The following is from my monthly column for Culture Fly
This is the standard recipe for making chocolate: Whilst boiling 235ml of water combine 170g of softened butter with 220g of cocoa powder. Once the cocoa powder and butter have been creamed, pour the mixture into the water. Stir together. Keep the water below boiling whilst you sift in 130g of sugar. Then pour in 150ml of milk, blending everything together until smooth and creamy. Then, spread the mixture over some baking trays before freezing overnight.
If you want to be a good cook you have to balance multiple elements or you’ll end up with something bitter. Filmmaking is the same. A director must merge individual elements into one cohesive whole. The script, the acting, and the production design must work together to fulfill a director’s vision. As we enter April, the cinema is full of interesting and diverse films that’ll hopefully manage that delicate balancing act.
First up is I Am Not Your Negro (7th Apr), a timely and scorching look at race relations in the USA. Based on the unfinished manuscript Remember This House by the seminal James Baldwin, director Raoul Peck mixes archival footage of the mid-century civil rights movements with images of Ferguson and Obama’s inauguration. Layered on top is Samuel L Jackson’s narration, written mainly from Baldwin’s manuscript and lines from his other works. The film shows how timeless the writer’s words are.
Also out on the same day is Raw (7th Apr), Julia Ducournau’s controversial directorial debut. The controversy comes from the grossly over-exaggerated reports of people fainting and vomiting at festival screenings. Whilst the film isn’t as gory as stated, this story of a veterinary student, played by Garance Marillier, having a feminist and sexual awakening is not for the faint of heart. With dark humour and an unapologetic female gaze, this is a social satire you can’t miss. Just don’t go for a meal before or after.
However, you can gorge on as much popcorn as you’d like when watching Fast and Furious 8 (12th Apr). This very definition of “popcorn movie” sees Vin Diesel’s Dom go rogue, teaming up with Charlize Theron to fight his family… and who cares. You won’t watch this film for the story, you’ll watch to see some cars play tug-o-war, outrun submarines, and the Rock punching things. Director F. Gary Gray has seemingly delivered some perfect escapist entertainment, and if the sight of Dame Helen Mirren appearing in a Fast and Furious movie isn’t enough to convince you to buy a ticket, I don’t know what will be.
With the summer movie season now official revved up, smaller films are going to carry less cultural cache, making it important you find delicacies like The Handmaiden (14th Apr). South Korean director Park Chan-wook turns his notoriously purple aesthetic on a story about a con-man (Ha Jung-woo) and a pickpocket (Kim Tae-ri) swindling a woman (Kim Min-hee) out of her inheritance. A film that’ll sate both arthouse and mainstream fans, it’s another landmark piece of cinema from the director of Oldboy and Stoker.
Whilst something like Chan-wook’s singular vision is missing from most blockbusters, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 (28 Apr) has managed to feel distinct, an impressive feat considering it belongs to the increasingly cookie-cutter Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whether you know the original as the one with the off-kilter humour, the one with the killer soundtrack, or the one where Chris Pratt got hot, this sequel is a must see. Returning writer-director James Gunn places our favourite intergalactic bandits against Elizabeth Debicki’s Kismet, whilst Kurt Russell saunters in as Star-Lord’s father. If that perfect casting is anything to go by, Volume 2 should be a blast.
As a bit of counter-programming, Lady Macbeth (28 Apr) stars Florence Pugh, the breakout star of Carol Morley’s The Falling, as a woman who rebels against her loveless marriage by having an affair. The film eschews all traditional approaches to this type of story, making its lead unsympathetic and treating the lead male character, played by Cosmo Jarvis, as a sex object. It’s an interesting film, and one bound to keep your attention.
There are also limited re-releases of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (14 Apr) and the classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (14 Apr). If you can, try and catch the experimental documentary Letters from Baghdad (21 Apr), a film about British explorer Gertrude Bell. It’s playing in less than 25 cinemas so good luck!