What to watch on Amazon: April 2020

Something New:

Suspiria — Luca Guadagnino (2018)

For those of you who have been following my posts in the past you would know that I’ve raved about Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria last year when it was playing in the cinema. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can now check it out on Amazon Prime Video.

Based on an Italian Giallo classic from the 70s and directed by ‘Call me by Your Name’ director Luca Guadagnino, Suspiria stars Dakota Johnson as an American dancer enrolling in a cultish dance school in Berlin where girls have a tendancy to go missing.

Unlike the original B movie colour-saturated slasher this one uses less lurid candy-coloured tones and replaces them for more matte earthy ones that evoke the visual style of Polanski’s paranoia thrillers of the 70s. This is also much more in keeping with the layered subtext in this film touching on everything from generational guilt, power dynamics in matriarchies, and motherhood.

Don’t miss a phenomonal soundtrack by Thom Yorke, Tilda Swinton playing multiple characters in some of the best make-up work in recent years, and some funky dance choreography by Damien Jalet.

Check out my full article on the film here

Something Recent:

A Bigger Splash — Luca Guadagnino (2015)

Why not pair Suspiria with another great Guadagnino gem. Named after the famous Hockney painting and inspired by the steamy French thriller ‘La Piscine’ —this one is a lighter affair with a colourful cast and some much needed vacation porn in these times of quarantine.

Tilda Swinton plays world famous rockstar Marianne Lane who escapes to a Sicilian island for some R&R with her filmmaker lover Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts). The drama begins when their idyllic getaway is interrupted by boisterous music promoter and Marianne’s former lover Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes) who crashes their villa with his 22 year old daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson). This becomes the set-up for some great sexual tension in the vain of ‘Call Me By Your Name’ that can either lead to passionate affairs or violent deaths — or both?

Something Classic:

The King of Comedy — Martin Scorsese (1982)

For those of you who loved Todd Philip’s ‘The Joker’ last year and are curious about the two biggest influences on the film — they are Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976) and Scorsese’s ‘The King of Comedy’ (1982). Both are about delusional protagonist’s in the big city whose inner subjective realities are out of synch with the objective reality around them. Once the gap between these realities becomes too large they spiral out of control and end up having to resort to violence and crime.

Unlike Taxi Driver whose anti-hero Travis Perkins has a much more bleak world view. The King of Comedy’s protagonist Rupert Pupkin (DeNiro) is a likeable underdog with big dreams of being a comedian on TV. After a chance meeting with TV comedian Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis), his delusions take hold of him and give us a delightful satire on America’s obssession with fame and being on TV — it is wonderfully summed up by Pupkin when he says “better to be a king for a night then a schmuck for a lifetime”.

Wildcard:

Under the Skin — Jonathan Glazer (2013)

For those who loved ScarJo in JoJo Rabbit please check her out in this critically aclaimed sleeper hit by Jonathan Glazer. Set in Glasgow, ‘Under the Skin’ stars ScarJo as an alien in a human skin suit sent to earth to lure men into her dodgy van and harvest them for meat — no joke.

While the story sounds absurd, the film is truly something special with arguably ScarJo’s best performance in her career, a mesmerising soundtrack by Mica Levy and a profound study of the male gaze through the eyes of an alien experiencing what it means to be a women for the first time.

Indie Spotlight:

Colombus — Kogonada (2017)

For those of you who haven’t seen John Cho in a while (Harold from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle) then you’re in for a treat. In the last few years he has been shifting focus towards more serious roles and doing a great job at breaking down stereotypes and expanding the range of roles available for Asian Americans in Hollywood. Colombus is a great place to start but please please also check out ‘Searching’ (2018).

The film follows Jin (John Cho) as he returns from Korea to his hometown of Columbus, Indiana (a modernist architectural mecca) to be near his dying father (a famous architectural professor). There he strikes a friendship with Casey (Haley Lu Richardson, Edge of Seventeen), who gives a standout performance as a young architecture enthusiast taking care of her meth-addicted mother.

Visually the film pays homage to the great Yasujiro Ozu (covered extensively in the director’s video essays) through its long multi-layered passageway shots. It also makes great use of unobtrusive camerawork, using simple set ups with limited cutting, resulting in a slower pace that is more in tune with the natural rhythms of small town life.

Even if you aren’t a John Cho fan or haven’t heard of Ozu (in the latter case we need to talk…) then check out Columbus for the arresting architectural beauty in a forgotten part of middle america.

Catch it before it’s gone!

Snowpiercer — Bong Joon-Ho (2013)

The film is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi set in the near future where climate change results in a perma-freeze of the earth and all that remains of humanity is on a high speed train that never stops circumnavigating the icy planet.

The train is divided into various carriages comprising of a highly stratified social eco-system with the rich in the front led by the mysterious designer of the train Wilford and the poor labouring at the back in squalid sub-human conditions. Starring Chris Evans and John Hurt as leaders of a back carriage revolt and Parasite’s allstar Song Kang-ho (the father) as the only one who knows how to get to the front, Snowpiercer is a thrilling action film and like most Bong Joon-ho films a study of class conflict and human dignity.

Finally stay tuned as the film is being remade into a TV Series premiering in May!

Check out the trailer for the series below.