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Lynne Ramsay (#110 of 14)

Dubai International Film Festival 2017 A Gentle Creature, You Were Never Really Here, The Message, & More

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Dubai International Film Festival 2017: A Gentle Creature, You Were Never Really Here, The Message, & More

Wild Bunch

Dubai International Film Festival 2017: A Gentle Creature, You Were Never Really Here, The Message, & More

Even if this paradox applies to a great many film festivals, the notion of flying halfway across the planet to sit in a dark room and watch movies is especially pronounced in Dubai, where little is more than a few decades old, island formations are exploded to resemble Qu’ranic verses, and office buildings look like spaceships retired into the ground at 90-degree angles.

On December 6, a short drive from the canyons of high-rises making up the city-state’s turbocapitalist business district, elites and journalists assembled at the Souk Madinat—a beachside network of malls, restaurants, and luxury hotels connected by artificial seawater canals—for the opening night of the 14th Dubai International Film Festival. Tributes were tendered first to both Patrick Stewart and Cate Blanchett before the kickoff of Scott Cooper’s Hostiles, about a bigoted U.S. cavalry officer (Christian Bale) tasked with escorting a Cheyenne war chief named Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) from New Mexico to his original territory in Montana.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here

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Cannes Film Review: You Were Never Really Here

Amazon Studios

Cannes Film Review: You Were Never Really Here

In the six years since her last feature, We Need to Talk About Kevin, which also premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, Lynne Ramsay seems to have come very close to figuring out a mode of experimental but psychologically lucid filmmaking that almost completely eluded her before. You Were Never Really Here, adapted from a Jonathan Ames novella of the same name, is every bit as oblique as its lengthy title makes it sound. It’s a character study conducted primarily through an aesthetic vision: Heavy-for-hire Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) stumbles through his daily existence in an expressionistic haze of prescription drugs and disturbed memories, his mind flashing on images of childhood abuse and former lives as a military soldier and an F.B.I. agent.

Tribeca Film Festival 2013 Steph Green’s Run & Jump

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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Run & Jump
Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Run & Jump

Born in the U.S., but now dividing her time between Los Angeles and Dublin, director Steph Green was nominated for an Oscar in 2009 for her short film New Boy, a sensitive portrait of a young African lad struggling to settle into a new school in Ireland. The theme of coming to terms with a dramatic life change is once again central in her confident, boldly stylized feature debut Run & Jump.

Set in a picturesque Irish town, the film begins with the return to the family stead of Conor (Edward MacLiam), a 38-year-old carpenter and father of two who’s suffered a damaging stroke, leaving him severely mentally restricted. In response, his spirited wife, Vanetia (Maxine Peake), has brought an American neurophysiologist, Ted Fielding (Will Forte), into the household to observe Conor’s condition and interaction with the family for two months. Welcomed with curious fascination by Vanetia and the children, but greeted with some suspicion by Conor’s extended family, Ted soon finds himself becoming inextricably woven into the family in ways he hadn’t imagined. The unusual, shifting dynamic of the triangulated central relationship makes the film constantly engaging on a narrative level, with Green using the inherent awkwardness of the situation to locate nuanced, character-based humor rather than externally imposing it on the drama.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions Adapted Screenplay

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Adapted Screenplay
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Adapted Screenplay

It’s both unfair and too easy to shake out predictions for this category based on what is most likely to appeal to the Kindle Fire set. But with Harvey Weinstein’s apparent disinterest in backing his own Coriolanus for anything taking out the only viable candidate in Olde English, this category is left without its usually stuffy literary pedigree. So be it. The plot points of Peter Straughan and Bridget O’Connor’s adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy are complicated and abstract enough to count as an organizational form of iambic pentameter. Though any Oscar voter who hasn’t read John le Carré’s book is likely to come away from the movie with more questions than answers, the script’s economy (by necessity, mostly) won’t be ignored. Similarly, the efforts of Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian (both previous winners) to make baseball statisticians’ math-jizzing sound as clever as the pentateuch of Saint Benjamin Hecht will be regarded by fellow writers as the screenwriters’ equivalent of striking paydirt with a Tumblr blog showcasing stock photos of smiling women eating salad.

Sick Joke: We Need to Talk About Kevin

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Sick Joke: <em>We Need to Talk About Kevin</em>
Sick Joke: <em>We Need to Talk About Kevin</em>

[We Need to Talk About Kevin opens today in New York and L.A.]

Forget The Great Ectasy of Robert Carmichael (2005)—this year, Lynne Ramsay puts the art-house crowd though a titillating wringer in her contraption-like parental-dread thriller, We Need to Talk About Kevin. Centered upon a diabolical child not unlike the psycho-tots seen in The Omen (1976) and The Good Son (1993), the carefully disjointed narrative sets out to make you experience the visceral horror Rosemary must have felt after she spawned baby Satan and the end-credits rolled on Roman Polanski’s sick-joke masterpiece.

Poster Lab: We Need to Talk About Kevin

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Poster Lab: <em>We Need to Talk About Kevin</em>
Poster Lab: <em>We Need to Talk About Kevin</em>

The promotion of Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin has been all over the map, not just in the sense that at least four studios are handling portions of the film’s international release (Oscilloscope is distributing stateside), but also in terms of the wide, eclectic range of posters that’s trickled out over the last several months. An eccentric vision of a Columbine-esque story about a mother straining to understand her son before and after he massacres his high school peers, the movie isn’t the easiest to market, and the posters confirm as much, suggesting that a whole host of designers took cracks at conveying themes of intense angst and maternal turmoil. The variations have included a ghostly black and white expression of the mother as abandoned conscience, a sepia-toned image of mother and son when rebellion takes root, a garish green and purple quad that’s all hard-rock-blaring-in-the-bedroom rage, and a typical union of headshots and generic text.

The most successful poster is one that communicates a kind of gorgeous misery, which, given Ramsay’s presumed approach, also makes it the most appropriate. Whereas the prior images opted for varying degrees of horror, this rain-pelted one sheet gently highlights humbling devastation, and rather than eclipsing the mother, vividly isolates her and ushers her to the forefront. A single, deeply impactful tear is the poster’s focal point, its long trail on Tilda Swinton’s cheek beautifully and subtly differentiating it from the surrounding raindrops. It’s a bit of private torment amid an unforgiving deluge, and that it’s such a quiet, near-anonymous gesture is a pity in itself. Seemingly simple, the whole water effect does wonders for the poster’s overall look. Aside from ably emphasizing gloom, the play on the droplets imprisons Swinton’s character in what must indeed feel like a haze of filtered reality, with the world seen through a foggy, speckled lens of unanswered questions. Most brilliantly, the drops create a certain cracked quality that elevates the design to the level of high, Renaissance-style art, as if Swinton were a long lost model for Vermeer.