This Week’s New Releases: 7th Jan.

TAKE THIS WALTZ:

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Following the success of her 2006 film, Away with Her, actress-turned-director Sarah Polley brings us another relationship-led drama again touching on the issues of extra-marital affections and, in this case of Take This Waltz, the question of whether love can ever remain fresh or if all relationships are destined to end in disappointment… The ever-watchable Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) remains ever-watchable, portraying a woman whose sensitivity and seeming fragility in the face of sheer existence is sadly not sufficiently explored in the film, leaving the viewer wondering if loads of footage had been ditched from the final cut, or if Williams is just too good an actress for a script that promises more than it delivers. Still worth watching, but you may need to mutter a few reassuring words to your beloved at the end. Also starring Seth Rogen (Pineapple Express) and Luke Kirby (Labour Pains) and Sarah Silverman as the under-explored character of the alcoholic sister-in-law. Cert. 15

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THE IMPOSTER:

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One of the most highly anticipated releases of recent months, The Imposter is one of a new generation of ‘super’ documentaries, shot and marketed like a Hollywood blockbuster – described by The Hollywood Reporter as a “mesmerising psychological thriller”. A boy goes missing in Texas and reappears three years later to be reunited with his family and yet…. AND YET, all is not what it seems. Or, more to the point, the boy is not who he seems. Or is he? Hmm.

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CROSSFIRE HURRICANE:

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Another documentary on the Rolling Stones because, apparently despite years of publicity, no-one knows anything about them. To be fair, this is meant to be pretty good so, rock on.

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THE GIRL:

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The first of two films made to mark the centenary of the great man who not only single-handedly kept Havana in the cigar trade, but whom apparently also made a few decent films as well. Made for HBO, The Girl stars Toby Jones as Hitchcock and Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren, star of The Birds (and mother of Melanie Griffith).

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ALSO OUT THIS WEEK:

WEDDING VIDEO:

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JACKPOT:

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INSPECTOR MONTALBANO SEASON 3:

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SUBURGATORY SEASON 1:

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Feature Review: Meek’s Cutoff

Written by Rob Munday

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEmL9at6JT0

Meek’s Cutoff is Kelly Reichardt and Michelle Williams’ follow up to Wendy and Lucy. As with their previous collaboration this is a deceptively simple tale about those who long for a world just out of view.

Meek’s Cutoff is set in 1845 in an America that seems untouched by man. The story focuses on a small community: three women, their husbands, one child and six oxen who hire Stephen Meek to guide them across the Oregon Trail.

Fortunately this is neither your traditional western nor some Little House On The Prairie TV movie. Here we take the female characters’ point of view and what emerges is a picture that seems far more truthful than countless cowboy films.

The characters here emerge slowly and say little yet we care about their fates because of the way we have gently observed them. Often seen in wide shot they are figures in the distance, iconic and unknowable.

The cast is faultless. Much of what they think and feel is conveyed in still expressions. We watch their sun-battered faces and feel the internal conflicts. Despite this, we never feel short-changed.

As Meek’s failures become clear we see how the rest of this miniature community react, how they pull in different directions yet succumb to the hierarchy of the male members. When an unexpected addition to the group arrives it is funny to observe the mix of panic, awe and outright disgust that is aroused in our protagonists, such is their ignorance of a world beyond their own.

 Michelle Williams once again conveys a tough intelligence and drive while (like the rest of the cast) never grandstanding or ‘acting’. These are just people trying to get on.

The relationships are always believable but never cosy. These people are lost and grasping for answers and it always seems like the solution is more to likely come from a female mouth.

Throughout Meek’s Cutoff incidental details are heightened. In the opening scene we quietly watch as the group crosses a river, the women walking through the shoulder-high water carrying their possessions on their heads. This includes a bird in a cage – a beautifully odd image when framed against the epic American landscape.

Early on there is one of the most magnificent dissolves you’ll ever see. A landscape shot plays out and suddenly it seems like cattle are appearing from the clouds. But what appears to be a mirage is merely another wide shot creeping in. The result gives us a stunning glimpse of mankind’s insignificance in this untamed world.

Unusually for a modern film Meek’s Cutoff uses the academy ratio (1.37:1). This is a clear stand against typical Westerns that emphasize the grand American landscape using picture postcard vistas. Instead of worshipping big skies the framing here highlights the terrain. The hard slog of the journey is always put to the fore. We come to understand what is must be like when this trail becomes a trial of endurance and belief. However rather than be worn down by the daily slog the whole journey takes on an almost hallucinogenic haze.

Kelly Reichardt has a knack for taking material that could seem pedestrian and transforming it into vital cinema. She has a keen eye for the essential moment and telling detail that makes characters and situations fizz with life.

Meek’s Cutoff is a mesmerising film that confirms Reichardt as one of today’s major directors.

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Main Cast: Michelle Williams, Shirley Henderson, Bruce Greenwood

Country of origin: USA

Certificate: PG

Running time: 104 minutes

In Anticipation of:

Brush-up your Marilyn knowledge by watching the real thing.

For instance, The Prince and the Showgirl (My Week With Marilyn is based around the shooting of this film).

For something a bit weightier, try The Misfits also starring Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift.

Also, the all-singing, all-dancing Video City favourite (yes, I mean you, Tom…), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (also fantastic for a great, wise-cracking Jane Russell):

By Dixie Turner