Mixed media: film reviews

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Absorbing, interconnected stories in Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women.

Elle

directed by Paul Verhoeven (130 minutes)

It opens with a rape: blank screen, sound only. Then we see a cat on a mat, watching the attack. The point? What does it mean to a cat? Nothing. Michèle, the woman attacked, (Isabelle Huppert) is very cool too. She sweeps up the mess, has a bath.

We’re in a classic thriller. Will he strike again? Will she work out his identity? Just about all males who get to talk to Michèle are suspect, and she’s coolly working through her list. How come she’s so cool, so detached? It’s something to do with her dad being a mass murderer. A man who, feeling slighted, murdered 30-odd of his neighbours. And their pets.

It’s baloney – well-plotted, well-made, highly rated, sometimes laughable. But schlock that the ever-present Huppert makes credible. Maybe it’s meant to be funny? It’s not, though.

★★★ ML

Moonlight is brilliant about how we need and reach out for other people.

Moonlight

directed and written by Barry Jenkins (111 minutes)

This is the sympathetic story of a drug dealer. Or rather three stories – of the boy, the youth, and the young man. It’s the story of a hard life, realistically, sensitively told; a life of pain and anguish, but with, finally, the possibility of fellowship, intimacy, happiness.

In the first part, the ‘soft’, closed-in, picked-on kid expects very little from his drug-using mother, or anyone else, but finds some stability with a drug-dealing neighbour and his girlfriend. Next, the boy, Chiron, now a skinny, passive, bullied youth, is found by a friend, and clearer about being gay, finally fights back. Lastly, a decade on, the ex-prisoner, dealing but not taking drugs himself, powerfully built, working out and now un-bullyable – and whose only real friend gets in touch again.

Moonlight is brilliant about how we need and reach out for other people; how tentative, fragile and chancy fate is; and about how honesty can bring love. It’s a magnificent film that finds universals in the everyday.

★★★★★ ML