FILM: Brixton Blog’s Thursday round-up

Leos Carax’s Holy Motors

By Ashley Clark

Chameleons leaping out of limos, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Bruce Willis, and frosty German doctors? It can only mean another week at South London’s best cinema.

In Holy Motors – the most bizarre film you’re likely to see this year – French director Leos Carax returns after a big screen absence of 13 years. Part-drama, part-sci-fi, part-oddball comedy, Holy Motors stars legendary French actor Denis Lavant as Monsieur Oscar, a chameleonic role-player who periodically leaps from a chauffeur-driven limo to embody a series of entirely different, oft-grotesque guises in a string of bizarre (and sometimes sexually explicit) set pieces. It also stars Kylie Minogue, but Neighbours this ain’t. It’s hard to define. Best to just go see it.

Looper is the new film from Brick and The Brothers Bloom director Rian Johnson, and an ambitious one it is at that. It’s a high-concept affair set in the 2070s, where anyone who ruffles the Mafia’s feathers is sent back to the 2040s. Once there, an assassin known as a Looper is dispatched to dispose of them as their younger selves, thus altering the course of time with minimal upset. Joseph Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one such hitman, but when his next target turns out to be his older self (Bruce Willis), who then escapes (!), he is soon fearing for his own life. Following this? Looper is exciting, mind-bending, occasionally philosophical fun, and clearly the product of an intelligent mind.

Also out this week is Christian Petzold’s excellent German film Barbara. It stars Nina Hoss as the eponymous doctor, exiled to a rural hospital for unspecified misconduct in early ‘80s East Germany. Soon, Barbara finds that her loyalties as a doctor and her resolve to defy the authorities are both tested and subtly eroded, not least because of an odd, awkward relationship that develops between her and her immediate superior Andre (Ronald Zehrfeld). It’s character-driven, composed and quietly moving stuff. If you like The Lives of Others, or this year’s Breathing (Atmen), Barbara will be right up your straße.

Films continuing their runs include stodgy-yet-attractive period drama Anna Karenina (starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law); good-looking and well acted, but pretentious, fetishistically violent and ultimately hollow pseudo-political thriller Killing Them Softly; creepily atmospheric drama/horror hybrid Berberian Sound Studio; and feelgood French fare Untouchable.

In terms of repertory cinema, there are a few screenings of Alfred Hitchcock’s tense 1934 thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much, plus another chance to see Lauren Greenfield’s jaw-dropping recent doc The Queen of Versailles, which puts the excesses of the “American Dream” under the microscope.

All films showing at the Ritzy Cinema, Brixton Oval. Book tickets here.

Ashley Clark runs the film blog Permanent Plastic Helmet. You can follow it on Twitter @PPlasticHelmet and/or him @_ash_clark.