The apathetically titled Round Up is a new column I’ll be posting at the end of each week with the aim of providing film recommendations. This is separate from the reviews section, which only includes new releases; it’s just a rundown on films I’ve watched through the week which will hopefully include some films you might be interested in watching.
This week I’ve been under heavy essay strain, trying to put together a piece of coursework for university about the way Spanish national cinema has been shaped by the industry’s fluctuating relationship with the government. Therefore there’s a couple of foreign language films in this week’s edition, but not exclusively.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Recommendation of the week.
I decided to watch this after seeing the only-just-impressive American Hustle, which concludes David O. Russell’s ‘Trilogy of Reinvention’, the first entry of which was The Fighter, which I thought was ace – though no mark on this. It’s a fantastic feel-good film that explores heavy themes such as mental illness and neglected family relationships. It’s also the film that catapulted Jennifer Lawrence into the big-time, winning her an Oscar for her awesome performance. I thought this was great, and I’d recommend it to anyone who ever needs a pick-me-up.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
With a plot based on the Spanish civil war (and a very Franco-like antagonist), I had a very valid excuse to revisit Pan’s Labyrinth. The film splits the dreamlike, surreal escapism of a young girl with the grim, often extremely gory reality of commie-hunting Spain, and it’s a real trip. About as good as special effects got in the ’00s, director Guillermo del Toro crafted a brilliant fantasy without any restraint from any studios – one of the only films that is exactly how it should be.
God knows why I slept on this for so long. Clerks is often called of the definitive independent films of the ’90s and takes place on the strangest day of a grocery store clerk’s working life. Full of intensely bored characters who are all learned in the art of advanced profanity, Clerks is hilarious partially because of its seemingly endless spree of bizarre incidents as well as for its proto-South Park dialogue: “I dunno, [my grandma] was senile and shit, she used to fuckin’ piss herself all the time, and shit herself. Come on, Silent Bob, let’s get the fuck out of this fucking jip joint, with this fucking faggot Dante, you cock smoker!”
The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)
Heavily symbolic, often difficult but visually astounding, The Spirit of the Beehive was released while Generalissimo Franco’s oppressive regime was faltering, yet still in full control of Spain. It’s one of the most famous examples of films that used metaphor to criticised the regime – a straightforward attack would never have made it past the censors. An obfuscated history lesson, Beehive also details the traumatic impact of the civil war (1936-9) on the psyche of the Spanish people, especially its children.