The Big Issue : Edition 542
FILM 38 THE BIG ISSUE 28 JUL – 10 AUG 2017 Dogs are hot right now. They have been for about 15,000 years, since they “bargained away their freedom for food and shelter”. That’s one of the ways director Gillian Leahy describes the human-canine relationship in her documentary Baxter and Me. Named for her current companion – a slobbery, chocolate-brown labrador – the film explores Leahy’s lifelong bond with dogs of all shapes, shades and temperaments. With an essayistic lilt, Baxter and Me poses questions about love, death, grief, devotion, ser vitude, autonomy and morality. With the story tethered to Leahy’s personal experience, the questions remain largely rhetorical here. At times, the film feels too loose, perhaps owing to Leahy’s practice as an experimental filmmaker in 1970s Sydney – a lively period retraced in the film. The paralleling of women’s and animal rights are particularly interesting. Similar in thesis to Laurie Anderson’s exquisite Hear t of a Dog (2015), Leahy’s film isn’t quite so lyrical, but fur parents may find it more relatable. AIMEE KNIGHT THE TRIP TO SPAIN A hit at the Spanish box office, this anthology rom-com follows five couples from Madrid, where cupid has been firing of f some deviant bows. Vibrant colours and playful pacing aside, marketing comparisons to the great queer auteur Almodóvar are far-fetched: director Paco León’s take on per version is decidedly heterosexual and phallocentric. He takes a schoolboy’s pleasure in outré desires, like a deaf woman who goes gaga for silk or an unsatisfied wife who discovers her kink is tears (who, in one of the wittier vignettes, manufactures situations to make her husband weep). The transgressive is more often cutesy, however, and there are some disturbing undertones. A purportedly quirky fetish for watching someone sleep is tantamount to rape, when a husband begins drugging his wheelchair-bound wife nightly. What’s worse, his violation is presented as an act of enduring love, her passion eventually renewed by this act of devotion. Kiki is a dalliance to rue, not remember. REBECCA HARKINS-CROSS KIKI, LOVE TO LOVE BAXTER AND ME THE ENDLESS SUCCESSION of superheroes smashing their way through multiplexes and box offices worldwide suggests something is rotten in our culture. This year the powers of Wolverine, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Wonder Woman and Spiderman combined haven’t been enough to save us from our rescue fantasies, where global catastrophe can only be quelled by superhuman salvation. In arthouse cinemas, too, a creeping sense of dread has been contaminating our screens; last edition all our reviews were of horror films. Steve Rose in The Guardian has termed this current spate “post-horror”, also citing films like The Witch (2016) and Personal Shopper (2 016), w hich subvert genre conventions for a metaphysical horror more elusive and, perhaps, more chilling. Film theorist Robin Wood says horror films are a place where the repressed returns, allowing us to encounter and subdue what our culture disavows. It’s fascinating then to ponder why our hunger for horror is so insatiable, though let’s not analyse why all my recent favourites fall into this subgenre, too – the social satire Get Out, which wittily reveals the monstrosity at the heart of white America; French feminist cannibal romp Raw, which literalises a young woman’s newfound passion for flesh; and, most recently, It Comes at Night, which turns dread inwards into the nuclear family. Here horror supposedly lies outside the home, but inside there’s a patriarch ruling with an iron fist under the pretense of protection. REBECCA HARKINS-CROSS > Film Editor For their third outing as duelling impressionists-slash-restaurant- reviewers, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon (playing caricatured versions of themselves) are on the road to Spain. The first film had Coogan as a status-obsessed ladies’ man while Brydon was the settled family man, then the second one reversed their roles. This returns to the status quo: Coogan is worried about his Hollywood career (now as a writer) and is trying out his Spanish on every passing young woman despite having an “it’s complicated” relationship with his (now married to someone else) girlfriend from the first film. Meanwhile Brydon is again settled and happy to annoy his friend as they visit classy eateries and take in some gorgeous countryside. The impressions are a little flat (though Coogan’s Mick Jagger is a delight) and the story runs out of steam well before the end credits, but the pair's chemistry is a pleasure. It’s still very funny at times, but hardly essential: if not for a cliffhanger ending, there’d be no reason to expect a fourth Trip. ANTHONY MORRIS CINEMA RELEASE STREAMING IT COMES AT NIGHT...SCARED YET?