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Matthew d’Ancona’s Culture: Love Lies Bleeding is a foot-to-the-floor neo-noir thriller

Our editor-at-large’s rundown of the pick of the week’s cinema, theatre and television

Katy O’Brian and Kristen Stewart in Rose Glass’s dark romantic thriller Love Lies Bleeding. Photo: Lionsgate UK


General release

If you saw Rose Glass’s last film, Saint Maud (2020) – an unforgettable study of religious obsession – you will know that she is a director of immense courage who plays fast and loose with genre, and confronts her audience with what is true rather than what is comfortable.

Love Lies Bleeding is a foot-to-the-floor neo-noir thriller set in 1989 in a New Mexico backwater, where we find Lou (Kristen Stewart, terrific as always) running a seedy gym but transfixed by new arrival Jackie (Katy O’Brian, also great), who is on her way to Las Vegas to compete in a bodybuilding tournament. Jackie also works at a local gun range which happens to be owned by Lou’s seriously sinister father, Lou Sr (Ed Harris, with a hairpiece that has to be seen to be believed).

Lou Jr embarks upon a passionate affair with Jackie, while supplying her new girlfriend with steroids to help her bulk up. At which point, this small-town love story – which revels in a spirit of butch camp (Lou has a book in her room called Macho Sluts) – quickly becomes a study in ultra-violent ’roid rage, with bloody consequences and knife-edge decisions to make all round.

Were he still alive, Dennis Hopper would almost certainly stroll into this movie, probably to exact terrible vengeance of some kind in the third act. In their dark surrealism, the final scenes will test some viewers. But stick with it: Glass is a director who knows how to extract purity from the most lurid horror and is definitely a cinematic force to watch.


Donmar Warehouse, London, until June 22

Climate change, the Anthropocene, the philosophy of Slavoj Žižek, vaping, Black Country, New Road’s Turbines/Pigs: this is Chekhov fully modernised, in a production at the Donmar by Benedict Andrews (who also adapted the text) that is kinetic, unruly and thrilling.

Nina Hoss is tremendous as the aristocratic landowner Mme Ranevskaya, scarred by grief and unmoored in a new world where capitalism is overturning all she holds dear. Also superb is Adeel Akhtar – Bafta-nominated for Ali and Ava (2021) – as Yermolai Lopakhin, a ferocious study in social mobility, who offers Ranevskaya and her brother Leonid Gaev (Michael Gould) a financial fix by which they can avert bankruptcy.

There is dancing, flirting, drinking and audience participation: this is definitely not the chamber-piece Chekhov you’re used to. It is full of fire, unanswered questions and topical resonance: a fine example of what can be achieved when a production leaps off a cliff and triumphs.



In his first two doorstopper novels – The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987) and A Man in Full (1998) – the late Tom Wolfe established himself as the laureate of American karma: plotting the respective downfall of two powerful men, the Manhattan bond trader Sherman McCoy and the Atlanta real estate tycoon Charlie Croker.

Brian De Palma’s 1990 movie of the first book was a failure but this six-part series, created by David E Kelley, is much more successful. It transposes the action to 2024 and takes considerable liberties with its source material. But its depiction of greed, petty vengeance and racial tension in the Deep South’s largest city is spot-on.

Croker – immaculately rendered by Jeff Daniels – faces disaster as the bank threatens to call in $800m of debt. “Think you can just go hog wild, that nobody can touch you?” says the debtor’s nemesis Harry Zale (Bill Camp) in a testosterone-soaked meeting.

And yes, that’s pretty much what Charlie does think. He’s the kind of good ol’ boy – a former college football star – who says things like “End of the day, a man’s gotta shake his balls” or “I’m a pretty sore loser but I can be a vicious winner”.

He spends money intemperately and makes no apology for it. He sees impunity as the least the world owes him (remind you of another real estate tycoon who, frankly, makes Charlie seem like a saint?).

The cast is excellent, especially Diane Lane as Charlie’s ex-wife, Martha, Aml Ameen as his chief counsel Roger White, who is seeking a deeper meaning in life than he has found working for Charlie; and Lucy Liu as Joyce Newman, a businesswoman who may or may not be able to dig Charlie out of the hole into which he has tumbled. Prestige television at its best.


University Press of Mississippi

Not a new book, but an ideal introduction to the work of the great American novelist, who died last week, aged 77 (and no less interesting for those already familiar with his fiction).

From the “tactile quality” of writing with fountain pen or pencil rather than at a keyboard, via Auster’s description of jokes as “the purest, most essential form of storytelling” to his particular love of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Franz Kafka, these interviews, covering a quarter of a century, are a rich and sometimes deeply personal insight into the mind of a literary giant. RIP.

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