mother!'s North American premiere was here in Toronto this week, just days before its release back home this Friday (book now). Aronofsky’s latest is a completely barmy metaphysical arthouse horror like nothing you’ve seen before - a brilliantly original, imaginative and suspenseful piece of work. A self-centred blocked writer (Javier Bardem) and his beautiful younger wife (Jennifer Lawrence) occupy a remote and gorgeous old house, But their isolation is brutally interrupted with the arrival of pilgriming fan (Ed Harris) and this wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), who literally open the door to an expanding entourage of rude and inconsiderate house guests. The film then becomes a psychological horror for the houseproud (which is me - I was squirming), with Bardem oblivious to his wife’s discomfort as he laps up the praise of his new found friends. Both prim and protective of the house, the interruptions, which grow more personal and become more violent, are increasingly tormenting for the young wife, as the situation escalates to a wholly unexpected and show-stopping climax. Aronofsky puts to work the tools of the horror genre (the haunted house - isolated in a forest, bumps in the night, body horror, unwelcome strangers, horror as a manifestation of marital problems) to construct a Trojan Horse from which springs a complex thesis about the commodity and vanity of celebrity, mass societal behaviour, procreation, religion and more. Be prepared to argue its meaning out with friends and family for weeks to come after seeing it, you may lose a few of them in the process - but that's cinema!
I'm the only person on the planet who isn't a fan of Guillermo del Toro, although I had to recognise him once again as a force of nature and originality when I saw The Shape of Water today, in the week when the film won the top prize in Venice and has received rave reviews worldwide. Del Toro has woven his characteristic flair for the inventive and macabre into a eccentric romance that calls up a golden age of cinema and the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. With parallels to Amélie clearly drawn, mute and lonely cleaner Sally Hawkins makes a romantic connection with a mysterious sea creature is being cruelly experimented on in the 60s lab where she works. I'd love an afternoon wandering around the Mexican auteur's mind (with a kevlar body suit and a safe word agreed upon, naturally). Look out for it in February next year, when it'll certainly be on awards cards - I hope Hawkins gets recognition, because the expression she gets out of a wordless character is astonishing.
Ended the night at the UK Film party on a Toronto downtown rooftop (courtesy of the BFI and British Film Commission - thanks for the free booze, guys). Jesus, it's hard work out here.