View Full Version : High Life

Ian Jane
01-17-2019, 10:47 AM
Nothing to do with the champagne of beers and everything to do with the sparkly guy from the Twilight Movies.

From director Claire Denis and starring Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Andre Benjamin, and Mia Goth. High Life – in Theaters April 12, 2019.

RELEASE DATE: April 12, 2019
DIRECTOR: Claire Denis
CAST: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Andre Benjamin, and Mia Goth

A24 has a pretty solid track record...


04-12-2019, 03:48 PM
The notion of 71 year old arthouse queen Claire Denis ( BEAU TRAVAIL, CHOCOLATE, 35 SHOTS OF RUM) doing a sci-fi movie is an odd one. Of course, famed Foreign directors doing SF isn't new with Truffaut, Tarkovsky, Godard, Tavernier, Resnais, Von Trier and others having trod that ground previously. The results have been mixed, but, the most successful ones (SOLARIS, ALPHAVILLE) have tended to be those where the filmmaker didn't bend to the expectations of the genre, but, rather, made the respective films in their own unique voice.

HIGH LIFE centers on a quixotic space voyage to a faraway Black Hole (ah, that Denis - such a trendy woman! Note: The movie was conceived long ago, naturally). The movie is book-ended around Monte (Robert Pattinson) and his born in space daughter Willow (Jessie Ross and Scarlett Lindsey). There are also flashbacks and flash-forwards to add to the further keep the viewer off-balance. Besides, the core Black Hole mission, Dr. Dibs (Juliette Binoche) is performing fertility experiments on the crew along the way. Oh, and its literally a Prison Ship, full of castoff criminals. The script never fully explains the core purpose of the journey, and, while its intended to keep the viewer off balance (as mentioned), the lack of clearly defined goals makes the impracticality of the whole quest all the more frustrating.

Denis was never going to make a conventional sci-fi narrative, but the melange of themes and motivations at play here never work as either speculative fiction nor as artful drama. The collection of reprobates and downtrodden astronauts here are as uninteresting as they are unqualified for the trip (what agency, private or public would entrust such a critical exploration?). Binoche's loyalty to Denis is admirable, but, her futuristic Dr. Mengele character is unredeemable.

The one aspect of the tale that engenders some sympathy is the wraparound with Monte and Willow. Pattinson has left his TWILIGHT years behind and is forging an interesting career working with strong Directors (see also James Gray, Cronenberg and the Safdie Brothers). When we return the pair at the end, it's a relief from the band of hoodlums of the main voyage. Not only that, but, it's a far more interesting story to be told (if only the proportion of screen time were reversed). Unfortunately, just as we begin to really bond with them, the movie fades out.
There is no question that HIGH LIFE features some decent production values on a budget. The sound and score work by Stuart Staples give the movie its rhythm and atmosphere. The recent movie it most resembles in that regard is Danny Boyle's similarly disappointing SUNSHINE (with another crop of dubiously qualified astronauts; at least HIGH LIFE gives an explanation for their selection). But, some inspiring views of the cosmos do not elevate this blend of SILENT RUNNING, THE BLACK HOLE and CHILDREN OF MEN. Denis (who co-wrote the screenplay) captures a few poignant moments (mainly the father and daughter ones), and a couple of ethereally effective montages, but, it's not enough (and an assault sequence is as garishly directed as it would be by and exploitation filmmaker). HIGH LIFE will not take an elevated place in Denis' impressive filmmography.