7:00 PM, 22nd April, 2017
Let me make it simple: Manchester by the Sea is a film you need to see. A strong frontrunner for Best Picture, having already having won countless awards, the film is a seemingly simple meditation on loss and grief. But don’t let that put you off; the film is far from dreary, and instead offers a painful-but-heartfelt, tragic-yet-humorous narrative that is anything but simple – much like life itself.
The film centres on Lee Chandler (Affleck), a quiet man eking out a solitary existence as a Boston handyman. When he receives news that his older brother (Chandler) has died suddenly, he reluctantly returns to the eponymous seaside town where he grew up to make funeral arrangements. There, much to Lee’s surprise, he learns that he’s been made the sole guardian of his 16-year-old nephew (Hedges).
Needless to say, this is a responsibility he has zero interest in taking on. Lee has gone to great lengths to exile himself from the world, most of all from Manchester, which holds nothing but painful memories for him. Through intricately layered flashbacks, we discover Lee’s past and just why he was driven away.
The ever-reliable Affleck knocks it out of the park as the haunted Lee, while Williams is astonishing as Lee’s ex-wife and Hedges is a revelation as the spirited youngster. But it’s writer-director Lonergan – in only his third film since 2000 – that instils the film with humour, heart and humanity. It may not end with easy answers, but that’s life. And it’s beautiful.
9:28 PM, 22nd April, 2017
Young elitists Brandon and Philip decide to host a dinner party to tell a series of friends and peers that they have committed the perfect crime, one that none of the guests will ever work out. Or so they believe. That crime? The boys have ridden the world of a lesser friend and they are now all dining around his corpse. ‘They’ include David’s father, old schoolmaster, and girlfriend. Come to think of it, where’s David? Good thing none of the guests will ever work it out… assuming everything goes to plan.
Rope stands as one of Hitchcock’s finest moments. Though arguably not as good a film as North by Northwest or Vertigo, and certainly not as notorious as Psycho or The Birds, it represents a rare instance of a filmmaker being creatively given as much rope as he desired and still producing a decent movie with widespread appeal. The gimmick of Rope is that it was shot entirely in two long takes on a single set. Hitchcock wanted only one take but physically couldn’t devise a way to hold enough film in the camera. Instead he had to settle for making it look like a single take by having a character throw a coat over the camera midway through!
Despite this significant limitation the master managed to produce a taught thriller that’s up there with his best and that features a surprising number of camera tricks. Rope is a masterclass in blending art, technology, social commentary and entertainment for the masses.