The autobiographical films of Terence Davies are not simply nostalgic journeys into the director’s past; they are piercing insights into the filmmaker’s turbulent early life. While Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988), The Long Day Closes (1992) and Of Time and the City (2008) are feature-length depictions of the people and places he knew growing up, the three short films that comprise The Terence Davies Trilogy –Children (1976), Madonna and Child (1980) and Death and Transfiguration (1983) –are the earliest looks at the filmmaker’s life, focusing on the solitary figure of Robert Tucker. Just as François Truffaut showcased the adventures of Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), his surrogate self, across five films, the character of Tucker (played by a range of actors across the three films) is a stand-in for Davies. Continue reading →
With the rallying cry of its hashtagged title, Tom Gilroy’s #WaynesvilleStrong is a darkly comic and scarily plausible vision of a very near future in which low-wage work, enforced patriotism and the panoptic powers of the internet combine to create a pandemic hellscape that one laid-off meatpacking worker must delicately navigate, one videocall prompt at a time. The short was made quickly, in May and during quarantine, with everyone appropriately socially distanced, and to its great credit that what was political satire just two months ago is now turning into, with the current battles over “reopening,” political reality. The short stars Orange is the New Black‘s Nick Sandow, and the slow burn of his impatient anxiety as he subjects himself to the merciless probing of the government’s AI-fueled videochat adjudication system will create a frisson of recognition for anyone who’s been stuck on hold trying to receive their stimulus check.
Gilroy has been making independent films since the mid-’90s, with features including Spring Forward and The Cold Lands. In the conversation below, fellow director Jim McKay discusses with him the work’s relation to science fiction — particularly 1984 and J.G. Ballard, how the short was produced during quarantine with a iPhone 10, the influence of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, and what it means for a work to be political today.
McKay: This film was conceived about a month into stay-at-home and made about a month later and finished a month after that. The world changed radically in those three months but the story stayed very relevant and at times is even more in-the-moment than when it was conceived. Can you talk about its inception and then how current events effected the work, if at all? Gilroy: The impetus in writing it was to respond in real time to the government roll-out of yet another unprecedented and mismanaged disaster. I never thought about what the script could be or where it could go. I’d just reached a point where there was no holding back; it was an almost unconscious act. This impulse was of course pressurized by the inability to leave the house, and some kind of “producer brain” must’ve instinctively kicked in where I realized quarantine dictated the piece would be a monologue.
The thought of having to wait a decade for the Netflix take on the most staggering spectacle of our time – Prince Andrew’s interview – is torture
Does anyone else wish The Crown would get a bloody move on? Because, sure, despite the new intake of actors, the third season of The Crown is exactly the same as the previous two. It’s slow and staid and sumptuous, and largely about a very rich woman who basically has a very nice time without any sort of incident most of the time. It’s good and impressive and all, but there isn’t exactly a lot of high drama.
I can’t speak for everyone but the reason I keep watching is because The Crown is, to all intents and purposes, Better Call Saul With Corgis. The drama isn’t in what we see onscreen, but what we all know will definitely happen later. There will be death. Divorce. Windsor Castle will burn down. Prince Charles will get married to Princess Diana, but declare his wish that he was another woman’s tampon. Prince Harry will dress up like a Nazi. And Prince Andrew will deny having sex with a minor at the behest of the world’s most notorious billionaire paedophile shortly after having a pizza in Woking.
This last one has prompted the biggest crisis the monarchy has had to face for over two decades, and there’s a real sense that the whole thing will end in total disaster if it isn’t handled with extreme care. Everything is going wrong, and we still cannot rule out the possibility that The Crown will end with Queen Elizabeth undertaking the royal equivalent of opening a Cinnabon in Nebraska. That’s dramatic tension, not countless scenes of Prince Philip demonstrating an appropriate level of excitement about the moon landing. Continue reading →
The film version of the popular TV series is perfectly pleasant. Film review by Demetrios Matheou
Despite the fact that the Downton Abbey 2015 Christmas special wrapped the series up with a seemingly watertight bow, a cinema offering of Julian Fellowes’ much-loved creation was perhaps inevitable. And so virtually all of the series cast and a few new ones descend upon the fictitious Yorkshire pile for more misadventures upstairs and down.
With no loose ends, Fellowes needed to devise a new dilemma to unite the Crawleys and the many staff who keep their privileged lives on track in 1927. Cue a letter from Buckingham Palace that heralds the imminent visit to Downton of King George V and Queen Mary.
“This won’t help us to economise,” worries Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) the only one in her family who seems to seriously wonder whether the aristocracy needs to hang up its finery and downsize to, well, a manor house.
But the main question for her parents Robert and Cora, the Earl and Countess of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern, pictured below) and their pampered clan is what on earth to wear. For Mr Carson (Jim Carter), the curmudgeonly butler rushed out of retirement for the big event, lady’s maid Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) and their fellow servants, it’s how to continue to work their fingers to the bone – and do Downton proud – when the Royal’s own entourage is rudely intent on taking over.
There were a number of factors behind the series’ popularity: nostalgia for an England long gone, a fetishist’s fascination for the accoutrements of privilege, the gilded soap opera of gossip, scandal and romance, Dame Maggie Smith’s scheming dowager countess stealing every scene, a template in which a multitude of crises were invariably solved with as much effort as it takes to say “golly”. All these ingredients are now in play, lent a fittingly sumptuous, big screen sheen by director Michael Engler and his production team.
The final season of the series happened to be one of its most uneventful, which is to say lame, only one death of a marginal character marring a steady winding down to happy ever after. And the film clearly has no intention of spoiling the party. Even an IRA threat to the king and an unfortunate introduction into the local gay scene for the butler Barrow (Robert James Collier) are resolved with such ease that few of the major characters are ever aware.
It’s a long way from the film that put Fellowes on the map as a writer and allowed him to make Downton in the first place, Robert Altman’s magnificent Gosford Park, which offered a far more complex and barbed view of the class divide.
“I do love our adventures,” sighs Cora as this one jollies along. “But isn’t it fun when they’re over,” replies Robert. If only they were.