New Style Cinema

Corpus Christi

Polish drama in which a young offender masquerades as a village priest.

2019 | Poland | New Europe Film Sales | 115 mins | Drama | 15 (Polish with English subtitles)

Release date: 18 October 2019

Director:   Jan Komasa

Starring: Bartosz Bielenia, Aleksandra Konieczna, Eliza Rycembel

The film opens as Daniel, (Bielenia) a 20 year old violent offender, incarcerated in a juvenile prison, is on ‘lookout’ while one of his fellow inmates is roughed-up.  His unflinching gaze would suggest that he is inured to this kind of violence and yet in the next scene, he is attending a religious service and leading the gathered throng singing Palm 23 – “The Lord is my shepherd…”, in what appears to be a legitimate state of grace.

He is drawn to religion but is not allowed to join a seminary since he has a criminal record.  However, once paroled, he is sent to take up work at a sawmill,, situated in a remote village on the other side of the country.  Divine intervention intercedes, together with a ‘little white lie’, and he finds himself taking up the identity of a young, new priest, Tomasz, after convincing a young girl, Marta ((Eliza Rycembel), and her mother, Lidia (Aleksandra Konieczna) a sacristy caretaker, that he is a recently ordained priest from Warsaw.  He is taken to meet the elderly curate (Zdislaw Wardejn), who needs to take a break due to ill health and persuades Daniel to stand in for him.

Although nervous at first, Daniel soon finds himself in the swing of things and discovers that he has an affinity with people as he tries to help heal the bereaved of a tragic car accident which left seven youngsters dead, including Marta’s brother.

Soon his improvised sermons attract more churchgoers to his services and he is conducting confessions like a pro.  However, fate intervenes once again, as his past finally catches up with him.

Inspired by true events and written by Mateusz Pacewicz, Corpus Christi is director, Jan Komasa’s third feature film and the subject matter is darkly intense, interspersed with extreme violence.

Piotr Sobociński’s cold-toned cinematography is stunning and enhances the film’s simplicity, while Mateusz Pacewicz’s smart and finely honed screenplay is very realistic.

Bartosz Bielenia, is a superb actor with striking blue eyes and a stillness on screen, which is at once quite unnerving, yet mesmerising.

Does Daniel manage to convince us that he has undergone a total spiritual transformation or is religion a mere escape for him, a means to an end?  We are never 100% certain.  This alone invites plenty of debate and is a film which should not be missed.

Twitch Factor:  Sub, Sub Zero

* * *

MYSTIFY:  MICHAEL HUTCHENCE

Documentary about the life of the lead singer of INXS.

2019 | UK/Australia | Dogwoof | 102 mins | Documentary | 15

Release Date: 18 October 2019

Director:  Richard Lowenstein

Starring: Michael Hutchence, Michelle Bennett, Chris Thomas

Richard Lowenstein’s biopic, sheds new light on the life of Michael Hutchence, piecing together his life using intimate home video footage and candid reminiscences from Kylie Minogue and his old flame, Michele Bennett.

His father, Kell, resembled David Niven, in looks and charm and his mother, Patricia, was a make-up artist and together, were a picture of glamourous suburban charm.

However, they were not prepared for Michael’s arrival and his eldest half-sister, Tina, was usually left to look after him as they carried on with their lives.

As Tina recalls, “My mother was not really prepared for this little baby that would take up so much time and change her life so much and neither was Kell.”

Rhett, his younger brother, arrived two years later and since Michael was the favoured child, it left him emotionally scarred and at the same time, Michael lived with the guilt throughout his life.  This was made even more evident when Kell and Patricia’s marriage fell apart, and she came home one day and announced that she would be taking Michael to live with her in America.  Rhett watched them leave, screaming for his older brother not to leave him.

Michael returned after 18 months, but the psychological damage was to envelop him forever.

Back in Sydney, he met Andrew Ferris who had formed a band with his brother, Tim and despite not playing an instrument, he made it clear he wanted to join them – in those early days they were known as the Farriss Brothers.

The band eventually became known as INXS and Hutchence became the key to its success, although he tried to shake-off his sex God image, longing for serious recognition.

Soon the feelings of inadequacy took over despite his frequent attempts to fill the painful void with drugs and alcohol.

Mystify has allowed the supermodel, Helena Christensen, to finally speak publicly about his accident and reveal the consequent medical diagnosis.

In August 1992, having just bought pizza and cycling through his then lover, Helena Christensen’s hometown of Copenhagen, an impatient taxi driver tried to overtake them down a narrow street and an argument ensued.  The driver punched Hutchence who fell backwards, hitting his head on the kerb and the driver fled the scene.

As Christensen recalls, “He was unconscious and there was blood coming out of his mouth and ear.  I thought he was dead.”

He was rushed to hospital, where it soon transpired that something was terribly wrong.  He woke up aggressive and confused and all he wanted to do was go home, until the hospital relented.

He lay in bed for a month, refusing food.  Finally, after a month he sought medical help and a hospital scan revealed he had a fissure to his skull and vital nerves had been torn.

Christensen was sworn to secrecy and was barred from telling anyone, even her parents.

He would later confide in a friend that the punch had ruined his sense of smell and taste.

In 1995, Hutchence rekindled his friendship with Paula Yates, whom he had met in 1985, when appearing on her music programme, The Tube, but it was only now that they succumbed to their sexual attraction, after having been reunited on the Big Breakfast TV show bed.

Yates left her husband, Bob Geldof, but Hutchence and Yates proved to be a bad influence on one another and their life soon spiralled into a drug-addled drama.

On the night of 22 November 1992, while on tour with his band, Hutchence was found dead at the Ritz Carlton in Double Bay, Sydney.  He left behind a distraught Paula Yates and their young daughter, Tiger Lily, who were due to meet Michael in Sydney, but due to legal action taken by Bob Geldof, they were not allowed to leave the UK.

Yates never recovered from the tragedy and was found dead of an overdose, some 3 years later.

Michael Hutchence had it all – talent, good looks, charisma in abundance, fame and fortune, until fate intervened and his life was changed forever – he was just 37 years old and all it took was one punch…

The world was deprived of a unique talent who, before his accident, sought only to excel in what he did

This is a documentary which will haunt, long after the final credits.

A must-see, regardless of whether you were a fan, or indeed, were even on the planet at that time, but be warned, it will leave you heavy-hearted.

Twitch Factor:  Sub, Sub, Sub Zero

* * *

THE IRISHMAN

A mob hitman recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa.

2019 |USA | Netflix | 200 mins |Biography, Drama, Thriller | 15

Release Date: 8 November 2019 and 27 November 2019 on Netflix

Director:  Martin Scorsese

Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci

The film tells the story of Philadelphia mob murderer, Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and his part in the mysterious disappearance of Teamsters union boss, Jimmy Hoffa, in 1975.

Frank (De Niro) is a taciturn and unemotional individual whose military experience desensitised him to killing and who thought nothing of executing prisoners in cold blood.

Once the war is over, he finds work driving trucks and doing odd jobs and at the same time, finds himself on the radar of two competing father figures.

Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) is the first one, a senior mob guy who is drawn to Frank’s style and modus operandi.

Bufalino, in turn, introduces him to Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), the Teamsters chief, a self-absorbed but charming politician.  It is Hoffa who has cultivated the Teamsters’ gangster links – loaning cash from the union pension fund to the wiseguys and in return, earning a slice of the interest and procuring ‘muscle’ when intimidation is needed.

Out of all this, a friendship is born and Frank becomes Jimmy’s bodyguard and consigliere.

But trouble is never far away; Russell and others like him are furious that President Kennedy has failed to evict Castro (a former lucrative playground for them) and has also installed his brother, Robert Kennedy, as Attorney General who has made it a quest to pursue the Mafiosi and the corrupt Hoffa.

When Hoffa is imprisoned for fraud, he emerges furious that his empire has been taken away from him and lays part of the blame on his gangsters, calling them ungrateful and inferring that he could blow the whistle on them.

At this point, it becomes very clear to Frank, where his future loyalties must lie.

Another massive achievement from Scorsese, who once again, proves himself to be the master of his craft, presenting us with his best film since Goodfellas.   It is superbly acted by the three leads and beautifully shot by Rodrigo Prietro.

Much has been made of the use of high-tech ‘youthification’ technology which allows De Niro to appear as a younger man, in tandem with Pacino and Pesci, albeit that in De Niro’s case, it does look a little eerie (especially his eyes) but you soon get used to it.

Screenwriter Steven Zaillian, has adapted the 2004 bestseller, “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt, which sensationally established the importance of Sheeran to Hoffa.  In case you don’t know, the term ‘Paint Houses’ is a euphemism for carrying out mob hits ie paint them with blood.

De Niro, Pacino and – especially – Joe Pesci turn in brilliant performances. Pesci was actually brought out of retirement and given an offer he couldn’t refuse.  How could one turn down Scorsese?  Would anyone dare? This time his role is not manic or in-your-face threatening, he plays a quietly spoken grandfather, who is a ‘fixer’ and someone who has ‘words on the side’, rather than a perpetrator of full-on violence.

De Niro is on exceptional form and is the king of cold and taciturn and in this role, he does not disappoint.

Pacino, appearing for the first time in a Scorsese film, is a magnificent Hoffa and it is also one of his best roles to-date. Again, no over-the-top theatrics, which appear to have marred his more recent roles

The rest of the megawatt cast, include Harvey Keitel, Stephen Graham, Anna Paquin, Jesse Plemons, Bobby Cannavale and Ray Romano, who all bring life and credibility to their roles.

I would highly recommend viewing this three and a half hour long film on the big screen, rather than on Netflix – if only for the fact that at home there are too many distractions to keep you riveted to the screen for that length of time.  At least in the cinema, you are a captive audience.

Twitch Factor:  Sub, Sub Zero

* * *

KNIVES OUT

A detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family.

2019| USA | Lionsgate | 130 mins | Comedy, Crime, Drama

Release Date: 29 November 2019

Director: Rian Johnson

Starring: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis,
Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Christopher Plummer

A wealthy patriarch, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found murdered, leaving behind a convoluted trail of clues, which would appear to implicate his entire family.

There is his daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) a cold, hard-nosed property developer, her sleazy husband, Richard (Don Johnson) and their playboy son, Ransom (Chris Evans), together with Linda’s ‘away-with-the-fairies’ sister-in-law, Joni (Toni Collette), a healthy lifestyle- guru (no guesses who inspired this role.)

But the main suspect would be Harlan’s caregiver, Marta (Ana de Armas) who has been named as the main beneficiary of Thrombey’s will and has an unfortunate ‘lie-detector’ quirk.

Enter stage-left, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) who is the last of the ‘gentlemen’ detectives.  A famous southern sleuth, with a penchant to referring to himself in the third person.  Can he solve the mystery of Thrombey’s untimely death? You bet he can… and have some fun whilst doing it.

Knives Out is an extremely entertaining film, par excellence, and Johnson has dusted off the cobwebs from the usual murder mystery fodder and brought us an ingeniously constructed film, with enough twists and turns to keep ‘Fred and Ginger’ happy.  The script is sharp and fast paced and has some of the funniest lines I have heard in a while.

With a superb ensemble cast, this film is a winner and for me, it was a welcome beacon of light from the darker films which I have viewed recently – although I can say these were meritorious in their own way.

Beautifully shot by Steve Yedlin with an excellent soundtrack.  A film can do no wrong when it uses one of my all-time favourite tracks, Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Sundown’ for a whole scene!  I just wanted to sit there and hit the rewind button!  Oh well, I’ll just have to wait until I get a screener.

Craig, not known for his ‘laugh a minute’ roles, certainly makes the most of his screen time, and I might say, he does it in perfect tongue-in-cheek mode.  A reminder that he is capable of much more than playing a ‘mean and moody’ Bond, in a Tom Ford suit.

De Armas brings a naivety and simplicity to her role as ‘nurse’, whose innocence is slowly replaced with a more resilient resolve as she suddenly finds herself the unwanted centre of attention, and for all the wrong reasons. She keeps you guessing to the end.  The questions being, “Did she or didn’t she” and Will she or won’t she?”

A definite must-see – to miss it would be criminal (no pun intended)!

Twitch factor:  Sub, Sub, Sub Zero