Humanity has long endured a difficult relationship with nature. It’s a coexistence that has oft been tackled by literature and film alike: that desire for conquest and struggle for omnipotent domination, so perfectly epitomised by Caspar David Friedrich’s romanticist painting: The Wander Above a Sea of Fog, that has driven many an explorer to madness, their sanity a sacrifice to their ambition. From Livingstone to Scott, all have found the natural world to be a fearsome opponent.
Less well known than those Boys’ Own heroes is Lt. Col. Percival Harrison Fawcett, the subject of David Grann’s article, and later published biography, The Lost City of Z, now brought to the big screen by director James Grey. Between 1906 and 1925, Fawcett, portrayed in 2017 by Charlie Hunnam, undertook seven expeditions to South America, spending the most of those years in search of an ancient civilisation, proposed to have been long since lost within the jungles of Bolivia, akin to Hiram Bingham’s 1911 rediscovery of Machu Picchu in Peru.
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The enduring success of Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast is such that the film does not solely remain one of the greatest animated features of all time but among the greatest of any medium. The first Disney musical to be translated to Broadway, it is a well quoted fact that Beauty and the Beast was also the first animation ever to gain a – much deserved – Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. Thus, at a time in which the House of Mouse seems intent on remaking their entire back catalogue, a live action update of this particular classic was surely inevitable, if unnecessary.
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There’s a pivotal scene in Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows in which the reflected image of Jane Wyman’s Cary is framed within a television screen, bought for her by her family. Its a symbolically charged moment, the film revolving around the socially ‘scandalous’ relationship of an affluent widow and her younger gardener, dictating that a woman of Cary’s age and marital status must be prisoner to a life ruled by consumerism and the home. Sixty-seven years later, Anna Biller appropriates the image in The Love Witch, maintaining Sirk’s glorious technicolor, in her use of a mirror as the captive frame not of the woman, who moves freely in and out, but of the man, who is slavishly trapped in his bed. Whilst perfectly capturing the aesthetics of mid-twentieth century Hollywood, Biller’s film is a subversive, and deliciously addictive, feminist hit.
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