FILM: Brixton Blog’s Thursday round-up

The Act of Killing
The Act of Killing

By Ashley Clark

Striking meta-docs and end-of-days, slacker style? Why, it must be another week at south London’s best cinema.

The best new film at the Ritzy cinema this week is Joshua Oppenheimer’s terrifying doc The Act of Killing, which has been creating a fearsome buzz across various international film festivals throughout the year. I first saw it at the Berlinale back in February, and have yet to fully dislodge it from my mind. The film picks up in the present day with elderly members of an Indonesian death squad who, between 1965 and ’66, murdered more than a million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese, and intellectuals. Oppenheimer’s devilish twist is to have these unsavoury characters re-enact their murders on camera. The end result is a startlingly original comment on historiography and injustice which forces us to question the colonising role popular culture has on the collective consciousness. You’ll likely need a stiff drink when it’s done.

Canadian actress-cum-director Sarah Polley – who may or may not have first come to your attention in Atom Egoyan’s heartbreaking 1997 drama The Sweet Hereafter, or 1999’s underrated Go (a cracking teen riff on Pulp Fiction) – has carved out a notable career as a filmmaker in recent years. Her debut Away From Her was the moving account of the effect of Alzheimer’s on a family, while follow-up Take This Waltz zeroed in on the dissolution of a marriage. Family is again the central theme of her new effort, the beguiling meta documentary Stories We Tell. In it, Polley turns the camera on her own family with surprising results. It would be a punishable offence to reveal too much more to the unsuspecting potential viewer at this stage, but it comes highly recommended as an intelligent exploration of the slipperiness of truth.

Also new is Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This Is The End, which takes a look at the apocalypse from the comfort of James Franco’s Hollywood home. Franco, along with a host of Hollywood buddies including Rogen, Jay Baruchel and Craig Robinson, turn up playing lightly altered versions of themselves. I haven’t seen it yet, but the general feedback seems to suggest that it starts off like a train – full of characteristically wisecracking dialogue and celebrity self send-up – but runs aground when it has to use up its massive budget with explosions, special effects and, well, plot. Regardless, should be good for a few chuckles.

That’s pretty much it for new releases, but there’s plenty of quality material you can still avail yourself of, including: Steven Soderbergh’s elegant and moving Liberace doc Behind the Candelabra (watch out for that Rob Lowe cameo, folks!); Richard Linklater’s languorous, Greece-set relationship drama Before Midnight. Also blowing shit up on a regular basis are Zack Synder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel, and Brad Pitt blockbuster World War Z. Picturehouse’s ongoing ‘Discover Tuesdays’ strand continues with Beware of Mr. Baker, a fly on the wall doc about the odious but legendary drummer Ginger Baker, while the weekend sees a couple of late screenings of James Cameron’s thumping ‘80s action thriller Aliens, a sequel that replaces the original’s clinical chill with epic bombast.

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.