Combustible Celluloid
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With: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie, Christopher Fairbank
Written by: Alice Birch, based on a novel by Nikolai Leskov
Directed by: William Oldroyd
MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing violence, strong sexuality/nudity, and language
Running Time: 89
Date: 07/14/2017

Lady Macbeth (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Fair Is Foul, and Foul Is Fair

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A blurb on the DVD box cover suggests something about Hitchcock directing Wuthering Heights, but it seems to me that Lady Macbeth is closer to Herschell Gordon Lewis directing Wuthering Heights. This movie is messed up, and far more interesting than the standard costume movie stuff.

Florence Pugh — an incredible actress new to me — plays Katherine, who has been forced into marriage with a gruff older man, Alexander (Paul Hilton). She is treated as a slave, mainly by her father-in-law, the nasty old Boris (Christopher Fairbank). He is angry for not giving him a grandson, but in the bedroom, Alexander seems to have no desire to actually sleep with Katherine.

One lucky day when both these wonderful people are out, Katherine goes exploring and finds a group of her husband's employees tormenting a dark-skinned maid, Anna (Naomi Ackie). Weirdly, Katherine becomes attracted to their leader, Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), and begins an affair with him. When Boris discovers what's going on, Katherine poisons him, which is the first of many, increasingly shocking killings.

This is debut feature of director William Oldroyd, and he gives the material a welcome hardness, favoring wide, deep, rectangular shots, and silences punctuated by bursts of sound. It's controlled chaos of the most captivating kind. It's also an extremely timely movie as certain men in power brag about their "conquests" of women (i.e. their harassment of women). Watching Katherine take back her own power is extremely satisfying in a twisted way; sure, she's a monster, but she's not nearly as bad as most of those around her.

On October 17, 2017, Lionsgate gave this a DVD-only release, no Blu-ray. It comes with a brief behind-the-scenes featurette, a photo gallery, trailers, and optional English and Spanish subtitles.

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