The Revenant — film overview: ‘Wow-inducing cinematography’

Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Revenant'

Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Revenant’

Survival stories don’t know when to stop: that’s their point. Morality tales know exactly when to cease: that is their point. What the devil happens when, as in The Revenant, you mix the two?

Morality tales are short simply because they are tiny twists of wisdom in which the story’s end bites the story’s beginning. Switchback ironies runic mischiefs and recoil ingenuities incidents at Owl Creek. Ambrose Bierce would have taken ten pages to polish off the revenge kernel of The Revenant. Spiced with tragic irony, that kernel is certainly the film’s essence as narrative nutrition?

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Nigel Andrews

Endurance yarns are the opposite. They hate to quit due to the fact the grass is often bloodier . . .  The next bear, the subsequent storm, the next pack of howling natives. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a semi-fictionalised version of Hugh Glass, a Midwest trapper who survived against close to-not possible odds in the 1820s, living to stalk — in the film’s telling — the fellow trapper (Tom Hardy) who leaves him for dead, realizing him still alive. Half-burying his parlously wounded pal, Hardy’s character requires off following the bounty bonanza promised by his leader for overtime vigil.

DiCaprio’s Glass barely lives via a grizzly’s mauling — so graphic and prolonged it tears strips from your sangfroid — just before he is cascading down wintry falls, chewing live fish, disembowelling a horse . . .  The feats of this icicled Hercules, initially gripping, go on and on, varied by scenes with a likelihood-met Native American (Duane Howard) whose solitary function, we swiftly and rightly suspect, is to be a healer-mentor. He’s a one particular-trick Pawnee: the ancestral cliché of the holistic primitive.

Filmmaker Alejandro G. Iñárritu, whose Birdman suggested he had come down from the inflated pomposities of Babel and Biutiful, has relearned vatic vacuity. For The Revenant’s scenery-besottedness — one cause of its extended-windedness — we can not wholly blame him. The locations and cinematography are wow-inducing. British Columbia in all weathers (playing the US Midwest) is lensed by Emmanuel Lubezki as if he had gorged on the comprehensive operates of JMW Turner and CD Friedrich. Molten stormscapes soaring crags sunsets so piercing they nearly carry out laser eye surgery.

Scenically we do not begrudge the 156 minutes. It is significantly that they’re baggy and repetitive. And DiCaprio’s efficiency — gluttonous in its stunt-seeking if honourable in its feelings — is a heart, body and soul assault, barely disguised, on the Greatest Actor Oscar. Give him the damn thing, we practically really feel by the close, and let’s move on.

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Section: Arts


The Danish Girl — film overview: ‘A dire movie’

Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander in 'The Danish Girl'

Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander in ‘The Danish Girl’

Eddie Redmayne works so tough in The Danish Girl, as the painter and
pioneer sex-adjust patient Einar Wegener, who became renowned as “Lili Elbe”, that you want to sit him down, wave a towel and spray water in his mouth. It’s acting as histrionic slugging: except that Redmayne must be counter-macho for ten rounds, not punching but preening and simpering. That’s how you win trophies — or feel you win trophies — in gender reassignment roles.

It is a dire movie. Via the distorting glass of David Ebershoff’s semi-fictionalised book about Einar/Lili (which inter alia airbrushes out wife Gerda’s lesbianism), screenwriter Lucinda Coxon and director Tom Hooper generate a period drama that is all period and no drama. 1920s Denmark is a Vienna Secession-style delirium: art nouveau by the tonne, Klimt-like dresses and poses. And dialogue like mottos written about a painting’s frame or gilded speech balloons. “This surgery has never ever been attempted before,” declares, for the hard of hearing or apprehending, the surgeon professor. And “I want my husband!” emotes Alicia Vikander’s Gerda earlier, as Redmayne-Einar begins morphing into Redmayne-Lili.

Some commentators have attacked the film for casting a “cis” actor (a single comfy with his personal gender) in a “trans” function. That appears the least of The Danish Girl’s offences or failings. It is like criticising a white actor’s assumption of Othello in a Shakespeare production falling apart wherever you appear.

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Section: Arts


HighTide Festival, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK — overview

There is significantly to admire in the four dramas staged by this festival for emerging playwrights

Luke Norris's 'So Here We Are'©Nobby Clark

Luke Norris’s ‘So Here We Are’

Now in its ninth year, HighTide Festival has grow to be an important platform for “emerging” — and a lot more emerged — British playwrights. This year the organisation has made and co-developed 4 plays for its 10-day event, whose programme also functions script readings, comedy and music shows, talks and events. The festival has moved from Halesworth to the pretty seaside town of Aldeburgh, exactly where venues variety from the large Jubilee Hall (original house of the Aldeburgh Music Festival established by Benjamin Britten in 1948) to a tiny Victorian pumphouse.

Louise Mai Newberry and Steven Elder in 'Lampedusa'©Nobby Clark

Louise Mai Newberry and Steven Elder in ‘Lampedusa’

Lampedusa, a searing play about migration and immigration by Anders Lustgarten, is staged in a dome-shaped tent on Aldeburgh beach. It flaps in the wind and seagulls cry as out-of-operate fisherman Stefano (Steven Elder) describes his job as a coastguard hauling dead bodies from the sea. The small Italian island of the title is struggling to accommodate the refugees arriving in teetering boats, but a lot of do not make it. Stefano’s story is told alongside that of Denise (Louise Mai Newberry), a spiky payday loan collector in Yorkshire struggling with racist insults from clientele (she’s half Chinese) and the threat of her mother’s disability advantage getting withdrawn.

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IN Theatre &amp Dance

Lustgarten is an activist as effectively as a writer and at occasions the play guidelines into polemic, but the two stories work beautifully together, and the finale is practically nothing short of heart-rending. Lampedusa was very first performed at London’s Soho Theatre earlier this year to fantastic acclaim (like 4 stars from the FT) and transfers to the Unity Theatre in Liverpool this month. As Europe’s refugee crisis worsens, it feels much more urgent than ever.

Al Smith’s Harrogate, premiering at HighTide, is yet another intense two-hander. A fraught father-daughter connection unfolds over 3 acts, with Nick Sidi playing the father in each and every whilst Sarah Ridgeway shifts roles subtly as factors progress (to say any far more would reveal the twist). He wants to manage his teenage daughter, doling out money but only for the “right” footwear or a particular telephone. Like a lot of parents, he can’t assist correcting her grammar, but his frequent reminders of what he has paid for, and what she owes him, become a nervous tic: a sign that one thing is not correct.

Sarah Ridgeway in 'Harrogate'©Nobby Clark

Sarah Ridgeway in ‘Harrogate’

In this family, relationships are performed as a series of tense transactions by which each party tries to satisfy desires they can not very admit to. They play games with each other just as Harrogate plays games with its audience, setting up and then confounding our expectations. On a higher traverse stage, set designer Tom Piper’s empty white apartment feels as stark and sterile as the hospital where the mother functions: it is as though her family is being presented up for examination. Smith’s writing is punchy, sometimes bruising, and the performances — specifically Ridgeway’s — are compelling.

Repressed sexuality is also a theme of Luke Norris’s new play So Here We Are, which transfers to Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre later this month. Right after Frankie’s funeral, four of his friends — his 5-a-side-football teammates — are waiting for a lift property. Conversation slips from boyish banter to cutting jibes and pangs of grief. These are friendships begun in childhood, marked by shared experience and deep understanding but also, now, by distance amongst the twentysomethings. And a question hangs more than the play: was Frankie’s death genuinely an accident? The second half shows us the days preceding it, the lies and longing of a young man adrift.

Norris’s dialogue is razor sharp, and his portrayal of male friendships in a functioning-class Essex town feels spot on. The cast is exceptional and Steven Atkinson’s direction sensitive, varying the tempo nicely and drawing out the black humour. But the second half is less convincing, the explanation for Frankie’s death also neat and his character too sketchily drawn. The very first half shows Norris at his best, peppered with witty a single-liners and underscored by a poignant sense of loss, the friends mourning Frankie, themselves and a childhood all of a sudden ended.

E.V. Crowe’s Brenda, also, explores shifting identity. “I’m not a individual,” the eponymous young lady (Alison O’Donnell) tells her loving, worried boyfriend (Jack Tarlton). Struggling to meet their rent, the couple prepare to address a neighborhood action group who may be in a position to help. But for Brenda, even saying her name is a challenge. Marked by extended silences and surreal imagery, Brenda plays bold games with reality and theatricality, but ultimately fails to convince. Who is Brenda and what occurred to her? We in no way find out. Perhaps that’s the point, but someone who thinks she’s not a particular person need to nevertheless really feel like a character.

To September 20, hightide.org.uk

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Section: Arts