A predictable relationship melodrama, it’s the performance of multiple Oscar-nominated Glenn Close (Dangerous Liaisons, Albert Nobbs) that’s the stand-out in director Bjorn Runge’s (Daybreak, Mouth to Mouth) latest.
As Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean, Tomorrow Never Dies) collects the Nobel Prize for Literature, the long-capped truth, at least behind closed doors, bubbles to the volatile surface.
Caustic rather than vicious, the unleashed storm is obviously brewing from very early on – with Close formidable as the too-oft ignored titular wife.
Ultimately uncomfortable watching as director Ruben Ostland (Force Majeure, Involuntary) presents a heady mix of odd social commentary along with moments of crazed subversion.
Arrogant gallery curator Claes Bang (The Bridge, Rule #1) finds himself in deep schtick both professionally and personally as a result of a distraction during the negotiations of a controversial new exhibition.
But what on paper appears to be a linear narrative is anything but as commentary on lack of social awareness or care is troweled on thick and fast in scene after scene. Subversive, anarchic, occasionally brilliant, overstuffed with ideas but a film that could have benefitted from being 105 minutes long instead of 152. Inexplicably, The Square was presented with the 2017 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
The rivalry between the ice-cool Bjorn Borg and volatile John McEnroe dominated tennis headlines in the late 70s/early 80s. Not interested in anything but being the best, Borg retired from tennis at the age of just 26 when the American replaced him as world number one in 1981.
But not before, in 1980, Borg won his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title, beating McEnroe in five sets in what is regarded as the greatest final ever seen at the All-England club. Borg McEnroe is centred round the 1980 tournament as pressure mounts on Borg to make history.
Sverrir Gudnason (Blowfly Park, Original) is appropriately cool and emotionless as Borg – and his likeness to the Swede is uncanny. Wedding plans (to Romanian tennis player Mariana Simionescu) and Wimbledon preparations do not go hand-in-hand, adding to the pressure. An emerging McEnroe (a wonderful supporting role from Shia LeBeouf – Transformers, Lawless) has his own points to prove – to both his family and the tennis world in general.
Mixing flashbacks to both men’s childhoods (interestingly Borg was a wilful and volatile teenage tennis player) with current relationship issues both on and off the court, director Janus Metz (Armadillo, Fra Thailand til Thy) brings his documentary aesthetic to ultimately let the tennis and the final itself speak for the film. Overheads, close-ups, cropping add to the excitement, making up for a somewhat oversimplified and stodgy off-court narrative.
(It makes for an interesting accompaniment with the 60s-set Battles of the Sexes)
Detective Harry Hole is an iconic character in the novels of international best-selling Norwegian author Jo Nesbo, having featured in eleven of his books. This first transfer to film (starring Michael Fassbender – 12 Years A Slave, Prometheus) is unlikely to lead to a rush for more.
Sumptuous it may be, set as it is in the winter landscapes of Norway (cinematography courtesy of Oscar-winning Dion Beebe – Memoirs of a Geisha, Collateral), but the film simply does not gel. In telling its story, whole chunks of the source material have been abandoned, with crucial plot and character development simply ignored.
Hole’s search for a serial killer should have been a dark psychological chiller of a thriller. Instead, it’s uninvolving, predictable and a waste of a seriously classy cast (J.K.Simmons, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Rebecca Ferguson, Toby Jones, Val Kilmer). Not what was expected from Tomas Alfredson, director of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Let the Right One In.
Some 85 films were submitted for consideration for the 2017 best foreign language Oscar. Sweden’s entry, A Man Called Ove, made the final shortlist of five before losing out to Iran’s The Salesman. The other 80 must have been appalling if the Hannes Holm-helmed dramedy was seen as one of the best of the year (Julieta, Elle, Neruda, My Life as a Zucchini are just a few that failed to make that final five).
Lonely, grumpy widower Rolf Lassgard (After the Wedding, The Hunters) learns to smile again after a new family moves into the neighbourhood. Off-kilter humour early on gives way to crowd pleasing tosh, resulting in disjointed comedic sentimentality. Deeply unimpressed.
I would like the two hours of my life spent watching this pretentious claptrap back.
Bizarre, overtly stylised, heavily staged, muted tones – a series of vaguely connected vignettes (some only seconds long) loosely exploring ethics and morality. Banal, nonsensical, annoying – the jury at the 2014 Venice Film Festival deserve to be served up in b’stilla (Moroccan pigeon pie) in awarding this the Golden Lion.
Sweden’s entry into the race for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar – and apparently one of the favourites. Not wholly convinced.
The main problem is that the arguments within the film peter out into nothingness and feel unresolved – which is a pity as for the first two thirds of its two hours, it’s deft, provocative and uncompromising in exploring the expectations behind masculinity and parenting.
And the location – high in the French Alps – is beautiful.