Sound of Metal (2019)
Where’s it on? Amazon Prime
Landing on Amazon Prime this week in the thick of this delayed awards season, Sound of Metal is the film that’s put Riz Ahmed in line to be the first Muslim actor to win the Oscar for best actor. It has five other nominations besides, including best picture. The film plays like a double A-side with last year’s Mogul Mowgli, in which Ahmed played a British-Pakistani rapper diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. In Sound of Metal, he’s the drumming half of a noise duo who suddenly loses his hearing. The film follows him into the resulting tailspin, as he tries to make sense of what’s happening to him and adjust to his new disability, his journey taking him first to a shelter for deaf recovering addicts in rural America and finally to Paris. Fiercely unsentimental, Darius Marder’s film makes exceptional use of sound to simulate Ahmed’s alienating aural experience. It’s a portrait of a man in freefall, delivered by Ahmed with a restless intensity that burns up the screen.
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Where’s it on? BBC1, Sunday, 12.10am
Brought back into currency by the recent HBO reboot, Westworld is the original theme-park-gone-haywire movie. It was novelist Michael Crichton’s debut as director and the blueprint for his later Jurassic Park. If you can resist the idea of an adult amusement park divided into Roman World, Medieval World and Western World, all populated by lifelike androids, you’re made of stronger stuff than this writer. The disappointment of Crichton’s film is that the Wild West section gets most of the attention, although Yul Brynner’s rampaging android gunslinger makes for a superb antagonist – a riff on Brynner’s The Magnificent Seven character that also points the way forward to Arnie’s Terminator. Westworld is a footnote in special effects history, being the first film to make use of digital image processing. It’s a classic from that gnarly early 70s wave of sci-fi, when Hollywood didn’t have a positive word to say about the future.
Where’s it on? Blu-ray and Mubi
Selected for the phantom Cannes programme of 2020 that never came to pass, this astonishing debut film from Georgian director Déa Kulumbegashvili continues to stream on Mubi but also gets a physical release on Blu-ray this week. Directed in long, often static shots, it’s a film of great formal precision, albeit one with some very distressing scenes, including one of sexual violence. In the opening shot, we see congregants gathering for a Jehovah’s Witness service before the peace is suddenly shattered by a Molotov cocktail being thrown into the prayer hall. Kulumbegashvili’s story is shaped in the aftermath of this attack, centring on a husband and wife in the community. When the husband goes away on a work trip, the wife is visited by a man claiming to be a policeman, who begins to make aggressive advances towards her. The Mexican director Carlos Reygadas served as executive producer here, and Beginning shares his recipe of provocation, challenging aesthetics and startling visual beauty.
You, the Living (2007)
Where’s it on? BFI Player
Everybody should sample a Roy Andersson film at least once. The Swedish auteur is responsible for some of the most bleakly funny movies of the 21st century. He re-emerged onto the world cinema scene after decades of silence with 2000’s Songs from the Second Floor, and his style has been locked ever since. Andersson films comprise a series of vignettes in which mordant visual gags and desperate situations play out in long, sustained sequences. He arranges his human characters like figures in a tableau, and everyone and everything has a pale greyish pallor. It’s like we’re in a purgatorial waiting room at the end of the world, with everyday human existence seeming both futile and hilariously absurd. Béla Tarr could direct a Monty Python film and it’d be something like this. You, the Living’s cast of players include a pickpocket, a psychiatrist and a sousaphone player, all caught up in the pitfalls of living and dreaming in the Swedish city of Lethe. It’s the middle part of Andersson’s ‘living trilogy’, but stands gloriously well on its own too.
The Frightened City (1961)
Where’s it on? Blu-ray and digital platforms
Sean Connery made The Frightened City just before the landing his career-making turn as 007 in Dr. No (1962). He’s third billed here, after John Gregson and Herbert Lom, though he’s in the pivotal role as Irish burglar Paddy Damion, who is taken on as chief heavy for a protection racket operating in London’s West End. Lom is gentleman mob boss Waldo Zhernikov, while Gregson is the detective treading the organised crime beat. Connery would later win his Oscar posing as an Irish policeman in The Untouchables (1987), so it’s fascinating to see him practising his blarney here in a workmanlike but really quite effective gangland noir in which the young actor’s brusque charisma is already well apparent. The twanging guitar theme by The Shadows became a big hit in the UK at the time. Together with the location work in London pubs and clubs and on the riverbank by Tower Bridge, it all makes for an evocative homegrown gangster flick from the moment just before Bond and the Beatles ignited the swinging 60s.