Catchups 2: Martha Marcy May Marlene, Oslo August 31st, Killer Joe

Eery and beautifully shot, Elizabeth Olsen is wonderful as the vulnerable young woman roped in by a cult. Martha Marcy May Marlene is a constantly harrowing experience. It’s an ambiguous movie and despite feeling so frightening, it’s shot in a typically indie style which adds to its creepiness. John Hawkes isterrific  as the cult leader, clearly a good fit for the unnerving indie movie following his role in Winter’s Bone, very carefully revealing layers. ★ ★ ★ ★

Oslo, August 31st is another triumph in this golden age of Scandinavian film making. Anders is a recovering drug addict, allowed out for a day from rehab so that he can attend a job interview, but ends up confronting people from his past. Despite the dark subject matter, the film looks strikingly bright. There’s a constantly engaging struggle between whether this is the first day of the rest of his life or whether he lacks hope to rebuild himself It’s a thoroughly rewarding piece of cinema. ★ ★ ★ ★

Killer Joe is a rare example of a film which left me shaking, feeling permanently scarred by its repulsiveness. It terrifically builds a gritty sense of white trash desperation while simultaneously taking things to the darkest extremes. Martin McConaughey provides a compulsive, controlled but deranged performance against type as the eponymous role. He’s a cop who works as a hitman on the side, hired by a family to kill the disturbed mother so that they can claim her life insurance. Director William Friedkin makes it all look gorgeous and completely real with a wonderful use of graininess and contrast. All the performances are excellent and unnerving in different ways, bouncing off each others remarkably intense, occasionally comic dialogue. The violence builds with a claustrophobic intensity producing one of the nastiest but most powerful pieces of cinema you’re likely to see in a long while and certainly sneaked into my top 10 of the year. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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