London Film Festival: Tiger Girl

Tiger Girl is an acquired taste. An initial flavour that excites and makes you crave more, only to diminish rapidly leaving a great thirst that ceases to be quenched. Directed by Jakob Lass, this German punk-pop infused dark comedy of sorts tells the tale of local vigilante Tiger who initially fights crime only to transform into a vandalising maniac taking down a security guard trainee Maggie (Maria Dragus) in the process.

Sweet, harmless and dedicated is our blonde leading lady, nick-named Vanilla the Killer by the unhinged Tiger (Ella Rumpf) after taking on a group of men that, quite frankly, had it coming. Immediately the thrill of the fight fuels Vanilla resulting in the two becoming friends and going down a path of destruction; causing as much trouble as they can and drinking themselves into comas. After stealing Tiger a security uniform, there is no stopping them now. If Lass wanted this to be appealing or seem exciting to the spectator, he fails disappointingly on all accounts. What these two women are doing is outrageous, unwarranted and above all else wrong.  Our two leading ladies are fierce that’s for sure, but their actions become futile after the second time we see them destroy a car, scare or steal from someone just for fun!

Throughout the story arch, Tiger Girl hints towards a message at its core; a point to the endlessly repetitive scenes of smashing things to pieces and drinking copious amounts of alcohol – yet it is never fully revealed for us to truly digest. For the most part, one struggles to see the motivation driving these two to commit such crimes. When Tiger’s drug dealing (drug taking) friends are in need of quick money to repay their debts, the pickpocketing has some semblance of meaning; the rest however only seems to illustrate how unstable they both are. With virtually no backstory it becomes even harder to relate to why they are expressing such anti-social behaviour.

Lass misses a big trick here and would have stood himself in good stead for a wholly different approach by taking the relationship of our two leading ladies and romanticising it. Their friendship is strong and it’s clear that Vanilla idolises Tiger but has Tiger created an uncontrollable monster? For the most part, Dragus and Rumpf give excellent performances – it’s just depressing that this didn’t get to where we all thought it was going. Above all else, the social violence presented here is sickening. None of it is ‘cool’, fun to do – you are damaging someone else’s property, robbing them and hurting them in the process. When did society think it was ok to do this? Lass is clearly making a point here, but virtually the entire cast fails to learn from their mistakes. Just as we think this is getting somewhere, it ends.

Let’s hope that no young impressionable girls (or boys for that matter) out there think that this is the way to act, on or off the streets.

Tiger Girl is out at the BFI London Film Festival!

The Death of Stalin – Review

Moscow, 1953 wasn’t exactly anyone’s vision of Utopia. Strict Soviet, totalitarian regime; secret ‘trigger happy’ police and the onset of constant paranoia (alongside toilet flushing) consumes the nation as they become convinced their own homes are spying on them. People were rounded up and shot on the spot accused of leaking information at an incredibly alarming rate, all for one dictator on one hell of a power trip and a fondness of classical music it would seem.

On a slightly lighter note, director Armando Ianucci takes the dystopian traits of Russia during this time and sprinkles (and sometimes utterly dousing) them with sheer satirical enjoyment in latest dark comedy, The Death of Stalin. Immediately embodying identical characteristics of the BBC hit TV series, The Thick of It; Ianucci presents the most sinister aspects of the period and ingeniously translates them into hilarious material. After the main man himself is found dead in his office, his cabinet come together to form a plan for their beloved state. Although, it seems no one has anyone’s best interests at heart apart from fighting their own way to top and blaming everyone else along the way (hmm, have we seen this recently?)

Headed up by the quite frankly terrifying Lavrentiy Betia (Simon Russell Beale), Stalin’s chief of security, it’s pure gold watching these men struggle to be the voice that’s heard. The lucky (corset wearing) Georgy Malenkov (Jeremy Tambor) gets to take over as ruler of the Union, by no means does that mean he makes the decisions. This team of merry men consisting of; Buscemi, Palin, Whitehouse and Isaacs certainly couldn’t form a plan to get the ring to Mordor although they do eventually decide on one thing that could help save their lives and many others. Squabbling debates commence and the harsh truth is revealed making it hard to like even one of these men if the jokes and light heartedness was stripped away, what lies beneath is something terrifying sinister that one would want to avoid at all costs.

Having Stalin perceived as a London gangster is completely genius – Stalin will now always be a hard edged Londoner that has beef with everyone who looks at him the wrong way. The entire cast from the familiar faces to the extras in the background absolutely nail it. As time goes by, you may be gagging to see what Jason Isaacs has up his sleeve, but fear not it’s worth the wait. Entering with one of the best coat flinging action of all time, Isaacs is flawless as army head Zhukov arguable bagging the best lines with Rupert Friend as Vasily Stalin coming in a close second. Palin, Whitehouse, Buscemi; what else is there to say apart from how brilliant these men are on screen and what they do with the dialogue given to them is simply a masterpiece.

Whether historically accurate or not, this is knicker-wetting funny from Paddy Considine’s determined clock watching to the brutal deaths some endure throughout. This would certainly benefit from a second viewing, purely because your own laughter is so loud you will miss the odd joke here and there, not to mention how intricately put together each frame is. There wasn’t a second that went by where even the extras in the background weren’t up to something hilarious, The Death of Stalin takes a bleak, melancholy segment from the world’s past that truly demonstrates what happens when people have too much power and truly turns it on its head; almost as though we can hear someone say, “This was awful, we need to learn from this”. Yet, examining our current political state doesn’t exactly fill one with wonderment.

Be prepared to be stared at due to the cackle of laughing you will be producing whilst absorbing this tale. If you are having a bad week, it’s certainly not as bad as Stalin’s and if there’s one thing you should take away from this, let it be the advice of the drunkard Vasily Stalin at his father’s funeral – “smile, nod, shake hands and try to not call them cunts!”

The Death of Stalin is out on Friday 20th October, 2017