7:30 PM, 10th March, 2017
Right from its opening sequence, with a startling and unexpected nude dancing scene, Nocturnal Animals shows that it is going to take us into unusual territory. Based on Austin Wright’s 1993 novel “Tony and Susan”, the film stars Adams as Susan Morrow, an art curator and dealer whose life hasn’t turned out quite the way she imagined. She has a loveless marriage to a philandering husband, and feels alone and empty in her well-designed home looking over the hills of LA. When her ex-husband Tony (Gyllenhaal) sends her the manuscript for his latest novel, she is drawn back to the past where she starts to regret her mistakes.
And here is where it gets complicated to describe (although not to watch) as we branch into three separate storylines: Susan’s present, her past and the neo-noir story in the novel. The third section is the most intriguing, although it is quite explicit in its tension and cruel aftermath. It also houses the film’s MVP, Michael Shannon, as a local detective who gets involved in the violent revenge.
Director Ford is more widely known as a fashion designer, and that is apparent through the production design of this movie (it often looks like one of the body objectifying ads he is (in)famous for). This movie has divided audiences, with some calling it misogynistic, distasteful and mean-spirited, whilst others (myself included) rate it as fascinating and compelling. Come along and decide for yourself.
9:37 PM, 10th March, 2017
The miracle of YouTube: there’s a wonderful 1982 interview with John Carpenter, David Cronenberg and Werewolf writer/director Landis, in which they discuss the filmmaking method, horror tropes, audiences and censors. One interesting theme is the unexpected cuts that must be made; frequently the directors are surprised by an audience’s reaction to scenes they themselves consider tame.
All the more so for Landis, since this film is essentially a comedy. Several scenes had to be removed for it to achieve an (American) ‘R’ rating and it’s still outstandingly frightening. Perhaps the light-hearted tone throws the more visceral moments into sharp relief, with makeup artist Rick Baker achieving legendary status for his grisly transmogrification of protagonist David (Naughton) into the hairy beast.
You know the story. David and his friend Jack are backpacking through the English countryside. They foolishly wander off the road and onto the dark moors, and are attacked by a savage something. Jack is killed, and David wakes up weeks later in the care of Nurse Alex (Agutter). But his troubles have only just begun, and he’s not the same man he was when he arrived…
This is a classic, a unique film that needn’t offer a ‘unique twist’. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat. If you have, you need no convincing.