Day 1 of the festival for me started on a high and ended on a whimper. I also had to delete a tweet after accidentally breaking an embargo. Things can only get better from here!
Alan Warner’s novel The Sopranos was last seen at the National Theatre and in the West End in the guise of a riotous musical play called Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. A few years on and we are treated to a big screen adaptation under the helm of veteran director Michael Caton-Jones.
The ladies in question are six members of a catholic school choir. It is 1996, the choir is set to perform in Edinburgh and the ladies plan to turn the day trip from their small port town into a raunchy drink fest. Taking place over one day we follow the ladies as they talk themselves up, fall down, and try to talk their way into as much booze and adventure as they can handle.
Despite themes of religion, teenage drinking, and female promiscuity Our Ladies has no desire to preach to us. The ladies antics are not always safe or advisable but we revel in their brief window of freedom rather than frown at how they choose to spend it. Grown men and their weakness for the promise of a young girl’s attention are laughed at rather than shown as a sinister threat. Our ladies are always in control of the situation, if not themselves.
The fresh-faced cast brilliantly bring a diverse group of characters to life. Each confidently juggles the persona their lady projects, and the one she keeps hidden beneath.
Our Ladies is a delight. It shows being a teenager in all its messy glory and celebrates the constant clash of expectation and reality that life can bring. A new British classic has been made.
Bacurau has something it wants to say, and makes sure it gets its message home. Dressed up in the trappings of an exploitation horror (?) is a stark message about the way white westerners, and Brazil’s own elite, exploit and dismiss the rural population.
Through the eye’s of Teresa, homeward bound for her mother’s funeral, we discover the small rural village of Bacurau. The village is filled with curious characters; gangsters, pimps, and a lone exasperated doctor. Bacurau is a proud place, a museum dedicated to local history takes pride of place while the church is used for storage. Before too long strange occurrences befall the isolated hamlet. At first Bacurau can no longer be found on any map, then all phone signal is lost. With the village cut off from the wider world the arrival of outsiders hints at trouble to come.
Over a loose running time of over two hours Bacurau takes its time setting out its stall. We spend a lot of time getting to know the setting and its population before the film slowly hints at broader plots at play. When things kick off we are rewarded with the base, but fulfilling, thrills of extreme violence and stark nudity. The nudity used to add humanity to the locals, and the gore to add a level of farce.
Thrills aside Bacurau is all about its message. A lot that happens could be followed by the work “literally” as metaphors are writ large and the subtext is plain for anyone, even me, to see. How well the message and delivery work together is open to debate. For someone unfamiliar with the issues at hand it was easy to me to get my cheap thrill while acknowledging a wider issue was being addressed.
The success of Bacurau is not for me to judge. In this film I am definitely the baddie.
The Girl with a Bracelet
Lise is in court accused of the murder of her best friend two years ago. As her personal life, attitude, and sexuality are picked over by legal professionals Lise sits stoic in her seat. At home she squabbles with her younger brother like normal, the only clues to her wider troubles are the electronic tag on her ankle and her brothers request to have her room if she goes to prison.
These are the two views we are given of Lise in The Girl with a Bracelet. We see her in court and hear only of the past events through sparse evidence given. When it comes to Lise’s life out of court we are only shown her present day reality as her family deals with the possibility of her being found guilty. What I found myself desperately wanting to see was any objective truth about what happened between Lise and the deceased. Any glimpse at the truth so I could decide for myself what happened. But that was not to be.
This film is less interested in the whodunit that often surrounds a cinematic murder. Instead it prefers to explore the way a young woman is treated by society, specifically when being judged. Lise was a sexually active and experimental teenager. As information is drip fed to us via proceedings we see Lise judged less on evidence and more on a gentle character assassination.
Again we have a film with a message. A message similar to Our Ladies but without the subtly. As we are shown everything via the court case we see everything without emotion or full context and often the film’s message is delivered in full, without ambiguity, by the defense council.
The Girl with a Bracelet is a well made courtroom drama but holds back so much it lacks tension or drama.