As I write, Brighton’s 9th Cinecity Film Festival is four nights into its two-and-a-half week run, though by the time you read this another week will have passed. That makes my job rather difficult, especially regarding two films I’ve been anticipating and wanted to recommend: Takashi Miike’s ‘Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai’ and Ben Rivers’ ‘Two Years at Sea’. Both of these will now have come and gone, though the Miike film is the more likely of the two to be rescreened.
Reportedly much gentler than his excellent, profusely violent previous samurai film ‘13 Assassins’, ‘Hara-Kiri’ is a reimagining of its classic 1962 namesake the first ever 3D movie to be screened in competition at Cannes. Miike is one of the most prolific and unpredictable directors working; everything he makes is worth a look, and ‘Hara-Kiri’ is probably already marked on many an East Asian cinephile’s calendar.
‘Two Years at Sea’ is the feature length debut of British experimental filmmaker Ben Rivers and has already been enthusiastically received on the festival circuit, winning the FIPRESCI Prize at Venice among other accolades. It follows a man who lives hermitically in the Scottish woodlands; his life over several seasons is shown in grainy 16mm black and white, largely without dialogue. Naturally this film will not be to everyone’s liking, but if you can settle into its elemental themes and slow pacing it could prove a rare treat.
Speaking of ‘slow and elemental’, I must mention ‘The Turin Horse’. At 11a.m. on a Sunday, Béla Tarr’s latest (and apparently last) movie proved a tough sit for some. It’s almost unbearably austere, bleak, and obtuse, but for all its heavy challenges it is visually stunning in a sparse and extremely photographic way, and the audience were rendered virtually silent as they filed out. What’s it about? Well… it may be about Nietzsche, the fragility of human survival, the end of civilisation as ushered in jointly by Man and God… It also may be about boiled potatoes, and it is very definitely about a sad horse. I am woefully under-qualified to write about Béla Tarr movies.
I’m on safer ground with Terence Davies’ adaptation of ‘The Deep Blue Sea’. Rachel Weisz turns in what must surely be a career-best performance in this 1950s-set drama as a woman emotionally stranded between two men: her middle-aged aristocrat husband and the charming, if hot-headed ex-RAF pilot with whom she elopes. All three roles are played with great depth and nuance, and the period setting is modestly but wonderfully designed. Honestly, it’s better than I have the space to make it sound.
I regret missing the opening film ‘Shame’, which sold out the week before its screening. Probably the highest profile film of the Festival, I have no doubt it will screen for weeks upon its general release in January. I don’t know how I can wait six more weeks to see Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan co-heading a movie. The closing film, Roman Polanski’s ‘Carnage’, will probably also sell out and rightly so, given the cast, premise, director… well, everything about it looks great to be honest. That one at least is still ahead by the time you will read this. I now await angry correspondence from Film students telling me I’ve done this all wrong.