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Non-Review Review: Lady Macbeth

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2017.

Lady Macbeth is a very beautiful, and very arch film. Perhaps a little too arch.

Writer Alice Birch and director William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth is a very loose adaptation of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov, adapting the Russian novel to British surroundings. Ari Wegner’s cinematography is stunning, capturing the beauty of these new surroundings and meticulously framing the characters. Oldroyd films Lady Macbeth at a Kubrickian remove, keeping the camera still and often facing his characters head-on in a way that makes it seem like the cast are staring out of the film at the audience watching.

Thinly-veiled contempt.

Thinly-veiled contempt.

Birch’s script has an incredibly dark sense of humour, a wry grimace juxtaposed against the horrors that its characters inflict upon one another and the sense of bleakness that pervades the film. Indeed, the film balances on a knife-edge in terms of tone, shifting skilfully between moods from one scene to the next. At one moment, Lady Macbeth is a thoughtful character study, at another a cheeky feminist critique, then a pitch black comedy. Lady Macbeth is an impressive work in any technical sense.

However, there is a pervading coldness to the film, one reinforced by the intensity upon which the camera focuses upon characters who keep themselves at a remove. For all the polished sheen of Lady Macbeth, its characters remain heavily internalised and take their time expressing themselves through action. The result is a film that moves far too slowly, keeping its characters both opaque and inert for far too much of the runtime. Lady Macbeth is a very pretty film, but one that mistakes silence for profundity.

Return of the Mac(beth).

Return of the Mac(beth).

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Non-Review Review: Maudie

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2017.

“Show me the way you see the world,” urges one buyer of Maud Lewis approximately half-way through Maudie, capturing the ageless appeal of just about any artistic vision. There is something exciting and unique about the opportunity to examine the world from a unique vantage point, to perceive time and space from the perspective of somebody else.

That is particularly true of Maud Lewis, the Canadian folk artist who captured the international imagination through the forties and into the fifties. Lewis had a very unique perspective on the world, capturing her surroundings and even people in crude two-dimensional terms with a surprising amount of depth. The little incongruous details of these seemingly simplistic paintings turned Lewis into a cultural icon, whose influence and legacy perseveres to this day.

maudie

Wedded to convenience.

The biggest problem with Maudie is that the film completely lacks any sense of original or distinctive vision, any real effort to see the world as it must have appeared to Maud Lewis. As much as the film and the surrounding characters might laud Maud for her distinct approach to painting, Maudie is a much more conventional tale. Maudie hits just about every biography cliché in the book, without offering any keen insight or shrewd observation. It lacks those small well-observed nuances that really brought Lewis’ work to life.

A superb central performance from Sally Hawkins cannot elevate a film that is so eager to engage in twee unreconstructed nostalgia.

Painting a pretty picture.

Painting a pretty picture.

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