A Bigger Splash

Director: Luca Guadagnino (2016)

Dive into the shallow end of the celebrity gene pool in this sun kissed erotic thriller.

Intelligently written and beautifully photographed, it features the normally ultra serious Ralph Fiennes on liberated form as a hyper active hedonist music producer called Harry.

He arrives unexpectedly at the Italian villa of his ex love Marianne, a recuperating rock star.

Tilda Swinton gives a rasping performance as the singer protecting her voice, a symbol of the film’s grand themes of the inability to communicate with honesty and freedom.

Matthias Schoenaerts is in typically morose mode as her new partner Paul, their shared idyll threatened by Harry and his lithe daughter Penelope, played by Fifty Shades star Dakota Johnson.

It’s almost an anthropological examination of human behaviour, a shame the subjects aren’t more deserving of our study.

At first entertaining, the preening narcissism of the characters is wearying during the slow build up to an act of violence. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person.

 

 

 

Fifty Shades of Grey

Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson (2015)

There’s lashings of domination but no romance in this steamy and silly fantasy as a billionaire grooms an eager student for his power-trip sex games.

A kinky combination of Pretty Woman and American Psycho lacking the charm of the former and the satire of the latter.

It’s based on the best selling novel by E. L. James and the writer keeps director Sam Taylor-Johnson on a short leash.

This is a shame as her great visual sense and sly wit are hamstrung by being bound tightly to the source material’s ropey plot and dialogue.

Anastasia ‘Ana’ Steele (Dakota Johnson) is a breathy, blushing brunette in a bad cardigan. She receives the opportunity to interview Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for the university magazine. He’s a hunky, mega-wealthy, smart-suited super-creep.

Christian recognises the virginal Ana as a  suitable victim to be tutored to serve his own specific needs and begins to ply her with gifts.

He turns up at the hardware store where she works to buy some hobby materials; electrical cabling, grips and so on.

Soon she’s introduced to his private and exquisitely stocked dungeon, ‘the red room’.

In an entertainingly boardroom scene Christian asks Ana to sign a legally binding contract. In eye-watering detail it lists everything permissible in their future activities.

She must agree to be the submissive participant in his bondage sessions which are to include blindfolds, handcuffs and whips.

Both actors have impressive modelling CV’s and demonstrate excellent skills at looking great naked.

The most convincing fetish here is for a designer lifestyle of clothes, suits, accessories and furnishings: it’s a glossy centrefold advert of a production so edgy it features music by pop muppet Ellie Goulding.

There’s a trip in a glider because that what’s rich people do to emphasise how free-spirited they are.

As Ana is overwhelmed by passion for her new found pursuits, she grows more assertive which threatens the strict dynamic of their relationship.

If you liked the book you’ll probably enjoy this film but don’t tie yourself up in knots if you miss it.

☆☆☆