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CINEMA Film round-up

VAN CONNOR and MARIA DUARTE review Saint Maud, Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint, Two/One and Kajillionaire

Saint Maud (15)
Directed by Rose Glass
★★★★★

BRITISH writer-director Rose Glass makes a thundering feature debut with the much anticipated and Covid-delayed chiller Saint Maud.

A deeply unsettling and skilfully crafted film, melding the religious tropes of William Friedkin with the terrifying serenity of Ari Aster and the body-horror creds of David Cronenberg, shocking barely begins to cover it.

Rising star Morfydd Clark, who's making quite the name for herself with choice projects such as The Personal History of David Copperfield and last week’s Eternal Beauty, takes centre stage as the titular nurse, whose obsessive pursuit of the spiritual salvation of a hospice patient (Jennifer Ehle) drives her to the very precipice of insanity and beyond.

Ehle is utterly captivating in a role that runs the gamut as Maud’s patient, proselyte and even would-be tormentor, but there’s no denying the star power shared here between Clark and the director.

Glass masterfully entices her audience into Maud’s increasingly scarred psyche through towering imagery, rife with overpowering and dread-inspiring symbolism. In turn, Clark displays a disarming vulnerability that heightens the confluence of piousness and paranoia rising intensely throughout.

Through all of it, though, it’s to the film’s credit that it remains careful to depict Maud as equal parts hero and villain, with Ehle’s morally vacillating antagonist helpfully tipping the balance as needed.

It’s the horror flick of 2020, a belter of a first-time feature and one that will terrify, disturb, and — most importantly — stay with you long after its rapturous closing reel.

Van Connor

Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint
Directed by Halina Dyrschka
★★★★

IF YOU are wondering who Hilma af Klint was, you are sadly not alone because this trailblazing female artist isn't mentioned in any art-history books despite being the first-ever abstract painter, before the term was even invented.

Halina Dyrschka's in-depth and revelatory documentary aims to right this wrong through analysis and interviews with art historians, critics, artists and surviving relatives, seamlessly interwoven with images of her bold and vibrant paintings.

It outlines both her life and work and why she was ignored and dismissed for decades by a patriarchal old boys' club.

In the film she is likened to Leonardo Da Vinci, for she was both an artist and a research scientist in the field of images.

She tried to dissolve the boundaries of reality by going beyond the visible and, inspired by spiritualism, modern science and the natural world, in 1906 she began to produce large, sensual and colourful yet odd-looking paintings

When she died her nephew inherited 11,500 paintings and notebooks with over 26,000 pages containing instructions as to which ones should be released 20 years after her death.

A visual celebration of her surreal work, the film is a wonderful opportunity to examine it at close hand. It features a fascinating montage of her paintings, side by side with those by leading abstract painters which look very similar to hers, including Andy Warhol's famous 1960 Marilyn Monroe pop-art portraits.

As the film suggests, it is time for art history to be rewritten and for this pioneering and controversial abstract artist to take her rightful place.

MARIA DUARTE

Two/One (tbc)
Directed by Juan Cabral
★★

A CRUSHINGLY dull exercise in style over substance, this first-time feature by Argentinian commercial director Juan Cabral speaks immeasurably to his only known work to date — Cadbury’s Dairy Milk’s “gorilla” ad — in that it hinges itself entirely on surface-level glamour, with no deeper coherent meaning in sight.

In it, up-and-coming Boyd Holbrook plays Kaden opposite Yang Song (Khai) — two men who are separated by the length of the world and who live contrasting lives. Kaden is a professional skier looking to vacate the profession while Song, in the aspiring executive elite, looks for nothing more.

Cabral’s film depicts the pair through differing periods of consciousness — while Kaden drifts off to sleep, Khai awakens. Are the pair directly connected? Has one gone the way of the Fight Club's Tyler Durden? Will you care? Dunno, dunno and no might be your respective answers.

Cabral unquestionably brings an impressive stylistic and visual flair to the tale, while both Holbrook and Song are clearly swinging from the thespian rafters with as much understatement as they can muster.

It’s a frustratingly unclear and indeterminate concept, however, that at its core never quite comes together enough to warrant mustering any engagement or enthusiasm toward it.

Those willing to tread this particularly pompous and needlessly ambiguous path can at least look forward to something aesthetically pleasing, thanks to sterling work by Eyes Wide Shut cinematographer Larry Smith.

If, though, you’re looking for great storytelling or gripping drama, you’d fare better taking your chances on that Cadbury advert, with a soundtrack by Phil Collins and the gorilla on YouTube.

VC

Kajillionaire (12A) 250
Directed by Miranda July
★★★★

THIS uniquely refreshing yet totally bizarre crime caper centres around a truly eclectic family of grifters who are forever planning their next scam.

Devoid of any feelings, 26-year-old Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) is the third spoke in her con-artist parents' wheel. They (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger), who have been training her since birth to assist them, get her to dress up in copious disguises appropriate to each con.

They don't do sentimentality or showing signs of affection, as that seems “phony,” and their idea of parenting has always been to treat her like an adult. Yet, deep down, Old Dolio is craving their love and approval.

But their close-knit bubble is burst when they let in a complete stranger, the effervescent and uber-chatty Melanie (a fantastic Gina Rodriguez), into their next insurance scam, with surprising results.

While Old Dolio and her parents seem as if they have stepped out of a Wes Anderson film, Melanie is the voice of reason and grounds the action in the real world.

Acclaimed writer-director Miranda July delivers a surreal yet deadpan-funny comedy drama with another blinding performance from Wood and delightfully quirky and memorable turns from Jenkins and Winger.

But it is when Rodriguez appears on the scene that the fireworks begin and the film moves up a gear.

With its unexpected ending, this is a veritable gem.

MD

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