Seijun Suzuki’s Yakuza classic epitomises ’60s cool with its bold colours and fashions, picturesque framing and brisk editing, but it’s so much more than that. What other thriller could embrace comedic farce or even the musical without losing its edge?
There’s two films going on with Spy. One is a very Hollywood but smart-enough Bond riff (I would say spoof, but it’s not Austin Powers) with the requisite nods and set-pieces. The other is a comedy with distinct conflict between its genuinely funny absurdist streak and its multiplex-appeasing toilet humour – and far-too-casual discrimination. (That the cast is hardly diverse is unfortunate as these things go, but a mid-flick cameo by 50 Cent playing to a crowd of privileged young white people makes me wonder how no-one involved in the production noticed.) Sure, Melissa McCarthy carries the picture with her improv-styled quick wit, and Jason Statham is hilarious as a recurring foil. Yet the good stuff is stained by writer/director – and Freaks and Geeks creator – Paul Feig’s capitulation to dinosaur-age tastes.
In contrast to his previous work Berberian Sound Studio, whereby an ostensibly straight-forward story becomes enveloped in madness, Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy is initially opaque and impenetrable. But its hardened chrysalis conceals what’s gradually revealed as a film of nuanced clarity. Using a Greenaway-esque baroque twist on sexual and relationship power dynamics, Strickland examines the conflicts inherent between the roles people play, public and private, and the people we are internally, ultimately asking the big questions like ‘What is it to love?’. It’s quite something.