Firebrand – first-look review

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Karim Aïnouz's English connection debut is simply a frustratingly buttoned-up return connected nan life of Henry VIII's last wife, Catherine Parr.

When Catherine Parr joined King Henry VIII, Brazil was a young state astatine 43. At that point, nan Portuguese were still vigorously tearing astatine South American onshore and group alike, nan convulsive ripples of colonisation penning successful humor nan bleak early history of nan country. Almost 3 hundreds of years would spell by until Brazil near its subpar position arsenic a colony to participate its short-lived monarchy era, pinch nan seven-year stint of nan Portuguese crown a risible effort astatine establishing nan mini European state arsenic 1 of nan awesome achromatic colonisers. 

Despite a meek regency, Brazil – and awesome portion of South America – person agelong cultivated a quizzical obsession pinch nan thought of monarchy, pinch nan English crown topping nan ranks of curiosity. Just 2 years ago, Chilean head Pablo Larraín tapped into this unusual taste arena pinch Spencer, a movie rooted successful nan compassion offered by galore Latinos to a female shattered by powerfulness structures acold excessively acquainted to nan colonised. 

With Firebrand, Brazilian Karim Aïnouz becomes nan latest South American head to find inspiration successful a female unwilling to beryllium tamed by nan royal family. Gone pinch Diana, successful pinch Parr (played present by Alicia Vikander), nan woman to return nan coveted “survived” spot successful nan celebrated humanities rhyme astir Henry VIII (Jude Law successful nan film) and his six brides: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Trying his manus astatine play drama, Aïnouz explores nan spot of clip preceding Henry VIII’s death, erstwhile Catherine’s Protestant sympathies brought her dangerously adjacent to joining 2 of nan King’s erstwhile wives six feet under. 

Over 2 decades, Aïnouz has bent and shape-shifted different cinematic styles to trade nuanced studies of nan soul lives of his characters, playing pinch nan method possibilities of cinema arsenic a framing device. His curiosity is defined by gentleness, his female characters nan main benefactors of nan director’s benignant gaze, beardown women trapped wrong nan tight confinements of patriarchy yet ne'er defined by it. It is nary surprise, then, that nan head recovered nan inspiration for his English connection debut successful Parr’s story. 

What is astonishing is really small of Aïnouz’s nuanced sensibility is coming successful his newest, a movie floating successful nan aimless limbo of characterless. In its extremity to accommodate Elizabeth Fremantle’s humanities caller “Queen’s Gambit”, Firebrand bypasses nan melodramatic worth of communicative filmmaking, sold arsenic an ahistorical retelling of nan little-discussed life of Parr but yet consisting of a lusciously textured but frigidly told reenactment that has small interest for prodding astatine nan making and beliefs of nan female credited present arsenic nan 1 responsible for ushering successful a caller era for England. 

With pus oozing from his rotting limb and sweat dripping from his grotesquely depicted body, Law does distant pinch nan handsomeness that defined galore of his top roles to embody nan infamous King. He grunts and puffs, much animal than man, screeching “My leg!” successful a mode reminiscent of Borat yelling “My wife!”. The pantomime quality of his capacity amusing yet retired of place. Next to Law, Vikander’s meek framework stands successful opposition to nan grandiosity of it all: her husband, palace, entourage and aspirations. 

It is successful Vikander that Firebrand finds uncommon moments of inspiration, nan character framed by cinematographer Hélène Louvart pinch nan delicacy of Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl pinch a Pearl Earring”, her beingness lingering precariously betwixt nan imaginable for greatness and nan dense load of eternal shame. Firebrand lingers successful this space, too, but sadly lands towards nan latter, pinch Aïnouz’s signature artistry painfully numbed by nan shackles of nan conventional. 

Published 24 May 2023

Tags: Alicia Vikander Karim Aïnouz

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