Auschwitz, Autumn, 1944. Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig) is a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner and member of the Sonderkommando, one of the cursed work gangs selected by the Nazi genocide machine to assist in the industrial slaughter of undesirables and perceived enemies of their genocidal regime.
Many successful comedians and comics are incubated in nurturing, yet deeply competitive environments. The various comedy clubs on the East and West coast of the US spawned many of the post-war titans, such as Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers and George Carlin, bathing them in the blood of occasionally hostile, alcohol-fueled, combative audiences.
In 1853, Solomon Northup published his memoir 12 Years A Slave, a story of how a black man born free in New York was kidnapped, sold into slavery, and for a dozen years worked on various plantations around Louisiana just before the American Civil War. Acclaimed British artist-turned-filmmaker Steve McQueen has now brought this extraordinary tale to the big screen, following his physically harrowing films Hunger and Shame, in what is more than a mere film but a cultural milestone in the representation of slavery, a major work that is spearing in its intensity, incandescent in its soul.
In 1983, the final Monty Python film, The Meaning Of Life, was released with a rather ambitious title and intent to discover, well, the meaning of life. Thirty years later, and Terry Gilliam returns to these enterprising realms with his new film The Zero Theorem, a codex volcanic in enthusiasm yet insipid at its core. Terry does good press: he barks an intriguing sound bite, citing that his latest ode to chaos is an “impossible look at nothing,” which is certain to prick the interest of existentialists everywhere.
The Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky has been well served by cinema, especially his major works Crime & Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, and The Idiot, all of which have received numerous adaptations throughout the decades. The latter was lavished with a recent Estonian take, after receiving a Japanese decoding by Kurosawa no less, as well as Indian and (naturally) Soviet versions. It has taken until 2013 for a filmmaker brave enough to approach Dostoyevsky’s binary second novel; there is a certain numerical sense of doubling, since Richard Ayoade has decided to allocate his second film as The Double, an ambitiously promising plea following Submarine back in 2010.
Venerable Woody Grant (a grizzled Bruce Dern) has a singular purpose in mind, to get from his adopted Montana home to neighbouring Nebraska to collect a million-dollar cheque that a suspiciously speculative postal disclaimer has promised to honour. Elderly and suffering with decaying mental functions, Woody clearly can’t see through the marketing scam, and his wife Kate (June Squibb) and son David (Will Forte) grow increasingly exasperated at his dangerous footbound expeditions before arriving at a mutual solution:
Opening with pom-pom twirling, head-splitting glee, All Cheerleaders Die arrives on British shores after a cartwheeling through the North American festival circuit, including a prestigious slot in this year’s Midnight Madness strand of the Toronto International Film Festival. Ostensibly a remake of their 2001 film of the same name, directors Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson owe a debt of gratitude to the black heart of Heathers and the quippy, macabre banter of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with this gruesome yarn about a high school seeking a new head cheerleader after the previous sneering matriarch is dispatched during a freak turf-side accident.