Talking Movies: Mank, I Am Woman and Control

Spling reviews Mank, I Am Woman and Control as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.

TRANSCRIPT

Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about an old Hollywood style drama and two music biography dramas.

Starting off with a film now on Netflix…

MANK

1930’s Hollywood is reevaluated through the eyes of scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz.

Director: David Fincher

Stars: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried and Lily Collins

– Oldman has long been viewed as a supporting actor but has demonstrated his versatility as a lead in The Darkest Hour and now Mank.
– Playing a screenwriter makes sense, a role traditionally downplayed in terms of importance, but a 43-year-old is a bit of a stretch.
– Oldman is captivating as usual and it’s a real treat for fans of movies from the age, delivering a character portrait about one of Hollywood’s unsung heroes, who worked on The Wizard of Oz, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Pride of the Yankees as well as his magnum opus, Citizen Kane.
– Mank has been shot like an old Hollywood film, composing shots, sound and performances in a manner fitting of the time.
– David Fincher has crafted a picture that feels a part of the age with contemporary reflections on today’s Hollywood, American politics and the era of fake news.
– From casting to wardrobe, every aspect has been fine-tuned to feel like it’s from the time, which may amaze some and frustrate others.
– It has the same allure of Trumbo with Bryan Cranston, but is a much more authentic, visually-striking and committed character portrait by contrast.
– Each film attempts to capture the tone of their subject, this film explores Mank’s precarious relationship with Hollywood studios and collaborators.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!
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Moving on to a film releasing to DStv Box Office…

I AM WOMAN

The story of 1970s musician and activist Helen Reddy.

Director: Unjoo Moon

Stars: Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Evan Peters and Danielle Macdonald

– Reddy was an influential singer and iconic figure in the feminist movement.
– Somehow lost in the humdrum of pop culture, many won’t know Reddy’s name but will be inspired and entertained by this strong biographical music drama.
– We’ve seen Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody and I Am Woman follows in the name title convention with a fairly formulaic approach to this music biopic.
– It’s a passion project for producer-director Unjoo Moon who directs with finesse, offering an artful yet emotive take on Reddy’s career.
– It’s a strong showcase and breakthrough role for Cobham-Hervey who could be described as a hybrid of Keira Knightley and Lily James in terms of appearance and screen presence.
– Peters is equally surprising and unrecognisable in this mature role, almost channeling Gary Cole in a complex and multi-faceted performance.
– The music is impressive and Cobham-Hervey adopts Reddy’s mannerisms in her live performances.
– I Am Woman’s most incredible feat is its mis-en-scene, serving as a complete immersion into the age without tipping into a distracting or unintentional comedy.
– There’s a nostalgic air to this return to the ’70s, capturing the zeitgeist without pandering too much to modern audiences.
– I Am Woman represents a broad and unfettered cross-section of inherent sexism in society, which filters into the male-dominated music industry politics and the fabric of Reddy’s dysfunctional relationship with Wall.
– The film ends on a powerful and self-reflective note.
– While it’s a formulaic and expedient chronicle of Reddy’s music career, it’s emotionally connective and entertaining, backed by two strong co-leads.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!
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And finally a film now on Labia Home Screen…

CONTROL

A profile of Ian Curtis, the enigmatic singer of Joy Division.

Director: Anton Corbijn

Stars: Sam Riley, Samantha Morton and Craig Parkinson

– It’s always a bold move to film in black-and-white, a decision that generally narrows your audience and relegates your film to independent art house.
– Yet, it’s difficult to imagine Control being filmed any other way.
– Clouds of smoke, gleaming eyes and wonderful textures make it seem as though a touring photographer had made it his mission to document Curtis’ life over the course of his brief yet impactful music career in Macclesfield in the early 1970s.
– This is a moody and haunting film from Corbijn who has a long history of making music videos.
– Here he’s brought a series of priceless snapshots to life, transposing the brooding feel of black-and-white photos of a new wave rock band into scenes that drip with cool.
– Riley does a terrific job of capturing the enigmatic spirit of the star-gazing Curtis, reliably supported by Morton who rightfully gets first billing in the closing credits.
– The language is coarse and the drug abuse is frequent yet feels very much at home in spite of these excesses.
– Corbijn creates rich photographic moments from visceral full band performances in cramped venues to simply going walkabout with Curtis in his dreary hometown.
– While delving into the typical sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll dimension, there’s a grounded feel to Control… representing a rather unglamorous rock biography made glamorous by its transcendent style and mood.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer
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So just to wrap up…

MANK… a strong lead and timely biographical story reinforce this accurate, nostalgic and visually-striking return to old Hollywood and character portrait… An excellent 8!

I AM WOMAN… excellent co-lead performances and an immersive cinematic treatment compel this formulaic yet emotive and entertaining music biopic drama… A solid 7!

CONTROL… moody black-and-white snapshots are brought to life in this effortlessly cool, visceral, haunting and well-acted music biopic drama… An excellent 8!

For more movie reviews, previous Talking Movies podcasts and upcoming Bingeing with Spling watch parties visit splingmovies.com.

And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!
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