Category Archives: Drama

It puts us right in the middle. A young poet and professor at the prestige university (Elijah Wood) in front of the jury of big-headed academia proposes to invite one of the most controversial and the greatest poet of our times, Dylan Thomas. The jury shakes their head but Elijah promises to take care of him and make sure Dylan doesn’t show up drunk in public places. They say yes and the next scene we see is Dylan vomiting in front of some less-than-fancy bar. Hmmm…

First of all, it has to be said that Set Fire to the Stars has a great potential to be a great film and there are elements that are so excellent about it that result in inconsistency of a sort. Let’s take directing. Because of the script, I presume, the film comes out as chaotic, too telling and expository, but the shots are absolutely stunning. The film is hypnotising just to look at and maybe it would be better if the dialogue was off and the only music we heard was early 20s swing. Set Fire to the Stars is a glimmering black and white postcard, precious and unique. And just for the way it looks it could be re-watched million times.

Set-Fire-to-the-Stars-use

The acting can be excellent too. Although Elijah Wood is good and Celyn Jones does give us a persuasive portrayal of an ingenious drunk Thomas, it is Shirley Henderson, who completely steals the film. She appears for, I don’t know, twenty minutes of the film, and she is absolutely amazing. The way she recites the horror story is worth an Oscar nomination. Watching her felt like being a child taken on a imaginary journey into the most fantastic land. The film could be just about her.

And this is where the major problem lies with Set Fire to the Stars. The character of John portrayed by Wood isn’t even half as interesting as every other character in the film and I couldn’t stop thinking that I’d rather see anyone else as the main hero but him. He is suppose to be our guide in the over-romanticed world of crazy poets, but it’s much easier to identify with these crazy poets than him, simply because, he comes out as bleak and kind of boring. The film fails to put enough attention on anyone for us to really follow it and most of the time we feel the distance which kills the atmosphere SFTTS is trying to create (the atmosphere that every single film about poets of the early 20th century is trying to create, the over-romanticised hipsterism…). And here lies another problem- SFTTS isn’t any different from Kill Your Darlings, On the Road and all of the beat generation movies. Actually, it’s much worse. We hardly hear Thomas poetry, we hardly see him writing and because of that, we can’t really get what the whole fuss is about. Usually, bios like that provoke in me the emotions of ‘I’ll just pack and go hitchhiking in America while only eating grass and writing the sequel to Ulysses’, but here, I felt nothing. I felt nothing towards this film apart from the admiration to the beautiful shots. And this is just not good enough.

set_fire_to_the_stars

Set Fire to the Stars has it all and yet, it fails to be this inspiring, mind-blowing biography it tries to be. I think the problem doesn’t lie in separate elements but rather in the way they were put together. Not enough of this here, too much of that there. But it looks beautiful and if you’re a fan of Dylan Thomas, maybe this is a film that could reveal some new, interesting things about him. But I don’t know that.

by Amelie

I’m really struggling with the review of this film. Firstly, because my expectations were high the moment I heard who’s in it and what’s it about and secondly, because it’s not bad and yet there’s something very important missing from it and I can’t quite decide what. And it’s been a day.

LISTEN UP PHILIP is a new film that show that Jason Schwarzman is a man everyone needs to be a friend of and that even when taken out of Wes Anderson’s world, he is continuing to be in a Wes Anderson film. Here, he plays a writer who is getting his second novel published and the many tragedies this event had been building uo to. Let’s take for example his relationship with Ashley, a successful photographer or his relationships with his exes. They’re quickly become disasterous but soon we are starting to ask a question: if anything was ever right in Philip’s world?

Philip is an interesting character. An over-intellectual anti-hero who won’t stop saying what other people don’t care to hear. And this is what makes LISTEN UP PHILIP a strong film. The dialogues. Most of them are amazingly written to the point where we’re laughing out loud every second line. It’s a great achievement to be able to entertain the audience solely with words and the words in LISTEN UP PHILIP never get old. At some point Philip meets another writer, his own hero, who’s as arogant as Philip himself. Together they make ahighly entertaining couple but also build the background for possibly one of the most important relationships in Philip’s life.

Listen-Up-Philip-Photo3-JasonSchwartzman-JosephineDeLaBaume

But is there more to this? I’m not sure. LISTEN UP PHILIP very often feels like an unfinished Woody Allen’s script. The story is somewhere but at no point I could tell what the aim of it all was. Maybe there was no aim whatsoever and the film was a strict observation on someone’s life but this option seems to weaker it so I don’t believe in it. Or maybe I’m expecting something that LISTEN UP PHILIP has never intended to be? When at some point, the narrator who speaks in annoying metaphors and difficult words that could easily be subsituted with easier equivalents (a wonderful representation of Philip’s “high” mind) turns our attention to Ashley and for a surprising long time, we are no longer following the story of Philip. Or not directly. It’s confusing and breaks the intimacy the film has been trying to create so much through the close third narration and reoccuring close-ups.

And it drags for ages. The problem with a loose story is that it needs to be delivered in intense fragments, which LISTEN UP PHILIP does, but it does it for too long of a time. The film is two hours where it could easily be 90 minutes long and at the end, we become bored with it. Shame.

Overall, it’s an interesting, entertaining and well-written indie which Jason Schwarzman makes ten times better than it already is. But there’s something missing here. Something isn’t quite right. And that’s why I can’t love it as I thought I would.

by Amelie

I’ve seen GONE GIRL, but sunkened in London Film Festival films I have no time to review it. But so you know- it was wow. WOW. Go and see it

Go and see it instead of seeing MY FRIEND VICTORIA, a charming little French film that you’d probably forget about before it reaches the end. I have. I watched it in three segments because it had no impact on me whatsoever and every time I came back to it, my feelings hadn’t changed. And I really wanted it to be good. It had a potential.

58e5115134140b4c09b30d1093746efd9639a07d

MY FRIEND VICTORIA is told through the perspective or rather through the extremely annoying narrative of the worst writer on Earth, her “step-sister”. I say it in brackets, because the relationship between them is legally a little more complex. Victoria’s auntie, her only carer dies when she is eight or ten and is picked by the auntie’s friend who brings her up along with the other girl, the notorious narrator. But this is not what the film is about or rather it’s not trying to be about that. It’s trying really hard to emphasise the importance of one night Victoria spends in a house of a wealthy rich family. Her schoolfriend’s parents invite her over for one night when her auntie, still alive, has to go to a hospital and Victoria is given her own room and her own bed and the house is bigger than she could ever imagine and food on the table is weird and exciting. And there’s also Thomas’ brother, whom Victoria find really attractive to the point of, staying in love with him forever, even twenty years later. But no matter how much the narrator, who for some reason knows everything Victoria has ever done or thought, emphasises how life-changing this one night was for Victoria, we cannot really feel it. Yes, Victoria goes back to look at the house from the outside a lot, and she demands her own room shortly after she moves in with another girl, but apart from it, is her craving purely materialistic? We never really understand.

There’s no political or social thought to examine in My Friend Victoria. Yes, we see an example of racism from a random passer-by, but it happens once and doesn’t seem related to the general situation of families shown. Yes, there’s a talk about liberalism/socialism but it’s also very vague. And the story itself isn’t interesting enough for us to be drawn to it, to care about its ending and the characters. Because of the narrator, not much is shown and the film pick a very lazy technique of telling everything that happens instead. So we see very briefly Victoria’s “step-mother”‘s death but we don’t see her grief. It is merely mentioned by the narrator that Victoria was shuttered by grief, but how can we believe it if we never see it? Same goes for Victoria’s childbirth dilemmas. She gets pregnant with Thomas but they break up and she doesn’t care to share the information with him. But why? The narrator gives us some suggestions but we never hear it from Victoria herself. And the question remains throughout- how the hell does the narrator know so much? Especially when at some point she says that she ‘never knew what Victoria was thinking exactly’. How much more is there to know?!

my-friend-victoria-still-001

MY FRIEND VICTORIA is a very mediocre film which has a great potential to discuss social and political situation of minorities in France or even Europe, but decides not to spend any time analysing the topic. The story is bland and boring and the characters’ motifs and decisions aren’t driven by anything, and so we feel no emphathy for them. And the worst choice is the narrative. MY FRIEND VICTORIA would work much much better if the narrator was removed. It made the film lazy and direction almost pointless.