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TIFF 2015 Film #4
Reason for Pick – director Yorgos Lanthimos, Dogtooth, Alps
“Blood and Biscuits all over the pavement” – A quote that rather neatly describes the atmosphere of Lanthimos films in general, and often the bodily fluids projected by Lanthimos neophytes when they first encounter one of his films, specifically.
I’ve been anticipating The Lobster for ages. When it was first announced that Lanthimos would be making an English language film that had honest to goodness movie stars it both excited me and filled me with dread. There was no way that honest to goodness movie stars ( or their agents for that matter ) would put up with the extreme weirdness and violence that has sprung from the Greek auteur in past foreign language films. No way … it would have to be a kinder, gentler Lanthimos … a watered down Lanthimos.
I was wrong. I’m happy to report this is full octane Lanthimos.
In this outing, he sets his mischievous ( and some might argue twisted ) absurdist sights on relationships and their influences in society, and societies influences and pressures on them. Like his past films its best not to know any specifics, just like our hapless characters as they enter his special world. At the TIFF Q&A Rachel Weiss ( who confessed to being an absolute Lanthimos film lover ) was asked how she prepared for her role, to which she replied “there is no way to prepare, you just have to trust that he'll guide you”. And guide you, the audience, he does through his twisted mazes of societal observational critique and shockingly absurd truisms that are only amped up a fraction from the real life world we live in.
The cast is uniformly excellent. Colin Farrell as our gentle, nebbish, protagonist David turns in his finest performance since In Bruges. Rachel Weisz convinces as a ‘loner’ looking for connection … and rabbits. Lea Seydoux as the calculating Loner Leader and Olivia Coleman and the deliciously domineering Hotel Manager are a delight watch ( we get a treat seeing Coleman do a little ‘Lanthimos Dance’). The biggest treat, though was to see Angeliki Papoulia, star of Dogtooth and Alps render a phenomenally dark and scary, and mercurially droll turn as 'Heartless Woman', as well as a small part by Alps co-star Ariane Labed as ‘The Maid’. I secretly think that these two actresses may have been a grounding force for Lanthimos, and a beacon that the movie stars could follow.
My worries about Lanthimos’ biting absurd humor losing its bite were unfounded as well. The wordplay from him and his long time co-conspirator writer Efthymis Filippou is still as sharp as tacks. The audience, I think mainly comprised of ‘first timers’, laughed openly and often … and sometimes rather nervously. Those laughs were tempered by quite a few gasps, as well, as those familiar with the auteur would expect.
I’m also happy to report that there’s plenty of crazy dancing, classical guitar solos, and ultra-violence that could cause unwellness. My only complaint is that the third act could use some tightening up, but other than that small grouse I think it joins Dogtooth and Alps as modern dystopian absurdist masterpieces.
I wish The Lobster the greatest success, because I want to see Yorgos Lanthimos keep doing what he’s doing, exactly the way he’s been doing it.