S A G A S G
FILM | Reviews
CONCERT FILM BJÖRK: BIOPHILIA LIVE (U) 97min ●●●●●
In 2008 Björk embarked upon her eighth album, Biophilia, which, over the course of several years, became a massively ambitious multimedia project, including an otherworldly live show. The final concert took place in September 2013 after a 70-date world tour and is brought to the big screen by Peter Strickland and Nick Fenton, who have created an immersive cinematic experience. Björk positioned her stage in the middle of Alexandra
Palace’s auditorium, taking her rightful place at the centre like the glowing orb of eccentricity and creativity she is. She appears on stage in an exquisitely designed gown, fashioned to look like glittering, throbbing muscle tissue, her face adorned with a single blue stripe, and head topped with a multi-coloured afro wig. Every moment of this live show is wildly imaginative and
Strickland and Fenton deliver an engrossing spectacle. The pair gracefully capture the event’s euphoria, while cinematographer Brett Turnbull adds depth to the experience. Björk’s bizarre, beguiling vision is beautifully presented here with her dream-like musical ecosystem as fascinating and inventive as the lady herself. (Katherine McLaughlin) ■ Limited release from Fri 17 Oct.
DRAMA THE JUDGE (15) 141min ●●●●●
This corny, shamelessly manipulative wallow of a movie is made surprisingly watchable by the combined charisma of Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall. They lend conviction to even the cheesiest contrivances in a slick, pulpy blend of courtroom drama and family reconciliation tale. Downey Jr seems to relish the tailor-made role of hotshot
defence lawyer Hank Palmer. When his mother dies he returns to his smalltown Indiana home and to the cold, cruel father he has long resented. Judge Joseph Palmer is played by Duvall in a variation on the cantankerous old coot routine he has perfected in recent decades. Alongside revisiting old girlfriends, Hank is called upon to exercise professional expertise when his father is arrested and accused of murder. Director David Dobkin is best known for a string of crass comedies and this is his most ambitious, polished work to date, with glowing cinematography from Janusz Kaminski and an impressive cast that includes Billy Bob Thornton as Hank’s courtroom adversary. It tugs at the heartstrings a little too vigorously and overstays its welcome, but The Judge still passes muster as able mainstream entertainment, with Downey Jr bringing a touch of edge and class. (Allan Hunter) ■ General release from Fri 17 Oct.
BIOPIC MR TURNER (12A) 150min ●●●●●
Mr Turner begins on a sun-blushed windmill and on milkmaids giggling and gossiping as they carry their pails. They make way for Turner himself, silhouetted against the sky and iconic from the outset, with his top hat, sketchpad and portly frame. It’s a fine opener promising a work of great beauty, wit and poignancy: exactly what writer-director Mike Leigh delivers. Timothy Spall – nose aloft and irritated as if permanently experiencing a bad smell – is
Joseph Mallord William Turner in a film documenting the last quarter-century of the artist’s life. Although unapologetically gruff, he’s a sharp blade slicing through society’s buttery pomp and grotesque pretension. Through scenes set in the Royal Academy, where we see the painter prowling about appraising the work of his peers, Mr Turner illustrates how art can be about competition as much as expression. The dialogue, like Turner, strikes a deft balance between baldness and poetry. Leigh’s
approach is characteristically bold, while Spall is sympathetic and spectacularly eccentric. It’s a film that heaves with emotion, revealing the pain Turner endures from artistic derision and personal loss without shying from the hurt he inflicts on his loyal housekeeper (Dorothy Atkinson) and abandoned mistress (Ruth Sheen).
Leigh’s latest boasts scenes to savour, and is rich with exquisite detail: the bleeding colours of the credits; Mary Somerville’s experiments with light; and, best of all, the unbridled affection between Turner and his devoted ‘daddy’ (Paul Jesson). It’s a funny, fitting, warts-and-all monument to a British master, with Mike Leigh demonstrating a command of his craft to rival even his subject. (Emma Simmonds) ■ General release from Fri 31 Oct.
COMEDY DRAMA THE SKELETON TWINS (15) 93min ●●●●●
This nicely balanced comedy drama probes the fraught but loving bond between twins Milo and Maggie, played by Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. He’s a lost soul whose dreams of stardom have staled into waiting tables, she’s a smalltown dental hygienist who can’t stop cheating on her dumb, kindly husband (Luke Wilson). Both carry the legacy of a troubled past. As old Saturday Night Live cast-mates, Hader and Wiig have persuasive chemistry, though he fares better with the heavier content. Some of the
supporting characterisation is painted in very broad strokes and the soundtrack and visuals can be a bit indie-by-numbers, with pushy music and people floating underwater.
But director Craig Johnson and co-screenwriter Mark Heyman skilfully swerve away from excessive mawkishness and the bitchy nihilism that can afflict tales of broken families and marital infidelity. If some emotional cues are blunt, several story threads are sensitively developed, and the film’s morality is nicely complex: it never tells you what to think about Maggie’s sexual slip-ups, or about a dangerous relationship that Milo is keen to bring back from the dead. (Hannah McGill) ■ Limited release from Fri 7 Nov.
64 THE LIST 16 Oct–13 Nov 2014