Film at An Lanntair: Icons and Iconoclasts in I saw the Light, Miles Ahead and Green Room
This month’s cinema has a definite musical theme to it, with three films in particular making for an interesting collection to view: take a look at the lives of legendary musicians Hank Williams and Miles Davis in I saw the Light and Miles Ahead, and dive into the grimy neo-nazi punk club of Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room.
I Saw the Light
When Tom Hiddleston was announced to play iconic American country western singer Hank Williams, there was understandable scepticism on the part of many of Williams’ fans: as an actor whose public persona is so quintessentially ‘English’, Hiddleston did seem like a left-field choice.
Over the course of I Saw The Light, though, the reasons for his casting become very clear. Hiddlestone captures- with a smile that can turn from handsome to sinister in the passing flash of a spotlight- both Williams’ incredible talent (Hiddleston performs every number himself) and dark, tortured nature.
As The Guardian puts, it: “Hiddleston’s turn slowly reveals itself as one of great intelligence and integrity, as well as a lack of vanity. His Hank isn’t often a likable sight, but it’s a memorable one. And what it suggests about how sceptical a performer you can be for people to still take succor from your work, to buy into its sincerity, is curious – and bruising.”
While Hiddleston’s performance as Hank Williams is impressive in its accuracy – his ability to mimic the musician’s accent alone is commendable- Don Cheadle’s turn as Miles Davis has wowed audiences and critics with its spontaneity, inventiveness and downright crankiness. The Independent writes that Cheadle (who also co-wrote and directed Miles Ahead) “is giving us an interpretation, a riff, on Davis and doesn’t seem remotely bothered whether it is accurate or whether the trumpeter emerges in a sympathetic light. He wants to capture the spirit of the character and he will let others worry about the details”
Acting opposite Cheadle as a ficticious Scottish Rolling Stone journalist, Ewan McGregor’s Dave wheedles his way into Davis’ company, desperate to get a story on the jazz legend’s recluse-like existence in Las Vegas. Davis- now, in the late 70s, a husky cynic and heavy drinker- responds to his open opportunism by unexpectedly agreeing to an interview.
What follows is the story of an inspirational (though undeniably flawed) man and talent, told without conforming to any of the usual tropes and clichés of the biopic genre. Cheadle’s aim is to create a piece of art original enough to do service to its subject, and, according to The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw -who made Miles Ahead his ‘film of the week’- he succeeds. Despite the actor’s many accomplishments (from the likes of Crash and Hotel Rwanda to The Iron Man franchise), Bradshaw writes that “this could be Don Cheadle’s finest hour.”
The musical vein continues, though takes a considerably darker turn, in Green Room, Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to his genre-bending revenge thriller Blue Ruin. Again, Saulnier is toying with a tried-and-tested formula familiar from hillbilly-sadist horrors like Deliverance and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Here, though, the rednecks are swapped for neo-nazi youth as a punk band- performing at a skinhead gig despite their reservations- find themselves trapped by a gang of blood-thirsty thugs in a dingy nazi club.
Including a turn from Patrick Stewart cast refreshingly against-type as a grimy white supremacist, Green Room has been described by Mark Kermode as “a genuinely shocking horror-thriller” that nonetheless has moments of truly entertaining dark comedy and brings to mind the films of Wes Craven and “hues of 80s films such as Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and RoboCop”.
Other excellent titles this month will include the astonishing and devastating Holocaust drama Son of Saul, and Evolution, a surreal science-fiction in which it is the men who bear the children in a society of near-humans.
For the full June cinema listings please click here.