Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Ciné File Vol. 4

There are more 5* reviews than normal this week, so I've either played it a little safe with my choices or hit the jackpot with what's on offer...

My Harry Potter marathon is now finished; I've seen another surprise film - this time courtesy of Odeon; I've tried Terrence Malick again but with little success; and I ended my week on an absolute high with an advance screening of Testament of Youth, a film that's been on my calendar since the January release date was announced.

All in all, a good week for film!

* * * *
Odeon Screen Unseen // 2014 // UK Release: 31st October 2014

"A young man stumbles upon the underground world of L.A. freelance crime journalism."


Odeon sent out a rather cryptic email a few weeks ago launching 'Screen Unseen' - a chance to see a 5* film before it's released for only £5, the only catch being that you don't know what it is that you're booking tickets to see. I love surprise films (it's the one I always book at the BFI London Film Festival), and seeing as I was going to be near my local Odeon on Monday night I knew I had to give it a go. I attend on the principal that if it's an excellent film then fantastic, if not I've not really lost anything as the ticket is so cheap. The trailer for Screen Unseen and a lot of speculation on Twitter made a slightly obvious film choice, but I was still delighted - and if I'm honest, a tiny bit surprised - with Nightcrawler.

Nightcrawler is a brilliant film. It's a little slow to begin with, but once the premise is established it becomes a deliciously tense thriller anchored by a wonderful and weird performance from Jake Gyllenhaal as protagonist Louis Bloom. He's a creepy character seemingly devoid of a decent moral compass, and Gyllenhaal delivers his tight, technical lines with such a soft, nasal voice it's ridiculously easy to be freaked out by him. The composition of his speeches and the cold, calculating manner in which Bloom acts displays the strength of the script, which is a strong debut from writer-director Dan Gilroy. Nightcrawler is a wickedly funny satire of the job market and journalism, questioning the morals and integrity of the profession and those who desire to excel in it at all costs.

I won't be watching early morning television reports in quite the same way ever again.

* * * * *
DVD // 2000

"A talented young boy becomes torn between his unexpected love of dance and the disintegration of his family."

I don't know what it is about Billy Elliot, but I absolutely adore it. Peter Darling's choreography is inspired, and as wonderful as Billy's final audition piece is it's the smaller examples of his talent dotted throughout the film that I can't get enough of, particularly a rage-filled tap routine mid-way through the film. Director Stephen Daldry manages to expertly balance both the social context of the miners strikes and the implications this has on the community, with the heartwarming story of a young boy discovering a surprising talent for ballet. By addressing - but not overtly dwelling on - the strike and not adopting a 'down with Maggie' narrative that overwhelms most films set during this period, Daldry keeps the film light so when he does turn to the miners, scenes such as Billy's father destroying the family piano for use as firewood at Christmas hold much more poignancy.

Jamie Bell is fantastic, Julie Walters is a national treasure, and the final scene always makes me cry. British film well and truly at its best.

* *
Film 4 // 2011 // DVD

"The story of a family in Waco, Texas in 1956. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence and struggles with his parents' conflicting teachings."

In my experience it's an unpopular opinion, but I'm not much of a fan of Terrence Malick. I saw To The Wonder at the Barbican last year and came out surrounded by people that couldn't stop singing Malick's praises. Instead, the only thought in my head was that I'd just lost 2 hours of my life and I was never going to get them back. If this was typical of a Terrence Malick film, then I decided I didn't want to watch any more of his work. However, I don't believe you can make such a sweeping judgement of a director based on a single film, so after a little (read: a lot) of persuasion from one of my friends I tried again. Begrudgingly I'll admit that I rather liked The New World, but to be honest quite superficially on my part it was down to the plot, Pocahontas and Christian Bale. Malick's style still wasn't my cup of tea.

Film4 programmed a Brad Pitt triple-bill this week, starting with The Tree of Life - this seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to dip into Terrence Malick waters once more. Sadly, I hated it. There's no denying it's a beautiful film - and Jessica Chastain is wonderful in it - but I personally found it incredibly boring and so disappointing. I love so many of the individual components present in the film, but all of them together in one film came across to me as pretentious and utterly dull. I can fully understand why other people like Malick but I think it'll take something spectacular to convert me.

The problem with his films is that while watching them I feel overwhelmingly like I'm not clever enough or cultured enough to be doing so, and I don't think any film should make me feel like that. I go to the cinema and watch a ridiculous number of varied films to enjoy myself, find inspiration and work out who I am, not make myself feel bad, unintelligent and riddled with self-doubt. Maybe I've approached this all wrong, and maybe I'm not appreciating Malick properly - in which case I'm more than happy to accept advice on where to go from here in order to better experience his films and thus which one to source next - but for the time being I'll be giving him a wide berth.

* * * *
DVD // 2010

"As Harry races against time and evil to destroy the Horcruxes, he uncovers the existence of three most powerful objects in the wizarding world: the Deathly Hallows."

At last: an excellent Harry Potter film! Part 1 more than makes up for the disastrous Half-Blood Prince and is the most perfect way to begin the end of the series. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it - Harry Potter nerd for life!

* * * * *
DVD // 2011

"Harry, Ron and Hermione search for Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes in their effort to destroy the Dark Lord as the final battle rages on at Hogwarts."

Part 2 holds a really special place in my heart because it's the first premiere I attended… That's really misleading - I didn't walk the red carpet like a normal person, but instead camped out in Trafalgar Square overnight surrounded by fellow fans ready to watch the magic of the red carpet unfold the next day. It's incredibly sad but it was a brilliant experience and for me the best possible way to mark the final chapter of a series that defined my childhood.

I love this film. There isn't a single thing I'd change about it despite it containing the usual deviations from the book: I just think that as a film overall it works brilliantly. A more objective person wouldn't give it 5* at all, but in this instance I don't care and couldn't bring myself to give it anything other than a glowing review.

It might all be over now, but I know Hogwarts will always be there to welcome me home.

* * * * *
Film4 // 2009 // DVD

"In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner's vengeful plans for the same."

A pet peeve of mine is bad foreign accents or the use of an inaccurate language in films. It's obvious why film-makers do it, but it still baffles me. For me, it's so much easier to accept the premise of the film if the correct language is being spoken as it seems so much more believable and accurate (even if it's a ridiculous concept and boasts numerous historical inaccuracies as the film progresses).

It frustrates me even more if it's a film set during a time period I spent a long time studying during my degree, and Nazi Germany is one such period. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a brilliant film but I can't see past a cast of Nazis speaking in English, and similarly The Book Thief's Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson adopting poor German accents is massively distracting from the emotion of the story. I can acknowledge that it makes sense for directors to chose to use English-speaking actors and to shoot these sorts of films in English, but it still annoys me to no end. Therefore I really admire films that use the correct language at the appropriate time. Step forward Inglourious Basterds, a film that jumps from German, to English, to French and even throws in a spot of Italian. In fact, only 30% of the film is in English - bravo, Quentin Tarantino.

Inglourious Basterds is a fantastic on so many levels, but the language aspect is what pushes it from 4 to 5* for me. It's a film that weirdly celebrates film, presenting it as a powerful force for good in a terrible world albeit in an unexpected and brilliant manner. Basterds is perhaps not Tarantino's best film, but it still has all the elements he excels at, with unnecessary and almost comical levels of violence, and sharp wit in the script. Everything seems over-exaggerated in the best possible way: Diane Kruger is the ultimate femme fatale; Hitler and Goebbles are presented as pantomimic and grotesque; and the Basterds are revenge-seeking hardened Jews. It shouldn't work, but it really, really does. Christoph Waltz also delivers a standout performance as the chilling Col. Hans Landa, going from a grinning maniac to a ruthless killer in seconds.

I always forget how much I love this film until I start watching it and can't stop. I will watch anything to do with Nazi Germany, utterly adore cinema, and love a good foreign film, dark humour and WWII. As far as I'm concerned, can it get any better than Inglourious Basterds? No.

* * * *
FDA Screening // 2015 // UK Release: 16th January 2015

"A British woman recalls coming of age during World War I."

As Testament of Youth isn't coming out till January I'm saving a full review till after the new year, but safe to say I'll be seeing this again as soon as it's released. Based on the critically acclaimed and hugely successful war memoir of Vera Britten, Testament is a powerful and beautifully shot adaptation. It's not particularly original and firmly stays within the traditional narrative of the First World War we're all too familiar with in Britain but the stunning locations, gorgeous costumes and talented ensemble cast ensure it's not merely a dull repeat of everything that came before it. Young Swedish actress Alicia Vikander is a revelation as Vera Britten, and Kit Harrington shows that he's more than Jon Snow, becoming unrecognisable as the beardless Roland Leighton with a posh accent in the trenches. The strength of the young cast drives the point of the loss of a generation home, and as a result Testament is a subtly emotional film.

It may have premiered at the London Film Festival this year but it seems a little bizarre that it won't be on general release to January - it's a real shame audiences won't be able to experience Testament when it's arguably most relevant in the centenary of the war. For now, though, check out the trailer below and mark the 16th January in your calendars…

It's been a mixed bag this week, and I didn't think it was particularly eventful until I started writing but it was much better than I thought! I've seen 2 preview screenings this week and am starting to put together another list of films I'm looking forward to seeing in the next few months (like in my previous Coming Soon post), so is there anything you'd recommend? Is there a film coming out that you've been dying to see for months? Let me know in the comments below!

No comments:

Post a Comment