Wednesday, 29 December 2010
Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
I'm not a roman mum, I'm a kike, a yid, a heebie, a hook-nose, I'm kosher mum, I'm a Red Sea pedestrian, and proud of it!
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
No 481 – Topsy Turvy
Director – Mike Leigh
Well... I do love a good Victorian romp, and the world of Gilbert and Sullivan is surely (by its very nature) as rompy as you can get. Indeed, it took me roughly 45 seconds to fall in love with Allan Corduner's Sir Arthur Sullivan. Consumption riddled and dying but full of life and joy. He encaptures that almost mythical side to the period. The idealised view which is pushed to the 9th degree by things like Moulin Rouge!
I also liked the great prescriptions he gets for his consumption.... Get yourself some Brandy Mr Sullivan. Get yourself to the South of France Mr Sullivan. Bloody marvellous. Far better than mere penicillin.
I don't know how correct the film is but I hope it is true – Sullivan's reckless fun loving attitude marks him out as almost a rock star. Especially when you compare him with the incredibly stiff and well... Victorian... Gilbert (he is very much about what is proper and what is right and decent).
The two bounce off each other really refreshingly. I don't think I've seen Corduner in anything before but Gilbert is played by the legend that is Jim Broadbent.... meaning that a deliberately emotionless (besides anger) figure can become a rich and deep character. It also ripples out in his family. One of the final speeches in the film is Gilbert's wife explaining her idea for an opera. In there are roughly 8,000 hints of how repressed and depressed she is. How she clearly yearns for affection from her Stiff-upper-lip husband.
This ingrained repressions makes the expressiveness of Broadbent all the more important... There is a wonderful moment where Gilbert has the idea of The Mikado. A close up on his frowning face as very slowly you see the seeds of an idea plant a twinkle in his eye and his moustache curls up to indicate a smile beneath. It is a glorious moment. It shows Broadbent off as the bloody hero that he is.
The film is an obvious love letter to Gilbert and Sullivan, the long cuts to songs (seemingly all performed by the cast) show that, and reminded me that I really haven't seen enough Gilbert and Sullivan performances - they were geniuses too, lively music and inspired lyrics. However, they have managed to get some brilliant people to perform in these plays and there are a few people I want to point out.
Timothy Spall – There is a bit of me that is sad that in recent times Hollywood (certainly mainstream Kid's Hollywood) has typecast Spall as the snivelling, slimy bad guy. See Harry Potter or Enchanted for examples. Whilst he does play the role well, it is much more exciting seeing him play the plummy luvvie. His role in this, and his backstage antics are on of the real highlights in a film that's pretty chock full of good bits. Likewise Shirley Henderson who's sultry wine swilling leading lady means I'm finally able to accept her beyond Moaning Myrtle and that God-awful role she played in Dr Who – Even Trainspotting didn't manage that.
And then we had someone who I knew would be excellent as soon as I saw his name in the opening credits. Andy Serkis. I'm a shameless Serkis fan. I think he steals every scene he is in and constantly gives cracking performances. Here is no difference. I loved his little role as the choreographer – and loved the fact that he was never still. Clucking and strutting like a Victorian Mick Jagger.
The film triumphs in the fantastic cast Leigh has put together and in the witty words they speak – considering the constraints of period and of historical accuracy, I'm curious as to how improvised this film is, or whether it was a bit more tightly scripted.
There are a few awkward racial moments, but then this is a film about we Brits discovering Japanese culture – at a time when Japan was so remote (and shut off from the Western world) it was as mysterious as fairy tales. So whilst they are at times uncomfortable (and at other times uncomfortably amusing) they at least never feel excessive.
All in all it is a joyous film – mixing the constraints of etiquette in Victorian Society with the giddy thrill of early musical theatre.
It is a proper smile inducing little number – and shows that Mike Leigh can make gloriously happy films if he wants.
No 455 – Top Gun
Director – Tony Scott
I can't take the piss out of the homoeroticism, all the obvious targets have been addressed so many times before.
All I can say is that I really can't tell the difference between this film and Hot Shots! any more....
This is a ridiculous nonsense of a film. It is a film in which one requires nothing more than to sit back and watch the silliness and the pretty planes.
The planes are really pretty and there is some incredible choreography up in them there sky.
I don't mean to sound too dismissive – I love a big dumb action film as much as the next person. But there aren't any real character arcs amongst the flashy Jet porn and Tim Robbins in the background.
This is a film that really only made it in as the top 500's guilty pleasure – and that doesn't seem right.
Still its better than Superman Returns. Or Transformers.
Oh, I lie now and then, I suppose. Sometimes I'd tell them the truth and they still wouldn't believe me, so I prefer to lie
No 41 - Les 400 Coups (The 400 Blows)
Director – François Truffaut
So, I've been moving house and I've been playing Xbox games. My blog hasn't exactly been well kept. Like the Secret Garden it is full of aged and overgrown relics. It has seemingly ceased to grow. But fear not, here comes Dickon and he has used a knife to strip back the dead wood and show there is still life in the old blog. So soon we will be joined by a spoiled disabled boy and Wendy from Finding Neverland and the blog will flourish anew.
Right.... that's one massively overstretched metaphor out the way – lets blog this classic piece of French cinema. Without my notes. So expect a sketchy and vague review of a film which follows a young boy's descent into full blown young offender shenanigans.
The film works as series of snapshots, looking at how Antoine (Jean-Pierre Léaud) gets pulled further and further into petty crime. Made in 1959 it coincides with the birth of the teenager and the idea that children were no longer just small versions of their parents. A terrifying concept for those who are the full sized parent versions. Teenagers not only didn't share their parent's views any more, they went out of their way to antagonise.
Whilst Antoine's actions are at times petty, you can at least see where they stem from. Léaud manages to put the anger and frustration of his character across without seeming too petulant, or without seeming unlikeable.
His father is well meaning but distracted by his interests. His mother is the typical terrifying and shouty French mother but then is also cold and distant, not wanting anything to do with her kid (very unlike French mothers that I know). You can see that Antoine feels abandoned... you understand his motivation.
And in today's times, where you can't walk to the shops without being murdered to death by a 7 year old in a hoodie, I suppose it all seems rather twee.
But it was the old days and in the old days Typewriters were the big thing. Like identities are nowadays. Think how annoyed you'd be if someone stole your identity.... yeah, now you know why things pan out the way they do.
The film is constantly interesting and fresh, however, for the most while I failed to see anything truly remarkable in it. Certainly nothing which truly validated its place as the highest ranked French film on the list. However, this is what I love about cinema, one little shot can change everything. A well played reveal or a well shot sequence makes all the difference.
A marvellous sequence is when Antoine is being interviewed by the psychiatrist. It is visibly edited making it seem like documentary footage of a longer interview which has been shortened. The static camera fixed solely on Antoine makes it all seem a lot more real and a lot more authentic. Like a small break from fiction.
But my favourite moment is from the performance Truffaut gets out of his young star. Reaching the end of his tether, Antoine's father arranges for him to spend the night in jail – just to experience what its like. We get some wonderful 'jail eye view' shots with the camera behind bars – and when it pans to Antoine's tear streamed eyes we get the full power of the film in one shot (and in one remarkable performance from such a young lad).
Thursday, 18 November 2010
Director – Cy Endfield
Holy Fucking Moly: When watching a film which stars Michael Caine, there is one credit you don't expect to see:
I thought Michael Caine had been in films since the dawn of celluloid. I wasn’t expecting an ‘And Introducing’ credit. Bonkers.
But…. Actually, that credit isn’t the most bonkers Michael Caine element. The other point is that his character is quite effeminate and well spoken. Only the faintest trace of “MY NAME IS MICHAEL CAINE” here, for most of it he says things like “oh well done dear man” and other decidedly un-tough phrases.
This is going to take some getting used to.
The other thing that concerned me is after the big bombastic opening, which felt like a Western (thanks to John Barry's marvellous score), that the film would end up feeling quite a bit racist. For the majority of the film, my fears seem to be justified. The Zulu army have no real characterisation. they are neither portrayed as goodies or baddies. They are just an endless wave of enemy. Overwhelming the Brits by sheer massive numbers.
the Zulu army are an intimidating force - and whilst there are bloody thousands of them, it isn't just a 'run at the enemy' style battle. They are portrayed as noble enemies - they're tactical, they're calculating and they're brutal.
Ruddy hundreds of them die - but Zulu is an oddly bloodless film. A small dagger lightly pokes a soldier and they collapse dead. A bullet will knock someone over and they'll never get up.
Sure there is death. But it is all very tidy.
Its the mix of endless opposition and bloodless wounds that make the war seem quite flippant. That and the welsh. The welsh almost seem cliche, they're all jolly and "not now boyo" or screaming "NORMAN" or other Welsh things. And of course they're a choir. Of course they are. That is not a stereotype in any way.
So you let this jolly little story of stirling men fighting the jolly johnny foreigner in the Empire... you forget you're watching a war with imperialistic oppression at the very heart of it.
It isn't until the film's end that the film finally lets 'The Horrors of War' be expressed to the audience.
The first thing to really feel powerful is the sing-off. African music always sounds amazing. There is something to it which makes my hairs stand on end. Just listen to the Zulu chants at the end of the battle and see how moving they are... Especially when the Zulu chants begin mixing with the rich loveliness of the Welsh voices.
Then as these songs continue the soldiers begin to discuss the emptiness and guilt they feel to acting the way they have.
It begins to illustrate the futility of war. It is brave and it is beautiful.
Which is where I should end. But instead I will end on a flippant point. Speaking of Brave and Beautiful. Weren't the uniforms FRIKKIN AWESOME in those days?! Sod your camouflage. Give me glaringly bright colours any time.
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Sunday, 14 November 2010
No, Toto. Nobody said it. This time it's all me. Life isn't like in the movies. Life... is much harder.
No 239 – Cinema Paradiso
Director – Guiseppe Tornatore
I love cinema. I’m hoping this blog highlights that whilst I may have no skill as a writer, I’m a definite fan of film. What I love about this is that whilst there is a very human relationship at the heart of the film, the film’s main ‘character’ is the titular cinema.
The film takes place – predominantly – in the 40’s, and echoes something which I’d first seen in Spirit of the Beehive, the idea of the cinema being at the heart of the community. It is the town’s centre of escapism and it is a building which plays host to all of life’s events. Whilst the town watches films, the viewer witnesses courting, sex, wanking, breast feeding, political uprising and murder all taking place within the same 4 walls.
The Paradiso is more than just a place to watch Buster Keaton – it is the place where the town meets and mingles. It is a mini microcosm and it is utterly utterly beautiful.
As vital as the building is – even I couldn’t just watch that for 3 hours, and I’ve watched The Tree of Wooden Clogs. So lets look at the other main focus of the film. The relationship between the cinema’s projectionist Alfredo (played by Philippe Noiret) and the cocky young boy Toto (played the really rather adorable Salvatore Cascio). It is made clear that Toto’s dad has probably died in the war and so Alfredo acts as both a friend and a father figure to the young Toto. It is Alfredo’s rebellious spirit which influences Toto as he grows up and which strengthens the bond between them. So, when the Paradiso and projectionist fall victims to the dangerously flammable nature of old film (they should have listened to Samuel L Jackson) – Alfredo has to pass the torch on to his young apprentice.
This film begins in modern times (well, the late 80’s) and chronicles the majority of Toto’s (or Salvatore, as he prefers to be called when he grows up) journey to adulthood in flashback. This means we get to see the very interesting development of the town as it develops through the ages (one of the many many elements I find captivating in Back to the Future). It also, unfortunately, means Toto grows up.
Marco Leonardi plays the teenage Salvatore and he just doesn’t have the same wickedly cheeky screen presence of the actor playing his younger self. He is a handsome young man and a hilariously over dramatic romantic. This stems from his upbringing. Not by his mother. Not by Alfredo. But by the Paradiso itself. He is a man who has been raised by cinema, by the brash romantic ideals of old films and it is clear in both his actions and in the obsession he shows in his affections.
During his obsession with a girl in the town, the relationship between him and Alfredo changes again, whilst it is still powerful it has lost the charm and the watchability of the younger Toto's friendship. I found the middle part of the film slightly lacking when compared to the charm of youth and the intensity of the adult Salvatore returning home for Alfredo's funeral (not a spoiler, I assure you)..
The final scenes are really touching, the most heartbreaking scenes don't come from the funeral itself but in the ruins of the Paradiso.
It is a sign of the times. With large chain cinemas making it harder and harder for independent cinemas to compete.... please support them. They need your help and it would be a tragic day if we lost them.
A day where I can't go to a licensed bar in the afternoon or eat home made cake in the morning whilst watching a film in a cinema with legs sticking out of it....
Films that are entertainments give simple answers but I think that's ultimately more cynical, as it denies the viewer room to think.
No 382 Caché (Hidden)
Director – Michael Haneke
I have been SO rubbish with this blogging - blame having a job - I have been devoid of free time and living in hotels and just not having the time to blog.
Lets fix it with Hidden.
There is something unnerving about a stationary camera and an unflinching wide shot. It is what made Paranormal Activity such an unnerving experience. Whilst nothing happens for large portions of the film, you are their scouring the screen for clues, as the camera is going to focus on anything or point anything out. The level of concentration you put into the film means that shock revelations become more shocking.
And so, when Hidden begins with the static wideshot of a home – and just stays there – it is really quite creepy. The unnerving quality of the camera’s stillness echoes the unnerving theme of the entire film. It is really quite horrible to think of someone just watching you. Even if this doesn’t lead to further violence, it is still a really disturbing concept. It means that every time the camera cuts to a static single shot, you’re unsure as to whether it is part of the film or if it is another gift from the stalker. You don’t know until you see the shot flicker and whirr into a rewind – the glorious days of video – and you realise you’re watching what our heroes are watching.
The thing that I find really brave is that this film doesn’t focus on the stalker. Indeed, we never really find out who the persecutor is – and whilst the main characters have several inklings (which lead to some truly shocking revelations and moments), you never find out if those theories are correct.
Instead, the film is about the paranoia which stems from persecution. The film follows one of the most cliché middle class families in France – George Laurent (played by Daniel Auteuil) and his wife Anne (played by the marvellous Juliette Binoche). The videos begin as curios, but slowly begins to drive George to obsession, even affecting his dreams.
It is George’s obsession that becomes the big problem, it drives a rift between the couple and it is directly responsible for some of the film’s darker moments.
However – the film’s bravest move is that it never concludes.
Indeed, the final static shot of a school shows that the stalker may still well be on the prowl. It is a disturbing end and it is also rather dissatisfying in its ambiguity. However, it is also a perfect move.
To end on a quote: