Last Night in Soho

Written by Taylor Baker

76/100

With Last Night in Soho Edgar Wright returns to the cinema screen for the second time this year, following up his breezy if lengthy documentary The Sparks Brothers detailing the highlights of the Sparks group comprised of Ron and Russell Mael who notably scored, wrote, and appeared in Leos Carax’s Annette this last summer. Wright’s film leans on two young proven talents in Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie. Names that will doubtlessly draw audiences for decades to come. The narrative conceit or trick to Soho is an entanglement of two lives in two different times, Thomasin in modern day London and Taylor-Joy in 1960’s London. Taylor-Joy plays Sandy and McKenzie plays Eloise.

The film begins with Eloise leaving her rural home to go to London to pursue a career as a fashion designer. Since her mother’s untimely passing Eloise had been living with her Grandmother Peggy Turner played by Rita Tushingham and had overcome some psychological issues wherein her mother would appear to her through a mirror. A clever visual choice for the film to demonstrate an “ability” as purely visual rather than ask us to buy into something less conveying within the medium.

Sandy appears to us as if through a dream once Eloise settles into her new room in London. She’s adorned in a sheer billowing dress walking down the regal stairs of a local London night club where she dreams of singing one day. There she meets and begins to become entangled with Matt Smith’s Jack. The night progresses and Eloise wakes up pulling us from the 60’s back to the contemporary. Eloise hadn’t had the best time at her dormitory with her peers partying late so she takes up a job at the local watering hole to help her pay for a room rented to her by the late Diane Riggs’s Miss Collins.

Last Night in Soho slowly evolves riffing on well known conventions. Sandy begins performing as a back-up dancer to another woman at the Rialto and slowly the perfect gauzy effect that Wright had layered onto the films 60’s sequences dissipates into a more dejected grungy look that makes one think despairingly of Christiane F. instead of something like 1957’s Funny Face. McKenzie’s Eloise steals scenes and pulls focus from Taylor-Joy’s Sandy with surprising consistency. McKenzie has had precious few chances to engage on screen with other female performers so this not only serves as a refreshing look at her talent, it reiterates the magnetism audiences have collectively picked up on since her first performance back in 2018’s Leave No Trace.

Last Night in Soho is a gripping and fun riff on giallo with modern social commentary that has and will surely continue to have audiences applauding and opposing it. Regardless of which camp you fall into you’ll likely be gripped by the premise and underwater dreamlike sequences as they unfold only knowing for sure how you feel as the credits roll and we look down the various empty streets of London where Diana Riggs’s Miss Collins tells us that, “Someone’s died in every nook and cranny of.”

Last Night in Soho Trailer

Last Night in Soho is currently screening in wide theatrical release.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

Suspiria (2018)

Written by Michael Clawson

85/100

By ditching the phantasmagoric color that animated Argento’s beloved classic and foregrounding the political turmoil of late 1970s Germany, Guadagnino steeps his reimagining of Suspiria in reality, only to send it dancing into the depths of a beautifully twisted nightmare at the drop of a silver hook.

Call Me By Your Name‘s warm and inviting Italian countryside setting is a distant memory in the halls of the Markos Dance Academy, which feels more like a mausoleum than the home to a group of lithe, young, female dancers. With its labyrinthine corridors draped in greys, browns, and blacks, it’s cold and forbidding; hardly the atmosphere in which one can imagine feeling emboldened to perform with the kind of carnal and instinctual drive that Suzie Bannion does. As Suzie, Dakota Johnson’s physicality is tantalizing, and the razor sharp cross-cutting between one of her first dances and her fellow dancer Olga being contorted and folded like a pretzel is an unforgettable display of weaponized art.

Borrowing only the bones of the original, Guadagnino’s Suspiria is wholly his own. For all the death, rot, and decay that seems to sit beneath the dance floor, the film’s vision is new and fresh.

Michael Clawson originally posted this review on Letterboxd 11/09/18

Available on Prime Video