Film Review: Vox Lux

Writer-director Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux is an enthralling picture. A compelling protagonist and good storytelling make for a most rewarding picture.

Caught up in a tragic situation, teenager Celeste is thrust into the public eye. Celeste has a meteoric rise to fame as a pop star, but this has an impact on her both as a teenager and as a woman…

Vox Lux functions as a fictional biopic, focusing on key periods in the life and career of protagonist Celeste. The film is divided into three chapters, each offering a fresh perspective on Celeste. Not a particularly enigmatic figure at first glance, nevertheless this is a rouse. Celeste is depicted with layers and depth; she is a striking protagonist. 

From the shock and horror of an early scene, Vox Lux is not shy in including the political in its narrative. This works well; the events (both real and fictional) work well to contextualise the world which makes Celeste a star. Brady Corbet’s film is rife with observation, coming from both narrator and protagonist. 

One of the main themes of the film is the nature of fame. Corbet broadly depicts a negative depiction, in both the way Celeste becomes a star, and the impact it has on her and those around her. The film has something very interesting to say, but lets viewers make their own interpretations. The final chapter puts an appealing spin on what has come before. The ending works well; subtlety here wins over a more forceful conclusion. 

The music of Celeste (written by Sia, who is also an executive producer), is pure disposable pop. It makes for a thought-provoking finale, as antithetical as that sounds. The performance makes audience question the place of this style of music, and the commodification of it. 

Performances are great throughout. Natalie Portman is completely convincing as the adult Celeste. Raffey Cassidy is also superb as child Celeste. Stacy Martin, Jude Law, and Jennifer Erle provide great support. Makeup and costumes are fantastic in the second half of the film. 

Vox Lux ruminates long after the credits roll. A compelling and satisfying picture. 

BFI London Film Festival 2017 Launch

It’s that time of year again. Today saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2017. The festival this year sees 242 feature films being screened, which includes 28 world premieres. Here are some picks to look out for at the London Film Festival 2017…

Headline Galas

The opening and closing galas previously announced; closing gala Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in particular looks great. Directed by Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths), the film stars Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson. Other Headline Gala highlights include Battle of the Sexes (starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell), Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. Another highlight is The Killing of a Sacred Deer, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster). The film stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and Barry Keoghan, and is about a doctor who introduces his family to a fatherless young man he has befriended.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

This year sees the return of the Embankment Garden Cinema and its series of Strand Galas.   There are a number of exciting screenings, including Redoubtable (Le Redoutable). Directed by Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) the film is a biopic of Jean-Luc Godard and stars Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin, and Bérénice Bejo. Also showing is Wonderstruck, based on the novel of the same name. Directed by Todd Haynes (Carol), the film stars Julianne Moore. Among the Special Presentations are Sally Potter’s The Party and the first two episodes of David Fincher’s upcoming Netflix series Mindhunter.

Official Competition

Amongst the Official Competition at London Film Festival 2017 are The Breadwinner (an animated film about a young girl in Taliban-controlled Kabul), and Thoroughbred, which stars Anya Taylor-Joy. The First Feature Competition includes Beast, which is about a young woman who falls for a police suspect. Also in this category is I Am Not A Witch, about a young girl in a Zambian village who is accused of being a witch. The Documentary Competition includes Jane, a film about primatologist Jane Goodall.

Strands

A highlight of this year’s Love strand is How to Talk to Girls at Parties, based on the Neil Gaiman short story. The film stars Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning. The Debate strand features The Venerable W., a documentary about a Buddhist monk espousing anti-Muslim rhetoric. Laugh includes Brigsby Bear, a comedy about a man who tries to remake a children’s show he was obsessed with. A highlight of the Dare category is 9 Fingers, directed by FJ Ossang. The Thrill section includes the classic noir Mildred Pierce, whilst Harry Dean Stanton and David Lynch star in Lucky as part of the Journey strand.

The Cult strand includes Paco Plaza’s horror Veronica, and Create features documentary G Funk, about Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg. The Family strand includes fairy tale compendium Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess. Experimenta features documentary Tonsler Park, a timely film about polling stations in Charlottesville during last year’s US election.

The full London Film Festival 2017 programme can be viewed here. The BFI London Film Festival runs from 4th-15th October 2017.