The Great Gatsby (2012) dir. Baz Luhrman—
Shame (2011) dir. Steve McQueen
In New York City, Brandon’s (Michael Fassbender) carefully cultivated private life — which allows him to indulge his sexual addiction — is disrupted when his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) arrives unannounced for an indefinite stay.
Verdict: Shame is an absorbing drama that is achingly nuanced and raw. The sparse mise-en-scene and minimalist performances draw you into the life of Brandon and his sexual addiction. It’s not a film that offers cheap thrills and mini sex-isodes. The subject of sex is presented as a private underworld and it is as if Brandon is hiding his addiction but it eats at him everywhere he goes. He can access it easily (subways, night clubs), and through little effort seems to attract it. However, Brandon’s world of sexual fantasies is penetrated when his sister arrives in town. Their relationship and her witnessing him in the act makes Brandon question his addiction and alters his mental state.
Brandon’s apartment is presented as medically sterile with a neutral palette washing the walls. The cold, yet functional nature of the apartment suggest the emptiness and loneliness Brandon lives with everyday. He fears connection on a deep level and we see this in his encounter with a work colleague whom he is physically and sexually attracted to but is quickly extinguished. Music is the only insight in Brandon’s soul. We know he wants to feel something during his sexual encounters but they are nothing more than this, and like other addicts he is always looking for his next fix (women or self pleasure).
The strong appeal of Shame is Michael Fassbender. His performance is flawless and he just keeps getting better and better. The bold subject matter is dealt with extremely well by McQueen and I like the fact that it is not too narrativised and that not everything has a happy ending. I think McQueen has directed a wonderful film that most directors would shy away from and he really should be commended for his efforts. Some have complained about the slow nature fo the film but it feels more methodical. It’s definitely not a happy film so be prepared to feel drained after viewing.
Carey Mulligan for Elle magazine (January 2011)—
Never Let Me Go (2010) dir. Mark Romanek
“My name is Kathy H. I’m 28 years old. I’ve been a Carer for 9 years. And I’m good at my job. My patients always do better than expected and hardly ever classified as agitated, even if they’re about to make a donation. I’m not trying to boast, but I feel a great sense of pride in what we do. Carers and Donors have achieved so much. That said, we aren’t machines. In the end it wears you down. I suppose that’s why I now spend most of my time not looking forwards, but looking back. To the Cottages and Hailsham and what happened to us there. Me. Tommy. And Ruth.”
Drive (2011) dir. Nicholas Winding Refn 100 mins
A garage mechanic, Hollywood stuntman and getaway driver gets more than he bargained for when he tries to help out his neighbour, Irene (Carey Mulligan).
Verdict: This was everything I anticipated and more. Drive is a pulse racing 80s style neo-noir. The opening scene is shot against the neon lit LA as Ryan Gosling’s Driver prowls the streets of Los Angeles. The scene (and the rest of the film) is accompanied by an electronic 80s soundtrack which often overtakes the dialogue of the characters offering an insight in to their psyche.
The film is has an extremely slow build up and then lashes out into scenes of violence. The visceral and graphic nature of some of the scenes oozes the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Sam Peckinpah. There is also a flavour of Michael Mann and the sun kissed heat of Curtis Hanson’s LA Confidential.
The striking use of colour,static camera work and 80s inspired soundtrack make Drive a thrilling viewing experience. The characters constantly appear in stasis while the city passes them by, or they drive around in their cars. Gosling’s performance is top-notch. He manages to create just the right amount of intrigue to keep you watching. The supporting cast are also very good, but it is Carey Mulligan who gets left by the way side. Carey is an exceptional actress but she is not given enough material to play with here. It’s Gosling’s film and she is merely a narrative device.
Overall, this is a very well-paced, stylish thriller with an excellent performance from Ryan Gosling.