The Road vs. Into The Wild

The Road
Director: John Hillcoat
USA, 2009, 119mins, rated 15

Into The Wild
Director: Sean Pean
USA, 2007, 143mins, rated 15

Double bill screening at The Phoenix, 28 February 2010

In a departure from standard Flickerdrome practice (technically my remit is to review films released in UK cinemas since 1 January 2010 and – just in case you were wondering), I’m looking at The Road and Into The Wild together following a double bill screening of the two movies at the lovely Phoenix cinema in East Finchley. Although two very different films with two very different outlooks on life, they complement one another well as a double and have strong thematic similarities, notably: they’re both adaptations, both road movies (of sorts), both feature ‘the wilderness’ in central roles and both concern the relationship of father and son.


The Headless Woman (La Mujer Sin Cabeza)

Director: Lucrecia Martel
Argentina, 2008, 87mins, rated 12A
Screening: The Renoir, 20 February 2010

One of the real pleasures of art cinema is the likelihood of having your intelligence respected by a film-maker. Film’s such a powerful medium because of its myriad complexities and its ability to communicate on multiple cerebral and visceral levels. And yet it's depressing that so few film-makers seem to have the ability to connect with us through it. As the small number of film-makers with something to say – and the ability to say it – struggle to get their work noticed, a general mediocrity pulls us ever further down the river of shit, dulling our expectations as we gawp at the bleak surroundings. But then, thank bog, something like The Headless Woman comes along and reminds us how mesmerising the experience of cinema can be.

The third feature from Argentinean writer/director Lucrecia Martel, The Headless Woman is an enigmatic and sneakily unsettling study of suburban bourgeois life. Showing a real understanding of the subtleties of film-making – as well as a biting outlook on her country's class, race and gender issues – Martel has created a unique film with a narrative style that is testament to the power of engaging cinema. Reminiscent of some of the most thought-provoking films of the last decade (Haneke's Hidden and Lynch's Inland Empire sprang to mind) The Headless Woman generates an inimitable tension as it unfolds its story like a puzzle – grabbing your imagination and not letting go until it’s finished.


Up In The Air

Director: Jason Reitman
USA, 2009, 119mins, rated 15
Screening: The Phoenix, 6 February 2010

George Clooney portrays corporate America struggling to come to terms with the current recession and a new-found conscience in this flawed drama from director Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You For Not Smoking). Despite an engaging proposition and some strong central performances, the film-makers can't stave off some of the evil spectres of mainstream movie-making – sloppy writing and bad casting.

While it does pose some thought-provoking questions on the state of modern life, Up In The Air gradually descends into cliché and sentimentality with an inability to tie together these initially interesting ideas. It's worth seeing, but don't believe the hype – this is no modern day Frank Capra movie (despite Clooney's best efforts to emulate Cary Grant's everyman persona).