Twisted sisters: why the film world loves nuns

From The Devils to Doubt, film-makers’ passion for holy havoc continues, as two very different movies called The Nun are released this summer Some habits prove hard to kick. There are two films named The Nun out this summer: a gorgeous restoration of Jacques Rivette’s banned 1966 film starring Anna Karina, and a new prequel in The Conjuring franchise directed by Corin Hardy, in which demon nun Valak (Bonnie Aarons) from The Conjuring 2 torments the novice Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) in a Romanian abbey. Clearly, the convent exerts a special fascination on film-makers, because nuns, whether reluctant, rebellious, devout or possessed, have cropped up in many memorable, often controversial, movies. Valak’s hellish reappearance is hardly designed to please church elders, but Rivette’s film, too, was initially banned in France, a decision that director Jean-Luc Godard likened to a “Gestapo of the mind”. It was released a couple of years later, after it had won applause at the Cannes film festival. It is based on an 18th-century novel by Denis Diderot and follows the progress of an illegitimate teenager, Suzanne (Karina), forced into a convent against her will. It is an austere, elegant adaptation of its satirical source, with long, gruelling takes, an intrusive experimental soundtrack and a passionate central performance from Karina as the young nun, persecuted by a sadistic mother superior in one convent, and sexually harassed by another in a second. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Extinction review – forbidding portrait of a self-proclaimed Soviet country

Are the bullies actually the good guys in this video essay about the independent state of Transnistria, in eastern Moldova? Salomé Lamas’s video essay Extinction, shot in forbidding monochrome, is an opaque meditation on the self-proclaimed and officially unrecognised independent state of Transnistria, in eastern Moldova, bordering Ukraine. The title appears to allude to the extinction that Transnistria is fighting against and the film ends with a dedication: “To all the unrecognised and unnoticed territories that lie on the margins of legitimacy: lacking diplomatic recognition or UN membership, inhabiting a world of shifting borders, visionary leaders and forgotten peoples.” A quixotic if naive view of the eternal rightness and benevolence of secessionism: I can’t help visualising the Confederate flag. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Matt Healy of the 1975: ‘I’m not scared of myself any more’

The 1975’s singer used to hide behind irony and hard drugs – but dismayed with social media and modern relationships, he says he’s ready to bare his soul At a rural Northamptonshire studio, a young collie named Blue sticks her face over the stable door. A similarly puppyish vision appears on the staircase: Matt Healy peers down, peroxide job growing out, greys catching the light. In a shredded T-shirt, floral jeans and hotel slippers, he offers a tour of the 1975’s home for the past seven months. In the recording studio across the courtyard, their exercise routines are taped to the wall, preparing the Manchester band for their world tour next year. “This is taking shit seriously,” says Healy. “Cos it would be so good to be the best thing, wouldn’t it?” Back in the living quarters, Healy admits he is driven by how awed he felt by the reception to 2016’s I Like It When You Sleep for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It (ILWYS), which went platinum and transformed the band from critical pariahs to beloved provocateurs. That’s why, he says in a characteristic tangent, he has a good relationship with Twitter, using it for positive interactions with fans. “I try not to talk about things I don’t talk about in my music,” he says. How sanitised are we that I can’t say: have you ever thought about killing someone? Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Pity review – absurdist comic strip misses its target

Royal Court, LondonRory Mullarkey’s unfocused drama of a Britain collapsing in apocalyptic chaos is not helped by the production’s aural and visual overkill I guess this new play by Rory Mullarkey is intended to be a Blasted for the modern age. But whereas Sarah Kane’s work, although none of us got this in 1995, was driven by a moral rage at British insulation from Balkan suffering, Mullarkey’s target is vague and his means disproportionate. His play comes across in performance as an apocalyptic, prodigally wasteful cartoon. Related: Saint George and the Dragon review – national hero on a quest through time Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Our Shirley Valentine Summer review – Love Island for celebrity fiftysomethings

Eight women looking for love is all a bit genteel, except for the fabulous Nancy Dell’Olio who doles out drinks and tells it as it is “When I came to Greece, I knew it was going to be spiritual,” says comedian Ninia Benjamin. “I did not expect to be shaking my vagina.” But shake it for Our Shirley Valentine Summer (ITV), she does, along with seven other celebrity women who are single and ready to give their lives a sun-and-sea overhaul. ITV has carved out a kind of niche recently in sticking vintage celebrities into unusual situations and hoping for fireworks. They got Pat Butcher high on Gone to Pot, stripped Ainsley Harriot naked for The Real Full Monty, and sent Su Pollard to Sin City for Last Laugh in Vegas. It’s a Partridge-esque approach to commissioning, but the results have been oddly compelling, not least for offering viewers the unforgettable sight of a meal made with edible pot all getting a bit much for Christopher Biggins. It has been a while since I have seen Shirley Valentine, the film, but I am fairly certain that it isn’t quite the romcom that it is remembered to be when people talk about “doing a Shirley Valentine”. Helpfully, there are three disclaimers at the start of the show, stating clearly that it is only “inspired by” the story, that any similarities to the play or film are coincidental, and that it has not actually been licensed as an official Shirley Valentine product, if there could be such a thing. I think even Willy Russell might struggle to conjure dramatic intrigue out of Siân Lloyd admitting that she quite fancies her hill-walking instructor, or Melinda Messenger deciding that she is going to spend the month looking after chickens, so the group can have their own eggs. Continue reading… [hmp_player]