American Honey

AMERICAN HONEY

Director: Andrea Arnold

Stars: Sasha Lane, Shia LeBeouf, Riley Keough, Arielle Holmes

Rating: * * * ½ (out of 5)

 

A hypnotic state-of-the-underclass-nation address by a great British director who dares to delve into the underbelly of American society that its own filmmakers rarely probe: it’s surely hyperbolic to call American Honey the dread-headed stepchild of The Grapes of Wrath and Spring Breakers, but Andrea Arnold certainly feels like she’s shooting for something that all-encompassing and sensory-overloading here, in her tale of a feral pack of disadvantaged kids on the road selling magazine subscriptions. Arnold’s heroine Star (knockout debutant Sasha Lane, who recalls a mix of Lisa Bonet’s fragility and Michelle Rodriguez’s fight) is a clear transatlantic trailer trash cousin – though lacking even a trailer – to Fish Tank’s council estate Mia, complete with broken home life and dependent younger tots, yearning for a way out. She finds it when she escapes to join Jake (Shia LaBeouf, seizing the chance to channel his more outré leanings) and Krystal (Riley Keough)’s ragtag troupe of outcast; though the cost of independence days and the intoxication of young love comes at a steep price.

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With his quixotic adventure film Jauja, starring Viggo Mortensen, Lisandro Alonso is the latest filmmaker to ditch the conventional wide-screen format in order to resurrect the squarer ‘Academy’ ratio of earlier times. He’s in good company…

Martin Scorsese’s deft, tautological epithet, “cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out”, typically orbits discussions of subject matter or setting, camera placement or lighting. What’s perhaps considered less of a variable are the actual dimensions of the image: its aspect ratio, or ratio of the width of an image to its height.

Cinema’s early days were straightforward. A 35mm celluloid frame was four perforations high, creating an industry standard ratio of 4:3, or 1:1.33, often shortened to 1:33. When synchronised sound arrived in 1929, dimensions expanded slightly to allow for the optical soundtrack strip, creating a 1:37 aspect ratio. Both of these were folded into one official image size, known as the Academy ratio. Read more

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