Last Night in Soho

Last Night in Soho (2021)
Directed by Edgar Wright. Screenplay by Krysty Wilson-Cairns & Edgar Wright.

I’m going to fess up at the start that I’m a big fan of Edgar Wright’s work all the way back to Spaced (1999-2001). While I really like Scott Pilgrim Versus the World (2010), Hot Fuzz (2007) and Shaun of the Dead (2004) from the Cornetto Trilogy remain two of my mainstay “comfort” films and Baby Driver (2017) is also a firm favourite. I think World’s End (2013) remains the only disappointment for me, but I’m well overdue to rewatch it!

A lot of people don’t like his “smash cut” style using very quick image clips, accompanied by foley sound &/or music, finding it annoying or distracting. Admittedly, it does take a certain amount of concentration, but in many ways it overtook the classical montage as an effective means of enhancing story and moving the audience down particular narrative pathways without taking loads of in-film time.

In Last Night in Soho however, I think Wright and his team have moved beyond the smash cut into something far more complicated and cinematic. There’s a film technique called the Texas (or Cowboy) Switch, (another trick Wright has used in previous films) and in first act this is pushed to the limit with quite astonishing results. The sound and visual design are stunning throughout but scenes in the first act are aurally and visually superb, beautifully choreographed, performed and shot.

The cast are uniformly excellent, and include 60s icons Rita Tushingham, Terrence Stamp and the late Diana Rigg in her last film role. Younger talent include Anya Taylor-Joy as the drop-dead gorgeous Sandie, Matt Smith as the deliciously lecherous Jack and Michael Ajao as John, but for me it’s Thomasin McKenzie who provides the glue that holds the film together. Her portrayal of fashion design student Ellie is heartbreakingly vulnerable and feisty in equal measure.

As with most of my reviews, I’m not going to give any spoilers but Last Night in Soho explores some quite serious horror themes, undiluted by humour as in Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz but (as usual in Wright’s films) underpinned by a killer soundtrack. It is by no means a perfect film (I found the second act struggled to maintain momentum) but this is the work of a mature filmmaker. Here, Wright has moved way beyond the quirky smash cut and quick one-liner and made a really interesting horror movie, tinged with pathos and mystery.

Like all of Wright’s films, it’s cleverly made, has a great script and pays homage to both London and the 1960s – and it’s well worth seeing!

The Green Knight

The Green Knight (2021)
Directed & written for the screen by David Lowery

I’ve read a number of very disparaging comments about this movie but I really don’t get it. I have to question how familiar they are with Arthurian legends in general, let alone the epic tale of Gawain. The only conclusion I can draw is all these stories are shrouded in a mediaeval mysticism that could seem nonsensical or over the top to 21st century viewers. And this version of the Arthurian legend is visually sumptuous. Gloriously lit and shot by DoP (and frequent Lowery collaborator), Andrew Droz Palermo, this retelling plays deeply into the fantasy elements of the famous 14th century story.

Watching, I was reminded a few times of Terry Gilliam but more (particularly given the source) of John Boorman’s insanely flawed Excalibur (1981), which remains with Zardoz (1974) some of my not-so-guilty cinematic pleasures. While both Boorman especially and Gilliam to some extent veer into self indulgence, I don’t feel Lowery’s fallen into the same trap.

The casting is excellent and performances uniformly superb. Dev Patel has just the right balance of physicality, pride and foolishness to bring Gawain to life on his perilous journey to fulfill his bargain with the Green Knight, and he is ably supported by a great ensemble.

My only complaint is that this only had a very limited cinematic release here in Tasmania and I had to watch it at home via Amazon Prime on my big(ish) television. Nevertheless, it’s a glorious retelling of an epic story and, in my opinion, worth watching on any screen.