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This week’s theme: corporate evil enabled by capitalism! Though there’s some grim irony in viewing such works via various streaming services, this week introduces a couple of recent, under appreciated treatises on the discompassion of companies, one film, Todd Haynes’s Dark Waters, based on recent history, and the other, Boots Riley’s Sorry To Bother You, is built as a wild, satirical allegory.
Though one film is already a couple of years old and one is that of a story from around 30 years ago, both feel equally sharp in their dissection of our current moment, and our ongoing and dangerous relationships with corporate culture.
Otherwise it’s a fairly quiet week, with some solid existential offerings from MUBI in the form of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s latest film To The Ends of the Earth as well as Éric Rohmer’s classic The Green Ray.
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Dark Waters - Amazon Prime Video UK
The latest in a long history of films where Mark Ruffalo faces despair as he excavates the grim truth about organisations or evil men (think Spotlight, Zodiac, Collateral, several others), Todd Hayne’s Dark Waters arrived earlier this year with surprisingly little fanfare, especially considering the popularity and exquisite presentation of his last film Carol.
Dark Waters, taking on the story of real corporate lawyer Robert Bilott in his long-fought environmental case against the DuPont chemical conglomerate, is nothing like that film, even though it shares much of its creative team. Haynes once again enlists his longtime cinematographer Edward Lachman, who leaves behind the intimacy of Carol for a much more foreboding style. Dark Waters takes place primarily between cold corporate offices and ruined environments, places where you can truly feel the increasing weight of Bilott’s investigation; the colour palette dominated by appropriately murky hues and overcast skies.
Watch: Mark Ruffalo and Robert Bilott talk to Yahoo about Dark Waters
It’s as good as biopics get, digging into the psychology of its protagonist while illuminating some disturbing truths about the companies that hold so much control over where and how we live – the very subject of this film rather horrifyingly revealed to be knowingly poisoning people to this day.
Also new to Prime: Miss Congeniality, Zombieland
Sorry To Bother You - Netflix
Hip-hop artist and music video director Boots Riley’s debut feature might be one of the strangest in years – a messy, anarchic indictment of the corporate ladder and those who would step over their colleagues to climb it. Sorry To Bother You is the story of the aimless and restless Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) as he joins a company as a telemarketer, following him as he climbs through the ranks as his ability to imitate the voice of a white person (Arrested Development’s David Cross, in this case) over the phone to would-be customers.
Watch the trailer for Sorry To Bother You
Riley explores the cross section of corporate culture, consumerism and racism and goes down some truly bizarre paths while doing so, its final act quite astonishing in its unhinged delirium. It’s hard to oversell just how truly weird this film is – best to see for yourself.
Also new on Netflix: The Princess Switch: Switched Again
To The Ends of the Earth - MUBI
Though best known for his patient but extremely disturbing horror films built around observations of modern day Japan, To The Ends of the Earth represents another side of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s filmography, one away from the genre thrills of things like Cure and Pulse. But the appeal of this part of Kurosawa’s work is in how he draws upon those same techniques that he honed in his genre work and using them to sharpen his portrayal of everyday, even mundane anxieties.
In this case, Kurosawa applies his horror expertise to the feelings of alienation of a young Japanese woman named Yoko (played by Atsuko Maeda), as she travels to Uzbekistan to shoot the latest episode of her travel variety show. In To The Ends of the Earth, Kurosawa applies his penchant for unnerving genre thrills to that of the travelogue, while picking apart what a travelogue might even mean in the first place. Beguiling, and very much worth seeing.
The Green Ray - MUBI
In Éric Rohmer’s classic, a lonely and indecisive Parisian woman named Delphine comes to terms with her isolation and anxieties during a long summer vacation. There’s some disquieting honesty in Rohmer’s portrayal of Delphine, who is at once a romantic and a cynic, and constantly victim to the contradictions of her own feelings, her creeping melancholy, loneliness and depression and inability to express her feelings. But for all of the frustrating, sometimes self-destructive decisions that she makes, Rohmer portrays her with incredible empathy.
Also new on MUBI: A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, White Material