Saint Maud – Edinburgh Filmhouse

Directed & Written by Rose Glass

UK / 2019 / 84mins

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In a sold-out event for Edinburgh’s Filmhouse, horror seems to be the genre encouraging people back into the world of cinema. Rose Glass’ psychological thriller (a debut piece nonetheless) Saint Maud plummets the audience into the morose and obsessive mindscape of a young, seemingly good-natured nurse as she comes to care for a dying patient. With a redemptive mindset, Maud seeks not only to ease the woman’s suffering body but to care for her ailing spirit.

Full of ritualised obsession, Morfydd Clark’s performance of Maud is unsettling, yet it conjures grounded insecurities, and dare we say, even recognition. Embodying the horror staple of a lurking darkness beneath the unexpected or even mundane, Glass frames Maud as a doormat, complacent and bland.

There’s a rarity with Clark’s performance in so far as how remarkably unhabitual she dimensions herself as Maud. It’s a display of integration, rather than performance, carrying a desperate struggle as an otherwise kind young woman, grappling with severe mental issues. They say that Hell is paved with good intentions – well, Clark makes it so that the audience falls in line behind her choices at first.

Lampooning her career, life and religious intentions, much of the cast find Maud an oddity, but harmless. Perhaps most gravely, so too does her patient Amanda, a once sensational dancer succumbing to the end of her days. Jennifer Ehle’s booze-hounding party girl is a woman ensuring her final hours won’t be spent on medication and stagnation, but filled with frivolity, time with her female partner (Lily Frazer) and the luxury of sin.

And as much as Amanda toys with Maud’s lifestyle choices, the pair form a genuine sense of connection between them, as much as the spider has with its fly. Saint Maud demonstrates its deep-seated physicality and erotic ties with religious obsession and the intimacy of palliative care and nursing. The levels of complexity and warped beauty in Glass’ filmmaking demonstrate an unequivocal understanding of the brilliance in psychological horror.

A masterclass in horror cinema, Ben Fordesman’s framing of the film is uncomfortable and intense. He seems determined to cause distress in the audience, pushing them into unfamiliar situations and angles. While you may suspect this aids in grounding Maud’s reality from her psychosis, the cinematography deftly blurs the line even more.

This blurring of reality is where grazing slip-ups happen, where the psychological nature of the film worries filmmakers that the audience will knot themselves in deciphering. A tiny let-down is that a vast portion of Saint Maud concerns Maud’s past, never divulging the truth and wishing the audience to put together a jigsaw which is sadistically missing a few components. Occasionally, the imagery stretches beyond the scope of the film, as the delusions Maud suffers eke themselves from the realms of believability and into a more schlocky horror aspect in reinforcing how unhinged from reality her obsessions are.

This said, the meticulously well-crafted palette lends itself so intensely into shadow manipulation that when the scenes set up tension, they delivers in subtle ways. It isn’t solely the eyes which are forced into uneasiness; Saint Maud’s soundtrack is a composition of hellscapes, written by angels. A slice of the film blends an end-of-days party album with distortions of divine opulence, scratching disc-jockeys and warped air-raid sirens. Disconcerting, Glass does all they can to leave the audience writhing as they watch the movie unfold.

A reformation of contemporary horror, Saint Maud is the unlikely saviour of the genre in testing times. Glass’ unwillingness to sully the film with cheap novelty, instead ingraining its twisting gnarled roots in a religious sub-text, make for a visually exquisite embrace of eroticised religion and a near-ideal eighty-minute horror classic. 

Screening at the Edinburgh Filmhouse from Fri 9 Oct 2020

Review published for The Wee Review

Six Suspects – Taiwan Film Festival

Written by Yi-Yun Lin

Directed by Lin Tuan-Chiu

Taiwan / 1965 / 109 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Tenn Kong-Hui has no shortage of enemies, though that’s expected for a crooked blackmailer. Abusing his talents in reconnaissance, he takes a twisted delight in busting up the soirees, marriages and lives of the social elite – for a fee, of course. So when he turns up lifeless in his apartment, there’s already a shortlist of possible suspects – five to be exact. As each turns up an alibi, the case seems lost – until a breakthrough comes when a final sixth suspect surfaces.

And who can blame the killer? As Tenn Kong-Hui is carried with such a revolting smugness by Tung-Ju Wu, if anything, they surely just merely beat someone else to the punch. Richly embodying the seedy underbelly of the flourishing middle classes, this pro-police crime thriller has a depth which isn’t obvious at first. Our villain, a roguish blackmailer, sits atop his high horse noting the rotting underbelly of a seemingly innocent society, long before the world caught on. Much of this is due to the period of the film’s production, a time of martial law where law enforcement were the unquestionable heroes, while the corrupt middle class was the enemy.

What makes it easy to follow an overlapping timeline and character-rich film is Yi-Yun Lin’s clear writing. Little is over-complicated and rather than attempting to subvert the audience’s expectations, the script merely allows the story to develop, twisting when necessary. It makes for a compelling mystery that still takes a surprise turn with its unusual and diverse range of suspects. Remarkably well-paced (despite the multitude of overlapping story threads), Six Suspects never strays from the realms of believability or understanding. Yi-Yun Lin’s writing flows quite naturally, even if the odd performance reaches heights of cartoonish exaggeration. Eliminating the suspects, the film’s structure dips and emerges out of flashbacks to understand the lead-up to the fate of Tenn Kong-Hui, unravelling the murky tactics he employed to unearth his trove of secrets.

With cigarettes, popped collars and attitude, Lin Tuan-Chiu transforms Taipei into an energised, vibrant metropolis with ease thanks to Lai Cheng-ying’s expressionist lighting, accompanied by smooth jazz. Everything is amplified in Six Suspects, especially the emotion. Fuelling the untrustworthy nature of the suspect’s accounts, Lai Cheng-ying casts shadows across any available surface, grasping the noir angle with both hands. Visually, it creates a sharp monochrome dynamic, achieving a fly-on-the-wall sensation which draws the audience to the side-lines as these sordid affairs and betrayals unfold.

Humiliation, jealousy and rage abound – it’s a wonder the film has as little a body count as it does. Collectively the cast does a smashing job, not only in giving life into a plethora of different characters but also in their motivations and interactions with one another. From cheating businessmen to seductive suitors and loyal partners, Lin Tuan-Chiu’s direction of them usually reins in the hammy performances, save for a couple, which stray from a noir thriller into comedic territory. Notably, Chin-Hsin Hsia gives much of the gritty game away and stands out for the wrong reasons against the more rounded, natural performances of Ching-Ching Chang.

Six Suspects may have never received an official release, but here it sits as a solid example of an interesting period for Taiwanese cinema. A crime thriller which initially toys with interesting ideas succumbs to a flawed climax where the police are once again the victors against the bourgeoisie incessant wants of greed and envy. An addictive taste for dramatics can be satiated with this film, if you can stomach the police-pandering and occasional hackneyed performance.

Review published for The Wee Review

Emergency Appeal for Capital Theatres – #SaveOurTheatres

Across Scotland, venues are struggling to maintain a future and stave off the fears of going dark permanently. Tragically, the dawning reality is that the coming months will determine the fates of Scotland’s cultural hubs for generations to come.

Capital Theatres, the charity responsible for running Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, The Studio and heart of the trio The King’s have had little choice but to launch a crowdfunding campaign to secure £50,000 to ensure they are able to raise the curtain once more – when safe to do so. Doing so, not only to preserve the cities cultural integrity but to secure the high quality of accessible arts for Edinburgh’s vulnerable communities.

From online Tea & Jamming sessions, Dementia-friendly programmes and teaching aids for children during Lockdown, Capital Theatres has maintained its commitment to the communities despite halting live, in-person events. With 92% of the staff currently furloughed, with a small section able to work from home, the charity faces a dire situation.

Now, this is nothing new, and we here at Corr Blimey have asked your help in supporting the arts community and venues throughout lockdown, but for those unable to provide financial assistance they can help aid in another key way. Starting up a petition on Change.org they are calling on the Scottish Government’s support to recognise the severity of the situation:

‘We cannot let this happen. ​We need you to help us demonstrate to ​the government ​that Capital Theatres is worth equal investment ​to our theatre compatriots, to save our iconic venues before it’s too late’

Despite persistent appeals from Capital Theatres regarding the position they find themselves concerning the depleted funds they had to refurbish the King’s Theatre, support has so far been minimal from the government. Campaigning to receive funding: “at the same level as other publicly supported theatres,” this would go towards enabling the charity to play their role in Edinburgh’s year-round art scene, boosting the local and national economy, stating:

‘ from dementia friendly music concerts, ​to storytelling projects with Special Needs Schools and performance workshops with care experienced young adults. During June and July alone, we engaged with over 600 people each week through our digital activities.

Without significant external help, we will struggle to survive this prolonged period of closure with no ticket income. We need funding to continue delivering our work behind closed doors and to prepare the theatres to reopen when we are able to safely do so.

Faced with the harrowing decision of whether to remove their workers or risk the closure of The King’s theatre entirely, CEO Fiona Gibson issued a frank and blunt warning to the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, that without the necessary funds and protection the decision would need to be called.

From auld Leithers to the fresh faces of Marchmont Rd and Pollock Halls, there’s no one in the city of Edinburgh, and rarely a person in Scotland who at one time or another hasn’t been impacted by the glittering spectacle of the Festival, the intimate creative-furnace of The Studio or the majesty of the old lady of Leven Street that is our beloved King’s Theatre. With support, the charity hopes to be able to bounce back and push forward and make a welcome comeback, but likely with reduced seating capacity needs ours, and the government’s help to do so.

Crowdfunder Page

Change.org Petition