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Elvis, Nitram and films to rediscover - what’s on at the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse in June and July 2022



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Sponsored feature | Our film critic, Mark Walsh, gets all shook up by some big screen delights.

Elvis

He is arguably the most famous rock and roll singer of all time, with more number one singles in this country than any other artist, even The Beatles. But his story is also one of the most familiar music stories of all time, from his discovery and rise to prominence in the Fifties, through his film career in the Sixties that stymied his music before the unforgettable ’68 Comeback Special and his eventual decline and untimely death aged just 42. But just who could capture the epic nature of such an iconic and beloved singer, one who helped shape the course of music history?

Step forward Baz Luhrmann, the Australian director who took Shakespeare to sunny California, injected The Sound Of Music into the Moulin Rouge and glittered up The Great Gatsby. He’s brought his trademark kinetic camerawork and impatient editing to the story of The King, with Austin Butler spending over a year in training to capture the mannerisms and vocal inflections of the man himself. Luhrmann’s films often feature an overbearing, grotesque nemesis and with Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, the film has an ideal counterpoint as it explores rock and roll history – and Elvis’ relationship with other revolutionary music figures – through the eyes of the man responsible for many of his protégé’s rises and falls.

And if you’re still not sure what quite to expect from a Baz Luhrmann film about Elvis Presley, the fact that the soundtrack also features music from Doja Cat, Chris Isaak, Eminem, Stevie Nicks, Jack White and Tame Impala should give you a good start.

Elvis is showing from June 24.

Nitram

Due to another spate of recent tragedies in the United States, with the devastating events in Uvalde, Texas just one of hundreds of mass shootings in the country this year, the debate about gun controls continues to dominate the news agenda there. In both the UK and Australia, one particular event triggered a nationwide review of firearms policies, and it’s the Australian tragedy at the Tasmanian Port Arthur that’s the subject of Justin Kurzel’s powerful new film.

Writer Shaun Grant was prompted to explore the disaster in his homeland after hearing the American debates while living in Los Angeles. He and Kurzel avoid sensationalism, depicting only the events leading to the massacre and not the final shootings; Nitram is the hated nickname of the real-life mass-murderer, with no reference being made to his real name. Caleb Landry Lones, in a brilliant yet unsympathetic performance, perfectly encapsulates the nervous tension of Nitram’s dual nature, an outsider struggling to fit in because of learning difficulties but also someone with a dangerous lack of filter who thinks nothing of an impromptu fireworks display near a children’s school.

The other standout member of the cast is BAFTA-winning actress Julia Davis, the mother struggling to manage her son’s more destructive impulses but still defiantly protective of him. Her relationship with her son becomes more complicated when he moves in with wealthy heiress and recluse Helen (Essie Davis). As Nitram becomes more distant from his mother, and depressed father (Anthony LaPaglia), a tragic accident sets in motion the events which lead to the disaster.

Kurzel and Grant craft a simmering and escalating sense of unease that demonstrates the tragic ease with which events unfolded, also asking questions of the culpability of those involved. A closing title card which indicates that, despite gun laws introduced after Port Arthur, there are now more guns in Australia than at the time of the massacre in 1996, shows the importance of tackling such tragedies head on, even a quarter of a century later, and Kurzel carefully treads the line between sensitivity and examination.

Nitram previews on June 29 and is showing from July 1.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

Daryl McCormack and Emma Thompson in the film Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. Picture: Searchlight Pictures / © 2022 20th Century Studios
Daryl McCormack and Emma Thompson in the film Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. Picture: Searchlight Pictures / © 2022 20th Century Studios

Australian director Sophie Hyde has shown an ability in earlier films such as 52 Tuesdays and Animals not only to be able to deftly balance moments of humour and emotional drama, but also to see the world through different eyes and offer fresh perspectives on life. She’s continuing that with a new film from polymath Katy Brand; the stand-up comedian and actress has also become a novelist and playwright, and has now penned her first film for cinema audiences.

It stars Emma Thompson as Nancy, a widowed school teacher who’s looking to find some adventure and sexual exploration while still able to enjoy it. She books a hotel room meeting with sex worker Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack), who helps her through the initial steps on her journey of discovery, but over a series of meetings they discover a great deal more about each other.

Hyde’s frankness, yet delicate touch at the appropriate moments, are well suited here to Brand’s script and Thompson and McCormack have an easy chemistry. The film offers an honest appraisal of sex and relationships that’s by turns both searching and funny, with two strong performances at its heart.

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande opens on June 17.

reDiscover

Two very distinct offerings are available in the next set of reDiscover screenings, with a chance to visit The Railway Children on June 3 ahead of the sequel’s release, including a returning Jenny Agutter, later in July. The rest of this month’s offerings showcase the dynamism and versatility of one of the very best composers of film music ever to have lived, Ennio Morricone. The Thing (June 19), John Carpenter’s seminal horror remake, is enhanced by moody synths, while Brian De Palma’s story of prohibition era Chicago in The Untouchables (July 10) offers epic sweep and a saxophone-led death theme.

There’s chance to explore a pair of lesser-known treasures, with Elio Petri’s crime drama Investigation Of A Citizen Under Suspicion (June 26) and Sergio Corbucci’s Western The Great Silence (July 3). And if you’re a fan of Westerns, then the chance to witness possibly the finest pairing of Morricone’s music and Sergio Leone’s direction, Once Upon A Time In The West, rounds out the season on July 17; Leone had Morricone compose the main themes before filming began so that he could play them on set to enhance the mood.



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