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 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 Car­nage

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.