FILM: Brixton Blog’s Thursday round-up

On The Road

By Ashley Clark

Our weekly round-up of what’s new at South London’s best cinema includes a ripe selection of dreamers and dealers.

Walter Salles, the director of The Motorcycle Diaries, and screenwriter Jose Rivera, have taken on the task of cinematically adapting a novel long branded unfilmable (since its release in 1957). Yep, it’s On The Road, a canonical countercultural text which I found so annoying when I read it ten years ago that I threw it across the room. The film stars Sam Riley as struggling young writer Sal Paradise, who embarks on a journey across America with his friend, hero (and lover?), beat mystic Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund). With its vistas and expansive widescreen cinematography, it sure looks pretty, but there ain’t a great deal of depth going on. Worth seeing though, especially if you don’t despise the book.

Remember Coupling? The BBC’s answer to all-conquering sitcom Friends? Well, Richard Coyle, the actor who played loveable, corkscrew-haired loser Jeff is back, and this time he’s… an East London drug dealer called Frank! Pusher is Luis Prieto’s capital-set remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s brutal, Danish-language 1996 breakthough. Refn has of course gone on to make the stylish Drive, and sensing an opportunity, the marketing team have jumped all over that angle, slathering all promo with synths and pink neon; you can understand why. The film itself is violent, grimy, occasionally exciting and pretty well-acted. Model Agyness Deyn makes her screen debut as a stripper.

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Feris, the husband-and-wife team that brought us Little Miss Sunshine (and were thusly responsible for a whole host of lily-livered “Indiewood” dramedies) are back with Ruby Sparks. Here, the oft-shrill Paul Dano essays the character of novelist Calvin Weir-Fields, who is suffering badly from writer’s block. His answer? To simply invent his muse and dream lover Ruby. The twist? She suddenly materialises in his apartment in the form of Zoe Kazan, and reality and fiction become entwined. It’s watchable, if slightly grating stuff, and a great supporting cast (Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Elliot Gould etc) ups the ante further.

Other films continuing their runs include film-of-the-year contender Holy Motors; boringly named, but solidly effective chiller Sinister; uplifting, disability-themed French drama Untouchable; Rian Johnson’s cracking, but bloody confusing (though maybe it just confused me) Looper; well-done 3D kiddie horror Paranorman; and Josh Radnor’s decent directorial debut Liberal Arts. There’s also a Monday preview + Q&A of Sundance hit Beasts of the Southern Wild.

In terms of repertory cinema, there are a couple of late showings of made-in-the-80s, set-in-the-60s comedy classic Withnail & I, plus a few screenings of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1964 psychological chiller Marnie. The Picturehouse’s Discover Tuesdays strand continues with Asghar Farhadi’s About Elly. Made before his (Western) breakthrough hit A Separation, it’s a coolly intelligent, disturbing drama about a bunch of middle class friends who become gripped by panic when one of their number disappears during an illicit beachside vacation.

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.