By Ashley Clark
A huge week of new releases at south London’s best cinema as Oscar season well and truly gets into its stride.
Two BIG AMERICAN MOVIES descend on the Ritzy this week, boasting top-class credentials, weighty themes and a truckload of Oscar nominations between them. The first is Steven Spielberg’s latest, Lincoln – a passion project, written by playwright Tony Kushner (Angels In America) which casts a stately eye over the former US President’s experiences and decisions during the bloody American Civil War. Old Linc’ is embodied with characteristic chameleonism* by the redoubtable Daniel Day-Lewis, and Spielberg delivers a compelling and satisfying historical tale which takes the subject of slavery just a smidgeon more seriously than Quentin Tarantino has done in Django Unchained. Supporting turns from the likes of Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field also score highly.
The second of these films is ultra-contemporary: Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. Few movies in recent times have inspired as much controversy as this account of the CIA’s pursuit, and eventually execution, of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, with author Naomi Wolf going as far as to compare Bigelow to Adolf Hitler’s favourite filmmaker, and key propagandist, Leni Riefenstahl. Such criticism is misguided, for while ZDT isn’t shy of showing the horrors that occurred, it presents them in a dispassionate manner, allowing the viewer to project – even confront – their own thoughts and feelings. It’s highly recommended, not just for its precision construction, but for its compelling ambiguity, and Jessica Chastain’s superb central turn as driven CIA operative Maya.
Films continuing their runs include Quentin Tarantino’s discursive, horribly overlong buddy-slavery romp Django Unchained; Tom Hooper’s warble-fest amongst the poverty-stricken, Les Misérables; Ruben Fleischer’s stylish but hollow and parodic Gangster Squad; Dustin Hoffman’s enjoyable if undistinguished grey pound-grabber Quartet; Lenny Abrahamson’s haunting Irish drama What Richard Did; and Ang Lee’s visually spectacular novel adaptation Life of Pi, which screens in both 2D and 3D versions.
There’s also some repertory offerings to get excited about. To tie in with Django Unchained‘s release, the Ritzy’s We Heart Tarantino season continues with a Saturday night screening of QT’s deliriously seedy exploitation flick Death Proof (2007), starring a never-sleazier Kurt Russell. For those who like their cinema of a seriously warped hue, there are two late shows (Friday and Saturday) of Gaspar Noe’s insane Tokyo-set death hallucination jamboree Enter The Void. The title gives you a fair idea of what to expect. Meanwhile, the Picturehouse’s Discover Tuesdays strand continues with Elena, a classy and haunting Russian thriller from Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev
*is that even a word? It is now.