A Bigger Splash – Film Review

A Bigger Splash

World-famous rock star Marianne (Tilda Swinton) is recovering from throat surgery on a small Italian island with her lover Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) when onto the island and into their lives bursts her former producer and beau Harry (Ralph Fiennes) with his recently discovered daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson). Trapped together in a luxurious villa the scene is set for jealousy, sex, and resentment as tensions of all kinds brew between a quartet of troubled characters; a ticking time bomb of hormones simmering in the heat.

Swinton is a chameleon as an actor and it is always a surprise to see what kind of character she will be playing. In A Bigger Splash Swinton plays it incredibly low-key as she tackles the role of a mostly mute singer who quietly oozes cool and sexuality. Swinton playing a more reserved character allows for Ralph Fiennes to go large as her bombastic ex. Rather than be cool and subtly sexual Fiennes is giving it his all, shouting from the rooftops and blasting sexual energy towards anyone foolish enough to cross his path. Before Fiennes arrives everything is serene but once he enters the film all is noise and energy. Fiennes is pure dad dancing, pelvis grinding, obnoxious energy and has never been better. He blasts into the calm poolside living with an unsettling jolt last seen produced by Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast. What a great double bill those films would make.

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Completing the quartet are Dakota Johnson as Harry’s daughter and Matthias Schoenaerts as Marianne’s partner and Harry’s former bestie. Both are more difficult to read that their counterparts as they observe the actions of others and quietly plot away in their heads. Johnson gives an infinitely more complex performance that Fifty Shades allowed and a sexier one too. I realise I’ve mentioned sex in every other sentence in this review but it runs at the heart of the film. While the actual sex in the film is minimal it is sex that drives every character’s motivations. It is what they are pursuing, resenting, or trying to avoid.

Luca Guadagnino’s direction gives us a film that is positively humming with energy. To watch the film is to have your pace racing. His camera moves around with great inventiveness and the music is at times playful and others timeless. Most importantly he has made a film that is a complete joy to watch. He has dialled up Fiennes to 11 and it is this performance that makes or break the film. Watching A Bigger Splash was pure enjoyment and admiration; a fine two hours spent in the dark of the cinema.

A Bigger Splash is a big, bold, brash, funny and shocking drama.

A Bigger Splash is in cinemas now.

Rust and Bone – DVD Review

Rust and Bone

I didn’t think I’d like Rust and Bone and so had been putting off watching it as long I could. Unfortunately when you write the UK’s 38th best film blog you can only put off watching a film for so long before a PR company emails you reminding you that the DVD is on release TODAY (their capitalisation). And fair enough, they sent you the DVD weeks ago and all you’ve done is left it sitting on top of a pile of DVDs waiting to be ignored.

The Film
Now I have watched the DVD and, surprise surprise, I enjoyed it. The plot surrounds Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) a young woman who loses her legs in a horrific accident. We see her learning to deal with her new disability and tentatively start a friendship with Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts) an amateur fighter and his young son Sam (Armand Verdure). As the title suggests the film is quite raw and is all the more powerful for it. As Cotillard struggles to adapt to her new life and to let Alain get close to her the tone is relatively dark and there are few silver linings to the many clouds.

This raw emotional aesthetic makes for a powerful film and the central relationship makes for quite an unromantic romance. They are there for each other in a physical sense but are reluctant to rely on one another for any of their emotional needs. Stéphanie is a strong character and not one prone to self-pity while Alain is a generous man with a violent energy bubbling beneath the surface.

Part of my trepidation in watching Rust and Bone was caused by my previous experience with Marion Cotillard. Whenever I have seen he in English-speaking roles she has left me cold. Her performance in The Dark Knight Rises, filmed in parallel with this film, was not so much phoned in as sent via SMS with no proper punctuation. In Rust and Bone however she is impeccable and truly embodies the role she is playing.

Rust and Bone is a deeply emotional drama that veers clear of being over-dramatic and overly emotional. The performances are natural and the film is gripping because of this. It is astonishing that this film was ignored at The Oscars on Sunday.

The DVD Extras
The extras consist of an hour-long “Making Of” documentary (lovely), a few deleted scenes, and a short featurette just showcasing the special effects. It is this short featurette that most intrigued me as it allows you a quick look at how they dealt with removing Marion Cotillard’s legs and it’s not often sex scenes feature in an effects reel.

Rust and Bone is worth your money and is out on DVD and Blu-ray yesterday.