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‘Maestro’ at the BFI (December 1), ‘Last Summer’ and ‘Fingernails’ (LFF 2023 late reviews – updating)

‘Maestro’ at the BFI (December 1), ‘Last Summer’ and ‘Fingernails’ (LFF 2023 late reviews – updating)

Both Bradley Cooper (director and actor) and Carey Mulligan (actor) will provide an introduction to this film for a special screening at the BFI on Friday, December 1 (sold out – but check returns and standbys, see listings below)these films all seen at London Film Festival (October 4-15) and we will add to this page as and when we can…

THERE has been a lot of hype about this and much of the chatter has been about director-actor Bradley Cooper and his physical appearance.
Step away from all that and simply accept the film on its own merits, please.
We fully expect Cooper to take Oscars accolades for this bravura performance as the great contemporary musical genius that Leonard Bernstein was (and the the subject of the title).
With Carey Mulligan opposite, as his wife, this is an entertaining and sumptuous biopic – though it only really covers his adult life.
That Bernstein was a complicated individual, no one should doubt – and perhaps if any substantial criticism were to be offered about ‘Maestro’, it would be this – that this is also a study about marriage and a relationship that works, despite obvious challenges – which Cooper perhaps glosses over – whatever it is, you don’t feel it very much (or at all) during the film itself. It’s a brilliant ride and at the heart of it are two superb performances with Cooper’s all the more remarkable as he directs this too.
Not to be missed if you like this kind of relatively showy type of biopic – there is a clear narrative, it is beautifully shot, well acted and easy on all levels.
ACV rating: ****

Set to release on Netflix on December 20

BFI listing Friday, December 1 – 6pm


A CATHERINE BREILLAT film is always something to look forward to and her appearance in London for the UK screening of ‘Last Summer’ ( L’été dernier) was special and thrilling for this critic.
This film had it its world premiere in Cannes earlier this year but we missed it there and not for not wanting to see it because – we are among a small English speaking contingent that has seen the original Danish ‘Queen of Hearts’ (available on Amazon Prime) from which it is adapted and it is one of those films that stays with you!
It isn’t exactly the same story but the broad essence is – middle-aged, well settled, perhaps slightly bored and emotionally unfulfilled married woman embarks on an ill-advised relationship with her troubled step-son.
In both versions, the woman actually works with troubled teenagers as a lawyer and knows full well what abuse looks and feels like.
Breillat perhaps more than May el-Toukhy in her original, makes the affair more passionate and equal – both are enraptured with the other. Anne (Léa Drucker) in Breillat’s film is a seemingly warmer soul.
Her step son arrives after problems with his own mother and the general direction of his teenage life – seventeen and a rebel. That Breillat makes him more handsome, great around her young adopted mixed race East Asian daughters (about five years of age), further muddies already troubled waters.
Her husband is totally unsuspecting – until… well yes, he finds out. This is a very watchable film that explores the morality of relationships – sometimes led by our loins – not our brains – this version is softer both in tone and on the lead character and the step son. If you like Breillat, you will enjoy this – even if you don’t, there is lot to admire here; if you want something harder-edged and more visceral, watch the original. Breillat’s still has a touch of romance about the central relationship – a comment, in some ways we feel, about hanging onto or mourning youthful, hedonistic abandon.
ACV rating: *** 1/2 (out of five)

UK cinema distribution is unknown at the present time (November 2023)

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture