FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL
Sometimes real life is far more horrific than anything a fiction writer can conjure. John Ridley’s and Carlton Cuse’s adaptation of Sheri Fink’s detailed and harrowing book, Five Days at Memorial, places us in the middle of an event so gut-wrenchingly awful that it is hard to believe we are in one of the wealthiest countries in the world in 2005. Starring Vera Farmiga, Cherry Jones, Cornelius Smith Jr. and Robert Pine, this is the story of the New Orleans Memorial Medical Center and Hurricane Katrina. But this tale is less about the hurricane and more about government failure, the collapse of civil structures and the unbearable decision-making that doctors and nurses were forced to make as they sat alone in a hospital surrounded by flood waters. It’s the story of 45 patients who died over five days and a fragmented healthcare system that allowed a hospital to be isolated in its time of need. Five Days at Memorial is a tough, gritty and urgent drama that offers no tidy conclusions as it attempts to unpick themes of accountability and a lingering sense of injustice.
THE US AND THE HOLOCAUST
Epic documentaries are rare nowadays, especially those that dare to stretch over three two-hour episodes. But anyone familiar with documentary maker Ken Burns and his long-time collaborators Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein will know that epic and detailed are bylines for Burns’ work. Here Burns unpicks and then stitches together a complicated tapestry of US history in relation to immigration, War in Europe, antisemitism and race from the early 1930s to the post-War period. No stone is left unturned as Burns explores two sides of the same coin, one rooted in segregation and a belief in America first and the other in compassion, bravery and a need to protect. Meanwhile, the dark history of Eugenics and psychological discrimination and oppression sees the UK and the US shoulder at least some of the responsibility for the horrors of Nazism. The US and the Holocaust is documentary filmmaking at its most powerful and urgent.
For eleven-year-old Sophie (Frankie Corio), a beach holiday in Turkey with her dad, Calum (Paul Mescal), marks the final summer of childhood innocence. While for her dad, the holiday coincides with his 31st birthday, a birthday he never thought he would reach. Charlotte Wells’ adventurous, understated and artistically bold film is a stunning photographic essay of love, loss, joy and disappointment, a mosaic of memories forever burnt into celluloid. Aftersun is filmmaking at its most profound, beguiling and beautiful.
On a secluded island, a spikey house manager and a reclusive and famous chef greet a small group of wealthy individuals. They have all come to experience a world-class menu that is more theatre than food. But as the night progresses, the menu becomes a deliciously dark game of no escape. Mark Mylod’s wicked satire takes no time in taking a huge bite out of the world of haute cuisine as we watch Ralph Fiennes’ cold and deranged chef Julian Slowik turn from MasterChef into a malevolent and merciless maitre d’.
It would be easy to label Melissa Lesh and Trevor Frost’s beautiful and tender documentary as a classic healing journey, but Wildcat is much more. It is the story of a young Afghanistan veteran and two lost and lonely ocelots in a world that is often unforgiving and harsh but also full of wonder and hope. Wildcat is a tender, intimate and beautiful exploration of life, loss, love and rebirth that never attempts to sugar-coat the journey of Harry, Samantha, Khan and Keanu.
FLUX GOURMET (2022)
What is art? Is it a bed surrounded by junk? A meticulous painting depicting a historical scene? Or maybe it’s a deconstructed cottage pie and a silky Jus? The truth is art is whatever the artist views as ‘art,’ and therefore, it could be anything! One could never accuse Peter Strickland of shying away from deconstructing the world around us. During his career, he has pointed his lens at fashion, sound and sex, and now he cuts into the world of haute cuisine and bodily digestion with Flux Gourmet.
Surrounded by his tried and tested troupe of performers while welcoming a decidedly grungy Asa Butterfield to the clan, Flux Gourmet is a truly bizarre journey into culinary theatre. Here the body and its gaseous workings are just as important as the food on a table. While the Sonic Catering Institute, led by the flamboyant Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christie), is just as chilling as In Fabric’s Dentley & Soper’s Department Store.
As with all of Strickland’s work, Flux Gourmet may not appeal to everyone. But it’s a delicious treat for those willing to be taken on a magical mystery tour that isn’t afraid to cut deep into the bizarre nature of art and food.
IN FABRIC (2018)
Set in the fictional town of Thames Valley on Thames, Peter Strickland’s In Fabric bathes us in a devilishly clever horror-comedy exploring consumerism past and present. Here the town at the heart of the story sits in a timeless void, where the traditional 70s British high street remains intact. In the centre of town sits, Dentley & Soper’s department store, a vast cavern of wonder that encourages residents to spend their hard-earned cash. Here the classic British department store of Are You Being Served is subverted into a gothic nightmare of secrets and desires—the staff team dressed in Victorian attire while talking in riddles.
In Dentley & Soper’s sits a beautiful red dress, its elegance and grace reflected in its flowing curves and luscious material. However, the dress is tinged with tragedy, its enchanting allure holding a deadly spirit. But, for single mum Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), the dress captures her attention as she plans a dinner date. On purchasing the red dress from the creepy staff at Dentley & Soper’s, Sheila has the confidence to believe her life can be better. However, the dress has its own plans.
The dress at the heart of Peter Strickland’s film burns with ferocious energy as it glides through a blood bath of humour and terror. But, when the arresting visuals are combined with the score of Cavern of Anti-Matter, In Fabric transcends the boundaries of horror and comedy—mixing the Italian style of Dario Argento with a decidedly British ghost story.