Thursday, 1 March 2012


And so, tis that time of Film logging adrenaline in which, with nimble fingers tapping and myopic screen staring scrutiny, the mollusc imparts his viewing documentation. It may not be interesting, it may not be entertaining, may not even be worth your time (pretty much a given)...but my God it sure is...a film log. So, without further equivocation...It has been a month of opportunities missed...I wanted to see 'Martha Marcy May Marmaduke Marigold Jeff Marlene' (or words to that effect)...but missed it, missed i tells ya! Still, I have high hopes for that...and shall definitely be seeking it out on DVD. I was also intrigued by Polanski's 'Carnage', and so - naturally - missed that too. I didn't want to see 'War Horse' and so, in missing that..succeeded to a certain degree..? Anyway, equestrian evading elitism aside ( 'What's wrong with a Spielberg family tear jerker that delivers the entertainment goods!?' I hear you cry... and Kermode gave it a good review...can't argue with Kermode...and yet I feel, unfairly, I would be rooting for the glue factory from the opening credits...). However, it has been a month of consistently dam gooood films otherwise...For a more expansive overview of the month's films: Concise and informative: two virtues this blog neglects with unrelenting commitment. The Films:

L’AtlanteJean Vigo – Cinema (4/2/12) - Made in 1934, this film is often beautiful, continually hilarious, touching, and effortlessly ahead of its time. Following a recently married couple and their life upon a barge, the film combines a joyous innocence (played out through the casual acrobatics of undeniably cute kittens, young love, roughish drunkards, bad tattoos, Parisian romanticism-and an eye for brilliant and eccentric characters) with moments of surrealism ( noticeable in a startling underwater scene,  the erotically charged implication of quick cut parallel scenes, a fascination with the odd, the cluttered mementoes of travel…ranging from tribal masks, nude photos, severed hands in a jar, antiquarian musical boxes and a grotesque puppet…to the cluttered crockery of an old sailor with a magpie’s mentality). 9/10

Le Quattro Volte -  Michelangelo Frammartino – DVD (5/2/12) – A rare example of a film that by-passes dialogue and the structure of character narratives in favour of cyclical observation. In a sense characters still exist; it’s just that the characters in this film exist through nature and the natural, as opposed to human interaction. The film follows a goat herder, a goat and a tree (with inspiring cameos from a sheepdog and an impressive gathering of snails). Evoking notions of reincarnation, the film uses long static shots-allowing the natural world (hillsides/rustic lanes/swaying trees/morphing clouds/sweeping shadows) to play out in its own time. A film that is moving, funny and beautiful (in ways which deserve such overused and sweeping terms). Through its inherent slowness, our relationship with the film (and the concept of film) is changed to allow a very peaceful, contemplative interaction with simple (but easily overlooked) epiphanies of the natural world. From a swirling cloud of dust, caught and illuminated in a shaft of light, to the entertaining, funny and emotive antics of the baby goats. A genuinely different and uplifting feat of cinema. 9/10

Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyTomas Alfredson – DVD (14/2/12) – A fantastic cast, supported by a developed and interesting score ensure the film’s, admittedly complex, plot maintains its compulsive and hypnotic momentum. However, being somewhat incompetent at following convoluted and tricky espionage based films, my enjoyment was at times compromised by a generally bewildered inability to follow the sophisticated array of deceptions, characters and scenarios. Alas- my concentration span and grasp of all things logical impedes my focus…and before you know it, I am scrutinizing inconsequential details (like what brand of mint Gary Oldman is, so profoundly, popping into his mouth), while managing to only tenuously get the gist of who was leaking what to who, when and why. My struggle to maintain a rational interpretation of unfolding events, entirely reflective of my own plot flustering flaws, detracted from the film’s impact-it is, meanwhile a credit to the director’s assured control of scenes and appropriately cold and sober style that I was (confusion aside) hooked throughout. Therefore, for those in possession of the assets of plot following calculations (i.e. probably most people bar myself…give me a warped, dream/reality, mind fracturing, art-house introspective voyage and I’m fine…a concrete plot with intricate details…and yup, I’ll descend into a distracted pondering of mint related observations) I highly recommend it! So, it probably deserves an 8/10…but (through no fault of the film…and merely as a quirk of my own shameful stupidity) it gets a less exciting, undeserved – 7/10
The Woman in BlackJames Watkins – Cinema (20/2/12) – With 6 seconds shaved from its original cut, to reduce the rating from a 15 to a more profitable Potter crossover 12A audience, the film remains a chilling and effective jump-fest. Although hardly reinventing the well-worn ghostly tropes; indulging in an admirable buffet of formulaic genre games, from creaking floorboards, ill-advised solitary wandering and the unreliable candle flickering in the shadows , to creepy children, the chipped glass stare of  neglected dolls and an obligatory hostile community of oddball fuckwits. However, while not pioneering any new ground…it doesn’t need to. Within the parameters of the type of film it is (a standard suspense saturated gothic chiller…a type of horror that, in its lack of ‘torture porn’ aspirations, or anguished laboured psychology, arrives with a refreshing nostalgia – befitting of the ‘Hammer’ brand), the film readily delivers. It is, in short, fun. Daniel Radcliffe provides a solid performance which, while hardly the sort of role that requires challenging diversity, is nevertheless executed with consistent success. In style and tone the film sits somewhere between The Others and The Orphanage, more engaging than the former and less memorably accomplished than the latter (to be fair, The Orphanage is an exciting, progressive and brilliantly shot emotional film…as opposed to The Woman in Black, which is a successful exercise in genre). 7/10 (see...this is where ratings become misleading...7/ good as 'Tinker Tailor..'? Well, not really...but within the boundaries of its own intentions...7/10 enjoyment factor!)

Raging BullMartin Scorsese – DVD (21/2/12) – Robert De Niro lends the film an uncompromising, committed and magnetic focus through his performance as Jake La Motta. He exhibits the infamous body change: impressively toned and muscled boxer at his height transformed into a tragic belly-bearing and paranoid sleazy embarrassment. Brutal fight sequences, terrific tension engineered through fraught relationships and some arresting use of slow-mo. with black and white. Unfortunately the sound on my DVD occasionally decided to abandon certain scenes…leaving De Niro enigmatically and with soundless conviction mouthing…well…I have no idea. Blasted technological wankery. Still, this was only on a couple of isolated and short moments-which, due to the film’s all round brilliance, did not reduce my enjoyment. A very different tone than Goodfellas and Cassino -  LaMotta’s doomed and violent character injects the film with an uncomfortable and worrying presence, around which everything else unravels.  7.5/10

The Edge of Heaven Faith Akin – DVD ( 23/2/12) – A masterfully constructed drama which deservedly won ‘Best Screenplay’ at Cannes in 2007. An old man, (short, cheeky swagger, flat cap and tight polo shirt under a generic tracksuit top: prime ‘European old man, sitting at a plastic table playing cards outside a cafĂ© and gurning happily as life goes past’ material…not to stereotype…but he had that grinning carefree, characterful glint; shrunken and old but still chasing waitresses, in a way it seems English old folk can’t quite manage. It seems the English oldies (as stereotyped) are resigned to a shuffling stoicism, punctuated by occasional grumbling or enthusiastic anecdotes about daytime gameshows…ANYWHO….this old man was that particular European strain of old…apologies, this tangent is bordering on, if not completely, irrelevant) wanders, nay, struts, into what is obviously a pretty grim red light district. On finding his prostitute of choice, he eventually (after several later visits) offers to pay as much as she makes, if she will live with him. All she has to do is live with him…and (he emphasises with priority) fuck him. We meet the old man’s son, a university professor who begins to doubt his vocation, and doubts, even further, any remaining integrity in his father’s choices. What then follows is an unfolding drama in which three families intertwine through chance and choice, exploring separate cultures, generations, politics and relationships. It is an ambitious and brilliantly executed drama, drawing lives together with believable and tragic consequences. From a young political activist, a lonely mother, and the life changing thrill of unexpected meetings, everything is balanced with intricate measure and set in motion by the old man’s unorthodox relationship with the prostitute. It also features a really interesting soundtrack that corresponds to the varying cultures with authentic and (little heard over ‘ere like…or condemned to the expansive and reductive ‘world music’ section) memorable choices. 8/10

Tony Takitani- Jun Ichikawa – DVD (28/2/12) – A beautiful film based on a Haruki Murakami short story and, like Murakami’s style, the film manages a simple and elegant sense of poetry through an understated existential melancholy. The film is simple, haunting and successfully evocative of Murakami’s masterful ability to be at once movingly human and intriguingly bizarre. Also features a suitably tragic, poignant and minimalist piano soundtrack by Ryuichi Sakamoto. 8/10

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