PFF27: The Favourite, Orson Welles, Knife + Heart
The Favourite (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
I’m not sure I ever expected Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) to make a “period costume drama” but The Favourite balances those expectations with the Grecian director’s canted sensibilities. The film concerns a relationship between Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) that evolves into a power/love triangle with the arrival of Abigail (Emma Stone). A former lady who has lost her place in society, Abigail is willing to push the limits of her dignity and morals in order to feel safe and secure in her place in society. As the film goes on, the Queen, Sarah, and Abigail play chess on all levels, mixing politics, love, and personal gain until none of them can trust the others.
All three of these actresses give amazing performances, and are given the room to capture the various sides of these women, layers being added or stripped away as the film goes on. The Favourite is a view into female power in a world where traditionally they have none, a secret world hidden from the men at all but the surface. Lanthimos has a lot of fun with lenses in the film, giving us distorted and unusual views of the typical costume drama staples like opulent bedrooms and long hallways. I can’t wait to see this one again and find even more to like about it.
The Favourite is also playing next Saturday, October 27 at 2:50PM at the Philadelphia Film Center. Tickets and info.
The Other Side of the Wind (dir. Orson Welles) // They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (dir. Morgan Neville)
I promised myself I wouldn’t talk again about Netflix and their distribution model, but with them releasing so many great films, they deserve to be seen theatrically. Like Okja, I am so glad I was able to see The Other Side of the Wind, Orson Welles final film, finally completed, on a big screen.
The film is stunning. I didn’t quite feel that way immediately while watching it, but the more I think on the film, the more I love it. Ahead of its time, the majority of The Other Side of the Wind is a mockumentary about an aging film director (John Huston) being thrown a lavish 70th birthday at his ranch to coincide with his near complete new film The Other Side of the Wind. The party seems to be more reporters, hangers-on, and other directors than close friends, though there are a few, including the director’s protege (Peter Bogdanovich). The film’s conceit is that it is assembled from footage taken by these people at the party, like a reconstruction of the night based on found footage. Conceptually ahead of its time, it is a fascinating technique that at times is dizzying but often more coherent than expected.
As explained by the companion documentary, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, many of these characters are composites or direct analogues. Though I do not possess the knowledge of 1970s Hollywood to make all those connections myself, the film works regardless. And the film within the film is a stunning parody of ‘European art films’ that involves a man following a woman around landscapes which call out for meaning but remain open to interpretation. What unites the entire piece is not only a wicked thumb into the eye of cinema, but the way Welles’ cameras and edits prefer to evoke the way the eye is drawn to images rather than a strictly cinematic sense.
Sadly, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead does not get into what Welles was aiming for on a technical level, nor the exact details about The Other Side of the Wind. But even without those pieces (which I would very much like to see), the documentary is a great overview for a Welles novice.
The Other Side of the Wind and They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead both come to Netflix on November 2nd. They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead also plays the Philadelphia Film Festival on Friday, October 26 at noon. Tickets and info.
Knife + Heart (dir. Yann Gonzalez)
This truly feels like a lost film from the late 1970s or early 1980s. A slasher stalks a gay pornography studio and all of the obvious implications that go along with that occur. In 2018 the subtext can just be text, bobbing heads and literally phallic knives and all. But Gonzalez is having fun with the throwback aesthetic, and everything being done with a wink and a nod makes this an easy late night recommendation.