For this episode of my TIFF Dispatch, we take a look at two films featuring some of the most intriguing lead actors working in the industry today. Nicholas CageThe repertoire speaks for itself and at the end of his career he resurfaced as a billable star on personality and charisma. Vicky Krieps is one of the most talented actresses to emerge in Hollywood cinema in recent years, but having a star vehicle for her has not arrived in the American industry. austrian filmmaker Marie Kreutzer corrects this by presenting her as a monarch with a biting and playful personality.
Butcher’s crossing (Gabe Polsky)
The novelty of the “mad fool” Nicholas Cagehas peaked in recent years, especially as a result of Panos Cosmeticsit is mandy, which hit everyone like an electric current. But Gabe Polskythe last movie of Butcher’s crossing sees Cage take on more of a brooding cowboy persona like Val Kilmer’s Wyatt Earp in tomb stone (1993), directed by Panos Cosmeticsthe father George P. Cosmatos. He’s also a character reminiscent of Cage’s turn as Frank Pierce in Bring out the dead (1999). Here, Cage trades an ambulance for a horse, and instead of raving in the middle of dead humans, he feels it in the middle of dead buffaloes. His traveling companion is a young man and avid hunter named Will Andrews (Fred Hechinger, who plays the lead role in the film). Although many warn him of the dangers, he considers himself fit for travel.
John Edward Williams’ source novel is something of a more airy version of Blood Meridian, charting the psychological descent of a band of killers with a more digestible arc. Polsky still guides this descent into darkness with surreal dream sequences and plenty of bison kill footage, though it’s filmed with an eerie nonchalance. We won’t get the heartbreaking carnage of kangaroo hunting in Wake up in fear (1974) here. Cage is rightly intense in his role but surprisingly overshadowed in this by Jeremy Bobb who gives a fantastic, snarling and biting performance, with an ominous and deep voice growl, as the animal skinner. His delivery line perfectly matches the brooding and surreal elements of the film. Cagehowever, is still in his element and as a primary bison hunter who is fascinated with the act of killing, his disappearance into obsession is well rendered – more in keeping with his recent performance in Pig (2020) that the whack mandy (2019).
At a time, Butcher’s crossing looks like an incomplete movie. It features a massive buffalo hunt that escalates into carnage, but it also seems to happen rather in the blink of an eye. Many of the elements sparse in the film, images of hills, buffaloes on the ground and dream sequences, seem repetitive and cut off from the narrative flow of the film. It’s not a common complaint from me because I like the artistic flourishes over the basic storytelling. But it doesn’t feel organic in that sense. PolskyThe film’s is clearly ticking the clock in a way that makes me feel like there just wasn’t enough material to warrant a feature film (which it shouldn’t be because it’s based on a novel). It also doesn’t seem to really mean a pattern until the end when we get clips from famous bison hunts from the 1800s and notes on how the bison population was severely threatened by white settlers on aboriginal lands . I feel like instead of footnotes, these are things that could be filmed and make the movie more complete than it is.
Bodice (Mary Kreutzer)
Vicky Kriepswhose Hollywood repertoire has so far seen her as a warm dichotomous contrast to cold or troubled men in ghost yarn (2017) and The survivor (2021), gets that again in the Austrian movie Bodice but this time, she is at the center of the scenario. Playing the 19th century Austrian monarch, Empress Elisabeth “Sisi” Amalie Eugenie, Krieps is perfect as someone who exhibits bizarre flights of fancy, spontaneous acts of free expression, and a calm, warm aura towards those around her. It’s the kind of role she can sink into, even if, ironically, her character hardly eats anything on screen. Director Marie Kreutzer avoids the trappings of the “featured vehicle” by adding its own quirky touches to the film that make it unique if not necessarily fully engaging.
If you’re one of the people who are annoyed by historical movies that use modern dialogue and flair, well, this movie does those things on purpose. Queen Sisi gives people the middle finger and dances to new-age music. Kreutzer also incorporates seemingly random objects from modern society—such as a tractor—into the 19th-century setting. The effect is more subtle and more a form of pure aestheticism than socio-political as with Alex Cox. Walker (1987) or Sofia Coppola Marie Antoinette (2006)(a movie that Kreutzer says she doesn’t like it very much). There’s an edgy verve to the film’s unfolding that expands the monarchy and people’s fascination with it into a semi-modern context. It’s an exercise in myth (albeit informed by historically accurate behavioral oddities) that gives the film the feel of a modern fable.
Director of Photography Judith Kaufman has some visually stunning sequences, especially the scenes where Sisi is swimming with her male romantic interest George Middleton (Colin Morgan). It’s a bird’s-eye shot at night when they’re illuminated in a pitch-black body of water. The lighting is bewitching and it feels like two souls in a vacuum are strutting around. Lots of modernist touches like this make the set-up visually appealing at times, but it’s not a film that has much more in mind than giving us a glimpse of Sisi’s weird idiosyncrasies as a monarch. . If this kind of sweet, airy character study is your thing, then you’ll appreciate that Kreutzer’s film is a quiet leisure watch.
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