THURSDAY SCREENER: Three films that should be in your watchlist
In this mother of all break-up stories, Pedro Almodóvar elevates Jean Cocteau’s 1930 monodrama to new heights courtesy of a searing solo performance from Tilda Swinton. In his debut English language film, Almodóvar revisits the story he first borrowed from for his breakout project, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, with a re-interpretation of the original that is indisputably of our time.
Swinton plays a middle-aged actress living with the aftershocks of a recent split from her partner. Caught in that post break-up nether zone, cut off from her past yet unable to move on into the future, the majority of this 30-minute film is devoted to a phone call with her ex. The only voice we hear is Swinton’s and at times it’s tempting to believe that no-one is actually on the other end of the line and that her ‘conversation’ is in fact a single monologue of cathartic release. With fantastic set-design and typically intelligent camerawork, Almodóvar achieves that rare feat of breathing new life into an age-old classic.
The Human Voice is in cinemas from 19 May.
Elliott Smith is one of those musical enigmas surrounded by myths that collate a story of their own. Separating fact from fiction, director Nickolas Rossi set out to unravel the narrative surrounding the late tunesmith through his 2014 documentary Heaven Adores You.
Often overlooked in the poignant canon of musicians who died before their time, Smith spent much of his life being his own best eulogiser. His candid and meek approach to songwriting laid his demons on the table for all to hear, his raw personal lyrics creating a cult following among fans; just a guy and an acoustic guitar, Smith was as true as they come.
Funded by Kickstarter, Heaven Adores You explored the brilliance of Smith’s musical talent as well as the tragic narrative that came hand-in-hand with his genius. Instead of a traditional narrative documentary structure, the story of his life is told by Smith himself through his music and past interviews with the singer-songwriter. It’s a personal insight into one of the most intimate and tortured artists of the 21st century.
Stream Heaven Adores You on Amazon Prime.
Next up this week we have Her, Spike Jonze’s 2003 critically acclaimed tech love story set in a not-too-far reaching future.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a shy, jaded man who has been emotionally scarred by the stresses of an impending divorce, alongside Scarlett Johansson, who gives a fantastic vocal performance as Samantha; a rapidly evolving AI system busy encouraging Theodore to rake over his failed marriage. Intimacy ultimately builds up between Theodore and Samantha to the conclusion of phone sex, providing us with a realistic, subdued and inventive take on the impact the technology of tomorrow may have on our love lives. This film basically leaves Siri looking like a frigid relic of the past.
Witty, stimulating and as beautifully strange as you’d expect from Jonze, it’s now seven years on from the release of Her, and the reality the filmmaker portrayed is ever closer – just say “Alexa” out loud and you’ll see what we mean.
Her is streaming on Amazon.