A Quiet Passion (DVD Review)

12 – 120mins – 2017


 

THE LITERATURE OF MISERY

“Sometimes, Emily, you are as ugly as your poetry!”

Written and directed by Sunset Song‘s Terence Davies, A Quiet Passion is both a boldly compelling yet persistently frustrating portrait of a literary great: prolific 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson, whose unusual existence is chartered from youth to death by two actors: Emma Bell for the opening twenty minutes takes on Emily’s post-school days, morphing into Cynthia Nixon for the concluding hour and forty minutes

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My Cousin Rachel (Cinema Review)

12A – 106mins – 2017


 

YOU BEFORE ME

Orphaned as a child and raised by his older cousin, Philip Ashley (Sam Me Before You Claflin) remains in written communication with his guardian when sickness calls for Ambrose (also Claflin) to sojourn to warmer climes in the winter. Ambrose informs Philip that while in Italy he has met and swiftly fallen in love with Rachel (Rachel Youth Weisz), a cousin to them both, whom he marries. But worrying insinuations and a despairing tone to Ambrose’s letters perturbs Philip, who journeys out to Florence expecting to find his frail caregiver at the behest of a beastly gold-digger.

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Madame Bovary (DVD Review)

15 – 113mins – 2017


 

FEVER OF DESPAIR

Announced in March 2012, cast over the next year and a half and filmed in Normandy from September 2013, French-American director Sophie Barthes’ period adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s ‘obscene’ nineteenth century masterpiece was granted a premiere at the Telluride Film Festival the following August and then it just… disappeared.

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Voice from the Stone (Film Review)

15 – 94mins – 2017


 

TUSCAN RAIDER

Mute since his sickly mother passed away, young Jakob’s (Edward Dring) despairing father, Klaus (Marton Csokas), hopes English nurse Verena (Emilia Me Before You Clarke) will succeed where a string of other live-in caregivers have failed and get his mourning heir talking again.

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TABOO, 1.4 (TV Review)

BBC One – Saturday 28th January 2017 – 9.15pm

Created by: Tom Hardy, Edward “Chips” Hardy, Steven Knight

Written by: Steven Knight and Emily Ballou

Directed by: Kristoffer Nyholm


 

THE JOINT IN THE SEE-SAW

“Delaney is turning London into his own private bear pit!”

Just when I didn’t think Taboo could bring any more grit and gore to primetime Saturday night television, the BBC’s decency-touting new mini-series descended to shocking new lows (or highs, depending on your tolerance for the controversial) in its fourth week: there’s rapey jail cell harassment from figures of authority, throat slittings, prostitutes give blow jobs, doctor’s lick cow shit, brothers use voodoo to have intercourse with their half-sisters from afar… and in an eye-poppingly visceral visual, intestines spill from a eviscerated stomach after a long-winded slug-fest turns bloody.

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TABOO, 1.3 (TV Review)

BBC One – Saturday 21st January 2017 – 9:15pm

Created by: Tom Hardy, Edward “Chips” Hardy, Steven Knight

Written by: Steven Knight

Directed by: Kristoffer Nyholm


A PINCER MOVEMENT

After a fortnight of moaning that episodes 1.1 and 1.2 of the BBC’s Ridley Scott-produced historical miniseries were more concerned with entrenching us in grimy atmosphere than propelling the story forward, with Saturday’s third instalment opening with cunning comeback kid James Delaney (Tom Hardy) weak and wobbly after being stitched up from the knife wound he sustained at the hands of a bonneted assassin, I feared we would be in for another hour of slow burn consternation as our enigmatic protagonist recovered from the thrust of a blade.

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TABOO, 1.2 (TV Review)

Image result for taboo bbc episode 2

BBC One – Saturday 14th January 2017 – 9:15pm

Created by: Tom Hardy, Edward “Chips” Hardy, Steven Knight

Written by: Stephen Knight

Directed by: Kristoffer Nyholm


LEAGUE OF THE DAMNED

“The King and Company are after your head…”

Now more adamant than ever that his inherited piece of land on the Canadian-American border is not for sale, in this sophomore instalment of the eight part BBC/FX mini-series, troubled rogue James Delaney (co-creator Tom Hardy) is a man on a mission: to recruit a team of trustworthy allies to aid him in reclaiming his poisoned father’s legacy, the Nootka Sound… and stop any number of his myriad enemies from striking him down to take it. And there was me thinking he was a superhuman one-man band?

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THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, 1.5 (TV Review)

BBC One – 26th July 2016 – 9pm

Written by: Peter McKenna

Series created by: Ashley Pharoah

Directed by: Sam Donovan 


 

CHAOS BEFORE CLARITY

Following last week’s leftfield cliffhanger, this penultimate episode in Ashley Pharaoh’s chilling period mini-series intensifies the “supernormal” activity, but does away with the story of the week template in favour of a more all-inclusive village-wide assembly of incidents.

It is All Hallows Eve in Shepzoy, and the farming community and out-of-town railway workers are uniting to mark the pagan tradition with typically folksy gusto. The date also marks the anniversary of the All Hallows Massacre, which centuries earlier saw the sword-slashing Roundheads ride on Shepzoy, hunting and gutting all in their way, “the ground sodden with blood…” Lovely.

It is gruesome visions of this historic bloodbath which this week manifest themselves to the fearful villagers, with the city-dwelling railway engineers driven out by the superstitious hauntings, after “townie” Smith (Harry Peacock) is terrified by the ghost of a hanging victim in the copse.

Maud Hare (1.3’s Elizabeth Berrington), meanwhile, is growing increasing concerned about living side-by-side with evil, as the mark of a noose grows more pronounced around her neck, and Nathan Appleby (Colin Morgan) is so consumed by his belief in the presence of his dead son and glimpses of a woman in a red coat carrying a book full of moving pictures, that he drags poor Harriet Denning (1.1’s Tallulah Haddon) back into the hot seat for another session of doctorly hypnosis.

“They’re coming for you, Nathan, they’re coming for you.”

Harriet’s father, village priest Father Denning (Nicholas Woodeson), is furious at Nathan’s ungodly meddling in the occult, until the whole village witnesses both a blazing tree which leaves no ash and a spirit army of Roundheads charging translucently through the forest. Reluctantly, he agrees to an exorcism, but Nathan is less than keen when his pregnant wife, Charlotte (Charlotte Spencer), reveals some startling evidence in the background of one of her photographs…

The hauntings intensify, the visions more frequent and the truth harder to ascertain in episode five of The Living And The Dead. A lot occurs in this busy hour of drama without the plot ever really progressing or the mystery becoming any clearer. Colin Morgan expertly portrays a spiral into insanity, while Peter McKenna’s screenplay is an effective exercise in tone and atmosphere. I suspect we are in for a spectacular finale next week, but if you aren’t binge-watching this as a boxset and catching it in weekly instalments then this is less satisfying as a standalone story, with no palpable beginning, middle or end.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, 1.4 (TV Review)

BBC One – 19th July 2016 – 9pm

Written by: Robert Murphy

Series created by: Ashley Pharoah

Directed by: Sam Donovan


 

SECRET FLOWER OF THE FOREST

“The past is dead, and the dead are dead.”

Never a less convincing word is spoken by Victorian psychologist and spiritual-dabbler Nathan Appleby (Colin Morgan), who is attempting to reassure his pregnant wife, Charlotte (Charlotte Spencer) after witnessing the roaming spirit of a murdered villager at the close of this fourth episode in BBC One’s progressive supernatural period drama.

Despite being written and directed by different crew, tonight’s latest instalment is better than any previous episode at effortlessly continuing the series narrative without making the connection to previous parts feel laboured and forcefully inserted for continuity purposes. This felt like the conclusion of a two-parter.

Having been banished for his violent attempt to cleanse Shepzoy of its “witch” last week week, former farmhand Jack Langtree (Joel Gilman) is this week accused of attacking traumatised school teacher Martha Enderley (Nina Forever‘s Fiona O’Shaughnessy) while living rough in Elmwood Forest. But can Martha’s wide-eyed ramblings be believed, or is she more connected to the disappearance of her friend Alice Wharton (Gina Bramhill) than she is letting on?

“Your mind is denying us access to your memories…”

Donning a Rick Grimes-esque Stetson and attempting to put his personal malaise to one side, all-round go-to-guy Nathan adds lawman, detective and autopsy-deliverer to his growing repertoire of skills, returning to the mist-shrouded scene of the crime in an attempt to save Alice and apprehend Jack.

Behind the lens, Sam Donovan incorporates a wealth of dizzying aerial tracking shots of the gorgeous natural woodland, paralleling the scale and warmth of red autumnal foliage with the stark and claustrophobic greys of the cold Shepzoy dwellings. Pronounced angles and focus pulls also help immerse the viewer and increase the ominous and ethereal atmosphere which has been so strong throughout The Living and the Dead.

Once more Nathan’s haunting bereavement is kept to the outskirts – teased deliciously in a Ouija board prologue but then essentially back-benched once again. I sense this frustrating drawn out approach will be a common occurrence until his dead son is brought front and centre in an episode all his own at the tail-end of the six-part series.

Modernity again rears its head into the traditional Somerset community, with Llama’s proclaimed as the “future of farming” and an eventual innate confession capping-off what would have been a rather predictable and average murder mystery with a passionate explosion of pent-up alienation which the twenty-first century can relate to with more open-minded understanding than ever before.

“All my life I’ve felt different…”

Had the episode finished there, it would have been a passably adept hour of eerie entertainment, three CR@B’s out of five. However, the final shot pans to a truly jaw-dropping rug-pull reveal which corroborated an earlier question lingering in the back of my mind concerning a potential anachronism. Frankly, it blew my mind. Suspicions and curiosity well and truly running rampant, I am thankful for the innovative Beeb’s iPlayer boxset approach which means I don’t have to wait seven excruciating days to have my theories laid to rest. “That way madness lies…”

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars

THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, 1.2 (TV Review)

BBC 1 – 5th July 2016 – 9pm

Written by: Ashley Pharoah

Directed by: Alice Troughton


 

MINOR MINERS

Shifting central story after exorcising Harriet Denning’s (Tallulah Haddon) demons at the death of episode one, recently relocated psychologist Nathan Appleby (Colin Morgan) this week questions and comforts a young lad in his Somerset village who is being tempted to leave his bed and play with a handful of ghost children in the middle of the night. Is Charlie’s (Isaac Andrews) wild imagination concocting imaginary friends, or are these phantom playmates the result of more sinister buried secrets?

With names being chanted from the dark and striking visuals of the ragged, coal-coated dead kids resolutely holding hands under the moonlight, BBC miniseries The Living and the Dead’s sophomore supernatural case is as chillingly atmosphere as its first, however the plot felt more derivative (there is an early Chloe Grace Moretz zombie horror called Wicked Little Things with an identical story), meaning the supposedly gasp-worthy resolution was far easier to predict.

With Nathan’s preoccupation with the past leading him to hear the troubled testimony of an elderly workhouse orphan (Michael Burn) with a tale to tell and some skeletons to unearth (literally), the Victorian ghost hunter’s second wife, Charlotte (Charlotte Spencer), makes a modern step towards gender equality by taking over as manager of Shepzoy Farm. Maid Gwen (Kerrie Hayes), meanwhile, has a far more traditional cure to the young couples’ childless predicament.

While young Charlie’s nightmarish visions are neatly paralleled to Nathan’s own hallucinations of his tragic domestic disquietude, the resurrection of this running strand felt too obvious and more forced into the narrative than I anticipated, lending the episode a less dynamic and more contrived air. There’s still promise here, even if this hour of eerie drama stalled somewhat on the premiere’s propulsive force.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars