Spling reviews Die Verhaal van Racheltjie de Beer, The Joker and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.
Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…
This week, we’re talking about an adaptation of a local legend, dark character portrait drama and a biographical romance drama
Starting off with a film now on circuit…
DIE VERHAAL VAN RACHELTJIE DE BEER
A family are separated by a freak blizzard on their trek to the virgin gold fields.
Writer-Director: Matthys Boshoff
Stars: Stian Bam, Antoinette Louw and Zonika de Vries
– The South African legend has led to genealogical studies to identify the de Beer family and story’s historicity.
– History or legend, it’s an important and stirring tale about family and sacrifice that has ingratiated itself in Afrikaner culture and identity.
– It’s more of an ensemble drama, featuring some of South Africa’s finest acting talents including Marius Weyers and Sandra Prinsloo.
– While stellar, this is a real team effort with a focus on Bam and Louw, while de Vries plays the mild-mannered and ethereal Racheltjie.
– The tale may be fairly simple in essence, but it creates layers beyond human interest and inspiring morality.
– Conjuring mystery around Racheltjie’s mother, almost as if a ghost story, Boshoff has injected a surreal element to embroider and refresh an otherwise straightforward retelling.
– Surreal sequences, an uneasy welcoming committee, an eerie dining experience… each strand has a distinct feel that redresses the plain period drama, making for an uneven yet visually-enticing cinematic experience.
– Retaining its historical authenticity through accurate sets and wardrobe, the story’s fable quality does allow some poetic license, which helps smooth over a few inconsistent scenes and visual effects that border on Biblical.
– While those familiar with the tale will watch with a fixed perspective, it’s difficult not to be roused.
A solid 7 on the splingometer
And moving onto another film now showing…
In Gotham City, a mentally-troubled and disregarded stand up comes face-to-face with his alter-ego, Joker.
Director: Todd Phillips
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro and Frances Conroy
– The Joker is unlike most superhero origin movies in that it’s a character portrait drama.
– Painting a grittier Gotham City, giving it a bleak ’70s vibration and preoccupying itself with intimate characterisation rather than grand illusion, we’re immersed in the desperately sad, vile and alienating world of Arthur Fleck.
– Instead of simply dressing Joker in his finery and catapulting him into super villain mode, director Todd Phillips wants us to empathise with the man behind the quietly cantankerous villain.
– He’s not glorified to the point of being an anti-hero as with the recent Ted Bundy biopic.
– Instead, The Joker offers a much more complex perspective on the man, building to his eventual unveiling through a slow and steady evolution.
– Phoenix’s transformative performance is what underpins The Joker, an intoxicating acting master class beyond the sense of authenticity Philips creates.
– The Joker has taken its cues from anti-establishment films of the ’70s, specifically Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy and A Clockwork Orange, channeling the same defiant spirit and passion for psychotic violence.
– Dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight, you can understand why there have been concerns over its provocative, political bent.
– It’s a grotesque and disturbing but beautifully constructed., representing the character’s jilted viewpoint, cresting on Phoenix’s hypnotic and Oscar-worthy lead performance.
An excellent 8 on the splingometer
And finally, a film now on Showmax…
FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL
A romance sparks between a young actor and a Hollywood leading lady.
Director: Paul McGuigan
Stars: Annette Bening, Jamie Bell and Kenneth Cranham
– Jamie Bell is best known for Billy Elliott, although it must be said that he has made a solid name for himself with a string of sharp performances from Rocketman to Skin.
– while taken from the perspective of Peter Turner, biographer and lover to Gloria Grahame, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is centred on the late great actress over two of her most arduous years.
– Annette Bening, recently starred in 20th-Century Woman and has shown considerable form, continuing this trajectory in her role as the forever-young Gloria Grahame
– in a similar vein to My Week with Marilyn, the film settles in the curious space between an ordinary man and a high-profile actress known for her roles as a femme fatale
– authentic in terms of its dedication to the time, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is all about the whirlwind romance, the intricacies of life-threatening illness and sincerity of emotion
– Bell and Bening enjoy good chemistry, despite the 30-year age gap, keeping the focus on their intimate and curious relationship in a non-judgmental fashion
– while the co-lead performances remain compelling, the storytelling is a little muddled, switching back and fourth between two time periods
– moving from joyful to sorrowful tones, it’s a drama you can admire, yet besides Grahame’s celebrity and the age gap, the romance drama does struggle for significance
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
DIE VERHAAL VAN RACHELTJIE DE BEER… an authentic, haunting, stellar, picturesque and quietly stirring drama with multi-genre vibrations and old world pacing… A solid 7!
THE JOKER… a paradoxical, political and divisive character portrait built on a transcendent lead performance… An excellent 8!
FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL… solid co-leads and curious characters compel this intimate yet muddled biographical romance drama… A satisfactory 6!
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