Here's what to catch (and avoid) at the cinema this month...
Film of the month: Loro
Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty, Youth) turns his attention to the infamous former Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, whose career has been marked by corruption, tax fraud and a string of outrageous sex scandals. This colourful subject matter allows the director to return to some of his favourite themes previously explored in the critically lauded Great Beauty: the hollow-heartedness of the rich, the transience of youth, the political passivity that engulfs present-day Italy.
Sorrentino also dusts off the signature film tropes he loves to populate his films with: gorgeous naked bodies, oodles of drugs, wild parties, a fantastically synthy soundtrack (including a brilliant dance scene featuring Kylie Minogue’s “Slow”) and absurd symbolism. However, where The Great Beauty beguiled us with poeticism and poignancy, Loro loses us in its overly-complicated narrative and a relentless flux of hedonism.
Both films also star the magnetic Toni Servillo whose scheming charisma and sleazy charm as Berlusconi you can’t help but adore. Beware, the film is over three hours long, but with its mouthwatering cinematography and scrumptious entertainment trickling out of every cranny, you won’t find yourself glancing at your watch.
Happy as Lazzaro
If you happen to be a fan of classic Italian Neorealism in the likes of Taviani brothers or Federico Fellini, you won’t want to miss this sublime little gem from director Alice Rohrwacher.
Dressing gritty realism with sporadic sprinkles of movie magic, Happy as Lazzaro tells the story of a peculiar young man who goes on a journey through space and time in search of his long-lost friend. But to condense the film into one sparse line is to do it a great disservice; when all’s said and done, it’s a beautifully ephemeral, inventively written and superbly acted piece of cinema that floats like a song or a poem, lulling you into a delicately atmospheric eco-climate that feels nostalgically timeless. Pure magic.
The Sisters Brothers
Joaquin Phoenix and John C Reilly are a duo of assassins in 1850s Oregon on the hunt for a charming gold prospector played by Jake Gyllenhaal and a chemist with a magic formula played by Riz Ahmed. It’s a lip-smackingly entertaining little flick, jam-packed with snappy one-liners, great music and sexy cinematography but, unfortunately, that’s where the good stuff ends.
Beneath the sleek stylised veneer lies a haphazard, hackneyed and slightly aimless film. Jumping from classic Western to poignant drama to cult movie, Sisters Brothers seems to be confused about which genre it's trying to arrive at, never following through with any of the formats it dabbles in. It takes itself too seriously to achieve the coolness that Tarantino nailed in Django Unchained, yet its overall tone is too light-hearted for the serious scenes to carry any emotional weight. We love you, Jacques Audiard, but stick to moody drama.
This music drama about a brazen but talented young Glaswegian woman, Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley), whose only dream is to become a country singer in Nashville, is as dull and unimaginative as its very title (the protagonist’s name is Rose—get it?). Not only does Wild Rose tick just about every tired movie cliche in the book but, somehow, the makers have managed to develop a leading character so obnoxious, self-absorbed and unlikeable, that spending time in her company is excruciating. Might be passable if you’re a country fan. If not—avoid at all costs.
On the heels of Ralph Fiennes’ Rudolf Nureyev biopic, The White Crow, comes this dramatised account of the life of Carlos Acosta—the first black ballet star and the greatest male ballet dancer since Nureyev himself. From his early days as a restless boy in Cuba, via his painful emigration, to his explosive international success, it’s a moving and inspiring dance-filled biopic that features the great Acosta himself.