This weekend Sky Cinema releases the latest film from the ever-busy Steven Soderbergh, while Netflix drops the first part of its gargantuan Kanye West documentary, and Disney+ releases Wes Anderson’s recent hit.
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Streaming pick of the week
Kimi (NOW with a Sky Cinema Membership from 19 February)
Like Steven Soderbergh’s other post-’retirement’ films, Kimi leverages pulpy genre thrills as a route into a specific sickness of contemporary America, such as the healthcare system in Unsane, exploitation of labour in sports in High Flying Bird, or rust belt class anxiety in Logan Lucky.
Set in Seattle during the COVID-19 pandemic, the agoraphobic tech worker Angela (Zoe Kravitz) discovers evidence of a violent crime while reviewing a data stream for a ‘Siri’-like system called ‘Kimi’. Met by resistance from her company, Angela is forced to confront her fear of the outdoors, and venture into the city where malevolent corporate forces watch her every move.
Read more: Everything new on Sky in February
Through Angela, Soderbergh both tackles how the pandemic has reshuffled the borders of socialisation, digital space, personal space and work, unspooling these feelings of alongside musings on the modern day surveillance state and how tech companies treat private data as financial asset. Angela’s (frequently justified) fear of the outdoors makes her short with the few people she remains in contact with. Her friend with benefits kept at arms length by her frustration with him being frustrated by her lifestyle.
Watch a trailer for Kimi
Soderbergh’s naturally lit, digital photography perfectly captures both the isolation of Angela’s flat as well as her online performance as a person, not to mention how he later engages with the eerie and inhuman sterility of the office space. His simple colour washes differentiating between the sickly yellow superimpositions of Angela’s imagination and her self imposed isolation versus the cold, washed out hues of the offices of her employers and oppressors.
I’ve not yet given Kimi credit in how genuinely terrifying it is. Not just in its reminders of how easily these overwhelming and ruthlessly capitalist forces have access to our most private electronic lives, but also in the more immediate, physical sense. The fear the other Angela experiences in public, or a kidnapping scene that occurs later in the film.
In these scenes Soderbergh deploys some of his most exciting camera tricks, like an astonishing crash zoom tracking Angela’s flight from her pursuers, or a long superimposition of Angela’s surroundings passing her by. In this moments Zoe Kravitz brings an astonishing, ever-evolving physicality to the role, moving from a diminutiveness and literal shrinking from other people to a more self-assured, even heroic posture. All of these techniques enliven the lean, mean thrills of Kimi, an economically told but nonetheless incredible exciting crowdpleaser.
Also new on Sky/NOW: The Forever Purge
jeen-yuhs - Act 1: VISION (Netflix)
Amid public feuds with anyone associated with Pete Davidson, tirades against Billie Eilish, and his recent split from Julia Fox, it’s probably not the ideal time to release the first part of the much anticipated Kanye documentary jeen-yuhs. But, after all, beyond the current day petty spats, as the documentary says “there are many sides to Kanye that people don’t know about”.
Read more: Everything new on Netflix in February
Directed by Coodie Simons and Chike, who has been around Ye for the majority of his career, the unparalleled access reveals those different sides to a figure who may well be the most famous figure in hip-hop. Coodie has personal investment in revealing these sides to him, explaining the brotherhood that developed between them and even echoing fans’ frustration with Ye’s abrasiveness, referring to the oft-quoted “I miss the old Kanye” line. Much of the film’s fuzzy, early digital footage is threaded together by Coodie’s recounting of how his own life intersected with Ye’s and how the documentary itself came about.
Watch a trailer for jeen-yuhs
Coodie ties Kanye’s rise to prominence to that of the Chicago hip-hop scene, and a 19-year-old Ye with an infectious confidence (which his friends lovingly poke fun at). Astonishing moments pile-up fast for hip-hop fans, showing how quickly and how far Kanye’s production work spread amongst the biggest MCs of the time. Footage like Mos Def, Talib Kweli and their collab Black Star marvelling at beats Ye cooked up. In “Part 1: Vision” there’s fascinating access to a Ye just about to come up on the scene as a solo artist, with hits like 'All Falls Down' and 'Two Words' just being pieced together. The excitement of the people in the room is infectious.
Charming moment-to-moment footage like Kanye quipping ‘this is my best friend and worst enemy' about producer Just Blaze who responds 'like Professor X and Magneto'. Or later, Kanye running around the Roc-a-Fella offices playing everyone 'All Falls Down' and rapping it in person, trying to prove himself. That determination and self assurance is charming rather than frustrating as it is in the modern day, but it’s tempered by self awareness. At one point he looks into the camera and says “this documentary stuff is probably a bit narcissistic, but f*** it, whatever.”
Amid Kanye talking about his dreams and fighting for where he’s got to, and his bid to get record companies to take him seriously as a rapper as well as a producer, there are other genuinely astonishing moments. You see the in-person resolution to his former mentor Dug Infinite's (relatively unprovoked) diss record about him, which results in an impassioned clarification talking about his love and respect for Infinite.
Later, a visit to his mother Donda is equally heartwarming and heartbreaking in seeing their closeness on camera. Having access to the more human side of the rapper rather than the public spats is genuinely invaluable understanding for people who see the ego first. Other than that, part 1 of jeen-yuhs is an incredible bit of archive, the rest seems extremely promising. The whole feature-length episode is gold dust for anyone who loved The College Dropout, especially if they fell out of love with the current Kanye.
Also new on Netflix: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The French Dispatch (Disney+)
This anthology of short stories from Wes Anderson is the American director’s latest film to break down ideas of resistance and protest (among other topics) via the imagined history of a fictionalised nation. This new film follows the staff of a European publication named The French Dispatch, modelled after The New Yorker.
Read more: Everything new on Disney+ in February
The staff decide to publish a memorial edition in honour of their recently deceased editor (played by Bill Murray) highlighting the three best stories from the last decade: an artist sentenced to life imprisonment, student riots, and a kidnapping resolved by a chef.
Watch a trailer for The French Dispatch
Anderson has been (falsely) accused of making movies that are all staging and no soul, which The French Dispatch stands in defiance of with its incredible set work and precise cinematography evoking the deep hurts of its characters, and perhaps even grace. It’s not just the staging that’s winning but the heartfelt performances that Anderson draws out of his massive star-studded cast. In his segment Jeffrey Wright puts in perhaps his greatest performance as an amalgamation of James Baldwin with the New Yorker journalist A. J. Liebling. A must see, one of last year’s best.
Also new on Disney+: Predator, Predator 2