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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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Non-Review Review: Sinister

Sinister is a few great ideas, wrapped in a hokey plot and executed in a reasonably efficient manner. To be fair, this latest movie from “the producers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious works best when it adopts a minimalist approach, with director Scott Derrickson and composer Christopher Young providing a suitably overbearing and overwhelming atmosphere. However, the movie runs into problems when it’s forced to play its hand, and when it feels the need to “follow through” on its scares with something more substantial. At that point, the movie becomes a bit clunky, which seems quite a shame – as Derrickson otherwise minimalist approach creates an unsettling canvas to set the story against.

Reel life…

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Non-Review Review: Gattaca

I genuinely think that Gattaca is an unsung modern science-fiction classic. Andrew Niccol also wrote the screenplay for The Truman Show at the same time, another science-fiction masterpiece of the nineties, and another film way ahead of its time. I wonder if The Truman Show eclipsed Niccol’s work on Gattaca. It’s certainly a far more conventional science-fiction feature film, with a decidedly retro-futuristic aesthetic to it, and a slightly more earnest approach to its central themes. Still, I think that Gattacais a film that has held up remarkably well since its release and deserves a great deal more praise and attention than it really gets.

A face in a crowd…

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Non-Review Review: Staten Island

Staten Island is a convoluted little film that seems to shameless emulate several anthology films, with the most obvious influence being seen in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, borrowing the device of telling three interlocking but distinct stories set in different timeframes relating to the same bunch of characters. Still, that’s not necessarily a reason to dislike the film, which manages to offer an interesting, if not comparable, set of tales. James DeMonaco probably should have realised that borrowing so heavily from a classic film sets a ridiculously high standard, and one the movie falls far short of reaching. Still, there are moments where the film does work, even if they seem evenly-spaced with awkward and pointless sequences.

One psychotic mobster, sitting in a tree...

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Non-Review Review: Daybreakers

It’s great when film makers find something original enough to play with. Daybreakers takes an intriguing little snippet most of us have probably had and dismissed while watching a cheap vampire film – “what would happen if the vampires won and became the dominant species?” – and stretches it out to a two-hour film. It’s a movie that’s bristling with all sorts of witty ideas, but the problem is that it never really takes the opportunity to lift itself out of the “trashy B-movie” category of vampire and futuristic military films. While there are some great notions and concepts at play here, they aren’t executed with a hint of finesse, instead played with the sort of skill you traditionally find in a hackneyed slasher movie. Which is a damn shame, because when the movie hits the right buttons, it really works.

Blood work...

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