Friends were startled when I told them I’d never seen any version of The Lion King. What can I say? I’m just not really a Disney guy. The recent dead-eyed, soulless “live-action” remake hadn’t done anything to spark my curiosity, and so I was going in cold to this touring production of Broadway’s second-longest-running, and most by far most lucrative show.
I gingerly entered the lion’s den, with little expectation. The rousing opening salvo by the baboon Rafiki (here reimagined as a shamanic priestess) in Swahili - “Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba! / (Here comes a lion, father!)” - coupled with the stampede of animals that it heralds, though, was like an electric jolt.
From the stage wings and from the back of the theater, a Noah’s Ark of wildlife arrives to welcome the new heir to the throne. Birds swoop, puma slink, giraffe saunter and a huge elephant marches through the audience to complete the crowd of animal onlookers. This is an immediately awe-inspiring introduction to the audience of the puppet-lead artistry that graces the entire production.
Six actors live inside that near life-size elephant, and the rest of the savannah is equally thrilling. I join the multi-generational audience in being nothing less than agog as the story begins. You’ll be familiar with the plot, which draws from Hamlet as a young prince navigates a perilous route to the throne, protected by a loving king father but beset by danger from a scheming uncle who feels overlooked.
The songs come thick and fast, and although Elton John and Tim Rice are the marquee names, the work and atmospherics provided by the African composer Lebo M. are the heart of the show, and are further brought to life by two live rhythm sections.
The ingenious animal costumes, employing puppetry that mixes simple light and shadow with the most elaborate exoskeletons, are a complete joy. Even when the actors are clearly visible, their commitment to movement and mimicry never detract from the aesthetic, and in fact it creates an even more dream-like visual.
The young Simba (Jaylen Lyndon Hunter) is a revelation, while scheming uncle Scar (Peter Hargrave) is played pitch-perfectly, bitter and sinister with a splash of camp. The entire ensemble is nothing but charismatic, with stand-outs for me being the comedy provided by avian consort to the king Zazou (Nick LaMedica), and the meerkat and warthog who befriend young Simba (Tony Freeman and John E. Brady as Timon and Pumba respectively. Gugwana Dlamini (Rafiki) steals every scene she’s in and Khalifa White’s Nala is a whirlwind of badassery.
In short, it’s a joyous extravaganza, and the presence of legions of children (who often hilariously react to onstage dialogue) reminded me of the pantomimes of my home country. The production levels, though, are ones that show a satisfying portion of the ticket price right up on that stage, and the visual logistics of the wildebeest stampede alone are worth the price of admission. Even Disney-sceptics such as this old warthog left blown away by the showmanship, delivered without a trace of cynicism, and with storytelling and truly inspiring spectacle to the fore. (PO)
Broadway in New Orleans continues at The Saenger Theater, with Six on November 29th
Being interviewed on stage as the movie opens, the life of classical conductor Lydia Tár looks to be resounding with symphonic levels of success. Through sheer talent and a singular drive, she has worked her way up to the heady heights of helming the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Her resume is longer than a CVS receipt, with a PhD from Harvard, years spent in remote jungles exploring music anthropology and even EGOT-ing (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) her way to fame beyond the concert halls.
Nowhere to go but down from here, right? An upcoming completion of recording her hero Mahler’s works is the backdrop to a nuanced and expertly-paced fall from grace, but director Todd Field isn’t in a hurry to get there. Settle in for a near-three hour psychological drama that both Field and lead Cate Blanchett deliver with a masterful touch.
At first, small actions hint at some of Tár’s more worrying idiosyncrasies: courting sexual attention from admirers, mild germaphobia, lying to her long-term partner (the orchestra’s first violinist, played by Nina Hoss) with whom she is raising a young child (Mila Bogojevic). She leads a bad-tempered tutorial at Julliard, cowering a young conducting student into submission about the separation of art and artist when he suggests that Bach might not be a hero to everyone.
What follows is a compelling examination of Tár’s lifestyle of panoramic manipulation, balanced with her descent into utter derangement. Dissatisfied with her long-time, aging assistant conductor, she plots to have him removed but rigs it to like his own choice. She elevates less qualified players in the orchestra so that she can seduce them, and she gaslights her long-term partner in sinister, controlling ways.
The death of a former protégé sparks increasingly frequent bouts of paranoia. As much as her life is dedicated to sound, Tár also suffers from misphonia - a condition where ambient noises trigger a flight-or-fight response - and she often wakes at night, startled by a buzzing refrigerator. Aural irritations add to the growing cracks of a mental breakdown, as her professional machinations and predatory behaviour begin to catch up with her, shaking her lofty perch.
It’s a performance that should have Blanchett in real-life Oscar contention come awards season. She is at once utterly controlling, intimidating and dynamic, but with weaknesses that lay her vulnerability bare. Sometimes impulsive, never satisfied (especially romantically), insecure and bullying. She’s a loving mother, though, and she lives for musical beauty, and so even as she deteriorates, sympathetic virtues underpin her worst excesses.
Tense lingering takes, the absence of a score beyond the music played on screen and a script that makes the audience calculate plot inferences for themselves instead of being spoon-fed: these are all daring choices by Field given the film’s length. However, it’s gripping from the start thanks to the subtle way that the rot sets in, as well as the engaging performances. Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s Noémie Merlant is excellent as Tár’s long-suffering assistant, as are ingénue cellist and temptress Sophie Kauer and classical old guards Mark Strong and Julian Glover.
It’s a thrilling character study, as well as one that addresses sexual morals in entertainment head on. The film’s movements are conducted expertly by Field and Blanchett, and in the end, it’s more of a requiem for a dream than a mighty opus. (PO)
Tár is playing at Prytania Canal Pace
There’s a heady echelon of artists who didn’t just excel at what they did, the very fact of their doing it changes the landscape of their craft. Louis Armstrong is, to borrow a phrase, in that number. From his first musical outings in ragtag bands at the Waif's Home for delinquents in New Orleans (where he became band leader at 13 years old) to a global presence that few musicians attain, Armstrong lead an extraordinary life.
Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues, by director Sacha Jenkins, leans on a wealth of impressive source material (including the vast library of Armstrong’s uncensored home tapes) to create a structurally jazz-like film that paints an unflinching picture of a musical titan.
His somewhat known rise from poverty, playing in the red light district of New Orleans’ Storyville, is fleshed out with some remarkable tales and film footage. The stories of his influence come thick and fast - he created scatting, his pivotal innovations injecting African rhythms into Western music, his pioneering of improvisational techniques…what we’re describing is virtually the invention of a genre. To quote virtuoso saxophonist Artie Shaw, “I would say jazz almost stems from Louis Armstrong.”
Armstrong smashed through barriers as a force of nature. He was the first black artist to open a club, and a ballroom, and a radio station, and the the first black actor to have his name above the title in movie promotion. There are way too many anecdotes and insights to summarize here. The documentary packs them in, though, via talking heads, voiceovers by musical legends and extracts from Armstrongs’ letters and private archives.
If you’re reading this you likely have a relationship with New Orleans. Louis Armstrong had one too, and it was…complicated. He left the city as a young man, following his musical heroes to Chicago and then to New York as his star ascended. His returns here were a mix of joy and stark reminders of Southern prejudice.
We hear about his taking a private train to travel here, selling out a large theater, but the announcer of that theater refusing to bring him up on stage, using the most offensive slurs imaginable. The then mayor gave him the keys to the city, but in reality those keys could not unlock swathes of white-only spaces. White supremacy might performatively make token concessions, but it does not relent in its persecution.
Armstrong’s civil rights stances are, of course, examined. He was often mocked by other black artists for playing a submissive role in the media, but like Sammy Davis Jr, this was a stealth offensive. Decades before Hendricks at Woodstock, Louis Armstrong would play the Star Spangled Banner as a political statement, he was in rooms that many other black people could not dream of entering, he was working to survive and elevate others from his position.
There’s an incredible story by black actor Ossie Davis, who had “malice and ridicule” for Armstrong until he worked with him on a movie set and saw a steely melancholy in him. “Beneath that gravel voice and that shuffle,” he says, “Under all that mouth with more teeth than a piano had keys, was a horn that could kill a man.”
New Orleans’ own Wynton Marsalis is one of the main commentators. He too came from a position of cynicism about Armstrong. It was all “Dixie and shufflin’,” he says. “In my time I hated that with unbelievable passion.” When Marsalis moved away from New Orleans, his father sent him tapes of Armstrong and said, “Why don’t you learn one of these solos?” After trying and failing to match the sonic range, the power of the musical register and the sheer endurance of Armstrong’s trumpet playing, Marsalis conceded his genius.
Sacha Jenkins covers huge tracts of biographical ground. We get Armstrong the global megastar, playing to tribespeople in Ghana and in front of the pyramids in Egypt, Armstrong the marijuana and laxatives proponent, the avuncular chat show guest, the four wives, the uncompromising artist, the sweary rants at astonishing racism from low-level media personnel. Armstrong is criticized for not marching, but he buys coal for poor residents of cities he plays in, and he gives generously, working a different line of attack.
In a lot of the footage, though, he is just spreading industrial amounts of joy. That famous, infectious grin, as big as a sunrise. As one commentator remarks, “It was not a simple-minded happiness, it was a transcendent joy.” That transcendence - social, musical, cultural, - is the feeling that you walk away with. Welcome to Armstrong’s complex, but wonderful world. (PO)
Louis Armstrong's Black and Blues is playing at the Prytania Canal Place
‘Eat the rich’ is a common enough anti-capitalist slogan, and here’s a movie that prods at what that might actually look like in extreme circumstances, begging the further question of whether the rich would be as appetizing if you knew what they were marinated in. Excuse my grammar: if you knew in what they were marinated. Happy now? OK.
Director Ruben Östlund is a big cheese on the European film circuit, collecting his second Palm D’Or at Cannes last year for this satire. If you’ve seen his previous outings, Force Majeur (an avalanche-themed social comedy with beardy Game of Thrones star Kristofer Hivju) and The Square (a skewering of the modern art scene set in Stockholm), then some of the themes of the Triangle of Sadness will be familiar.
Östlund loves to dwell on the tensions between the middle/upper classes and those that serve them in luxurious surroundings, the wasteful, frivolous decadence of the rich, and the conflicting memories that two people might have about the same event. Those are all in evidence here, the former two being the main motif.
The title refers to the patch between a model’s eyebrows, the film opening with a pointed look at catwalk auditions, and introducing us to ernest himbo Carl (a chiseled but dour Harris Dickinson) and his semi-flighty influencer/model girlfriend, Yaya (the late Charlbi Dean Kriek). The first act is a precision dissection of modern sexual and economic morals in a personal, romantic sense, and one which leads to a free jolly on a luxury yacht.
Enter uptight steward Paula (played with perfect intensity by Vicki Berlin), corralling her starch-white uniformed staff to pamper their rich guests with the promise of huge cash tips, all the while the camera panning down to the Filipino cleaners and cooks, none of whom will see these bonuses. The captain seems to be drunk, though it’s hard to tell as he refuses to leave his cabin, but soon enough we’re in the middle of the ocean.
Secret Marxist Captain Thomas (an amusingly wasted Woody Harrelson) pulls it together for the Captain’s Dinner, welcoming a selection of oligarchs, tech billionaires, arms dealers and old money types, and it’s here that the tone shifts. What follows is a visceral and highly scatlogical literal shitstorm, the climax of which has Harrelson locked in his office with a Russian businessman, shouting communist epitaphs over the PA while everyone else swims in their own filth.
A hilariously ironic bout of piracy has the third act set on a deserted island, the few that survive thrown into a whole new society as a woman from ‘the staff’ (the excellent Dolly de Leon) emerges as the only one with the skills to hunt, make fire, or do anything of value. Looks and wealth mean nothing at first, though these things do have corrupting impacts as time passes, even in this apparent desolation.
Money, desirability, influence - these are all just ways to ease transactions of power, and this is laid bare. It’s a satire that’s perhaps more heavy-handed than Östlund’s other films, and the excesses of the rich could be painted in more subtly brutal terms. The director does have a nose for the minutiae of human behaviour, and how it shapes and is shaped by society. There are some laugh-out-loud set pieces, and a belligerent Woody Harrelson is always worth the price of admission. If you’re squeamish, though, you might have to look away for that shocking, mid-movie tidal wave. (PO)
The Triangle of Sadness is playing at the Prytania Theater Canal Place.
There’s certainly no lack of ambition behind writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour’s third feature. A young woman, Mona Lisa Lee (Jun Jong-seo) escapes a secure facility and has to survive in the neon-drenched fleshpots of the French Quarter. She has telekinetic powers but limited street smarts, having been imprisoned for many years. Caustic 'tart with a heart' Bonnie Belle (Kate Hudson) takes Mona Lisa under her wing and a local cop (Craig Robinson) is on her tail.
That’s pretty much the entire plot, save a friendship that Lee develops with Belle’s eleven year-old son, Charlie (Evan Whitten), both of them frustrated with their respective stations in life. One immediate question as Lee escapes in the opening scenes is why she didn’t use her powers to break free years earlier? There’s also the mystery of where her powers came from, and more generally, what her backstory is. We never really find out.
Mona Lisa Lee is drawn in the vein of an X-Men mutant, or Eleven from Stranger Things. She's a detached, quasi-alien being, though without any biographical insights, it’s hard to root for her beyond just wanting an underdog/outsider to win. We know even less about Robinson’s Officer Harold, save that he’s back on the job the day after getting shot in the leg. Is that a fair representation of NOPD’s work ethic? I’ll diplomatically defer judgment there. Also, he begins the movie as a uniformed beat cop, but spends the rest of his time on screen as a plain-clothes detective, so it’s unclear what his actual job is.
Parts of New Orleans are evocatively and atmospherically rendered, such as the drunken chaos of Bourbon Street and the sulphur-washed corners of Esplanade Avenue, lit by buzzing streetlamps, where Lee finds her main ally (a likable hoodlum called ‘Fuzz’. Played by Ed Skrein). Locals might feel a little disoriented as characters walk down one street only to emerge elsewhere, but that’s nit-picking.
The city is teased as a character, and so there’s scenes like the obligatory consultation with a voodoo priestess, Robinson getting mad that all she can offer is spells and potions, although I’m not really sure what he was expecting by going to her. You came to a voodoo practitioner for help and...she suggests voodoo. Kind of with the priestess on this one.
There are some script elements that feel like they were filler at the time of writing and then just never got replaced. The hospital is just called the ‘Home for Mentally Insane Adolescents’, the strip club is called ‘The Panty Drop’, both of which seem like top-of-the-head ideas that were just not rewritten.
It’s a very stylized and color-saturated movie, and there are some fun set pieces, but I feel like it should have leaned into the humor more. As much as I love Craig Robinson as a comedic talent, I’m not sure he has the gravitas for a grizzled cop, but then we find out so little about these characters that maybe it doesn't matter. IMHO, a bit more schlock and self-aware goofiness might have made for a fun ride.
It’s a cinematic curiosity that locals might like as they recognize the real-life locations (including a tense denouement at the old airport, RIP), and the leads are charismatic, if doggedly one-dimensional. A few more wry smiles and a little more color to the character’s lives might have elevated this Mona Lisa more towards a masterpiece, but if a low-stakes portrait against a familiar backdrop works for you, then you might still like this New Orleans caper. (PO)
Watching the trailers before the main feature, it’s clear that there’s a velvet-lined casket-full of horror movies ambling towards their release date as Halloween approaches. ‘Pearl’ has been out a couple of weeks and so is getting a (decapitated) head start, and what a high bar it sets for this year’s crop.
This is a prequel/origin story for a movie I have not seen, but one that was shot back-to-back with Pearl. ‘X’ was released last year, also directed by Ti West and also starring Mia Goth as Pearl. I don’t know what happens in ‘X’, but I’m sure as hiccups going to watch it today. It doesn’t matter if you haven't seen 'X'', Pearl is a gore-soaked gem in its own right, and completely self-contained.
We join Pearl (Mia Goth), a young wife, living on a remote farm with her incapacitated father, her incredibly stern mother, and with her husband away at war. She has dreams of being famous, has horrendously low self esteem thanks to media portrayals of beauty and there’s a pandemic killing everyone. Is the year 2020? No, it’s 1918, World War I is ending and The Spanish Flu is decimating the population.
All Pearl wants is to be a dancing girl on the silver screen, and she performs Disney-esque song and dance routines around the farmyard but hey, wait a minute, the animals sure seem to be disappearing, and the tension with her parents is ramping up pretty intensely, and she does have a crazed look in her eyes whenever she talks about escaping...
Ti Wests’ color palette and general ambience are reminiscent of the nostalgic, technicolor saturation of, say, The Wizard of Oz. There’s also a scarecrow in this movie, though given how Pearl uses him to satiate her desires, I’d say a brain was the last thing he was in need of. As Pearl schemes and her hostility levels rise due to her many frustrations, having to bathe her dad and do endless chores for her mother and the like, the walls close in and shadows lengthen. The movie flits between rose-tinted panoramas and creepy expressionism.
A bohemian cinema projectionist at the local cinema fuels her erotic and professional yearnings with big talk of performing in Europe, and her brother’s wife tells her about a dance audition that’s coming to town. Pearl gets increasingly febrile about these possibilities and the conflict with her mother, a dour German who preaches sacrifice and familial devotion, reaches boiling point. The pastoral idyll becomes a bloody playground. We’re definitely not in Kansas any more, Toto.
Mia Goth is an irresistibly charismatic cinematic presence, and toward the end, she pulls off an incredible, one-take monologue that teases out your sympathies almost against your will. She expertly spins from wide-eyed, country ingenue to a hysterical killer, foaming at the mouth, almost on a dime.
Ti West’s direction is about as nuanced as you might get in what’s basically a slasher film, the contrast between the comforting hues of the landscape and the bloody violence working to great effect. There are some genuinely funny moments thanks to some deft self awareness. Tandi Wright, who learned German so well for the role of Pearl’s mother that she fooled two German crew members, also deserves plaudits for her Teutonic, Norma Bates-esque matriarch, the perfect foil for Pearl’s rage.
There’s a terrifying moment when the ambition that was keeping Pearl from succumbing to her worst tendencies evaporates. “It’s not about what I want any more, it’s about making the most of what I have,” she says. It’s at that point that you know all bets are off, and that you’ll definitely be interested in what Pearl does next. (PO)
Pearl is currently playing at the Prytania Canal Place
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.