It’s that time of year again! Get ready for the weird and the wonderful at this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival. Here’s a snippet of what’s on offer!
Come for a naked Tom Hiddleston, stay for the heavy-handed commentary on capitalism.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
High-Rise stars Tom Hiddleston as Robert Laing, a dapper middle-class doctor who moves onto the 25th floor of a cutting-edge apartment block located on the outskirts of London. Laing soon finds himself trapped between a rock and a hard place; you see, the building is a rather blunt allegory for society, with the wealthy upper class sitting on top and the poorer have-nots struggling to escape the rigid social hierarchy. Like chickens trapped inside a coop, the shit travels downward and resentment soon begins to bloom amongst those unfortunate enough to be caught in its path.
Sitting somewhere between Snowpiercer and that episode of Community where the whole campus devolves into a parody of a futuristic dystopia, Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise is a complex mixture of both shocking violence and menacing satire.
The cinematography from Laurie Ross is gorgeous; he perfectly captures the unsettling contrast of filth and glamour through some fantastically dark and macabre compositions. Along with Wheatley’s direction and Amy Jump’s devilish screenplay, the sick, twisted tone of JG Ballard’s 1975 novel is surprisingly well replicated on the big screen. The lavish production design from Mark Tildesley ensures that High-Rise is one of those rare films where the physical setting is its story; each floor and room has a distinctive texture that informs the audience of its wicked occupants.
The film does fall into some unfavourable trappings at times, such as the use of ‘sexposition’ to hold our attention during prolonged periods of set-up. Except, it isn’t really warranted – with a central concept as compelling as this, the only purpose it serves is to luridly flash Hiddleston’s perfectly sculpted bum at the camera.
Hiddleston tackles the mayhem with the same sincerity one would usually reserve for Shakespeare, whether he’s making small talk over cocktails or spit roasting a dog on his balcony. Sienna Miller and Elisabeth Moss are great as two of Laing’s neighbours, whilst Luke Evans’ violent upriser Wilder is suitably unhinged and unpredictable.
It’s hard to define the appeal of High-Rise; the metaphor is a little blunt and the acting often strays into goofiness, but much like the aforementioned Snowpiercer, its technical prowess is too rich and gorgeous to ignore. Not everyone will derive enjoyment from Wheatley’s potent mixture of skin-crawling violence and writhing sex orgies, but the confident lead performance from Hiddleston and the sheer volume of colour and atmosphere that the production exudes will enchant art-house audiences if nothing else.
High-Rise screens at Luna On SX Wednesday 13 July & Luna Leederville 16 July
OK, seriously, has anyone else noticed how hard Jake Gyllenhaal has been trying for an Oscar nomination lately?
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Demolition is yet another great example of the subtleties Gyllenhaal can bring to any performance. While his latest film might not be on the same level as Nightcrawler or Prisoners, it still provides a very worthy character study.
Following the life of Davis Mitchell (Gyllenhall), the story takes an introspective look into how an extraordinarily successful business man deals with grief. Director Jean-Marc Vallee, who brought us the great Dallas Buyers Club, sets Davis up with a romantic counterpart in a mysterious young woman (Naomi Watts) and together things begin to unfold. One of the strangest films I’ve seen of late, Demolition is an interesting blend of drama, comedy and romance, but I’m not sure it works as well as it potentially could.
If it weren’t for the powerhouse performances of Gyllenhaal and Watts, with the welcome addition of Chris Cooper in a supporting role, then I doubt I would have been able to stomach the abrupt shifts in tone throughout. These shifts are so frequent that it feels like watching the longest ever game of ping pong personified as a movie. One moment there’s a hilarious and uplifting scene, then the next spirals into a downfall of dramas. I was left unsure of what to think, and more importantly how to feel.
Vallee does a good job of highlighting the instability of Davis, synonymous with the title, as he becomes fixated on destroying objects around in him in attempt to learn how they were made. It’s a clear metaphor of how wherever he goes, he is tearing relationships apart due to his inability to connect with his emotions but it feels like that message isn’t reinforced enough.
It’s quite the puzzle but at least it’s a puzzle that’s still enjoyable to watch. There are some great moments of humour in this film even if they feel inappropriately placed. My best summary of trying to encompass what this movie represents is that of a famous stadium being purposefully demolished to make way for something else. It’s meant to be melancholic but at the same time you can’t help but smile in its destruction and in the end that’s what the film’s title is trying to allure towards. If you like Gyllenhall or a quirky character study, go see Demolition.
Demolition screens at Luna Leederville Wednesday 13 July
Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival