British Week-ends

С 29 января 2016


Леди в фургоне
Lady In The Van

Director: Nicholas Hytner
Cast: Maggie Smith, Dominic Cooper, James Corden

Acting legend Maggie Smith, who was talking about retiring not long ago, may well rack up her seventh Oscar nomination at the age of 80 — she already has two statuettes on her mantel — for her tour de force as a smelly and cantankerous old British bag lady in The Lady in the Van. She brilliantly re-creates her stage role in Alan Bennett’s autobiographical play about Miss Shepherd, a dotty and stubborn former nun who says the Virgin Mary advised her to park her overstuffed van in the playwright’s unused driveway in 1974.

The Lady in the Van is a highly entertaining film if you can get behind its meta-conceit of Alex Jennings playing two versions of Alan Bennett — the one who lives and the one who writes — who constantly debate what to do about Miss Shepherd, who smells of urine, faeces, wet newspapers, onions and talcum powder. They also discuss a play about Miss Shepherd — and exactly how closely it should stick to the facts — and whether to include Bennett’s mother, who is in a nursing home with dementia.

As the years roll on, Bennett learns to appreciate Miss Shepherd’s decrepit grandeur, and the two form an unlikely bond even as she continues to order him around without a single “thank you.’’ As illness overtakes her, Bennett is obliged to dig into Miss Shepherd’s colourful past, including a stint as a concert pianist.

Directed by Bennett’s frequent collaborator Nicholas Hytner (The History Boys’), The Lady in the Van’ is stuffed with cameos by famous British actors (including Jim Broadbent, Roger Allam, Frances de la Tour and “The Late Late Show’’ host James Corden) and features a far too whimsical miasma of special effects at the end. But it’s mostly a valedictory lap for Maggie Smith, who hopefully will go on forever.



The Lobster

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Leah Seydoux, Ben Wishaw, John C. Reily, Olivia Colman
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos is famous for his unique tone as a filmmaker. Pitched somewhere between Luis Bunuel and Larry David, his style combines small behavioural comedy and twisted surrealism with darkly cynical edge. The Lobster, the director’s first film in English, is as nutty and insightful and entertaining as anything he’s ever made.

Colin Farrell stars as a recently single man in a world that’s outlawed living alone. Singles are rounded up and sent to a hotel run by Olivia Coleman who explains the benefits of finding a spouse through a variety of weird techniques. Predictably, everyone is hopelessly awkward and seeks out a mate based purely on a single shared trait or flaw. Unable to even talk his way to success with any of the available women, Farrell forms friendships with a lisping John C. Reilly and a limping Ben Whishaw. But the catch is: anyone who doesn’t find a mate at the hotel after 45 days will be turned into an animal and set free.

Eventually Farrell escapes and ends up in the woods with a gang of single outlaws led by Lea Seydoux. They all live in the woods and share a sense of community bonded through electronic music. It’s here that Rachel Weisz’s previously unseen narrator is finally introduced in the flesh. Since she is near-sighted like Farrell, they instantly fall for each other even though they need to keep their affair a secret from the other singles.

The Lobster is a pretty brilliant satire of society’s obsession with coupling, exaggerated to surreal lengths while still hitting moments that feel frightfully real. Lanthimos and his cast find just the right balance between the comedic, surreal, and dramatic potential of the concept, with seemingly every scene see-sawing from one tone to the next in a way that keeps viewers constantly off balance. Farrell plays painfully awkward surprisingly well (with lots of help from his moustache), while Reilly is so good that it’s a shame he doesn’t have a larger part. Lanthimos’ camera holds back from an objective distance throughout, allowing the actors to play out scenes as if there’s an invisible wall between them, preventing anything that even resembles warm human contact from occurring.

Overall, The Lobster is a wonderfully weird experience with surprisingly emotional heft, a masterpiece of bleakly comedic absurdism.





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Saint Petersburg

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