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Poor Things 18

Yorgos Lanthimos, USA, Ireland, UK, 2023, 141m.

From filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos and producer Emma Stone comes the incredible tale and fantastical evolution of Bella Baxter (Stone), a young woman brought back to life by the brilliant and unorthodox scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe). Under Baxter's protection, Bella is eager to learn. Hungry for the worldliness she is lacking, Bella runs off with Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), a slick and debauched lawyer, on a whirlwind adventure across the continents. Free from the prejudices of her times, Bella grows steadfast in her purpose to stand for equality and liberation.

The Garden Cinema View:

Yorgos Lanthimos strikes back with a feast for the senses, a departure from the more deadpan style of his earlier films (Dogtooth, The Lobster) which established him as arthouse cinema's enfant terrible. But not entirely. Despite Poor Things' epic, maximalist tone, it shares similar preoccupations with Lanthimos' previous work: infantilisation, a certain sexual twistedness, and liberation via libidinal awakenings.

Poor Things has much to admire, not least its inventiveness, humour, lavish production design, and fearlessness risk-taking in direction and performance. However, it's still garnered mixed reactions from audiences - even within The Garden Cinema team.

Some of us questioned whether Bella's sexualized and puppet-like naivete, and the overabundance of sex scenes, veers too far into male gaze territory. We also wondered if the film’s aesthetics are more carefully constructed than its delivery of conceptual themes, such as Bella’s conversion to socialism, which feels like an undeveloped footnote in the narrative.

It is clear that Poor Things is one of the leading contenders for multiple awards and is making waves at the box office and in the arthouse community. So far, it has sparked widespread discussion and cemented Lanthimos as one of contemporary cinema's boldest auteurs.  

*The screening on 1st February was followed by a Q&A with fashion historian, writer and lecturer Judith Watt, hosted by Sarah Bailey, editor-at-large at VOGUE Greece, and founder of the Fashion Film Club.

Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Mark Ruffalo, Ramy Youssef, Kathryn Hunter

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