Archive for Carey Mulligan


Posted in Film with tags , , , on October 14, 2011 by alexlarman

Ah, Michael Fassbender. Currently enjoying something of a meteoric rise to fame, courtesy of eye-catching roles in everything from Inglourious Basterds to X-Men: First Class, he is on record as saying that he owes it all to Steve McQueen (the artist-turned-director, rather than the actor). His breakthrough role, as IRA prisoner Bobby Sands in McQueen’s directorial debut, Hunger, showed his remarkable versatility, as well as a desire to push boundaries and challenge audience’s expectations. Along the way, he’s been remarkably prolific, collaborating with the likes of Steven Soderbergh, David Cronenberg and Ridley Scott, and attracting a great deal of tabloid attention due to what’s been rumoured to be a turbulent love life.

Following on from his appearances as Rochester in Jane Eyre and Magneto in X-Men, Fassbender now essays his third role in a year as a charismatic, magnetic figure with troubling secrets and a dark past. As Brandon, he plays an apparently successful, affluent man who is beset by crippling sex addiction, manifesting itself in near-constant sex with prostitutes and casual flings, a heroic amount of pornography, incessant masturbating at work and an apparent desire to be in continual carnal congress. When his troubled sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) unexpectedly comes to stay, it sends him into overdrive, the only result of which is further degradation and self-loathing. Hence the title.

It’s all strongly reminiscent of American Psycho, as the protagonist’s division between his corporate life and his innermost desires comes to dominate him entirely. However, with one notable exception, the emphasis here is on sex rather than violence, with Fassbender’s face contorted in silent screams of despair reminiscent of Bacon’s paintings. It’s not an erotic film to watch, but it’s weirdly fascinating to see the various acts of fucking (and there is no other word for it) shown in such unflinching detail. I imagine it’ll be passed uncut as an 18 in the UK but some of the more outré material, including a threesome towards an end, will no doubt give the American censors, amongst others, headaches.

McQueen, directing from a screenplay by himself and Abi Morgan, prefers to keep the storytelling almost entirely visual, which works splendidly. Favouring long takes allows time for the performances to develop at their own pace, whether it’s Fassbender’s brooding protagonist, occasionally erupting in terrifying moments of verbal violence, or Mulligan’s sad, touching portrayal of an obviously damaged woman whose relationship with her brother may, or may not, have been rather too close for comfort in the past. Filmed in a New York utterly stripped of glamour, it’s tragic in the Aristotelian sense, with Brandon’s plight evoking both pity and terror. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s an extremely accomplished sophomore feature, and one looks forward eagerly to more collaborations between Fassbender and McQueen.




Posted in Film with tags , , , , on September 20, 2011 by alexlarman

Nicholas Winding Refn ought to be known to any serious cineaste for his barking mad, but quite brilliant, biopic of Charles Bronson, the eponymous Bronson. A strange, heady combination of Kubrickian poise and coldness with a subversive strain of very British humour, it attracted some disbelievingly bad reviews, but has now been acclaimed as something of a minor classic, kickstarting Tom Hardy’s impressive career in the process. Now, his new film Drive comes heralded with all manner of superlatives, not least the prestigious Best Director award at Cannes. Can (sic) it live up to the hype?

Thankfully, the answer is yes. Winding Refn, screenwriter Hossein Amini and an excellent cast all manage to turn what might have been a disposable B-movie into something weirder and more affecting, creating a netherworld where slightly bruised romanticism and extreme violence co-exist unhappily. The unnamed Driver (Ryan Gosling) moonlights as both a film stunt driver and a getaway man, giving his passengers exactly five minutes of his time and considerable expertise. A solitary man, with only his manager/cohort Shannon (Bryan Cranston) to offer him friendship, he unexpectedly warms to his neighbour, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son, which sees him getting mixed up with her ex-jailbird husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) and some very, very bad men (Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman). Of course, things go awry.

Drive’s 18 certificate was awarded for ‘strong gory violence’, and this isn’t an exaggeration. The sheer level of carnage onscreen is impressively horrific, putting most splatter films to shame. An already legendary scene in a lift features the most violently staged bit of violence to a skull since Irreversible. What’s surprising is that it’s a very long time until the action really kicks in, with Winding Refn apparently content just to observe the still, quiet relationship between Irene and Driver. He’s helped by the excellence of the performances from Mulligan and Gosling, the former impressively vulnerable and delicate, the latter quite perfect in probably his best appearance to date. They’re helped by a superb supporting cast, where everyone has their moment to shine, even if they die horribly shortly afterwards. The stand-out, as is being widely reported, is comedian Albert Brooks’ chilling appearance as mobster Bernie, an apparently reasonable and sane man who is prone to horrendous outbreaks of nastiness when he is called to.

The film’s feel is deliberately retro, with 80s songs and Cliff Martinez’ synth-driven song driving the action in much the same way that an unholy mix of Wagner and the Pet Shop Boys fuelled Bronson. You would also hesitate to describe it as a conventional action film; the sole ‘normal’ car chase halfway through, while impressively mounted, feels almost airless, as if there’s nothing really at stake. But what it does do is to have a uniquely tense atmosphere, at times more like a horror film than a thriller, where the only thing redeeming any of these characters is their ability to love. And so, for all the forks stabbed into faces and moments of extreme brutality in lifts, the overall effect is of a surprising delicacy. Gosling and Winding Refn, who apparently hit it off exceptionally well during the course of the film’s production, are planning on collaborating again imminently, and on this basis it’s very exciting to see what they’re going to come up with next.