Tag Archives: Yorgos Lanthimos

The Favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos tells stories about relationships. He clearly finds us human beings fascinating, but the way in which he carves his observations out of us us with such surgical precision makes me feel like Lanthimos isn’t quite one of us.

In The Lobster, he imagined that single people were so desperate to pair up, they’d agree to do so under duress, and under deadline, with failure to find love transforming you literally into an animal. In The Killing of A Sacred Deer, a man watches the innocent pay for his sins until he can not only admit them, but make a sacrifice to atone. These films strike a unique tone; Lanthimos’ voice is absurd but bold and unwavering.

In The Favourite, Abigail (Emma Stone) is a former lady fallen quite low. She’s at the MV5BYzUzNzg5ZmUtMzAwNC00NjA0LTkzOGYtMmViNzAzZmY1NjhhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjcwODY0NTE@._V1_palace to beg for a job from her cousin, Sarah, Queen Anne’s trusted lady in waiting. Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is mentally and physically frail. Between painful attacks of gout and a nervous disposition, she leads a lonely life on her throne, often bedridden, frequently deranged with pain or paranoia. Her only friend and companion is Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), who basically rules the country in her place. Sarah is a strict go-between, acting as a buffer between Queen Anne and the demands of her royal position, and if she uses that position to exert her own will and influence, well…of course she does. Wouldn’t you?

But Abigail is way more wily than Sarah first gives her credit for. Abigail’s had to do some shitty things in order to survive, and she’s prepared to do what it takes to make sure she never has to suffer again. She throws her charm into overdrive, ,and soon Sarah realizes she’s competing with her cousin for Queen Anne’s attention.

In The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos’s gift to us is a power struggle between the three that is never dull, never less than captivating. Emma Stone is fresh-faced but  clever and calculating as Abigail, the servant with major ambition. Olivia Colman is desperately lonely and deeply insecure, but her queen has learned to wield her power to get what she needs. Rachel Weisz is brilliant, as ever. Insanely brilliant. Sarah has made a deal with the royal devil. She has goals and knows they don’t come cheap. Pretty soon there’s an insane transactional triad going on that you’ve got to see to believe – and to some extent, admire. Obviously, women in the 18th century weren’t exactly in the best position, not even if you were queen, but these 3 are making choices and bargains. They are driven by necessity, and desire.

This period piece is soaking in, nay, fermenting in, rich tapestries, both actual and metaphorical. You eyes will drip with colours and patterns and lush landscapes, but despite the beautiful 18th century dressings, this feels like Lanthimos’s most relevant, most contemporary work. Witty, naughty, and sometimes disturbingly dark, The Favourite is stunning, and an absurd amount of fun.

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer

I barely know where to start with this one. If you’ve seen any of Yorgos Lanthimos’ work, or better yet, if you heard the mad rantings of anyone who did, then you know he’s a bit crazy bananas. Watching his movies is like taking a bone saw to his cranium, lifting off the top flap, and peering inside at all the nuttiest ideas that the rest of us tamp down in the interest of social order but for some reason, Lanthimos gives them a confident voice. It’s scary but completely enthralling.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is about a man who will be forced to make a really tough lead_960choice. Steven (Colin Ferrell) is a surgeon with a devoted wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), two talented children, and the devotion of a teenager of an ex-patient (Barry Keoghan). But you know that everything’s about to unravel. Maybe Steven isn’t such a great surgeon. And maybe his family are all a little more self-interested than we thought. And maybe Martin, the teenager, is hiding something sinister.

Colin Ferrell embraces the stylized (read: stilted and simple) dialogue, and at times Keoghan does as well, but the rest are not as committed. Not that I’m complaining. Robot-like delivery can get tiresome. It’s crazy how much Lanthimos can divorce human emotion from our worst, darkest impulses.

But that’s the thing, this is why his movies are fun and exciting to watch: they’re twisted and dark and make us think terrible, terrible things. But they’re really just hypotheticals. Steven never feels like a real person. He’s stiff and icy and even though you can’t wait to see how he plays this thing out, his choice ultimately feels without consequence. He doesn’t feel so we don’t feel. The Killing of a Sacred Deer just doesn’t exist in our world. So while I will always watch these movies for the sheer mental exercise, I can never quite love them.

TIFF 2015: The Lobster

The LobsterI was scratching my head about The Lobster before one of many orange-shirted TIFF volunteers had ripped my ticket. All I knew was that it had better be good. Taking our seats only minutes after Demolition (our first screening of the Festival), the Lobster had some big shoes to fill.

I found it hard to tell how the audience in general reacted to yesterday‘s North American premiere. Their applause and questions seemed more courteous than the more rapturous reaction to Demolition and Eye in the Sky. I, for one, immediately congratulated myself for gambling one of my precious 10-pack tickets on this wonderfully bizarre movie.

In what I believe is his first English-language feature, Greek co-writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos told us that he and co-writer Efthymis Fllippou got to talking about how they’d like to make a movie about relationships and so…they made this.     In a world where pressure on singles to partner up has reached a whole new level, recently dumped Colin Farrell is forced to check in to a hotel where he has 45 days to find a mate or he’ll be turned into an animal of his choice (a lobster in his case). The rules of this world are weird but oddly familiar, with hotel residents desperately seeking oddly specific things they can have in common with their dates (beware the nosebleeds scene, as well as so many others). It’s weird, but as the survivor of many bad dates, I sort of understood this world.

The Lobster is a laugh-out-loud funny movie, especially in the increasing absurdity of the situation and the Wes Andersony matter-of-factness with which the cast (Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, and Ben Winstan) deliver their absurd lines. It’s also, as Lanthimos and Weisz kept insisting, strangely romantic (albeit in a perverse way). It’s one-of-a-kind and I can’t wait to see it again.