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Entries in Carey Mulligan (65)

Sunday
Sep182011

Review: The Self Possession of "Drive"

There's 100,000 streets. You don't need to know the route."

The Driver is alone in a hotel room. Looking out over the city at night, negotiating on a cel phone he'll abandon immediately. We never learn his name. We don't need to know it.

His face is Ryan Gosling's, but even so it's a less familiar landscape than you'd think. With Drive, the actor erases any doubts (were there any?) that he's the most exciting young movie star on this side of the Atlantic. For the driver, his face has taken on a new mask-like stillness which twice in Nicolas Winding Refn's brilliant new movie, is covered (redundantly) by an actual mask. There is no knowing this driver; if we were given his name we'd forget it anyway or doubt its authenticity. Even the underscore, a brilliantly retro synth score, that memorably features Kavinksy's "Nightcall" just as we're being introduced keeps us at a certain remove, a hypnotized female voice singing "There's something inside you. It's hard to explain." Indeed.

To summarize the plot of Drive would immediately reduce it to a standard nihilistic noir or crime drama. If you must know -- though I hope you've already seen it because it's best seen cold without knowing the following details -- the driver is a stunt driver for the movies and also a mechanic and also quite willing to be your getaway for crimes. He won't ask questions and you shouldn't either. He just drives. His mechanic boss Shannon (Bryan Cranston, excellent) and his quiet neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan, excellent) and her child Benico (Kaden Leos, also excellent... you'll be sensing a trend here) are the three people in his life that he seems to care for, despite his dangerously self-possessed aura. In the course of Drive, this walking loner archetype is gradually humanized whether through narrative emotional connections or performance choices. Both the neighbor and the boss have troubled histories including people who are Trouble and the driver's very tight social circle is soon forcibly opened by crowbars, shotguns and handshakes. The cast expands to include a wealthy investor/criminal Bernie (Albert Brooks... seeking Oscar), his mouthy colleague Nino (Ron Perlman, delighted to show off) a lesser criminal Cook (James Biberi) and his associate Blanche (Christina Hendricks, memorably put-out in stilettos), and Irene's ex-con husband with the perfect name of "Standard" (Oscar Isaac, just terrific). Needless to say, shit goes down both in and out of cars. Very violent, exquisitely directed shit goes down. 

To Refn and Gosling's credit, the unknowable driver doesn't stay a mere Embodiment of Something (like, say, Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men) which helps the movie immeasurably. The few times the driver's humanity peaks through, his voice trembling, a flash of fear across his face, or even a moment of tenderness are genuinely unnerving; the untouchable man is touched. Even the stoic loner, who loves only driving and barely speaks, can't escape the violent messy pull of humanity. His choice to dehumanize again, donning the mask a second time, is a genuinely frightening image that I haven't been able to shake since seeing the movie. 

Drive is one of those movies. It makes you think in and of its images. I generally take notes when I watch films though I can't always understand them afterwards, the danger of scribbling in the dark. My notes for Drive... are strange. The standard illegible chicken scratches appear but there are also crude images scribbled in, attempts to capture the movies indelibe compositions, use of color and general mise-en-scene. (I've recreated two of them here for you since my scanner is broken).

I'm not sure why i wrote red all over this one. Stills show that it's more orange.

Drive is just one of those movies, the kind that unfold with such individuality and confidence and sense of possibility that you can almost imagine the celluloid standing up and strutting right past you, knowing full well you're going to turn and look. Yeah, I'm hot shit, it might say, if it weren't so emphatically the strong and silent type. One could argue, as I did with myself on second viewing, that the movie does boast about its own coolness in just this way and too often. If there's something to be said against Drive beyond its nasty nihilism (the extent of the violence is... uneccessary) it's just that. The movie stops in its track a few times and whether or not you're hypnotized (I was absolutely) it's clearly showing off. Let's just say that Nicolas Winding Refn is the most exciting Mad Dane to arrive in the movies since Lars von Trier... and knows it, too.

Though Drive's initial retro impression with the synth score, glistening cityscapes and practically neon hot pink titles immediately is that it's paying homage to the 1980s and Michael Mann, Drive very quickly becomes only its own memorable self. But because it's so emphatically a movie, so possessed by the motion in its pictures  --even its frozen tableaus are alive with suggested movement, promised ugly futures you fear you'll lunge towards without warning -- it can't help but recall the great tradition of cinema's coolest movies.  Leaving the movie the first time (I've already seen it twice) I thought most of Pulp Fiction. Not Pulp Fiction as we know it now -- annoyingly replicated never duplicated -- but Pulp Fiction back when it first took the world by storm; they aren't much alike but for that blast of intoxicating fresh air in the theater. A/A-

Recommended Further Reading
The Film Experience - "People Will Love It Ten Years From Now"
Nick's Flick Picks - a coiled python
Serious Film -"atmosphere. neon glow and moments that hang in the air..."
My New Plaid Pants "Chrissy Hendricks, Stiletto Wobbler
In Contention "the finest layer of B-movie grime that time and money can buy

Have you seen Drive? If so do sound off in the comments. 

Monday
Sep052011

Venice: "Shame" Is a Masterpiece

My favourite movie of the Venice Film Festival was undoubtedly, Shame by British video-artist Steve McQueen, which screened yesterday and met with universal acclaim. A desperate, gloomy tale of sex-addiction, urban-desolation and self-mortification, Shame is directed with such powerful, astonishing visual style by McQueen and acted with such raw, full commitment by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan (vulnerable, sassy and fascinating), that it’s all but impossible that it will be ignored by the Venice jury.

Care Mulligan and Michael Fassbender are siblings in SHAME

McQueen and his cinematography Sean Bobbit (who also lensed Hunger) capture a ghostly, liquid New York City, which sets the perfect atmosphere of loneliness and despair for Brandon’s (Fassbender) compulsive acts of sexual abjection. Shame is uncompromising bleeding cinema. It’s also deeply moving and compassionate in the depiction of the relationship between Brandon and his sister Sissy (Mulligan) who unexpectedly breaks into his apartment asking for help and forcing him out of his shell of frozen emotions.

Continue for more on Shame and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis follow-up.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Sep042011

Venice, Day 5: Shame, Alps, Wilde Salome & Sal

[Editor's Note: Manolis, TFE's Greek correspondent at the Venice Film Festival chimes in briefly on a very busy screening day. Notes on four films, the last of them a probable prize winner. -Nathaniel]

Alps
The Greek entry of the festival divided the critics assembled here, just as Dogtooth did two years ago. The Italian critics that are featured at the Daily Variety issue of the festival here have given it from 1 to 5 stars. So it’s difficult to say what it’s chances are with the jury. In Dogtooth the protagonist was trying to escape from a fake world, but in Alps the protagonist is trying to enter one; she feels she must belong to another reality, not her actual one. Aggeliki Papoulia gives an excellent performance and Yorgos Lanthimos’ fans will not be disappointed. But that said, he won’t win any new fans with Alps.

Wilde Salome
This isn't quite a film or a documentary but something inbetween as Al Pacino chronicles his attempts to make a film out of Oscar Wilde’s Salome shortly after the play was staged in Los Angeles. In Wilde Salome we watch the plays’ rehearsals and see Pacino’s attempts to solve the various production problems that are created by his insistence to film the play simultanously with the live performances. We also watch him researching Oscar Wilde and we get information on the famous playwright through interviews featuring Tony Kushner, Gore Vidal, Tom Stoppard and… Bono. Jessica Chastain is magnetic as Salome and the film will surely be interesting to theater fans. Unfortunately, though Pacino may have had a vision, but he doesn't quite know how to share it through storytelling.

Franco and his star Val Lauren in VeniceSal
James Franco presents and emotional biography of Sal Mineo, or rather a small detail. Sal takes place on the last day of the star's life. Franco relies heavily on close-ups in this very low budget attempt to capture Mineo's spirit, to sketch an emotional impression of he was.  
I did this film for artistic reasons. Making a film is not just for entertainment or to make money."
-James Franco at the press conference
Though the film is slow and overly long, it captures the atmosphere of the time well and it's easy to forgive it its flaws; it's obviously a labor of love. 
Shame
Today I also saw the winner of the festival. I don’t know whether it will win the Golden Lion, Director or Actor prizes, but there is no way Steve McQueen’s Shame will leave Mostra empty-handed.
Shame is the story of Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a man who has lost his moral compass and wanders New York looking for one night stands, while what he needs is intimacy. Fassbender gives an astonishing performance and manages to combine Brandon's fragile nature with his sexual confidence. The actor presents his journey of despair brilliantly. Carey Mulligan is also remarkable as his sister, a nightclub singer. Her vulnerable blues rendition of “New York, New York” is more than enough to put her in the Oscar race of Best Supporting Actress. The explicit nature of the film and the many nude scenes (including full frontal nudity from both stars) may hurt the film's reception with some audiences and possibly Oscar voters, but McQueen and especially Fassbender won't end the year without popping up at various critics awards. 
The response at today’s premiere was enthusiastic. That five minute standing ovation was an obvious vote of approval for McQueen and Fassbender's post-Hunger reunion.
Tuesday
Aug022011

Stoke Yourself For Stoker

JA from MNPP here, curious if y’all have been following the delightful casting news that’s been coming out bit by bit day after day for Oldboy director Park Chan-wook’s first English-language film Stoker. I mean just the fact that PCW is making an English-language movie’s exciting enough – not that I have trouble with subtitles, I'm fervently infatuated with every movie he's made, but it means one of my favorite directors is getting to round up some of my favorite Hollywood actors, which he’s doing in spades.

First, some background: Stoker’s script was written (under a pseudonym) by Prison Break actor Wentworth Miller, and is described as “a dramatic thriller about a young woman whose eccentric uncle comes back into her life after the death of her father.”

Attached to the script way back when it was first being talked about were Carey Mulligan and Jodie Foster, which already got us thinking something really good is going on with the script or Park's exciting enough all on his own to snatch up such solid names... hopefully both! Unfortunately scheduling got drawn out and Carey took off to star opposite Michael Fassbender in Steve McQueen’s upcoming film Shame (can’t blame her for wanting to go hang with Fassy for awhile) and Jodie went to work with Roman Polanski on Carnage (also can’t blame that). But Park & Co. managed no downgrade in their replacing – Mia Wasikowska and Nicole Kidman (making up for this) stepped right in. Now them's a two-fer.

The role of the “eccentric uncle” was rumored for awhile to be recent Oscar picker-upper Colin Firth, but somebody apparently decided to age the character down a whole bunch and the role went to the 50 year old Firth’s 33 year old Single Man boyfriend Matthew Goode instead. Even though he might not pack the immediate wallop that Firth does, Goode’s shown a lot of promise in the past – he was mesmerizing in The Lookout.

We don’t have word yet when filming begins, but we're thinking it must be soon since three more names have hopped on board over the past week – Lucas Till, who played Havoc in the recent X-Men movie; Alden Ehrenreich, a cute young thing that caught Steven Spielberg’s eye and can be seen in both of Francis Ford Coppola’s most recent efforts; and most awesomely Jacki Weaver, who shoulda won that Supporting statue last year for her terrifying turn in Animal Kingdom just for the way she arched her eyebrows and smiled that sinister Grinch’s smile. If you’re keeping count, that's three count ‘em three singular Aussie actress sensations for the price of one. Can’t beat that!

Thursday
Jul282011

Shame on Them.

Jose here. I have to apologize in advance but I have to confess that every time I read new stories about Steve McQueen's Shame, I can't help but start singing this song. Today after seeing the first official pics of the movie, I couldn't help it either.

Carey Mulligan in all her Marilyn Monroe-esque glory plays the "wayward" sister to a sex-addict played by Michael Fassbender and according to the movie's official synopsis, things get out of control after she moves in with him.

Shame is the sophomore effort of British artist Steve McQueen, whose previous film Hunger won a ton of awards and introduced most of us to the marvelous Fassbender. The film had already sparked some controversy after a not-so-shy shoot in NYC took some by surprise and is set to debut at this year's Toronto Film Festival.

Excited to see what McQueen does this time? Thrilled to see Fassy and CaMu together or is their current reign as "go-to-actors for everything" exhausting you already? 

more pictures after the jump

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