What have we been watching at Polari HQ this week?
Anyone unfortunate enough to witness me screaming my way through Ringu at the ICA will know that horror and me just don’t mix. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it … I genuinely do, I’m just unable to be quiet about it. The mix of fear and excitement makes me feel like I’m going to pass out. I was the same with Friday 13th Part 3 (in 3D), the only one in the cinema covering my eyes with butterkist coated fingers. I could go on. So why am I doing it to myself again? Because American Horror Story – Asylum is one of the most terrifying, compelling and fabulously performed horror series to grace our screens. It’s got it all… serial killers, nymphos and undercover lesbians electro-shocked into ‘normality’ all wonderfully set in an old school mental asylum for the criminally insane!!! Woohoo … could it be any better? NO IT COULDN’T. Horrific. Disturbing. Nightmare inducing. It really does scare the poop out of me! Throw in aliens, insane doctors with scalpels, possessed psycho-nuns and seriously, it’s one of the best series you will ever watch even if it does ruin a good night’s sleep!
Michael Langan – Amour dir. Michael Haneke
A new Michael Haneke film is always an event and Amour even more so, given it won this year’s Palm d‘Or at Cannes and stars two legendary French actors, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. Haneke is renowned for casting a forensic and relentlessly stark eye over the lives of his bourgeois protagonists, in this case an elderly couple facing the end of their days. As the title suggests, this is here seasoned with tenderness and love (quite a departure for Haneke), but absolutely no sentimentality. Both leads offer extraordinary performances – Riva is especially astonishing as a woman in severe decline – and make it easy to believe you’re watching a couple who’ve been together for sixty years; essential for the film to really work. Isabelle Hupert does a finely tuned and perfectly nuanced turn as the couple’s selfish and spiky daughter and there’s a star cameo from a pigeon. Haneke’s films are often like slow-motion horror movies that creep up on you and stay in the mind for days and Amour is no exception. You have been warned.
Christopher Bryant – Homeland, Seasons 1 & 2
I find that there is something addictive about this sort of political-thriller-meets-soap-opera television drama. And anything with either Morena Baccarin or Claire Danes in it – although seeing Baccarin as an All American Mom is strange, to stay the least. Homeland was created by two of the minds behind 24. It pits CIA agent Carrie Matheson (Claire Danes) against returned POW Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis). Brody is rescued after being held in captivity for 8 years in Iraq and Matheson is sure he has been turned. And she’ll stop at nothing when it comes to figuring that out. She’s like Jack Bauer – except that she’s bipolar, and not gun crazy. It’s surprising to see a US television show that addresses terrorism, and the causes of terrorism, in the way that it does. It seriously questions US geopolitical tactics – or at the very least it opens them to question. That said, a certain amount of simplistic politics remains. It is television, after all. Now, if only Lewis and Danes would stop trying to out-pout each other.
Little Bastard – Electrick Children
Music is a very powerful force – but imagine if it was so powerful it could make you pregnant! In the debut feature film by Rebecca Thomas, fundamentalist Mormon Rachel finds a blue cassette tape and, on listening to it, hears ‘Hanging On The Telephone’ by The Nerves. Feeling the Holy Spirit enter her through music, she becomes pregnant and is convinced the father is the voice on the tape. What follows is a beautifully quirky coming of age drama, drenched in innocence, scattered with raw punk, and ingrained with mature spirituality, as Rachel leaves her community in search of the man that made her pregnant. See this bizarre little film at any cost, even if just for incredible central performance by Julia Garner as Rachel, who may steal my “current favourite actress” award from Emily Browning.