Francesca

I love giallo. It’s a genre very dear to my heart that does a lot of what I love in film. The soundtracks are incredible. The imagery is stunning. The plots all walk a perfectly fine line between cliched tropes and unexpected twists. Some of my absolute favourite films came from this golden era of Italian film-making – from the likes of Argento, Bava, Fulci

In recent years there’s been a gentle revival of interest in the genre. Thankfully it’s not been too wholehearted – I don’t know how I’d have reacted to a mainstream American love for the giallo in the way the Walking Dead has done with zombie films. Instead, its been mostly indie films and niche genre pieces that have returned to the giallo. Cattet and Forzani’s two features Amer and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears are amongst my favourite films of the last few years. Despite this, they’re without doubt sophisitcated reinterpretations of giallo. They have all the stylistic quirks – the leather glove, the singsong soundtrack, the knife, the nightmare, the heavily-mascared eyes – but they play upon all of these to create more complicated, nuanced stoy lines.

How refreshing then to find film-makers taking the giallo film head-on, warts-and-all, in all its glory. Francesca was made last year, but you wouldn’t know it. The film looks aged, the soundtrack clangs and scrapes, the plot is absurd yet chilling, the violence is gruesome and sudden, the police are incompetent and slow. It ticks all the boxes.

If you don’t already love giallo I find it hard to imagine that you’ll be bowled over by this. If you do, though, this is a treat. Martin Grund, the lead fanomenen programmer, described it as “the kind of film you wish Argento was still making”. If you know what that sentence means, I imagine you’ll love this.

Drinks
Kirkstall Dissolution Extra IPA, another of my favourite beers. The Hyde Park really does have a well stocked bar.

Under the Skin

Scarlett Johansson turns up in all sorts of weirdness. I quite respect her for that. There’s no doubt she could cruise from one major budget gentle drama to the next but she definitely has a nose for the weirder films. She turns up in everything from The Avengers to Vicky Christina Barcelona. And she was great in Luc Besson’s Lucy. She’s not bad here either, embracing her alien-in-a-transit-van-scouring-Scotland-to-devour-lonely-men role. You can say many things about her, but typecast is certainly not one of them!

And I wanted to love this. On paper its striking all the right notes. Aliens! A bit of horror! Scarlett Johansson! And it does start well. The preying upon lone men is a neat twist on the usual slasher movie niche – suddenly it’s not the dishevelled girl with smudged make-up who’s the obvious victim but the electrician, who lives alone and is just heading to the shops. It’s disarmingly different and quite interesting for it. Sadly, it just never really picks up and gets going. The first half hour or forty minutes whizzes by but then it just splutters and peters out. Questions are left unanswered but, far from being intriguing, I’m struggling to care. Who is this alien? Why are they here? What are they doing? … Who cares? It just fails to really grab you and get you involved.

A disappointing film. Lots of potential but little to show for it.

Drinks
Renaissance Stonecutter, a hearty ‘Scotch ale’ – very appropriate for the film. I didn’t know what to expect with this one but it was tasty. Big and red and fruity, I definitely want to give this another try,

Mother

This is a curious one. It’s billed as a darkly comic crime mystery set in a small Estonian town but is frankly a bit thin on the comic. Lauri, a teacher at the town’s school has been shot and is now in a coma. No-one knows who’s responsible and the job of caring for him has fallen to his mother, Elsa. She turns, washes and cares for him at home, while a succession of visitors come to see him. But do these visitors know more about the events that lead to Lauri’s injury than they’re letting on?

It’s a small scale family drama – Elsa’ husband, Lauri’s partner and Lauri’s old friend all drift in and out of the mystery but it’s all just a bit too gentle for my liking. Very little actually happens and the dialogue just didn’t really hold my interest. There’s nothing wrong as such with the film but I’m in no great rush to see it again.

Drink Magic Rock Coffee Grounds, triple-coffee porter. Dark and big. This is a killer beer. You really couldn’t drink a lot of it, but in small quantities it’s hard to beat.