Ana Lily Amirpour’s third feature film is in some ways an amalgamation of her first two: the striking A Girl Walks Home Alone at Midnight and the frustratingly uneven The Bad Batch. When it comes to protagonists, Amirpour certainly has a type: strong, laconic women — survivors in a strange world. Blood Moon follows Mona over a several nights after she escapes a mental institution and finds herself in New Orleans. Louisiana may be my second home but this version of the city is unrecognisable — an oversaturated hyper-reality that seems to exist almost entirely by night (actually that part might be accurate). Mona’s overpowered mind control is revealed in the opening scene, meaning that the audience is never really concerned for her safety, driven more by a morbid curiosity as to how much havoc she will wreak. Since she barely speaks, the void is filled by a handful of colourful supporting characters, most notably Kate Hudson’s avericious stripper and Ed Skrein’s sensitive dealer. Amirpour’s writing retains the ability to surprise, with humour derived from absurdity, like a low-speed chase between a cop in a leg brace and a stripper shuffling in platform heels. From these ingredients, Blood Moon’s concoction is an improvement over the The Bad Batch but is still style over substance.
“It’s a dangerous thing to mistake speaking without thought for speaking the truth.”
Knives Out was a delightful surprise that absolutely did not require a sequel, so I approached Netflix’s acquistion of the rights to multiple further movies with some trepidation. The prepostrously accented detective Benoit Blanc is the only returning character, Daniel Craig clearly continuing to enjoy himself in a less physically demanding role. No time is wasted in establishing the conceit, a group of influencers and disruptors receiving elaborate invitations from a tech billionaire to an island party, providing ample fodder for further satire of the wealthy and feckless. If Knives Out was Rian Johnson remixing the traditional elements of a whodunit, with Glass Onion he instead subverts the structure entirely, resolving one mystery midway through the proceedings and then rewinding so that we see events unfold with more information and an entirely new perspective. Johnson once again assembles an excellent ensemble cast, though Janelle Monáe is the standout. Events may unfold on a sun-drenched island rather than in an ominous mansion, but returning cinematographer Steve Yedlin provides visual continuity along with the similarly meticulous mise-en-scène, some of which is sadly lost on the small screen (Glass Onion recieved only a one week limited theatrical release in order to qualify for awards). Establishing the form’s return, this is the third high profile whodunit of 2022, following Death on the Nile and See How They Run — of the three Glass Onion is by far the most ambitious and the most successful.
“They made you feel cool. And hey, I met you. You are not cool.”
Set in the early 1970s, toward the end of classic rock and roll’s heyday, this is less a story about music than William, a naive likeable youngster finding himself whilst touring with his favourite band, writing for Rolling Stone magazine, and trying to resist the allure of the trappings of fame. It touches on industry issues like rivalry between band members and the encroaching capitalist record companies, but ultimately Cameron Crowe’s brisk and witty script is more interested in the individuals, both within the band and outside. Crossing the divide for William is the magnetic Penny Lane (apparently based on a real individual) who is romantically involved with one of the musicians, but takes William under her wing. Her espoused wisdom is catchy and yet ultimately impossible: “If you never take it seriously, you never get hurt. You never get hurt, you always have fun.”