‘Inxeba’ – Distilled

Bergman-esque in its intensity, the South African film Inxeba – The Wound – has rightly won praise and awards around the world, along with the usual quota, for a film that speaks openly, and painfully, about homosexuality, masculinity, homophobia and ‘traditional culture’ in an African community, of threats and vitriol. In Cape Town, supposedly a bastion of the arts and enlightenment, the film was withdrawn by distributors Ster Kinekor, in an act of cowardice and betrayal.

All of which is to say, there is a moral imperative to see it, and a duty to support the actors and director. But over and above all this – the politics and cultural warfare – it is the film as a work of art, as a flawless exercise in controlled and yet passionate direction, acting by Nakane Toure, Bongile Mantsai and Niza Jay that¬†is utterly invisible, and a story that transcends both its South African setting and its ‘gay’ narrative, that demands attention.

Inxeba represents the coming to maturity of South African cinema.

Director: John Trengrove

Verdict: Like the initiation into manhood which carries the narrative, Inxeba is painful to watch but a necessary rite of passage.

Five tipples. A half-jack of brandy is probably the most appropriate, with a quart of Castle to follow.

‘Detroit’ – Distilled

‘Detroit,’ it could be argued, is the story of race and racism in America, bursting onto our screens at a painful moment in America’s painful history. Think Charlottesville, think of Trump’s pardoning of Sheriff Arpaio, think of – how many? – black motorists in towns across the US pulled over and shot for some (sometimes imagined) traffic offence.

But this movie, of course, is set fifty years ago, in 1967, during the Detroit riots: that tells you something right there, doesn’t it? Focusing close-up, in almost unbearable detail, on the murder by police of three young black men at the Algiers Motel, it almost defies words.

So I won’t give you any. All I’ll say is, go see it.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Verdict: You can’t bear to watch it. You can’t help watching it.

Your tipple of choice? No booze. This movie leaves you stone cold sober.

‘Dunkirk’ – Distilled

A technical tour de force but an artistic failure, ‘Dunkirk’ contrives to combine cheesy dialogue and cardboard characterisation with the terror and immediacy of war and violence. You are in the cockpit of a stricken Spitfire as it swerves towards the grey greasy ¬†Channel and ditches; trapped in the cockpit, you struggle for breath as its sinking pilot bangs frantically on the glass above him, fighting to get out as the water rises. Or you are in the bowels of a bombed or torpedoed ship, as exhausted soldiers fight their way towards the exits. The story follows three narratives, telling this most dramatic of tales from land, sea and air – a narrative device that works effectively, switching constantly from one perspective to the other, showing how all three elements interleave in this critical moment. But the ‘moment’ itself is presented in virtual isolation and in one dimension: the collapse of France, Nazi Germany triumphant, England alone and on her knees, are barely suggested. From the point of view of the combatants and survivors, one accepts, it is the immediacy of the present, and present survival that matters, but the wider consequence is a film that has neither a deeper sense of tragedy and salvation, nor a real humanity. Ultimately, alas, ‘Dunkirk’ is simply war as spectacle.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Verdict: Seeing is not always believing. But see it anyway.

Your tipple of choice? Rum, of course – for the Navy