The largest film festival in the UK has finally drawn to a close, and we have unearthed nearly 40 dirty gems exclusively for you. They are guaranteed to keep your film schedule busy for the next 12 months or so. Just make sure you follow us on Twitter or Facebook for the latest updates, theatrical releases and of course… the dirtiest thoughts on what’s happening in the cinema world in the UK and elsewhere.
Andrey Zvyagentsyev’s tender and yet extremely disturbing drama Loveless has just snatched the top prize at the BFI London Film Festival. Our editor Victor Fraga thought that the film was an allegory of modern Russia, a country that does not look after its own children. His previous films The Return (2003) and Leviathan (2014) achieve a similarly bleak result, although the use the subjects of corruption and of fatherhood (respectively) in order to do so.
We soon realised that a number of films released in 2017 painted a very strange portrait of motherhood, even if their language was entirely different and so were their objectives. There were bloodthirsty unborn babies in at least two films, two stolen children and plenty of comparisons to Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968). What connects all of these films is an unusual pregnancy and a very unorthodox motherly bond. You might want to avoid this list in case you are feeling a little broody this year!
Don’t forget to click on the film titles in order to accede to its respective dirty review.
Mother Russia has failed it children. It has neglected and relegated them to a life without hope and love. The latest movie by Andrey Zvyagintsev, possibly the biggest exponent in Russia cinema right now, is a bleak allegory of life in Russia. People carry on with their existences in a robotic and dehumanised fashion, without any regard for their neighbours, family and other citizens. Not even their own offspring. Yet, who’s to blame them? They are too busy searching for a purpose and a solution for their very own loveless predicament.
And Zhenya’s description of motherhood and hate for her own son is shocking. She despises him for nearly cleaving her in twain at birth, and she simply cannot stand his very sight. It is no exaggeration to claim that Loveless is a metaphor of a failed Mother Russia. Andrey Zvyagintsev has dotted the film with political reports coming from the radio, conveniently reminding viewers that our private life is an extension of the public sphere.
Maverick visionary Aronofsky’s psychological horror has a spoonful of Polanski, a dash of Hitchcock, a pinch of Kubrick and even a squeeze of Ken Russell, all topped with a sterling cast. His house burned up in a fire. Then he (Javier Bardem) found her (Jennifer Lawrence) and as he began to rebuild his life, so she began to rebuild the house. Her work is well on its way to completion. Outside the house lie tranquil, golden fields. He is an acclaimed poet and hasn’t written anything for a long time. The couple live in an hermetic bubble. At least she does.
The film divides neatly into three acts which could be labelled: home building, pregnancy, motherhood. Yet each section follows roughly the same path: her idyllic existence is upset as more and more people arrive and she becomes more and more agitated. This very creative cinematic experiment has been very divisive: many simply loved it, and others found it entirely pointless.
3. Prevenge (Alice Lowe):
The female experience of pregnancy in film is something not known for its jovial depictions. Simply viewing Rosemary Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968) one can see that child bearing is a painful endeavour, regardless of whether it’s the Devil’s child or not. Akin to Polanski’s film, Alice Lowe’s directorial and writing debut uses the horror genre as a vice to explore femininity and isolation. Unlike numerous egotistical star driven directorial debuts, Prevenge is a strange concoction of the slasher horror and comedy – making for a truly original recipe of British independent filmmaking.
Notably Lowe’s breakout performance came in Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers (2012) and her comic chops are again discovered in her debut. Yet, behind this comedic veneer, the film revels in its sadistic presentations of gore. Although not overt in its comedic tone, the film and Lowe’s performance are highly deadpan. Comparable to the films of Wheatley, Lowe’s debut is chilling and ruthless in its execution (no pun intended).
Surprisingly filmed over a tight 11-day schedule, Prevenge does not fail on its innovative title and narrative. Its focus on femininity and pregnancy’s isolation are relatively untested waters when it comes British cinema.
A mother (Diana Agostini), who was previously an eye surgeon in Portugal, lives with her husband and their young daughter Francisca (Kika Magalhães) in a secluded farm somewhere in the remote American countryside. She gives her daughter anatomy lessons from a very young age, probably unaware that Francisca would soon use her acquired skills in the most unorthodox ways imaginable. One day an intruder named Charlie breaks into their house and kills her mother, but the criminal is soon subdued and becomes a prisoner and guinea pig for the little girl’s morbid experiments. Francisca soon grows up, and the intensity of the anatomic and psychological escalates to the highest level imaginable, as she recruits new victims to submit to her sadistic ordeals.
The Eyes of my Mother skillfully blends interrupted motherhood (twice, but you must watch the film in order to understand why), female psychosis, isolation and religion in one big pan. The sharp black and white photography renders the grueling scenes more watchable and gives the film an eerie veneer, in a way similar to Hitchcock Psycho(1960) – the director opted for black and white because he wanted to spare audiences from the violence of the colour red in the famous shower sequence.
This dirtylicious Brazilian horror also premiered during the BFI London Film Festival.
It starts out as an awkward domestic drama, as the gorgeous, upper-class, white and pregnant Ana (Marjorie Estiano) hires the black babysitter Clara (Isabél Zuaa). At first, Ana is reluctant to take Clara on board because she lacks credentials: she did not finish nursing school and she has never looked after babies. To boot, one of her referees doesn’t quite sing her praises. Yet, there is something soothing and comforting about the very beautiful and polite stranger. The Black Portuguese actress (Zuaa was born in Lisbon, yet she has a perfect Brazilian accent in the movie) exudes charm, talent and charisma, and I have absolutely no doubt that she has a bright future ahead.
The subject of interrupted motherhood and isolation from society become central to the story, which takes a very unexpected twist roughly in the middle of the 127-minute narrative. Good Manners then incorporates easily recognisable devices from a number of horror films, such as Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968), Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979), Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981) and the more recent French cannibal flick Raw (Julia Ducournau, 2017). Oh, and there is a giant creature that looks a lot like a meerkat. Derivative elements are deftly combined in order to create a film with a singular identity, extraordinarily original in its format. Violence here acquires a fantastic dimension. Blood isn’t repulsive; it’s instead the ultimate maternal link. Meet is not murder.