FILM OF THE WEEK: Martha Marcy May Marlene
Wednesday December 10, Film4 10:40pm
Martha Marcy May Marlene: so good they named her four times? Well, perhaps not quite that good, but this is still a pretty striking debut feature from director/screenwriter Sean Durkin. It’s made all the more memorable by the performance of another debutant, Elisabeth Olsen, who was once known more prominently as the sister of US celebrity twins Ashley and Mary-Kate, but know commands far higher artistic integrity than her siblings
Olsen plays the film’s eponymous enigma, first seen running away with some urgency from an unremarkable-looking home somewhere in rural upstate New York. Picked up and taken to apparent safety by an elder sister she hasn’t seen for over a year, it quickly becomes apparent that something wasn’t altogether right with the life Martha had been living for the previous 12 months.
As a series of flashbacks reveals more and more information about that period, a growing sense of paranoia washes off the screen and onto the viewer. Durkin often places his subjects in the corner of the frame, stood behind large glass windows or doors through which you constantly expect something or someone threatening to appear. Cumulatively, the effect is far more chilling than a hundred ‘boo’ moments from standard shockers.
Is the threat of Martha’s past coming crashing into her present real or implied? To reveal much more would almost certainly spoil the film, but stick with it and you’ll witness one of the most subtle (non-supernatural) horror films this century has yet produced. If the final scene doesn’t have you spitting feathers, its psychological impact will take several days to shake off.
SET THE RECORDER FOR:
Tuesday December 9, Film4, 7pm
While it doesn’t have the tenderness that underscores similar wuxia martial arts films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers, Hero is still a sweeping epic worthy of the name. Its sheer beauty is undeniable, while its spectacle is at times simply breathtaking. For some, director Zhang Yimou’s fable of China’s unification is a little too pro-totalitarian state. But western audiences are unlikely to view Hero as propaganda, preferring instead to marvel as Jet Li and the rest of its cast dazzle us with grace and athleticism.
Dead Poets Society
Friday December 12, BBC2, 11:35pm
As 2014 draws to a close, it will be remembered by movie fans around the world as the year we said goodbye soon to the lightning talent that was Robin Williams. Thankfully then, BBC Two have given us the opportunity to re-visit one of his most beloved films. And if you want more Williams memories to savour, tune into Film4 from 9pm on Sunday for Good Will Hunting followed by Good Morning, Vietnam.
Friday December 12, Channel 4, 11:40pm
Think of some of cinema’s greatest travelling companions, and you might recall Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Thelma and Lousie or even Bill and Ted. In Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers, dysfunctional couple Chris and Tina could bring a similar silver screen razzmatazz to the UK caravanning scene, except they turn out to be more a Black Country Bonnie and Clyde than anything resembling the sort of people you’d want to share a pork pie with whilst ascending the M1. A wickedly offbeat black comedy, Sightseers is essential viewing for anyone who’s ever felt enraged by the Daily Mail-infused mundanity of Middle England.
Follow Nick Norton on Twitter @OnlyForKoolKids