Ben McDonald: Heading further into the fall, this month has a solid line-up of highly anticipated films that have all premiered at various festivals, and it’s probably the first month this year that I personally have been genuinely excited to see multiple new releases. First up is 2021’s Palme d’Or winner Titane, French director Julia Ducournau‘s follow-up film to her delightfully gross cannibal coming-of-age film Raw. Titane is described as a body horror thriller that apparently involves sex with cars (?), starring Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, and prior Ducournau star Garance Marillier. I gotta say, hearing what little I have about this film, I was pleasantly surprised when it took home the highest possible award at Cannes. I’ve seen Raw twice and absolutely adored it, so I have high expectations for Titane and have relatively equal certainty that it will be right up my alley. I’m hoping to catch the film the day this discussion is published (the second time I’ve gone to a theater since COVID began), but Henry, I believe you are seeing/have seen Titane at the time of my writing this. What is your opinion on Raw/Ducournau and do you have any first reactions you’d like to share?
Henry Baime: I’m writing this about an hour post-viewing, having just gotten back to my place, so it’s less of a most anticipated for this title than a first thoughts. For those who were keen on Raw, though Titane is quite different, I imagine it’ll deliver. Both films can make for some uncomfortable viewing but have some supreme skill behind the craft that’s allowed them to rise above the limitations horror-leaning films can often experience in critical circles. That said, I think the reports of just how squirm-inducing the film is have been inflated and, though it’s more than you would expect from a traditional Palme winner, most horror aficionados will have encountered plenty of other films with body horror this gruesome. Beyond that, yes, you heard right, there is sex with cars, and I’m not sure that’s even the weirdest thing in there. It feels like an homage to body horror maestro David Cronenberg‘s Crash taken to a next step and it’s absolutely a film with a limited target audience that will alienate most others, but for those who come wanting a weird and weirdly tender horror film, it’ll be a slam dunk.
Ben: I’m a huge fan of David Cronenberg’s Crash (I coincidentally just rewatched it this past weekend), so that comparison makes makes me extremely excited to see the film, although judging by the perverse content and diverse reactions to Crash, I can understand why Titane might be alienating to some as you mention.
As it is the month of Halloween, we have two more upcoming horror films to discuss this month. The first shares a name with the holiday – David Gordon Greene‘s Halloween Kills, a follow-up to his 2018 reboot/retconning sequel to John Carpenter‘s 1978 slasher Halloween. The film once again follows Laurie Strode (reprised by Jamie Lee Curtis) as she is stalked yet again by the psychopathic serial killer Michael Myers. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Greene’s previous Halloween film – it felt far too much like a piece of self-conscious fan art to me – but I nevertheless enjoy following slasher franchises down their rabbit holes, so I’ll almost certainly check this one out anyway. Based on the film’s description, it seems like it might immediately follow the events of the previous Halloween and take place all in the same night, similar to Rick Rosenthal‘s original sequel, Halloween II.
Henry: The Halloween movies have been a staple of October midnight programming for me and I’ve seen almost all of them in cinemas (the Rob Zombie ones being the exception) experiencing some level of sleep deprivation and they’ve all been glorious. I’m not sure it’s a series I could get behind as fully if I watched them in the middle of the day so the relative disappearance of midnight movies compared to even a few years back probably means I better knock a few beers back before this one as an alternative (or I guess watch online instead as it’ll be released simultaneously, though I’m loathe to do that) but I’m still quite excited for it. In a series where chronology gets thrown out the window basically every time, to see this as a direct follow up and knowing there’s another direct follow up next year seems to put this in a new place among the series even as it brings back a number of old characters. I wasn’t terribly keen on the last one in comparison to a few of the earlier entries (especially the third) but it was a solid enough slasher and with the freedom of this sequel to not have to also reboot the franchise, I’m hoping to see a bit more.
Of course, the other horror we’ve got coming this month is Edgar Wright‘s Last Night in Soho. He’s been genre hopping for a few years now but Shaun of the Dead, his comedy horror that began the Cornetto trilogy, is what put Wright on the map for most and I can’t wait to see what the last couple decades have done to further his filmmaking in the genre. Admittedly, I haven’t been a huge fan of his non-Cornetto work, but Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie have been stars to watch recently and my issues with Scott Pilgrim and Baby Driver haven’t really been due to Wright’s direction so I maintain high hopes. I actually ran into Wright after a showing at the Prince Charles Cinema last year in Soho back when I lived in London and briefly mentioned that I was eager for this one to come out so, at the very least, I get closure to that conversation after all the delays we’ve experienced since then.
Ben: I think I generally agree with your opinion on Wright, I’ve enjoyed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (haven’t seen The World’s End yet) but found Scott Pilgrim and Baby Driver to not quite live up to those films. I’m curious to see what Wright does with a more strictly horror film, as Shaun of the Dead is obviously much more of a comedy. Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie have both been pretty great in everything I’ve seen from them, so I’m also eager to see how they pair with Wright’s direction.
Another new film we’re anticipating this month is the delayed release of Wes Anderson‘s next work, The French Dispatch. Starring Timothée Chalamet, Benicio del Toro, Tilda Swinton, and a whole range of Anderson’s usual troupe of regulars, The French Dispatch is an anthology film described as “a love letter to journalists set at an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city”. I haven’t been an Anderson fan for all that long, but back in 2019 I went through and watched all of his films and found them particularly impactful to me at that moment of my life. I haven’t felt a particularly strong desire to return to any of them, but I’m hoping The French Dispatch lives up to Anderson’s instantly identifiable brand of visual storytelling and melancholy emotions.
Henry: I also haven’t been an Anderson fan for long, with Isle of Dogs being the only one of his films I’ve seen during its initial release, and similarly haven’t rewatched any of them, but nearly all of them have been wonderful in their own twee sort of way. There’s always something fun to be found in that storybook look and I’ve found emotional catharsis in many ways through them. An Anderson film is always an event for cinephiles and I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of discussions this one will prompt with his return to live action for the first time in seven years and that incredibly stacked cast. Generally speaking, I’ve liked Anderson’s live action work much more than his animated features so I’m hoping for something great.
The last film we’ve got to discuss this month comes from Ridley Scott, who, after decades of turning out bona fide classics (and more than a few misses as well), has The Last Duel this month, followed by The House of Gucci next month. Much like Clint Eastwood, who still keeps cranking films out nearly every year in old age, I find it incredible that Scott, now 83, is putting most filmmakers half a century his junior to shame with his output and showing no signs of slowing down, announcing a Gladiator 2 recently that will come out after his Napoleon film Kitbag. But Scott is hardly the only heavy hitter here with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck starring in the film, which they also co-wrote (something they last did with their Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting) alongside Nicole Holofcener, the director/writer recently nominated for her work on Can You Ever Forgive Me?. Also among the cast are Jodie Comer, whose venture into film that began earlier this year with Free Guy seems set to become a bigger star, and Adam Driver in the first of his two collaborations with Ridley Scott. I’ve been a fan of nearly everything all of these folks have done in the past, or at least their work in them, so even though I’ve often felt Scott would be better served focusing on small character dramas than the historical epics he’s so drawn to, I can’t wait to see what’s coming. So many of his films have gone through later critical reappraisals that even if The Last Duel is underwhelming, it could be destined for classic status yet.
Ben: It really is incredible that any filmmaker can be so prolific, especially at Scott’s age. I’ll admit that I haven’t really followed much of his recent work (minus his iffy Alien prequels that are nevertheless a lot of fun in a theater), but I’ll be curious to see how this film is received and maybe even make the journey to the theater to check it out.