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Posts Tagged ‘cinema’

Scoop, by Woody Allen (2006)

Posted by dlandgren on 2009-07-07

Looking for clues

Looking for clues

Finally managed to see Scoop a while back. A good film, in many ways a revisiting of Manhattan Murder Mystery.

The real let-down was the feeble third character in the film, the English aristocrat played by Hugh Jackman. I don’t know whether this is because he’s just a really bad actor who happens to have a clean jaw, or that Woody was too enamoured with Miss Johansson and just wanted to have fun, to pay sufficient attention to the directing of the third part of the trio that forms the basis of the film.

Given that Jackman has played in some pretty crappy films, not the least of which would be “Australia”, I suspect it’s more of the former than the latter. Still, Allen and Johansson create a strong enough dynamic between them to carry the film.


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Волчонок Среди Людей (A wolf among people) – Talgat Temenov (1988)

Posted by dlandgren on 2009-03-17

The Forum des Images has an excellent programme of children’s cinema. I took the boys there this week-end to see Волчонок Среди Людей (Volchonok sredi lyudey), which I suppose should really be translated as a whelp among people, that being the correct term for a baby wolf (I had to look it up).

It’s the story of a boy who finds and adopts a baby wolf, after a hunter in his village kills its mother. The hunter and the boy find themselves in a tug of war over the animal, each wanting for their own reasons: the boy, for a companion, the hunter, for business.

It’s an interesting narrative that can be read at a number of levels. One thing I couldn’t help thinking, as I watched the barren, dusty landscape of Kazakhstan, was whether I was looking at the future, at what climate disruption will bring. It was a disquieting thought.

All in all, a great children’s film.

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Twilight, chapter 1: Fascination, by Catherine Hardwicke

Posted by dlandgren on 2009-02-07

Who's for dinner tonight?

Who's for dinner tonight?

Elza has been nagging me for weeks to go and see this film. It’s the cinema adaptation of a story in four volumes, which she has read in its entirety and so she’s been looking forward to it.

We went and saw it together and even though it’s been released for a while the queue outside was huge. At first I thought everyone else was lining up for some Hollywood action blockbuster, I messed up on the screen number and we nearly went into the wrong film. So we went back to the other end of the hall only to discover that there weren’t any other theatres and people were in fact lining up to see Twilight. At that moment the doors opened and so, may I burn in hell, I gatecrashed the line with Elza and we landed two good seats up the front.

And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I enjoyed the film. There’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief required, such as the fact that a weirdo family that look like supporting cast for the Rocky Horror Picture Show, in a small American town comprised mainly of disposessed native Americans and lumberjacks would have absolutely no hassles at school and that the father is an upstanding member of the community serving as doctor at the local hospital.

The  muted blues, greys and greens of Washington State sets the tone of the film and while it was easy enough to figure out in advance where the story was going, it maintained sufficient momentum to let me watch it unfold without getting restless.

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Madagascar 2

Posted by dlandgren on 2008-12-08

We saw the first Madagascar film on DVD with the children at someone’s house a year or so ago. It’s a good film with a decent plot and we all enjoyed it. For months afterwards Basil would dance around singing “I like to move it, move it.”

When the children learnt that Madagascar 2 was coming out, they naturally nagged us to death to go and see it. So we saw it yesterday. There are lots of things wrong with this film and there’s not much that can be said in its defence.

The film begins with a hurried flashback to explain how Alex the Lion came to wind up in New York City, which also allows the introduction of the Evil Character who is a rival to Alex’s father as ruler of Lions. Care is taken to have a Evil Poacher shoot a chunk out of the ear of Zuba, his father, so that later on in the film we’ll be able to identify him. See also how father and son share a the distinctive birthmark on forepaw in the shape of Africa. Don’t forget, it’s important later on.

Fast-forward to the present where the heroes of the first movie board a DC-3 loaded in a gigantic slingshot built by the penguins to fly back to the USA. And this is the beginning of the problem; the most interesting part of the film revolves around how the penguins salvage the airplane (that crashes in Africa) and construct a helicopter out of the wreckage. But if the boss of the penguins is so smart, what’s with the endless unfunny gags about how he’s smitten by a rafia doll?

The penguins steal the show

The penguins steal the show

The storyline is pretty weak, consisting mostly of a series of sketches that fortuitiously manage to be tangentially related to each other. On the positive side, at least there are no jokes about farting. On the other hand there are plenty of jokes about being kicked in the testicles. Ha ha, aren’t those Americans funny?

There are also lots of scenes that to allow people to prove their intellectual mettle by spotting the clichés and meta-clichés. Laugh at the granny standing up by the campfire, with her shadow projected on to a rock behind her, casting a shadow of the Statue of Liberty. Giggle at the scene where the Penguin lords cave into the demands of the proletariat Monkeys negotiating for maternity leave.

See the poor Alex, shunned by his father. How will he ever prove his worth and (re)gain his father’s esteem? I hover between not caring, and knowing that in the end, Alex will prevail, and his father will adopt his crazy new-fangled ideas and everything will be groovy.

As the credits scrolled past (my, what a lot of animators you have!) at the end of the film, a kindly usher took pity on us and tipped us off to the fact that there was no secret out-take at the end of the credits so there was no need to hang around to the very end. Phew!

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La vie moderne, by Raymond Depardon (2008)

Posted by dlandgren on 2008-11-11

Far from the madding crowd

Far from the madding crowd

Raymond Depardon encountered a series of French paysans and the culmination of ten years work resulted in the release of two films, Profils paysans, chapitre 1 : l’approche and Profils paysans, chapitre 2 : le quotidien over a space of four years.

In this film, he returns to the people he met in Ardèche (les Cévennes), to find out some more about the people, their lives, their hopes and their future.

By meeting and talking with them for years, Depardon has been able to earn their confidence, and they allow him into their kitchens, their stables, their lives. I’ll now have to wait patiently for the next installment in a few years time to catch up on the news.

At this point in time it’s a race to see whether they can continue to eke out an existence until the end of the fossil age and maintain the required knowledge to work the land by hand, or whether the effects of the big industrial combinats will force them off the land, merely to survive. In a more sombre moment of the film, a young woman, Amandine, announces to Raymond that she’s giving up. The life she imagined for herself and her family is unlikely to unfold the way she planned.

If you don’t speak French fluently, though, I recommend making sure the film is subtitled. I found it quite difficult at times to follow what some of the older farmers were saying.

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Home, by Ursula Meier (2008)

Posted by dlandgren on 2008-11-10

On the highway to hell

On the highway to hell

A family on the edge of nowhere, lost in the middle of fields, living in a ramshackle house along side an abandoned highway.

He is a mechanic, or a builder, good with his hands. He’s building a swimming pool. With a bit of luck he’ll have it finished for the summer holidays. She stays at home and looks after the house, the children, does a bit of gardening.

The eldest daughter has finished school, and does little more than sun herself all day in a bikini, chain-smoking Winstons and listening to heavy metal. The second daughter studies hard, know her physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, statistics. The boy rides up and down the empty highway and plays with his friends.

One day the boy, Julien, announces that he saw some heavy trucks working some distance up on the highway. The girls think he’s making it up for attention, but they do come, sweeping the family’s possessions, an arm chair, a satellite dish, a soccer ball, off the road, and at night the machines come, resurfacing and repainting the road.

Suddenly, after having been built and then forgotten about, perhaps tied up in a legal tangle, the ghost road is put into service. The family has nowhere to go, and is confronted with all-day all-night four lane traffic. And then begins to disintegrate. When the outside becomes too much to bear, unable to leave, they turn inside.

Of special note is an electrifying scene with Kacey Mottet (Julien) in what we’ll name the bathroom scene. A fascinating first film.

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