It must be a real downer to have set a movie release date and then have that date coincide with the death of South London’s most famous mother of four. Said film being a murder mystery, even a hint of regal foul play might have helped in the marketing, but alas. Some deaths eclipse even those penned by Agatha Christie.
See How They Run isn’t an actual Agatha Christie adaptation, but it takes place against the backdrop of a production of her play, The Mousetrap, the longest-running whodunnit in London’s theatrical history.
This meta approach is carried through, with the narrator deconstructing the tropes of whodunnit stories even as the movie itself employs them. The characters even talk about the play’s cliches as the film script cuts to the exact thing they’re talking about. Is it a cute device or sort of a cop out to buffer the use of well-trodden ideas? I’m going to say that See How They Run is just about charming enough to carry it off.
A misanthropic film director played by Adrian Brody plays the death interest (this isn’t a spoiler, they signpost it from the beginning), with the dependably-entertaining Sam Rockwell and chatty rookie Saoirse “It’s Actually Pronounced Saoirse” Ronan as his partner fronting the investigation.
Of course, there’s an array of suspects with plausible motives, played with varying amounts of camp, but all well drawn. Anglophiles might recognize Reece Shearsmith (League of Gentlemen), Sian Clifford (Fleabag) and Tim Key (Alan Partridge). David Oyelowo is particularly charismatic as effete writer Mervyn Cocker-Norris, constantly locking horns with Brody over the screen adaptation of the play, and Harris Dickinson plays a great hand as Dickie Attenborough, who was in the real-life original cast.
Rockwell’s inspector is typically world-weary and boozy with, yes, an ex wife, and cynicism for days, and the scenes with Ronan, as she gabs away, saucer-eyed at meeting celebrities, are pacey and funny. The self-referential lines verge on smug, but fall just shy of jarring, and if you give into the silliness, it’s a fun ride. (PO)
See How They Run is playing at the Prytania Canal Place
I once read a piece about Baz Luhrmann that described him as “The Michael Bay of jazz hands” and I’m not going to even try to top that. Although Elvis doesn’t have the large-format, panoramic dance choreography of Moulin Rouge or The Great Gatsby, it’s definitely a Baz Luhrmann movie in all the best ways. Baz is one of those rare directors that has created, and continues to refine, his own visual cinematic language, and it’s on full display here.
It’s a smart choice (IMHO) to tell the story through the shaky lens of Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ ethically-questionable manager. Tom Hanks delivers a suitably weird performance, bouncing between Dutch and American accents in a way that keeps him slippery enough to feel untrustworthy.
From the beginning, we’re pitched into a swirling fever dream, the boy Elvis going into religious rapture as he hears the gospel sounds from a rural revival ministry that he sneaks into in Tupelo, the manic energy already pouring out of him as a pre-teen. We pinball through his life at breakneck speed, and it’s a disorienting sensory overload that reflects what must have been a whiplash-inducing rise to fame.
We get many sweat-drenched close-ups of the snake-hipped showmanship that fuelled that rise, women passing out from the gyratory exuberance, men eyeing him suspiciously, wishing they had an ounce of his power on stage. Austin Butler is corporeally committed from the get-go, and delivers a rampantly physical performance from the first gig to the last.
The rollercoaster never stops, through early success, to marriage, to the Vegas years awash with narcotics and insecurity. The Colonel gradually switches from cheerleader to exploiter, the strains of “I’m caught in a trap” from Suspicious Minds wafting in the background as he signs Presley up to yet another exhaustingly demanding contract.
The music is as good as you’d expect, and even if history skips over it, Luhrmann makes sure to highlight that all of Elvis’ talent came from watching and listening to and hanging out with black musicians. We see the child Elvis at the knees of older bluesmen, as well as scenes of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Big Mama Thornton, Little Richard, Mahalia Jackson, and BB King.
We know how this all ends, with ill health and recriminations and a legacy tainted. After Elvis dies, Tom Parker is nothing but a lonely, bitter gambling addict. Those halucinatory visions keep washing over us until the end, though, and we emerge from Luhrmann’s odyssey in a daze. It’s a long ride, and you need to strap in and hold on because it gets real bumpy amid all the grinding. PO
Elvis is playing at the Prytania Canal Place
Anglophiles and Paul Thomas Anderson fan-persons might recognize the lead in Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, Leslie Manville, as the manipulative sister (Cyril Woodcock) in PTA’s 2017 masterpiece, The Phantom Thread.
Although these films are centered around the world of haute couture, it’s hard to imagine more different roles. While both touch on the transformative nature of high fashion, The Phantom Thread is a tense study of power dynamics, whereas Mr Harris Goes to Paris is a light, feel-good comedy.
Ada Harris (Manville) is a put-upon war widow in 1950s London, scrubbing floors and generally laboring without gratitude for the upper classes. Exposed to their wardrobes, when she comes into some money, she determines to go to Paris and buy herself a Christian Dior dress from the atelier showroom itself.
Having established her low station, the plot runs on a series of convenient coincidences and turns of luck to place her as a welcomed oddity in the world of high fashion, the entirety of Paris rallying behind her aside from the abrasive company enforcer Madame Colbert (Isabelle Huppert). As Ada doesn’t know the etiquette, she helps people - models, accountants and even a Marquis - cast aside their snobbish rules, in a kind of ‘innocent abroad’ romp involving everything from matchmaking to kindly vagrants.
Ada speaks almost entirely in Cockney idioms, calls everybody ‘ducks’, and makes serial remarks of the kind that Mr Dior “looks like my milkman”, though Manville’s charisma keeps it just shy of parody. The themes of working class invisibility and a life spent wishing instead of doing give it a little edge, but mostly it’s a cheery adventure without too many stakes.
It won’t change your life, and there’s a fair amount of suspension of disbelief required, but it’s a fun enough story and cor blimey guv’nor luv a duck would you Adam n' Eve it, even cynics will be rooting for old Ada by the final act. PO
Mrs Harris goes to Paris is showing now at the Prytania Canal Place
A billionaire industrialist decides he wants to leave a lasting legacy in this Spanish comedy. He decides on producing a movie with ‘the very best people’. This shakes out as the recruitment of maverick director Lola Cuevas (Penélope Cruz), who casts leading men Félix Rivero (Antonio Banderas), and Iván Torres (Oscar Martínez) in an adaptation of a dramatic novel. Cuevas longs for tension during preparation, an easy task given that Rivero is a brash international movie star and Torres is a pompous classical actor. Both are put through extreme paces in the build-up to the shoot, the creative tensions embellished by the physical tension of one scene that is rehearsed directly under a huge boulder, suspended over their heads on a crane. Cuevas has an exacting vision, Torres getting ever more irritated as he is made to repeat his first line in the film - “Good evening” - multiple times ”to find the truth”. It’s a clever and acerbic satire on film making in the modern age, and on pretention and ego. The leads all relish their occasionally monstrous characters, all of them both endearing and despicable in different ways. Banderas even delivers the cliched line that male actors trot out for love scenes regarding any potential for getting physically aroused, telling his scene partner “I’m sorry if I do, and I’m sorry if I don’t”. It’s a well-balanced three-hander, and though Banderas and Martínez are both convincing and combative, it’s Cruz that steals the show with her unpredictable whimsy, devastatingly chic fashion sense and high-handed artistic process, not to mention her sublime hair. PO
Official Competition is playing now at Prytania Canal Place.
Cochon Butcher Chef de Cuisine Forrest Jackson has collaborated with Wetlands Sake to host a Steak + Sake dinner on July 14. The three-course menu will be served from 5 – 10 pm; and is offered first-come, first-serve, with limited seating. Each course will have an optional pairing with a Wetlands Sake beverage.
Chef Jackson's menu starts with an appetizer course of Tuna Tataki with ponzu sauce, yuzu koshu, and chilies offered with a Sake 75 cocktail prepared with Wetlands Blood Orange Sake, gin, fresh citrus, and mint. The entree course is a Shio Koji Marinated Wagyu Flat Iron crafted with Wetlands Koji, which uses locally sourced ingredients in the complicated and delicate process and is the cornerstone of sake brewing, as well as soy sauce, miso, and Kirin. The wagyu is served with grilled mixed vegetables, yakiniku sauce, and fresh wasabi and paired with a Wetlands Unfiltered Sake. The dessert course is a Matcha Ice Cream Sandwich made with a sesame tahini cookie and Wetlands Passion Fruit Sake.
The special Steak + Sake dinner is $80 with a $25 optional sake pairing. For more information, please visit cochonbutcher.com.
If you like watching bar skills and displays of dexterity, the Speed Rack Season 10 Finals are heading to New Orleans on Sunday, July 24 from 3-7pm in conjunction with Tales of the Cocktail. 18 finalists from around the country will go head-to-head in a round-robin style competition. This live-action, fast paced event is open to the public, and tickets are on sale now.
On Sunday June 29th, Bywater American Bistro will welcome Chef Adrienne Cheatham to their pop-up dinner series. Adrienne competed on season 15 of Top Chef, making it all the way to the finale and finishing second. You'll also be able to buy copies of her book. More info here.
Hi, just a note to put something on this page. This will be a place for smaller events announcements and quick news pieces and previews - anything that's not a full feature or review, really. Sincere thanks for reading, we so appreciate your checking in. More soon!