A Cure for Wellness (Cinema Review)

18 – 146mins – 2017


 

EELS ON FIRE

After transforming into the sickly Green Goblin in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Dane DeHaan once again plays a strong-minded and cock-sure twenty-something whose health deteriorates before our eyes in an overlong and overcomplicated genre piece. Wearing its multitude of influences brazenly on its sleeve, A Cure for Wellness marks Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski’s first foray into horror since 2002’s The Ring remake.

… Keep Scuttling!

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Gothic (DVD Review)

18 – 87mins – 1986


 

CARNIVAL OF CHAOS

“As long as you are a guest in my house, you will play my games…”

Embellished with his signature idiosyncratic fusion of grotesque surrealism and indulgent eroticism, acclaimed-but-controversial visionary British director Ken Russell (Altered States) turns his fevered eye toward the fateful night in 1816 upon which young Romantic artists Shelley (Julian Sands), Mary Godwin (Natasha Richardson), her stepsister Claire Clairmont (Miriam Cyr) and the doctor Polidori (Timothy Spall) gathered at the menagerie-esque madhouse of Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne) to tell ghost stories – with the future Mrs. Shelley’s classic horror novel Frankenstein being the enduring outcome.

Enhanced by the eerie tones of a pheramin-lead score, and with thunder and lightening clashing outside, the dark and largely empty rooms of Byron’s uninviting Swiss sanctuary is chock-full of eccentric ambiguities and stock genre tropes – from cobwebs, rats, candles and ornamental skulls to bell jars, clockwork mannequins, suits of armour and all the ingredients to conduct a séance! Its an eclectic cluster which in the wrong hands could have appeared too busy, but Russell successfully manages to juggle all the elements into an elusive and evocative almost poetic fever dream.

The hired help merely roll their eyes at the surreal circus parading around them, but there is a frightening heightened intensity to even the artist’s frivolity, with their virtuous tempers giving way to an almost rabid frothing obscenity the longer the night goes on. There is a fine line between genius and madness and I do believe that Gothic sits pretty atop that very line!

Sex, drugs and creativity clash violently with perverse and wanton abandon in this trippy and stirring madhouse. “I never plan anything” Byron cries – and never a truer word spoken as Gothic is often maddeningly confusing (a severed pig’s head lies on a bedroom floor, a goblin-like creature watches the girls as they sleep fraught dreams, and just what was that alien-like head in the barn?!), but never anything less than gripping and evocative.

As the night races towards day, the imagery takes on even deeper metaphoric meaning, the fears and anxieties of the decadent author’s each contributing to the jigsaw-like monster they have created (“our creature”). The elements which run through Frankenstein are cleverly planted throughout this uneasy viewing experience which often leaves you – like the characters – feeling like you are “trapped like a dream in human form.” But unlike the characters we know we can escape simply by pressing “pause” – except we are so enraptured by the lavishly grotesque delights dancing before our eyes that we don’t want to.

Gothic [DVD]Indecent, erotic and eerily surreal, Ken Russell’s historically inaccurate Gothic won’t be to everyone’s taste, but those looking for an orgasmic sensory overload need look no further. Come the end credits you’ll be sweating, shivering – more than likely confounded – but ultimately satisfied by this lavish macabre mindfuck.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars

Youth (DVD Review)

15 – 119mins – 2015


 

LIFE’S LAST DAY

“Fear… that’s an amazing sense, too, you know?”

A 5 star Alpine holiday resort is the sole setting for this patchwork portrait of the assorted guests – some famous, some not; some friendly, some not – who use the Swiss spa’s first-rate facilities to recuperate and reflect on the state of their seasoned lives.

Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel lead a hefty ensemble cast as Fred and Mick, two lifelong friends approaching their twilight years. While retired composer Fred (Caine) resists the resurrection of his most famous work on the grounds of “personal reasons,” movie director Mick (Keitel) is disparately desperate for his next project to be a real return to form – even if he and his team of screenwriters are struggling to agree on the best final scene.

Amongst the other vacationers comprising this “melodic cacophony” are discontent actor Jimmy Tree (Paul Ruby Sparks Dano), Fred’s distraught daughter, Lena Ballinger (Rachel Weisz), who has just been jilted by her husband for pop star Paloma Faith (who gamely plays herself for the second time on film following Peter & Wendy), and a less-than-ditzy Miss Universe (Mādālina Diana Ghenea). Essentially, what rings true is that even flawed individuals make enthralling subjects.

Slow, mournful, whimsical and often verging on the surreal, Academy Award-winning Italian director Paolo Sorrentino has crafted a poignant-but-perplexing think-piece on love, loss, betrayal and age in Youth. At times it is – to quote from the film – “simple… but beautiful” while at others it is almost maddeningly grotesque and impenetrable in its cunning creativity.

Whether you find the content joyous or horrific, praise must be paid to Youth’s sublime jukebox soundtrack, which right from the opening cover of Florence + the Machine’s “You’ve Got the Love” frequently commands the visuals, making Sorrentino’s English language follow-up to 2013’s The Great Beauty feel like an elegantly edited music video.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars