Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Four Legs Good Two Legs Gooder

In 2010 geneticists uncovered the sad news that the Borneoan Stink Badgers weren't actually Badgers at all, but rather members of the Skunk Family. I am sure that Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) would've taken this news particularly hard, since she seems to take all news fairly hard. But also because early on in The Favourite she finds herself forever linked with that animal thanks to a particularly indulgent beautician, and Anne just wants to keep some semblance of peace. Particularly among the myriad kingdoms of different stripes. Or stinks. Whatever.

It's always the Animal Kingdom for director Yorgos Lanthimos - from the cat attack in Dogtooth (to say nothing of the oral daydream adorning its title) to the promised afterlives at the heart of The Lobster, Yorgos loves to plop his characters down in a melee of the zoologically absurd and run them ragged in little mazes of his making. The Favourite shaves and sprinkles some royal zest onto his madcap menagerie, like George Orwell tackling Barry Lyndon - the pigs may have made their way out of the barnyard and discovered wigs and classical music but the mud's under each and every hoof, excuse me, high square heel, and the stink's still to high heaven.

The pampered ducks stamp their little feet in concentric circles, while the government officials strip naked and pelt each other with juicy oranges - same difference. Wars are what happen to somebody else, but a funhouse mirror version of them trickle up and make for the maddest parlor games around. It's a lark, it's something called a "pineapple" delivered from who cares where so long as it is - it smooths over a ragged jagged scar like lace, frilly and deliciously obscene. Lick the runny powder from your lips and have a go, little girls, tufted cloaks and ribboned fur frock. Playtime is activated, and blood will run as red as roosters, quack quack.

This is Yorgos at his zany peak, Amadeus via Kubrick, the royal court scenes from The Devils run blisteringly amok - blackbirds dancing on the tips of diabolical hat pins. Every performance is scratching the eyes out of every other for dominance in the most delightful ways - popping out of dark corners; caressing us with a backhand across ruddy cheeks of every color, every anatomical position to boot. Leather knee-braces slung over shoulders, seductive décolletage stuck with feathers, plucked akimbo - The Favourite will have its way with you whether you want it to or not. Open wide, unhinge yourself, swallow whole. Just so's you know to be hungry going in.

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