I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it wasn’t car chases, gunfire and a naked lady Continue reading
Tag Archives: cinema
I’m just back from an intriguing week in Ireland. (Where I met some people you may know – more on that below – with a pic.) But the whole place was unexpectedly mysterious.
I’m not talking about leprechauns or the absence of snakes. These are modern mysteries.
1. Fat people. Where are they all hiding? Continue reading
“They call me horse dung – because I’m never off the road.” That’s what I’m grateful for – people making me laugh. Like Emma at Adventures of an Unfit Mother with her tale of “The Miracle of the Keys”. I recommend a visit.
Here’s another laugh meister – Rudy and his odd drinking habits in Italy – or is he the only sane person in a country of crazies? He discovered that the Sards “preferred their alcohol to look like water and taste like paraffin.”
And then he foolishly tried a very strange drink in Verona (you’ll have to visit his Gullible’s Travels blog to find out what it was) but it led to a surreal experience:
Apart from the bars, the only other places that seem to be open at night are bookshops. This gives a whole new way of describing drunkenness. While a hangover morning may normally begin with the realisation that there are more limbs in the bed than you actually own followed by a reconstruction of the night before based on the stamp mark on your wrist, things would be different in Verona.You’d wake up feeling like you were wearing an internal balaclava and then your arm would drop down the side of the bed. Slowly your fingers caress some stiff paper and it slowly dawns on you what had happened the night before. You hand traces the outline of what turns out to be a book and your worst fears are confirmed. You realise that last night you’d got absolutely Dan Brown-ed on Aperol.
I love the way that ends. But I can’t stop at just two recommendations. These things always come in threes. And the third one is a cracker.
The Idiot – aka Mark – tells the story of his first week in kindergarten. It starts all cutesy wutsey aww luvvy duvvy and turns into a race riot. But a very funny one. I’d tell you who I blame for it, but you might get the wrong idea. Better to just read the story over at The Idiot. Really. You should. It’s hilarious.
And finally – here’s a good short video. I wouldn’t normally post an ad – but this is very clever. What would you do if you found yourself in the circumstances depicted?
Forget Walter Raleigh.
Forget that pathetic bit at the end of Four Weddings and a Funeral – “Is it raining? I hadn’t noticed.” Pass the sickbag, quick.
This is what I call romantic.
True, it could have gone terribly wrong Continue reading
When has a film been so tedious, so unimaginative, so stultifyingly boring that you decided life was too short to continue watching? I tend to want to finish what I start, not rely solely on first impressions and give things a chance to breathe and settle. I’m tolerant. But this week I encountered a film that was beyond even my broad Pale.
I’m not complaining. I’ve been lucky lately. I’ve seen Up In The Air this week (beautifully shot, very calming, George Clooney plays a corporate downsizer), Sherlock Holmes (a radical new approach to the franchise which works – full of action, humour, Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law), Astroboy (cartoon hero with machine guns in his butt – the 10-year-old boys I was with liked it) and Caramel (a Lebanese film by Nadine Labaki with no subtitles in English, but full of sympathetic characters and a good trick with a telephone conversation).
It’s hard to know when to stop. Take the film An Education. I loved it till the final 90 seconds. I watched it this week at the National Film and Television School with the writer Nick Hornby, who wrote the screenplay, and producers Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey. And they admit that the ending was a problem for them.
But first things first. The film is excellent. I recommend you go see it – preferably with your godmother, if you have one, or your exciting aunt.
That’s because it’s set in the swinging London of 1961. Think Colin MacInnes’s Absolute Beginners. The hero is Jenny, convincingly played by Carey Mulligan. She’s a bright attractive 16-year-old, who’s bored with the dull routine of cello lessons, school, Latin homework and the prospect of a boring proper life to follow. The single possible glimmer of light is the possibility of getting in to Oxford to read English. But, as she puts it, this translates into, at best, working hard and being bored at school, then working hard at Oxford, then working hard and being bored as a teacher or civil servant.
Then one rainy day, Jenny and her cello are offered a lift at the bus stop by the attractive and sympathetic older man, David ( Peter Sarsgaard). He charms and amuses schoolgirl Jenny into his car and drives her home to her parents – the protective yet calculating and easily hoodwinked Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour.
From here on, Jenny is introduced to a glittering exciting world of art, sophistication and sharp practice. She sparkles at first, but then…
Well, that’s enough plot. The story is both moving and funny. Very funny.
As an aspiring writer, my favourite line is spoken by Jenny’s father. I can’t recall it verbatim, but it’s something along the lines of: “Knowing a famous writer is far better than being one. Knowing one shows that you’re connected.”
But there are so many good ones, especially from the lips of the glamorous but thick Helen, played by Rosamund Pike. (Ironically she really is an accomplished cellist and French speaker.)
Two main themes run through the film. Whether a traditional education (school, university) trumps the university of life. Or if either are appropriate. And whether or when you should tell the truth to friends, family or yourself – before someone gets hurt, or afterwards.
The film is based on an essay in Granta magazine written by the journalist Lynn Barber about her teenage years. If you’ve read the original piece, or the book, you’ll already know it’s a great story. But don’t presume you know how the film story goes – Jenny’s life does not exactly mirror Lynn’s.
According to the trio answering questions after the film showing – Nick Hornby, Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey – Lynn Barber was the ideal inspiration. Which means: She didn’t interfere. She read script drafts and only intervened to ensure the period details were accurate.
However, what I didn’t realise at the time, is that apparently there is something to which she objected. In her original essay, she called the older man who sweeps her up, Simon. In the film he’s called David. That’s the niggle. Her late husband was also called David. He was seriously ill and then died during the making of the film. Lynn was not a 16-year-old schoolgirl at a bus stop when she first encountered the real David. They met later in her life. It’s understandable she’d prefer the rogue in the film to have some other name. I wonder why the film makers stuck with the name David.
But, getting back to my own quibble. In the final minute or so, the film switches to a voice over from Jenny to tie up the loose ends. What loose ends? I don’t like it. It falls flat. I found it neither uplifting nor thought-provoking nor even necessary.
It’s still an excellent film, but I was puzzled by the ending. (I’m being a little coy about the details because I don’t want to spoil things before you watch it yourself.) It turns out the film makers also wrestled with how to bring the tory to an end.
One alternative which was shown to a test audience, included a reunion/confrontation between Jenny and David. But the audience were not keen. (Again, I don’t want to reveal why, exactly.) And the screenplay writer Nick Hornby feels that he never quite managed to nail that particular alternative ending to his own satisfaction either. He’s much happier with the voice over option.
He’s probably right. Having heard him describe the alternative, they’ve chosen the better option. The best option however would have been to cut the voice over completely. A shot of Jenny in her new environment, leading into the credits, would have been enough. We don’t need to be spoon fed.
You can see and judge for yourself. I love the film. Even the opening title sequence is clever. It’s just that, like many of us, the film makers found it hard to know when to stop.
What do you do when your leading man departs this earth part way through filming your movie? If it’s Gladiator, and Oliver Reed has sipped slipped away, you resort to some fancy digital effects. But then he wasn’t the lead.
Or – as Terry Gilliam has done with The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – you recruit successors. So Heath Ledger morphs into Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law. But thankfully it’s not at all like one of those cringeworthy American sundrenched soaps where a character returns after a long time away, being played by a different actor – and no-one bats an eyelid. On the contrary, the three substitutions work very cleverly with the plot, and probably enhance the whole viewing experience.
I’ve just been to the London premiere …. (Ooh get you! I know, I know.) So here is the instant review:
Never mind the imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, what about the imagination of Terry Gilliam. It’s rich and immense, and shows no sign of flagging. There’s great vivid imagery and a lot of style.
The story revolves round successive deals that Dr Parnassus makes with the devil, and attempts to wriggle out of paying the price. It’s also about making decisions, doing the right thing. The right thing is not always obvious, and a wrong choice leads to hell. Choose well though, and you and your imagination are freed, and you finally experience life in all its wonder. The route to self-discovery lies through a magic mirror into the psychedelic world of your imagination.
The most enduring and intimate relationship is between Dr Parnassus and the devil. Tom Waits is a great Mississippi beelzebub. And rather than wanting to grab as many souls as he can, or to win at all costs, it becomes apparent how much he values having a sparring partner. And how much the battle of wits staves off an eternity of boredom.
Lily Cole (yes, the tall red-headed model) pulls off acting Christopher Lee’s daughter. The woman I was with enjoyed the four incarnations of Heath Ledger. (I found myself wondering if Colin Farrell’s dodgy child-rescuing philanthropist was a sly dig at Bono or Bob Geldof. But that may just be because Colin Farrell is from Dublin too.) I thought the set was just great – particularly the tall narrow horse-drawn ark in which the Imaginarium and cast travel.
But – for me – the film began to meander a bit too aimlessly in the parallel Salvador Dali-esque dream world. By the time Colin Farrell was being chased, I was wishing his comeuppance would hurry up and come. The suspense sagged. And then, the story having disappeared into an almost final dismal depressing wilderness, it suddenly finds its way out again to the real world, and a last minute happy ending. This lacked the chutzpah of the first two thirds of the film. It was as if Cinderella had settled down and married Buttons.
So should you go to the cinema to see it or hang on for the DVD rental? Well… Best of all would be to see it projected onto the glass of a giant lava lamp, while under the influence of whatever you fancy. Failing that, yes, go to the cinema. A big screen is the best place to appreciate the hugely imaginative dreamscapes. And Heath Ledger is most charming.
A note on the premiere experience: Downside – you have to wait for ages for the bally thing to begin. Upside – you’re rubbing shoulders with people off the tele, film stars and severely under-dressed young women. Oddside – seeing Andrew Garfield in the flesh only hours after having seen him in Lions for Lambs. He looks exactly the same. He also appears to be paying homage to Richard Bacon with his choice of jackets.