Friday, September 14, 2007

cinematic musings and opinons

well, i am nothing if not rubbish at keeping up with this blogging thing these days...

in part because i've been watching a lot of movies, both on dvd and in the cinema.
here's a selection from the past week:

the birds (1963) - DVD
an all time favourite of mine, and part of my growing hitchcock collection - replacing my vhs with dvd. the "making of" documentary to accompany this is nothing short of delightful and the realisation that one of my cult favourites, veronica cartwright, was the young actress playing cathy brenner sent me into a fit of excitement* - and her accounts of working for hitchcock are wonderful. in an age of cgi tricks, learning how hitch and crew made this film before computers came along is quite remarkable. fascinating stuff that only enhances rewatching. the idea of live birds being tied to child actors' collars only makes it all the more disturbing.
i am now desperate to see slavoj zizek's documentary film, the pervert's guide to cinema (2006), in which the birds is one the key films under analysis. as with so much of the master's work - the birds has Freud written all over it.

* this has almost been trumped by discovering her sister played brigitta von trapp in the sound of music

boys don't cry (1999) DVD
was not sure if this would prove to be as impactful as i remembered it, but sure enough, i was weeping and angry by the end. hilary swank is utterly convincing, chloe sevigny is, as ever, the cream of the indie cinema crop. the dvd extras are disappointingly thin on the ground and i wished i hadn't watched this on my own because i so wanted to talk to someone afterword. not for the feint hearted, this one - i found it no less disturbing on repeat viewing. but as an exploration of gender identity, the 'outsider' and indeed the nature of sexual violence, as well as love that sees beyond and embraces the physical exterior (this defies definition as a lesbian drama, yet nor is it straight), this is a film for which i have profound respect.

vera drake (2004) DVD
stunning stuff. i hadn't seen this is in the cinema and watching this the other night left me nothing short of astounded. another film i wished i'd seen with others. this just demands discussion. more difficult subject matter, this time handled with a sensitivity above and beyond the norm. mike leigh set out to make a film about abortion that refuses to cast judgment on any one perspective and allow the viewer space to examine their own views on the issue. giving the distance of time by telling a story from the 1950s it provides a context - whatever your political or moral view, abortion never happens in a moral or social vacuum - and yet speaks entirely into the present day, suggesting provocative questions about the difference between law and morality and the uneasy shades of grey that make up the latter. imelda staunton leads a superb cast and she is heartbreakingly convincing. this will in no way cheer you up on a rainy night but if you want a film with serious moral meat - this is more than worth your time. it will leave viewers of all persuasions on this issue with something to think about.

2 days in paris (2007) QFT
julie delpy wrote, directed and stars in this small indie film about a couple away from their home in his native new york and in her native paris for the first time. quirky, bilingual, with very clever selective use of subtitles that reminded me of the science of sleep, i laughed throughout - this explores both gender and cultural differences and the challenges of long term relationships. entertaining but not life changing. delpy's parents playing her fictional parent's steal the show.

eagle vs shark (2007, New Zealand) - QFT
even more quirky than 2 days in paris, this deals with somewhat similar subject matter, but this time with a fledgling relationship. as with the other, the lead couple are odd and eccentric, but here, they are far less 'successful' (by which i mean losers) and well, even more odd. heartwarming, and very funny in places this is a small intimate movie about redemptive love. ultimately sweet, which was a little stretching for my tastes but so un-hollywood in every way, i left qft smiling all the same. great closing scene. and a fantastic soundtrack.

atonement (2007) - movie house, dublin road and about to come to QFT
got to see this thanks to radio ulster's sunday sequence. willow will be reviewing this on the next show.
this is gonna be a strong contender for my film of the year. quite simply: breathtaking.
i'm not always a fan of 'epic' films but this is like the merchant ivory of my fantasies. exquisitely shot with immense attention to detail and painted on a canvas that is nothing short of visually intoxicating.

[a tangent in which i will get something off my chest: i barely managed to stay awake during pirates of the Caribbean - and did my best to ignore the hype for the sequels - i being utterly outnumbered in thinking it only entertaining if one tries to think like a ten year old, and even then i think that just might be insulting to some ten year olds. i am a firm believer in the adage that a good kid's movie will enchant one regardless of age but not require one to forcibly forget one is an adult. i found the first in this franchise mildly entertaining at best and ultimately a whole lot of fuss about nothing, in which several actors i previously had great respect for made me feel somewhat nauseous, not least monsieur depp. even when having fun, unless i am indulging in 80s nostalgia, i still like to have my brain working. and we can even combine the two by celebrating the joy that is the princess bride - a kids' movie that stands the test of time with a delightfully clever script. but, the reason i go on this mini rant, which no doubt makes me seem to most still bothering to read a total dullard and cynical stick in the mud, is that even more than depp, i was turned off from the offset by keira knightly. i have never warmed to ms knightly. borrowing lynn's Sofa of Sweeping Generalisation (TM) for a moment, i find her wooden, irritating and unconvincing doing so with the air of one who knows she is the prettiest girl in the room. i didn't even like her in bend it like beckham. i have never been able to suspend my disbelief when she's in the room. well, colour that all changed from here on in. i am always willing to have my opinion changed and so, here it is, the unthinkable has happened... ]

from first sight in atonement i was mesmerized by keira knightly (see above rant for why i was surprised). she is nothing short of devestatingly beautiful and inhabits her character, cecelia, like this is the part she was born to play. even more stellar are james mcevoy and saoirse ronan - both are superb. the soundtrack is wonderful and as grand as the visuals. i can't wait to see this again. the story is gripping and makes me regret not having read the novel. i am led to understand it is a worthy adaption of the original text. do not go to the official website for the movie before seeing this - there are far too many video clips that would only spoil it. and see it you should. after seeing two very small movies in a matter of days, this was quite a change of pace and scale. but on the big screen of the multiplex this is the kind of big budget fare i'd love more of. i wept several times at the sheer beauty of it, and the scene of dunkirk is both cinematically spectacular and emotionally devastating... and the ending - well, it leaves one thinking about equally epic themes of narritive and the nature of living with regret over that which cannot be undone. it had me and willow debating all the way up the street to get a coffee...

oh. and one last thing. i saw a trailer for a remake of Halloween. why this has been remade i do not know. the original is just that. an original. a landmark movie of the horror genre that set a benchmark few films have ever matched. why oh why oh why????



  1. ewan:)1:53 pm

    halloween - great great film but i found out last year that it owes huuuuuuuuuuge debt to "black christmas" john carpenter asked the director, bob clark, if he planned to make a sequel and what he would do with it.. he said he didn't intend to but that he'd probably set it at, you guessed it, halloween...

    it got the remake treatment last year (i haven't gone near it) but as a result, the original is easy to get hold of on DVD...

    it is brilliant and well worth investigation but it's a film that you must NOT watch on your own (at christmas or any other time of year)...

  2. me is thinking i shall get hold of a copy and we can watch together. you make more than adequate sized shield brother.

    cool. i seem to recall walking in TO and you mentioning it. was the remake made in TO?
    off to procure.

  3. cheryl6:38 am

    i've been back in melbourne for nearly 18 hours now... loving my city and my apartment [in spite of jetlag and serious sleep deprivation]... and then i read your blog and remember how much i love belfast, and wish it were somehow just around the corner instead of 11000 miles away...