Border 2019 ****

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As odd a film as could be imagined, Border is an intelligent Swedish film that pursues some off-beat analogies in style. Tina (Eva Melander) is a creature of some kind who is employed as a customs agent; she has the ability to sniff out illegal activity and is used by her bosses to investigate the darker end of human behaviour; child pornography. Tina meets Vore (Eeor Milonoff), whose gender is unclear, and who seems to have many of the same physical characteristics that she has. Taken from a story by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Ali Abbasi’s film is tricky, dank and obscure at times; it’s dealing with real world issues through decidedly downbeat fantasy, and the result is uncomfortable to watch. Without revealing the various twists, Border casts the audience into a strange place without many signposts; the characters surprise themselves and the viewer, and there’s no simple punch-line meaning; we’re talking about gender and cultural borders, but also talking about what makes us human. A curiosity, Border is a difficult film that’s worth seeking out for the jaded. Acting and make-up design are of the highest order, and it’s inevitable that either a US remake or a rip-off will follow.

Streaming, DVD and Blue Ray are out on MUBI in the UK from 15 July 2019.

https://mubi.com/films/border-2018

 

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Sorry to Bother You 2018 ****

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Satire may have closed many a theatre show, but there is evidence that good cinematic offerings can find an audience. Sorry to Bother You is the first film by writer and director Boots Reilly, and follows in the tradition of Get Out’s brainy social critique. Business is under the microscope as Cassius Green (LaKeith Stanfield), an ambitious young man gets a call-centre job, but his skill in impersonating white voices leads him to a promotion that reveals uncomfortable truths about the company itself. Armie Hammer gives a nice turn as our chief villain, Worrycore’s Steve Lift, and the arc of the story is worthy of Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man!, as are the grotesque physical embodiments that are discovered in his scabrous, angry take on modern mores. The way Reilly imagines his scenes so vividly, notably when each telephone call crashes Cassius through the ceiling of each house he calls, is refreshing and revitalising, and promises a fresh, original voice in our cinema’s future.

Personal Shopper 2016 ***

Some films are deliberately challenging, some meanings are proposed to be elusive; Olivier Assayas should offer a cash prize for anyone who can confidently synopsise his supernatural thriller Personal Shopper. Twilight fans with a crush on Kristen Stewart will get more than they bargain for in this strange story set in the world of high fashion. Stewart plays an intern in mourning for her twin, who has recently died. After an ectoplasm manifestation which looks straight out of Ghostbusters, Stewart is menaced an unknown assailant by phone, via a series of cryptic messages. Do ghosts use social media? Or it the man who attack her boss after her?  A series of tense scenes further the story without ever explaining what’s happening, and scenes which feature an invisible ghost boggle the brain. Stewart is absolutely brilliant in this role, mixing movie-star looks like a fragile vulnerable character that generates huge involvement. If the climax doesn’t make sense, the coda further muddies the waters; Personal Shopping is a great, original film, just don’t ask what it means.

Under The Silver Lake 2018 ***

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Andrew Garfield has struggled to make a name for himself outside of his abortive stab at being Spiderman; it’s unlikely that his let-it-all-hang-out performance as a sex-starved stoner in this comedy/thriller from David Robert Mitchell (It Follows). Garfield plays conspiracy-theory loving slacker Sam, who bums around his LA apartment until Sarah (Riley Keough) moves in next door. She vanishes, leaving Sam to attempt to track her down while also looking into the case of the mysterious Dog Killer who is murdering local pooches. Sam’s investigation is shambolic, and digs up various bits of sordid ephemera including video games, prostitution rings and underground communities. Characters with names like the Owl Woman and the Homeless King suggest some kind of David Lynch netherworld, and that’s what Under The Silver Lake aims for; sprawling, obscure, obnoxious and deliberately alienating. But if you’re prepared to try something a little off-menu, there’s a lot to enjoy here, notably the creation of dark LA lore that are of interest to any fans of the city’s Gothic side.

Neighbouring Sounds 2012 ***

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The debut feature from Brazilian writer/director Kleber Mendonça Filho, Neighbouring Sounds is a clever domestic drama that takes place largely in an apartment block in an affluent suburb. Within the walls, a spate of minor crimes lead to a new security system coming into place, with guards becoming parts of the residents’ lives. Bia (Maeve Jinkings) is a young mother who is tormented by the sound of her neighbour’s dog, but does the barking signify imminent danger? Neighbouring Sounds has plenty of ominous foreshadowing, but the pay-off is surprising and effective; by selecting and dissecting a microcosm of Brazilian society, the film nails a few universal truths that resonate internationally.

Battle in Heaven 2005 ***

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Writer/director Carlos Reygadas is something of a visionary in the manner of  Alejandro Jodorowsky, and the surrealist spirit of El Topo and The Holy Mountain is present in his 2005 head-scratcher Battle In Heaven. The film opens with a graphic sex scene involving (Marcos Hernández), a chauffeur who is being aroused by the daughter of his employer. Marcos and his wife have been involved in a botched kidnapping that led to a child’s death, and his guilt leads him to take part in a bizarre religious pilgrimage. It’s hard to summarise or explain the events in Reygadas’s film, but as with his later Post Tenabres Lux, the result is both beautiful and troubling to behold; with a direct interest in both sexual  detail and metaphysical issues, Battle in Heaven is well off the beaten track for entertainment seekers, but a challenging mental workout for sensation seekers.

Max Mon Amour 1986 ***

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Working with Jean-Claude Carriere, the go-to provocateur for everyone from Luis Bunuel to Jonathan Glazer, Nagisa Oshima crafted this truly bizarre one-off drama. Peter Jones (Anthony Higgins) is vexed when his wife Margaret (Charlotte Rampling) appears to have taken a new lover, but his nose is further out of joint when he discovers her new paramour is a chimp called Max. To make matters worse, this isn’t sex but love, Peter’s world crumbles as he realises that he’s been bested by an animal. Max Mon Amour sounds like a comedy, but it’s a deadly serious examination of modern morals and sexual jealousy, played with a straight-face and the serious intention which might be expected from the director of In the Realm of the Senses. Without any real graphic content, Max Mon Amour deconstructs the male psyche with broad, brutal strokes, and looks at a darker side of animalistic machismo than most directors would be prepared to explore.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009511JV4