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Like The Babadook, Natalie Erika James’ debut feature is a modest Australian horror film about family trauma. While ostensibly a haunted house story, James’ ninety-minute slow-burner is actually a deeply felt drama about the almost universal fear of caring for our parents once they can longer care for themselves.
Kay is a fortysomething Melbourne mother whose own mother goes missing from her country home. With her daughter Sam, Kay goes to her mum’s property to aid the police in finding her, and confronts a distressing situation.
Relic is, more than a horror movie, a moving and heartfelt ode to the deep and often complicated relationship between mothers and daughters. It recognises that we’re afraid of age, of aged bodies, of responsibility, that looking after old people can give us the creeps. It’s not scary per se, but as a meditation on ageing, dementia and responsibility, it’s highly relatable.
THE BURNT ORANGE HERESY
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I love watching Elizabeth Debecki’s career bloom! It’s not clear if there’s a common thread to her ever-growing gallery of characters, but she owns all of them, stamps her mark, so that you just can’t imagine anyone else having been there instead. She’s got all the right moves as a movie star, and increasingly proving to make all the right choices.
Claes Bang’s journey is also fascinating, for very different reasons. He emerged from The Square in 2017as the kind of relentlessly handsome dark-haired EuroDude who made you think not “Bond Villain” but “Bond himself!”, were it not for the fact that he was Danish and 50. The Danish thing has turned out not to be a problem – his British accent is wholly convincing – but nobody really knows what to do with a star being born at 50 who is also clearly a sexy traditional leading man.
They’re both terrific together in The Burnt Orange Heresy, whichis almost a two-hander. He plays an (assumedly) British art critic living in Milan; she plays an American teacher on sabbatical who comes to one of his lectures; they make sweet, sweet love and then go to the Lake Como palazzo of Mick Jagger (!) and get involved in a lovely old-fashioned adult romantic thriller plot involving art and Donald Sutherland.
Beautiful people scheming about art in Milan and Lake Como for a tight ninety minutes: what’s not to like? Jagger, by the way, is fabulous.
HOUSE OF CARDIN
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Pierre Cardin is 98 and – present pandemic aside – still working. As a designer, he’s monolithic, and fully deserving of this admittedly hagiographic portrait, which benefits most from having him to tell his own story.
Essentially, he tells it in two time frames: contemporarily, sitting for the filmmakers in his beloved Maxim’s (which he’s owned since 1981) and in archive footage from when he seemed to be about 48. Both versions of the man are warm, witty and serious: he was clearly set on this earth to work, and he never stops.
His words are supported by those of his extended universe, being mainly long-standing employees (some of whom are beloved family members) along with various models, rivals, industry analysts and superstars. Most of it is about the work, but the private life gets covered briefly. The endless archival footage of Cardin’s output is staggering and beautiful. But while you’ll come for the design, you’ll stay for the designer. He’s simply a superb subject, paradoxically able to come across as humble but in no way modest: a master who knows he’s a master, and knows we know it.