertaining, weird and gorgeous to look at could cover such a wide number of topics: Language, Religion, Parenting, Evolution, Sociology, Hollywood Cinema, and the absolute evil nature of cats. It has less than a snowballs chance in hell of winning the Foreign Language statue from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but they are onto something for giving this one a nod.