A 27-year-old dude from Scottsdale, Arizona, Brady Corbet has somehow become the go-to guy for major European auteurs in need of a young American who can pick up what they’re putting down. We may never fully understand how he parlayed a one-episode cameo on “The King of Queens” and a recurring appearance in the fifth season of “24” into a series of brilliant collaborations with titans of international cinema like Michael Haneke (“Funny Games”) and Lars von Trier (“Melancholia”), but it’s clear why Corbet might have a special appreciation for how public figures are often seen through the lens of their beginnings. With his unusually accomplished directorial debut “Childhood of a Leader,” Corbet delivers a strange and startling film that reflects the unique trajectory of his career, as well as the influence of the iconoclastic directors with whom he’s already worked.
The first strains of Scott Walker’s panicky score slice into the soundtrack like Penderecki having a heart attack, the strings cutting into archival footage of World War I troops marching in formation. The opening titles are draped in terror, and they steel audiences for an ominous origin story on par with the horrors presaged by “Max” or “The Omen.” And on that promise, Corbet delivers — albeit it in his own elliptical, psychically tormented, and increasingly hypnotic way.
“The Childhood of a Leader” tells the story of a young American boy (Tom Sweet) coming of age in a snowbound pocket of rural France circa 1918. His young yet severe mother (“The Artist” star Bérénice Bejo) is fed up with her son from the start, and takes out most of her frustration on the various employees who rear the boy for her by proxy. The child’s father (Liam Cunningham, who “Game of Thrones” fans will better recognize by the name of Davos Seaworth), is an assistant on President Wilson’s staff, and is often away in Versailles working on the peace treaty that would ultimately end the war. On the rare evenings during which he returns home, the boy’s father is sometimes accompanied by a widower politician played by Robert Pattinson (a glorified cameo during which he willfully melts into the musty furnishings of Corbet’s sets).
The film seldom ventures outside of the boy’s house, pushing deeper and deeper into the opaque void of its protagonist’s malleable young mind. Corbet’s doggedly anti-dramatic script (co-written by his partner, Mona Fastvold) stakes the boy’s future on a debate between nature vs. nurture in which neither side ever seems to earn a clear advantage. Sweet, whose character is outwardly defined by a blank expression and a head of flowing blond hair (he’s often confused for a girl), delivers a tense performance that often feels modeled after his director’s seething turns in “Simon Killer” and “Funny Games.” You almost never know what the kid is thinking, but it’s telling that his moments of paranoid anxiety are by far his most visceral — an early nightmare sequence suggests that Corbet has a natural talent for eerie visual abstractions.
He also has a natural talent for the strain of winking, comically exaggerated gravitas that makes it tempting to suspect that hyper-severe auteurs like Haneke and von Trier are actually just taking the piss. Ostentatiously divided into five sections (an overture, three ‘Tantrums,’ and a coda), and refusing to speak the boy’s name until late in the film (so that viewers might tie themselves into knots trying to work out which fascist leader the kid will grow up to become), “The Childhood of a Leader” pits the intensity of its context against the banality of its incident.
The first two Tantrums are all portent and no plot; the most exciting thing that happens is when the boy paws at the breast of his pretty young French tutor (“Nymphomaniac” ingenue Stacy Martin). There’s much talk of language skills, and fluency becomes its own kind of power, but how that factors into Corbet’s grand design is no better explicated than the fact that Sweet’s character is exclusively raised by hired help, or the tidbit that his dad had been hoping for a daughter. And yet, the raw anxiety of Corbet’s vision only grows more palpable as Sweet retreats further from our understanding; by the time the film reveals itself to be more of a mind-fuck than a historical drama, you’re too rattled to feel tricked.
On one hand, the indelibly disorienting final scene feels like a hit from behind; on the other, it feels as though the film has been building to it from the start. Either way, “The Childhood of a Leader” leaves behind a squall of unanswered questions that linger in the mind long after it squelches to a finish. Is this a story about the merits of Freudian psychology, or its limitations? Is it about the making of a monster, or is its distance meant to mock the thinking that sociopaths can be so easily explained? Early in the first Tantrum, Pattinson’s character lifts a quote that novelist John Fowles would ultimately coin in regards to the Holocaust: “That was the tragedy. Not that one man has the courage to be evil, but that so many have not the courage to be good.” Other than Corbet’s promise, that sentiment may be the film’s one clear takeaway: Whether born or raised, leaders are only as powerful as the people who neglect to stop them.
“The Childhood of a Leader” plays at BAMcinemaFest on June 23rd. It opens in theaters and on VOD on July 22nd.
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- David Ehrlich
Exclusive: Production underway in Africa on drama from Searching For Sugar Man executive.
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Inspired by real events, 3 Way Junction follows a London architect who travels to the grand dunes of the Namibian Desert to escape. But when he finds himself stranded alone, desperately waiting for a ride that never comes, he must embark on a bitter rite of passage.
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Andreas Wiseman)
Actor Brady Corbet has proved he has unique stories to tell as the screenwriter behind “Simon Killer” and “The Sleepwalker,” making it clear he has a voice worth paying attention to. Now he’s gone to the next level, directing his debut feature film “The Childhood Of A Leader.” Read More: Sundance Review: ‘Simon Killer’ Loses That […]
- Kevin Jagernauth
Young actor Brady Corbet has worked with many impressive filmmakers over the years including Michael Haneke, Lars von Trier, Olivier Assayas, Gregg Araki, Noah Baumbach, Mia Hansen-Love and more. Some of that seems to be paying off with his feature directorial debut effort " The Childhood of a Leader" which has scored a first look trailer today.
Premiering last Fall in Venice where it won two major awards, and set to premiere next month at both the Sydney Film Festival and BAMcinema Fest in New York, the Sartre-fueled film boasts an impressive cast including Berenice Bejo, Liam Cunningham, Stacy Martin, Yolande Moreau, Robert Pattinson and Tom Sweet.
Set in the wake of the first World War in a chateau outside Paris, this totalitarianism allegory explores the early stirrings of despotism in a choirboy whose father is a high-ranking diplomat assisting President Woodrow Wilson in the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. »
- Garth Franklin
"Witness the birth of a terrifying ego." The first trailer has debuted for a film called The Childhood of a Leader, which is the feature directing debut of the talented actor Brady Corbet, who has appeared in a number of excellent indie films over the last decade. Loosely inspired by the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre and Margaret MacMillan, the film tells a coming-of-age story of a young French choirboy whose father is a diplomat assisting President Woodrow Wilson in the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Tom Sweet plays the boy, and the cast includes Bérénice Bejo, Liam Cunningham, Stacy Martin, Yolande Moreau and Robert Pattinson. This certainly does look like something we've never seen before. Take a look below. Here's the first official trailer for Brady Corbet's The Childhood of a Leader, direct from YouTube: Independent film mainstay Brady Corbet (Mysterious Skin, Martha Marcy May Marlene) delivers one »
- Alex Billington
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- Keith Girard
He can be seen in films from Michael Haneke, Lars von Trier, Olivier Assayas, Mia Hansen-Løve, Noah Baumbach, Bertrand Bonello, Ruben Östlund, and more, but Brady Corbet finally got on the other side of the camera for his feature debut, The Childhood of a Leader. With a top-notch cast featuring Bérénice Bejo, Liam Cunningham, Stacy Martin, Yolande Moreau, Robert Pattinson, and Tom Sweet, it’s been mostly quiet regarding the post-wwi drama since its Venice premiere last fall, but now a new trailer has landed along with news it’ll play at BAMcinemaFest next month.
We said in our review, “The feature debut from young actor turned screenwriter-director Brady Corbet, The Childhood of a Leader is an ambitious choice for a first project — a period piece tying together the post-wwi political climate and the upbringing of a child in a chateau outside Paris. The film, premiering in the Orizzonti section of the Venice Film Festival, »
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- Nigel M Smith
Michel Hazanavicius will direct Louis Garrel as Jean-Luc Godard and Stacy Martin as Anne Wiazemsky in Redoubtable, a "lighted-hearted and affectionate" comedy that begins with the 1967 shoot of La Chinoise. In Cannes, Wild Bunch will also be pitching Arnaud Desplechin’s Les Fantomes d’Ismaël with Mathieu Amalric, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Marion Cotillard, Sergei Loznitsa’s A Gentle Creature, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless, Jacques Doillon’s Rodin with Vincent Lindon, Michaël R. Roskam’s The Racer and the Jailbird with Matthias Schoenaerts and Adele Exarchopoulos and Claire Denis’s High Life with Robert Pattinson, Patricia Arquette and Mia Goth. And that's just the opener of today's roundup of news and views. » - David Hudson »
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Wiazemsky – who met Godard when she was just 17-years-old and he was on the rebound from Anna Karina – was married to the filmmaker for more than a decade.
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Matteo Garrone, the Italian filmmaker behind such efforts as Reality, is poised to make his English-language debut with Tale of Tales, the fantasy horror flick set for release in the States in little over a month’s time.
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Tale of Tales opens via limited release on April 24. For now, you can check out our brief verdict of Garrone’s English-language debut via our capsule review.
In one yarn, »
- Michael Briers
While Matteo Garrone's "Tale Of Tales" made a starry debut on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival last spring, it didn't seem to bowl over critics. While we called it "engrossing and entertaining," we also noted it was more of an in-the-moment pleasure. Still, with this cast and what look to be some unforgettable visuals, the picture looks like one that's still worth tracking down. Read More: Cannes Review: Matteo Garrone's 'Tale Of Tales' With Salma Hayek, John C. Reilly, Vincent Cassel & More The latest from the director of "Gomorrah" is based on the 17th-century fairy stories of Giambattista Basile, with Salma Hayek, John C. Reilly, Vincent Cassel, Shirley Henderson, Stacy Martin and Toby Jones starring in the wildly fantastical film. Here's the official synopsis: Sea monsters, monarchs, ogres, and sorcerers: Salma Hayek and John C. Reilly star in this breathtaking Baroque fantasy from the visionary director of Gomorrah. »
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The latest film from Matteo Garrone, the director behind Gomorrah and Reality, is The Tale of Tales, which premiered at Cannes Film Festival last year and will finally land on U.S. shores next month. Compiling stories from a set of 17th-century fairytales, the strong ensemble feature Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, John C. Reilly, Toby Jones, and Stacy Martin.
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- Kevin Jagernauth
Robert Pattinson has tended to gravitate toward eccentric roles since his “Twilight” days, and he explores another strangely existential character in his World War I drama, “The Childhood of a Leader.” The question is will anyone ever get to see it in the United States? The movie stars a largely international cast that includes Bérénice Bejo, Liam Cunningham, Stacy Martin and Yolande Moreau. ...Read More »
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UK-based production company »
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Metrodome is due to release theatrically in August 2016.
Written by actor-director Corbet (Simon Killer) and Mona Fastvold (The Sleepwalker), the Venice debut stars Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga), Stacy Martin (Nymphomaniac), Liam Cunningham (Game Of Thrones) and Yolande Moreau (Amelie).
In The Childhood Of A Leader an American family settles into the French countryside at the end of the First World War, where the father (Liam Cunningham) is involved in the peace negotiations around the Treaty of Versailles. His wife (Bérénice Bejo »
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