Things to do this month
Images that document an event that took place on 1st July 2016, where thousands of volunteers participated in a UK-wide contemporary memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle Of The Somme. A collaboration between Turner Prize-winner Jeremy Deller and Director of the National Theatre Rufus Norris.
Barbara Brown was the golden girl of Heal Fabrics in the 1960s and early 1970s. Talent-spotted as a student, her designs for furnishing fabrics are some of the most striking and unusual ever produced in the 20th century and won awards from the Council of Industrial Design. This is the first major solo exhibition of her work in the UK.
Films showing this month
The first miracle of Barry Jenkins’s exquisite coming-of-age drama ‘Moonlight’ – and this heartbreaker of a film is filled with miracles – happens around a kitchen table. We’ve already seen quiet, sullen Chiron (Alex Hibbert), a 10-year-old with frightened eyes, being chased by bullies. The two adults sitting around the table aren’t his parents (one of them is actually the drug dealer selling crack to Chiron’s addict mum), but somehow they know the exact words to say when the boy softly asks them, ‘Am I a faggot?’ Jenkins, an indie director whose first feature, ‘Medicine for Melancholy’ (2008), delved into a whole universe of African-American issues rarely explored onscreen, now goes even further, and with an uncommonly poetic voice. The barely-getting-by Miami of ‘Moonlight’ – a place of needle-strewn drug dens and cheapo diners – bears little resemblance to the one we usually see in the movies. But the film is more radical for articulating an internal sexual turbulence that doesn’t fit the stereotype. It’s not the one laid down by ‘Brokeback Mountain’ or other key gay stories but something new, seething with anxiety, similar to the vibe you feel in the tense, ticking beats of Frank Ocean. Chiron grows into a pinch-faced, haunted teenager (Ashton Sanders), the second portrayal of the character, who is played by three actors in the film. (Trevante Rhodes’s muscle-bound adult Chiron, hiding his pain behind a scary facade, is yet to come.) The script is based on Tarell McCran
Amid all the shifting mirrored surfaces and hazy ambiguities of Olivier Assayas's bewitching, brazenly unconventional ghost story, this much can be said with certainty: Kristen Stewart has become one hell of an actress. The former 'Twilight' star was easily the standout feature of Assayas's last film, the slightly stilted study of actors 'Clouds of Sils Maria', quietly yanking the rug from under the feet of Juliette Binoche. Here, Stewart doesn't need to steal the film from anyone: she's in virtually every crisp frame of it, holding the camera's woozy gaze with her own quizzical, secretive stare and knotted body language. Her performance is a galvanising human influence on the film, even as her character, introverted American-in-Paris Maureen, seems forever on the verge of voluntary evaporation. An haute couture clothes buyer and general dogsbody to an insufferable A-list celebrity – shades of 'Sils Maria', then, though Assayas is on a very different thematic path this time – practising medium Maureen is haunted, in all senses, by the recent death of her twin brother. Stalking his former abode at night seeking a final communication, she encounters a spirit or two – but whose? And are they following her, or are the insidiously instructive, anonymous texts that start invading her phone from another amorphous entity? As Maureen's already fragile composure begins to fray, it's hard to tell if she's plagued more by absence or uncanny presence: even her boss is barely visible to
The virtue of courage is high up on the list of Disney princess must-haves (just below kindness, beauty and a strapping prince in tight trousers). And three cheers for director Bill Condon and star Emma Watson for having the courage to make a live-action musical adaptation of the adored 1991 animation with 2017 gender politics and a diverse cast. Not only is Belle the most feminist Disney princess ever, 'Beauty and the Beast' also features the first (and second) ever interracial kiss in a live-action Disney movie and the first openly gay character in a Disney movie fullstop. And it's all done with a lovely feeling of integrity too.This is a lavish pull-out-all-the-stops musical. Watson brings sincerity to the role of Belle, the only bookworm in the village in eighteenth-century France. (Her singing isn’t bad either). Luke Evans is hilarious as her sexist meathead suitor Gaston, whose charming chat-up lines include: ‘Do you know what happens to spinsters in the village when their fathers die? They beg for scraps.’ Josh Gad (Olaf the snowman in ‘Frozen’) is his adoring sidekick Le Fou. The pair’s get-a-room bromance is a highlight.Belle’s inventor dad (Kevin Kline) is on his way to market when he takes a wrong turn and finds himself locked in the gothic castle belonging to Beast (Dan Stevens from ‘Downton’, hiding behind a furry face). Of course, the Beast is actually a dashing prince, transformed by a kind witch as punishment for his cold-heartedness. Only true love – as Célin
America lies on the brink of ruin in this bleak and bruising comic-book road movie. It’s 2029 and Logan aka James Howlett aka The Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is working as a limo driver in El Paso, Texas, occasionally hopping over the Mexican border to deliver much-needed pharmaceuticals to his Alzheimer's-stricken former mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). The mutant race has been all but wiped out thanks to a combination of shady government interference and Charles's own inability to control his powers. But when Logan is tasked with looking after Laura (Dafne Keen), the first mutant child born in decades, he's forced to make a decision: keep running, or gear up for one final stand. Jackman has repeatedly suggested that 'Logan' will mark his farewell to a character he's been tied to for 17 years and seven films. If so, it's a fitting swansong: in stark contrast to most Marvel movies, particularly last year's peppy but pointless 'X-Men: Apocalypse', this feels more like a wake than a party. The colours are muted, all rust-red and glowering grey, and the themes are weighty: loss, ageing and deep, almost unbearable regret. We're never given a full picture of how the world got so messed up, just glimpses of institutional brutality and corporate power, of ordinary people ground under the heel of an increasingly uncaring system. Given that the film went into production well before the earth-shaking events of November 2016, it all feels frighteningly prescient. It's also, with
The British explorer Percy Fawcett – driven crazy by his obsession to find a lost Amazonian city – vanished in the jungle in 1925. His story has everything you could possibly want in an adventure tale: treacherous colleagues, cannibals with bubbling pots, spears flying out of nowhere, shrunken heads, piranhas, even an opera troupe singing Mozart in the wild. But in the hands of ‘The Immigrant’ director James Gray (adapting David Grann’s thrilling 2009 book), it has something that most modern filmmakers would skim over in favour of action: a soulful sense of unresolved wanderlust, and an exquisitely developed tension between family responsibilities and the call of greatness over the horizon. Shot by mighty cinematographer Darius Khondji (‘Seven’), ‘The Lost City of Z’ feels like it comes out of that epic 1970s moment when filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola and Werner Herzog dived into the mud on their own personal tests of will. Gray works at a relaxed pace; this isn’t ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. Instead, he places the forward momentum wholly on leading actor Charlie Hunnam (producer Brad Pitt originally intended to star himself). His occasional coarseness is a perfect match for Fawcett’s early frustrations as a colonel officer from a modest background – or, as one snob puts it, has been ‘rather unfortunate in his choice of ancestors’. A Bolivian mapmaking job presents an opportunity for advancement and, with his bushy bearded aide Henry (Robert Pattinson), Fawcett leaves b
At the start of 'Elle', the final credit to appear in the darkness (over the sounds of fucking) tells us that we’re about to watch a Paul Verhoeven film. Really? Call it a delicious redundancy. 'Elle' might just be the most Verhoeveny film yet, due to its willingness to push buttons, explore transgressive territory and take constant delight in venturing where the vast majority of filmmakers would fear to tread even lightly. This is, after all, the man who gave us 'Basic Instinct' and 'Showgirls'. Adapted by David Birke from the novel by Philippe Djian, 'Elle' has an ace up its sleeve in the form of Isabelle Huppert, who gives a fierce (and impeccably dressed) performance as Michele, a video-game–company founder living in Paris. Those midcoital moans we heard? Michele is being raped in her living room by a ski-masked assailant. Already, her life’s been hard: she’s the daughter of a notorious mass murderer. Perhaps growing up despised by the media and the public is part of why she does not respond conventionally to her attacker but begins to seek him out, in a challenging story that will surely upset a lot of people (not that Verhoeven minds). 'Elle' is really at least three films at once: First, there’s the comedy of manners involving Michele’s adult son, mother, ex-husband and their respective other halves. A dinner party plays out exquisitely, with many tiny moments to cherish, not least Michele forgetting – or bitchily pretending to forget – the name of her Liza Minnelli–
You can’t recreate your past, but you can relive it in your head over and over again, seeing it differently as you become someone new each year, month, week and day. That's the big, trippy idea at the heart of Danny Boyle’s ‘T2 Trainspotting’, a frenetic but also reflective film about the past colliding with the present. It has some soaring highs and a few lows – but it’s never lazy, even if it never matches the one-off magic of the 1990s Britpop-era original. Frankly: how could it? ‘T2’ sees Renton (Ewan McGregor) arrive back in Edinburgh from Amsterdam where he’s been working in ‘stock management software for the retail sector’ (choose life, indeed) and where his personal life has taken a hit. Back home, he seeks out Spud (Ewen Bremner), to whom life hasn’t been kind in an altogether more devastating way, and he reconnects with Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), who is now running a blackmail and prostitution racket with business partner Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova in one of several underwritten female roles; Shirley Henderson and Kelly Macdonald suffer the same fate). The missing piece of the jigsaw is Begbie (Robert Carlyle), who’s still seething about being stitched up by Renton all those years ago and who's stuck in jail – but not for long. ‘T2’ is a sequel, but it's not just about continuing a story. It knows how much is riding on our nostalgia, and it wants to prod and play with it. That ‘T2’ tag could easily stand for ‘take two’: a second look at the story of friendship
That’s Manchester, Massachusetts, a small fishing community that’s the setting for this devastating tale of buried trauma from American director and playwright Kenneth Lonergan (‘You Can Count on Me’). Casey Affleck gives a complex, brooding central performance as Lee, a Boston handyman and caretaker – for all his quiet capability with a blocked toilet, you wouldn’t want to cross him. Affleck burns the screen in the early scenes, building up a portrait of a solitary existence: this is a man who is long past giving a shit about anything. Why? That remains a mystery – for now. While you sense that Lee is the kind of person who doesn’t need more bad news, it arrives in the form of a call telling him that a heart attack has killed his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler, superb in flashbacks). As Lee drives up to the wintry town of his youth to make funeral arrangements, we begin to see what makes him ache. Once in Manchester, he learns that he’s been made the legal guardian of Joe’s son, seen in happier days fishing off the back off the family’s boat. Today, Patrick (Lucas Hedges) is a typical gobby teenager, juggling two girlfriends, a pissed-off hockey coach and a rock band. But Lonergan’s film isn’t about rebounding as much as coping. That’s what makes ‘Manchester by the Sea’ so dark and courageous; it says that, for some people, there won’t be any moving on from grief. These sad people will walk into another day, perhaps with more openness and a nephew to bear the burden. For
There may be intelligent life hidden on Mars, but there’s precious little of it hidden in Hollywood if this feeble ‘Alien’ clone is anything to go by. Exactly how this clunky, by-the-numbers sci-fi horror managed to blast free of the DVD bin and engage A-list stars like Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds is hard to figure out, because it certainly wasn’t the script. Maybe the idea of floating round a tin can gesticulating at blue-screen beasties just sounded like a fun way to kill time. That said, nothing about Gyllenhaal’s performance suggests he's enjoying himself. As the International Space Station’s in-house doctor David Jordan, he’s so glum and low-key that you suspect he’s trying to blend into the steel-grey background, hoping that if he keeps quiet no one will notice he’s even in this misfire. Reynolds is louder but not much more fun, and they’re joined by a global cast of dead-meat space technicians whose principal mission is to spout statistics and get picked off one by one. Which they duly are, by a mysterious Martian life form that’s been frozen in the planet’s crust for millennia and has now been brought to Earth for study. There’s nothing particularly memorable about the critter in question – it’s smart, strong and insatiably hungry, but aren’t they always? A handful of tense moments and some neat ‘Gravity’ style effects just about keep ‘Life’ ticking along. But the direction by Daniel Espinosa (he of the dire 'Child 44') is seriously shoddy – there's a moment t
This American horror film has more fun playing with racial tensions than with scaring us to death, which for some will be a bit of a letdown. The problem with ‘Get Out’ is that it is perhaps a touch too in love with its big idea: that for a young African American man, meeting your white girlfriend’s parents might be hazardous to your health. (Even if they do say that they ‘would have voted for Obama a third time’). Serious young photographer Chris (British actor Daniel Kaluuya), clearly adores Rose (Allison Williams, Marnie from ‘Girls’). Still, their trip out of the city to her family’s secluded mansion in the suburbs fills him with dread. That deer they crash into on the drive up doesn’t help Chris’s fraying nerves – and the way the animal stares him down during its last gasps feels like a warning. ‘Get Out’ is sharp and cutting during its build-up. Rose’s parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) are awkwardly ingratiating, making a comic meal out of white liberal privilege (‘Hug me, my man!’ Rose’s neurosurgeon dad exclaims meeting Chris). Meanwhile, the family’s black servants disquietingly look on like wide-eyed zombies. The writer-director of ‘Get Out’ is Jordan Peele, one half of the defunct Comedy Central show ‘Key & Peele’. While you can’t help but cheer his debut film’s ambitions, the discipline he found in skit-writing is lost here. Many of the brightest moments in ‘Key & Peele’ were miniature nightmares in themselves – like their classic sketch ‘Continen