“Bones and All”, “Aftersun”; teenagers times two

Bones and All.

As I came out the cinema after watching Bones and All, I wondered briefly whether that was perhaps the most instantly forgettable film since whatsitcalled with whatshisname, you know, that one that was nominated for all those Academy awards. And I presumed that that would be the very last time that it ever crossed my mind. 

But over the few weeks that followed, to my baffled bewilderment, a slew of starry-eyed reviewers lined up to loudly sing its praises. The Guardian, the Sunday Times, the Irish Times, the London Independent and even, if you don’t mind, the New Yorker’s august Anthony Lane all managed to momentarily divest themselves of their critical faculties to be born forth on its agricultural rhythms. 

raio Argento’s Suspiria.

It’s like watching somebody sitting on an inflatable pool toy as it rests stubbornly motionless on your living room floor. While they flash you an excited smile, bobbing gamely this way and that, telling you that the water is amazing, and wondering why you’re not jumping in to join them. 

Let’s get one thing straight. Bones and All is absolutely not a bad film. It’s very competently made and is as inoffensive as you could possibly wish for. And if you’re familiar with Guadagnino’s films, you’ll not be surprised by what you’re being presented with.

As with his pointless remake of Dario Argento’s towering Suspiria (reviewed earlier here), where he neutered any sense of beauty to focus instead on producing an accurately researched reproduction of dreary, drab, dull, grey 1970s Germany, here he concentrates carefully on recreating grim, grimey rust-belt, middle America, circa 1989. 

It’s commendably convincing, but utterly devoid of anything approximating drama, and is entirely free of tension. 

Obviously, if you’re a teenager, confident in the certainty that you have all the time in the world, then the prospect of watching two attractive would-be teenagers gaze lovingly into one another’s eyes, as they amble aimlessly across the plains of America from one trailer trash dive to the next, will quite possibly strike you as time well spent. 

But for any chicken for whom spring is, alas, a now distant memory, you’ll be left quietly seething at having fruitlessly wasted more than two golden hours on glorified Wallpaper.

Aftersun.

Aftersun is about a teenager, but is very much a film for grown-ups. And is in fact one of the films of the year, and comfortably so. As such, it’s the ideal palette-cleanser for Bones and All.

I’ll say very little about the plot. Indeed, there’s little to say about it. It’s slow, measured, apparently languid, and yet there’s a tension that quietly and then ominously builds. 

Paul Mescal is the barely thirty something year old father of an 11 year old daughter, played by the dazzling newcomer Frankie Corio. And he’s taken her to a resort in Turkey to spend some quality time together, now that he and her mother have separated. 

Meticulously paced, precisely shot and carefully considered, its shoestring budget is visibly but fleetingly. Other than which, it’s consciously cinematic in a way that few films any more bother to be. Written and directed by first time Scottish film maker Charlotte Wells, it’s the most confident and impressive feature debut for many a moon.

You can see the trailer for Aftersun here:

And the trailer for Bones and All here.

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“Carnage” – Roman Polanski

I defer in almost all matters to the New Yorker’s film critic Anthony Lane. But I have to gently disagree with his huffy dismissal of Carnagehttp://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2011/12/19/111219crci_cinema_lane?currentPage=all.

Our contrasting reactions to the film stem from our very different expectations of the theatre. Lane is as polite as he is effortlessly erudite, and having been brought up to respect the theatre, he clearly finds it difficult, not withstanding the endless disappointments he must have experienced there, to see it for what it is. It’s where writers who aren’t quite good enough for television or cinema go to hide.

That sign that met Nicholas Ray when he arrived in New York from Wisconsin in the 1930s, which read “the theatre is dead; let’s give it a decent burial” stood, and stands as an appropriate headstone.

So the play that this is based on, The God Of Carnage by Yasmina Reza is exactly what one should have expected. As a piece of serious writing it will of course disappear into the ether, and will only ever be of use to am dram socs and secondary schools. But that’s hardly the point. It’s just a bit of fun, that’s all!

A pair of upwardly-mobile, New York couples spend a day together discussing what’s to be done about the boisterous behaviour of their respective children. Inevitably, the veneer of respectability is soon scraped clean, and they are promptly tearing strips off of one another. The film is every bit as predictable as that makes it sound, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

It’s the kind of thing Woody Allen used to make in order to raise the money for his more personal films. In exchange for getting his more serious comedies funded, he’d produce something light and frothy to keep the money men happy. So for every Manhattan, The Purple Rose Of Cairo and Crimes And Misdemeanours, there’d be a Hannah And Her Sisters, a Bullets Over Broadway and a Vicky Christina Barcelona. Devoid of substance and made entirely of sugar, they’re an instant pick-me-up, but are perfectly charming nonetheless. That’s what this is.

I would though challenge anyone to guess that it’s a Roman Polanski film if they hadn’t been told so beforehand. It’s not so much directed as it is a filmed play. But considering that Polanski hasn’t made anything of substance since Tess in 1979, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.

Any competent director would be flattered when working with actors of this calibre, all of whom deliver wonderfully. Though a better director would have insisted on imposing an ending, which the play plainly lacks, and which is exactly what Polanski himself had done on his best film, Chinatown. I don’t know. Perhaps he has other things on his mind these days.

Not withstanding all of which, Carnage should be seen for what it is. Quite silly, and hugely enjoyable.