Archive for Killer Joe

Ruthless People

Posted in FILM, Politics, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2012 by dcairns

An ebullient William Friedkin and a glamorous Gina Gershon presented KILLER JOE, the EIFF’s opening night film. I’m typing this with a colossal hangover after the party, a swank affair conducted at the Royal Museum, where the Innis & Gunn 0ak-aged beer flowed freely. So (1) I’m typing very softly. Forgive me if the letters appear faint. And (2) my memory of the film appears as if from behind a thick, obscuring cloud. Bear with me.

I liked BUG, and KILLER JOE looks a lot like it — hard, sharp, neon-bright cinematography (this time by the great Caleb Deschanel). Both derive from plays by Tracy Letts, who scripted. KILLER JOE is more “opened out,” so people keep going places for no essential reason, but that’s OK. The play’s the thing, and this one is, I’d say, tighter and more satisfyingly plotted than its predecessor — and the cast is terrific. BUG helped make a name for Michael Shannon, and this one ought to do the same for Juno Temple. I don’t see that many new films so I didn’t know her or Emile Hirsch.

Basically, Hirsch’s trailer-trash dope dealer is in debt to some bad guys, so he hires contract killer Joe (Mathew McConaughey) to kill his mother for the insurance. This lady is so popular that her ex-husband (Thomas Haden Church) and daughter (Temple) are quite happy to go along with this deal. Gina Gershon, Church’s current wife, is also in on the act.

McConaughey rediscovers the intensity that made him so striking in LONE STAR, and which he’s dispensed with in all the fluffy fair he’s done since. In fact, he goes further — this is one of the most impressive psychopaths in recent years (and it’s not like there aren’t plenty to choose from). Friedkin is the man for this kind of thing, I guess.

Note the stitching on Church’s shoulder — subject of the year’s best visual gag.

On the one hand, this is a film about family, and can best be taken as a horrifically funny, nasty satire on the whole concept of family life. Any assumptions about family ties are dismissed as baloney, greed trumps morality, and even love can flip over into murderous violence at a moment’s notice. Since the driving force is a debt that is incurred (a contract killing where the killer cannot be paid as arranged), it’s arguably about the financial crisis. I had a nice debate at the party with a friend who bemoaned the film’s misogyny and clichés and thought that was a real stretch. I’m not sure Friedkin has ever cared particularly what message his films might be putting out — he wants them to be effective, which means provoking the audience, and on that level KILLER JOE is his best film in years. The audience laughed and winced as one. It’s Friedkin’s first NC-17 rated film in the US.

Didn’t get the chance to congratulate him afterwards — maybe I’d have been too scared. He’s supremely affable in person, but with, you know, an edge. I did shake Elliott Gould’s hand and congratulate him on FRED, which I had a small role in selecting. “I’ve seen your film,” I bellowed over the music. “I haven’t,” said E.G. “But I gather it’s about the human condition. And getting too old.”

This morning, I know exactly the feeling.


The Booster

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on April 20, 2012 by dcairns

So, I’m now an employee of Edinburgh International Film Festival — it seems I’ll be doing some writing for the catalogue, and I’ve viewed a hundred or so films submitted to the fest. Submissions editors see a lot of junk, but we also see some really good stuff. The assumption might be that the really hot ticket films are ones a festival has to pursue, not ones submitted on spec by filmmakers hungry for exposure, but in fact submissions are often where the next hot-ticket indies are discovered. I saw some very good stuff — none of which I can discuss at present.

This means that anything I say about the Festival from now on can be seen in a slightly different light — I’m no longer just a fan of the thing. Still, I hope I can maintain a degree of integrity and independence if I review anything during Festival time, but I might have to be careful of that — a policy of accentuate the positive, whereby I write honestly about films I like and leave out the others, might be best. Unless I get really cross about something, in which case I’ll still bite my tongue until after it’s screened to the public.

But with Chris Fujiwara in charge, I’m really not sure there’s much to worry about.

This year’s opening film is William Friedkin’s second collaboration (after the creepy BUG) with playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts — KILLER JOE. Friedkin is expected to attend, which ought to be interesting to say the least.

The retrospective, the thing which ties a festival together in my view (and which was sadly missed last year), is about Shinji Somai, about whom I know NOTHING — so I’m very excited.

Chris Fujiwara:  “Shinji Somai is one of the most personal and original Japanese filmmakers, and a master whose work has been almost completely neglected outsideJapan. Just over ten years after his passing, I believe the time is right for Somai. Audiences and critics will be amazed by what they discover in this body of work, which I’m delighted to bring to theUK.”

And the closing film is delightfully apt, given Pixar’s long friendly realtionship with Edinburgh, and given the Scottish subject of their new movie —