Archiv der Kategorie: English

The power of Transformation

Film review: Once upon a Time… in Hollywood (Director: Quentin Tarantino)

By Sascha Krieger

One could say that Hollywood is at a crossroads again. Streaming services are changing the way films are produced, distributed and watched, the #MeToo movement is challenging the patriarchal system the film industry has always been. Quentin Tarantino has been a product of Hollywood#s latest phase, the advent of independent cinema, progressive, daring, with blockbuster potential – and driven by figures like Harvey Weinstein, the kingpin of the #MeToo outcry, the symbol of Hollywood’s sexual abuse epidemic. His first film after Weinstein’s fall dives into another time in which Hollywood was in crisis: the late 1960s when the old studio system and its output of gender role confirming and hero fare was challenged by a seismic shift in societal values and the advent of non-conforming, wild, rebellious „New Hollywood“. While conceived still with Weinstein at the helm, Once upon a Time… in Hollywood is hard not to be read as a reflection on the role of film in a changing society – and a celebration of its stubborn perseverence.

Image: © 2019 Sony Pictures Entertainment Deutschland GmbH/Photo by Andrew Cooper

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All Is Art. All Is Life.

Film review: Dolor y Gloria (Director: Pedro Almodóvar)

By Sascha Krieger

Water. The pale bluish twilight of a swimming pool reveals a scar, real and symbolic, a trace of decades of liefe, loss and suffering. Eyes closed, the scar’s wearer travels back, to a childhood memory, the stagnant pool transformed into a lively river drenched in sunlight, an almost unnatural lightness, a child smiling at his mother and her friends as they wash clothes among the dancing fishes. and sing. As he will, years later, becoming the solo choirboy at his Catholic school, before finding a different voice, that of a writer and film maker, a voice destroyed by pain and regret and self-pity before it re-emerges. Dolor y Gloria is Pedro Almodóvar’s most autobiographical film to date, an homage to the transformative and healing power of art and the necessity for it to correspond with life, in more than one direction. In it, Almodóvar goes back to an old companion, Antonio Banderas. Working together, they launched each other’s careers, now the director trusts his former star with his own alter ego. It’s a perfect choice for a film in which things often come full circle, the present takes up the threads of the past, art fills in the holes of life and coincidence acts as an agent of almost god-like benevolence.

Image: Studiocanal/ El Deseo / Manolo Pavón

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Out of Time

Film review: Nuestro Tiempo (Director: Carlos Reygadas)

By Sascha Krieger

A muddy lake. The camera moves across until it encounters a group of girls on a raft. Lying, chatting, lazily. Then they’re attacked by a group of boys, thrown off, playfully. The camera moves on. On the shore, it finds a group of teenagers, engaged in the gossip and banter and awkwardness of blossoming sexuality. The camera-eye’s journey continues. It finds farmers, farm workers, engaged in work, post-work encounters, the small talk of tender, playful, awkward, cautious sexual politics, the innocence of the children, the curiosity of the adolescents lost. Nuestro Tiempo, meaning „Our Time“, doesn’t just take its time, it creates its own. It’s non-linear, circular, a cirvle of attraction, holding back, resentment, blossoming in the young, poisoning the older. A time that doesn’t get off the ground, that gets stuck, in the desired and the unsaid, the reckless and the considerate, both equally inadequate to what is not and will never be rational. As the bright hope of summer, tinged with a hint of paleness, makes way to the confusion of an almost constant, often misty, somewhat opaque twilight, the film sets out, slowly, in suspended time, to explore the murky, unbridgeable gap that lies between humans, even and particularly those that claim to be „together“.

Image: Grandfilm / Les Films du Losange

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An Ordinary Man

Kenneth Lonergan: The Starry Messenger, Wyndham’s Theatre, London (Director: Sam Yates)

By Sascha Krieger

The Starry Messenger, first performed on Broadway in 2009, is a labour of love. In it Kenneth Lonergan, since awarded with an Oscar for Manchester by the Sea, remembers a teacher he encountered as a teenage by at the now long demolished Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Together with his childhood friend Matthew Broderick, Lonergan felt inspired by this quiet, serious man and started imagining his life story. Completed, it was Broderick himself, who brought the anonymous teacher to life and does so again in this year’s revival. This Mark in an introverted man, full of inferiority complex, of feeling inadequate, and in love with science. A husband and father, loving, yet not very good at showing emotions. Facing a (final?) career chance, an unlikely romantic encounter and hostile final class at the soon to be disappearing planetarium, he feels the pangs of middle age, the disappearance of opportunities, the running out of option.

Image: Sascha Krieger

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The Man in the Middle

David Mamet: Bitter Wheat, Garrick Theatre, London (Director: David Mamet)

By Sascha Krieger

Dvid Mamet is not only one of the world’s most popular and successful playwrights – as a prolific screenwriter with two Oscar nominations under his belt, he also possesses expert knowledge of the workings of the film industry. A play based on the #MeToo movement’s pivotal moment of the scandal involving Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein therefore carries with it an expectancy of exclusive insights and the sharp direct tone Mamet has become synonymous with. But there is also doubt, as Mamet’s own gender depictions have traditionally received some criticism. The world premiere of his latest play Bitter Wheat, directed by Mamet himself, meets – at least partly – all these expectations. His Weinstein is called Barney Fein, a vulgar, expletive-happy, larger than life brute, manipulative, persuasive, openly abusive. John Malkovich, that most physical of Hollywood actors, that expert in cynicism and leering threat, is his perfect embodiment. His heavy body does not inhabit the stage, it usurps it, conquers it, holds it hostage.

Image: Sascha Krieger

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A Family Sketch

Jack Thorne: the end of history…, Royal Court Theatre, London (Director: John Tiffany)

By Sascha Krieger

When author Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany last teamed up, they created the imaginative whirlwind that is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child that is still wowing sold-out auditoriums three years later. Their latest collaboration is a lot more personal, intimate, and has a very different scope. Partly autobiographical, the play charts a family history over 20 years. The parents are leftist idealists who have named their children after some of their heroes – Karl Marx, Thomas Paine and anthropologist Polly Hill – their offspring struggling to find their ways through parental expectations in a way less ideological and idealist age. High-flying daughter Polly becomes a corporate lawyer, older brother Carl a failing family man while rebellious Tom turns out to be a struggling would-be artist. All lost, all successes and failures at the same time. We meet the family three times: in 1997, just after Tony Blair’s election, and then again ten and twenty years later, the last time just after mother Sal’s death.

Image: Sascha Krieger

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Hunters and Deer

Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm, adapted by David Farr: The Hunt, Almeida Theatre, London (Director: Rupert Goold)

By Sascha Krieger

In his film The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg tells the story of an elementary schoolteacher falsely accused of sexually abusing a young girl. It depicts how he is ostracised, shut out from every aspect of community life, how his friends become a mob and fear turns into hate. It does so with stark naturalism, focusing on the everyday, the day to day struggles that form the nightmare that is bow his wife. In their tight theatre adaptation, David Farr and Rupert Goold swap the realism for a more ritualistic approach.

Image: Sascha Krieger

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Make-Belief Humans

Arthur Miller: Death of a Salesman, Young Vic Theatre, London (Directors: Marianne Elliott & Miranda Cromwell)

By Sascha Krieger

Reality is a fickle thing. In Arthur Miller’s classic, travelling salesman Willie Loman increasingly loses his grip on it, getting swept up in memories, fantasies and long lost dreams. In the Young Vic’s new production, reality is not much to begin with. Anna Fleischle’s set focuses on fragments: door and window frames hang suspended from the ceiling, so do pieces of furniture, they are lowered or brought forward when needed, providing an illusion of reality while emphasising its sketchy nature. The world is skeletal, no more than a hint of a physical presence long dissolved or never existing in the first place. Willie Loman is a man of illusions, of elaborate dreams, a captive of self-deception, a victim of his own make-belief. This is the world he lives in: a vague idea of a half-realised reality in which nothing has substance. So it doesn’t really matter whether we’re in the present or the past, the „real“ or the „imagined“. All of this is a fantasy, born of the dream that’s called American, of its promise and its lies.

Image: Sascha Krieger

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In Trump’s World

Lynn Nottage: Sweat, Donmar Warehouse / Gielgud Theatre, London (Director: Lynette Linton)

By Sascha Krieger

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage has established herself as a chronicler and theatrical seismograph of the American working-class and its disappearance. When Sweat premiered in 2015, it seemed hard to imagine that those the play portrays would just a year later sweep the most dangerous president the United States have seen into the White House. Yet looking at the play now, it seems wuite prophetic, a precise and early analysis of the seismic shift that has plagued lower-class America and the conflicts half-buried and fully ignored for too long. In it, Nottage depicts a derelict industrial town, founded on a steel mill that has been a second home to many for generations. Catalysed by the now infamous NAFTA agreement of 1994, things change: pay and benefits are cut, workers locked out, replacements recruited, the fabric of the community destroyed. Friendships and loyalties are teste, racial conflicts emerge as communities are divided by those for whom this makes it easier to conquer them. Sounds familiar?

Image: Sascha Krieger

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Circle of Money

Stefano Massini: The Lehman Trilogy, National Theatre / Piccadilly Theatre, London (Director: Sam Mendes)

By Sascha Krieger

Stefano Massini’s play is a massive effort: it attempts to do no less than to transform the rise and fall of a Jewish immigrants‘ business empire into a panoramic painting of American capitalism, coupled with a lesson in Jewish consciousness. No surprise that it takes on the form of an epic, a narrative spanning almost two centuries and various generations, in which the protagonists are tossed among the waves of time, complete with an at times almost chant like language, full of repetitions and enumerations, clearly schooled in Homer, individuals in the grip of fate – but, here the comparison ends, a fate at least partly created by them. Sam Mendes‘ production starts with the end: a janitor cleans out a conference room full of cardboard boxes and closes behind him. The Lehman Brothers story has ended, the bank being the most prominent victim – and perpetrator – of the 2008 financial crisis. And then it begins again: an old man dressed in mid-1800s clothes, enters the glass cubicle, the panoramic background changes from present day New York to the sea on which Hayum Lehman, soon to be called Henry arrived. Simon Russell Beale plays the company’s founder, soon to be joined by Ben Miles as Emanuel and Adam Godley as Mayer.

Image: Sascha Krieger

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