Archives for 2014 | Kilburnlad | Film | Reviews

Kilburnlad

Blue is the Warmest Colour

Blue is the Warmest Colour
I was bought this DVD for Christmas. I had read about this film after it's release but was a bit surprised when I got it as a present. Obviously any French film helps me 'train my ears' to the sound of French, even though the dialogue is usually at the tricky/impossible end of the scale. The DVD was, however, an English language release with sub-titles.

When I read about this film there was much attention given to its explicit sexual nature. There's no denying that the lesbian sex scenes are as explicit as you are likely to see in any main-stream film. However, to reduce what is an amazing film to the sex is doing the production a great disservice.

The two leading female actors are absolutely amazing and I'm not surprised that both won a Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2013, as did the film and the director. Adèle Exarchopoulos (who plays Adéle) in particular gives an amazing performance. From the time when she discovers her sexuality, in late adolescence, up until the moment when she realises that her relationship with Emma (played by Léa Seydoux) is over, we witness the emotions of a young woman finding true love, playing out that love with unbridled passion and finally losing somebody who has taken over her soul. The scene in the bar where Adéle finally realises that there is no longer any hope of reconciliation must rate as one of the best emotional portrayals ever put on film.

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St Vincent

We saw the trailer for St Vincent a couple of weeks ago and I was immediately attracted to the film. Trailers can sometimes lure you in, for you only to find that the good bits in the trailer are the only good bits in the film. In this case, however, I wasn't disappointed. Bill Murray is superb as Vincent, as is Jaeden Lieberher playing Olivier, the new neighbour's young son. And Naomi Watts, as Daka, plays a fairly convincing Russian sex worker. Not that there's really any gratuitous sex on display, it's just that Vincent having a girlfriend such as Daka sort of fits his character.

St Vincent

Very humorous from the off, it's an object lesson in how not to judge a person without knowing a reasonable amount about them. Vincent, superficially a rebellious, hard drinking, irascible, untidy and unkempt loner, is disguising a more complex person. To say more would be a spoiler.

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The Imitation Game

We saw The Imitation Game on Wednesday. The staff at the cinema had told us that it was very popular, and other reviews have been good. And it was good. Benedict Cumberbatch is carving out quite a niche for himself for playing intriguing characters, which started I suppose with Sherlock Holmes in the TV series.

Turing was a very interesting man. To what extent Cumberbatch's portrayal matches the reality is speculative, but I think he gives a convincing performance of what we think Turing was like. The main story is a matter of record, although I believe that there were earlier contributions from Polish cryptologists that haven't been acknowledged. And I'm not sure that the sub-plots had a lot of basis in fact. But without these embellishments we presumably would have a documentary rather than a popular film.

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My Old Lady

We went to see 'My Old Lady' this week. Perhaps not a film for everybody but I found it entertaining.

My Old Lady

It is set in Paris and having spent April in Paris last year and this, it certainly brought back some memories. The story revolves around 'un viager', a quaint French idiosyncrasy whereby one can buy a property with a sitting tenant at significantly reduced cost, the rub being that you, the now owner, have to pay the tenant a monthly amount up until their death.

Mathias (Kevin Kline) has inherited such a property, but unfortunately he hadn't acquainted himself with the concept of le viager, and was expecting to sell up and make a small fortune. Mathilde Girard (the Old Lady played by Maggie Smith) is 92 but expected to live a lot longer. So Mathias, who's broke, finds himself in debt. Life then becomes even more complicated when Chloé Girard (Kristen Scott Thomas) appears on the scene, a feisty woman who doesn't take to Mathias.

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Fury

We saw Fury yesterday. It is a film that doesn't pull any punches and while I have no personal experience of war, I think this film probably does a good job of portraying the inhumanity and the psychological suffering that people must experience. From the hardened soldiers to the young office clerk who is initiated into the tank crew by being made to shoot an unarmed prisoner in the back. From the SS officers to the German child soldiers, and those other young Germans who were publicly hung by the SS for refusing to fight.

Fury

There wasn't much glory on display until the final sequence, which was a bit fanciful, but this was probably a matter of playing to audience expectations. I suppose it's in the same genre as Saving Private Ryan, although in some respects more sobering. Of course it was the usual American story with no acknowledgement of other allied forces, but we're all used to that by now.

If you like war movies and are not put off by gore then it's a film worth seeing.


La Femme Nikita

Nikita
I watch French films but find it difficult always to understand spoken dialogue. To help, if possible I buy films with French subtitles. Unfortunately it's not easy to find these films in England. I bought several when I was in Paris and more recently I bought some from Amazon France. It's very easy to do. You can use your Amazon UK email username and password and delivery is quick, and not too expensive.

One of the films was La Femme Nikita, which I watched last week. I was impressed. This genre is these days commonplace but I don't think that the more recent films are better. In fact, I think that Nikita by Luc Besson is still one of the best examples.


Chef

We saw the film Chef yesterday. It was surprisingly good, with a fine performance from Jon Favreau as Carl Casper, the Chef, and Emjay Anthony as his son, Percy. Meanwhile, Sofía Vergara, who plays his ex wife, Inez, must rate as one of the sexiest looking women to grace our screens. And considering Scarlett Johansson is also in the film, that's praise indeed for Ms Vergara.

The food looked fantastic and genuinely made me feel hungry (the trailer calls it food porn), and although the plot line typically embellishes reality (when doesn't it?), it was believable enough if you are prepared to accept that the eponymous Chef would have ever left his wife. It reminded me of a line in Spanglish when, to paraphrase, John Clasky (Adam Sadler) says to Flor Marino (Paz Vega), 'I thought you were a widow as I couldn't believe anybody would ever leave you."

Twitter plays a pivotal part in the film and I particularly liked the way little twitter birds were animated each time a tweet was sent.

A bit of mildly strong language, which results in a 15 certificate, takes the film out of the family entertainment category, which is a pity as I think that is where it should be.


Maleficent

We went to see Maleficent yesterday. Angelina Jolie at her very best. It's an interesting twist on the story of Sleeping Beauty: the story from the viewpoint of Maleficent.

Now we all know that fairy stories and the like are all about the triumph of good over evil, so it was interesting how in this case the evil, Maleficent, was in fact shown to be the product of another person's evil deed and not intrinsically bad. As a treatise on morals and the whole question of good and evil I found this story far more compelling than the conventional tale of Sleeping Beauty.

We saw it in 3D, and I would credit it as being one of the few films that actually benefits from this medium. No silly effects, just a wonderland of imagination enhanced by the realism of being in three dimensions.

Well worth seeing. Jolie is stupendous.




Tarzan (Animation)

We went to see the latest Tarzan animation today. My choice, being a great Tarzan fan when I was younger. I read all the books.

The reviews were terrible, but I thought it might be interesting to see what the latest animation techniques could produce. Many reviewers feel that the animation was, in fact, quite poor, and I suppose on reflection it wasn't anything special; even in 3D. What was more annoying for me was that Lord Greystoke had suddenly become American. Now I realise that perhaps it is necessary to update what is now an old story and bring it into the modern environment, but the whole essence of Tarzan is that of a British Lord being raised as an ape. Also, in this story he is 'adopted' by the she ape as a young boy, not as a baby, yet remarkably seems almost to lose his ability to speak. The original story was much more plausible, if one can accept the plausibility of it at all.

And the plot! Utter rubbish. And Jane is now blonde; of course.



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Qu'est-ce qu'on a fait au Bon Dieu

Another film that I saw while staying near Paris at Henri Langlois cinema in Franconville.

This film was very, very funny, even if I couldn't understand a lot of the dialogue.

A bourgeois Catholic couple have four daughters who one by one marry men of different faiths, much to the consternation of their parents. After three such marriages it's the turn of the last unmarried daughter, and the parents rejoice to learn that she's marrying a Catholic. But their elation is short lived.

The cinema was packed and the audience were almost delirious with laughter. Of course, I didn't get all the subtle language-based comedy, but the visual comedy was more than enough to keep me laughing.


De Toutes Nos Forces

De Toutes Nos Forces is a story of a disabled teenager, Julian, and his relationship with his father. Julien had challenged his father that they should participate in the 'Ironman' in Nice. At first his father told him it would be impossible, but ultimately the supreme motivation of his son changed his mind.

I saw the film, in French without subtitles, while I was staying near Franconville, on the outskirts of Paris. I probably understood only 10-15% of the dialogue, but it actually didn't matter too much because the story was so strong that dialogue was to some extent superficial. There were obviously a few humorous lines during the film, judging by the audience's reaction, but in French comedy dialogue usually goes straight over my head.


The Book Thief

We saw The Book Thief yesterday.

I hadn't checked any reviews before going, which as it turned out was probably fortuitous as some were not good. I say fortuitous as I liked this film, and it would have been a pity if I hadn't have gone because of unfavourable reviews.

Sophie Nélisse who played the principal character, Leisel, was, to my mind, exceptional, as were Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson who played her adoptive parents, and Nico Liersch who plays Leisel's friend Rudy. The depiction of how children were indoctrinated into the Nazi system, and the treatment of jews, communists and others who didn't meet the Nazi ideal, serve as a reminder of what can happen when a country turns against those who it believes are detrimental to society. Something that we should perhaps be aware of today as right wing diatribe seeks to demonise peoples from other countries. The poverty of the German people, as depicted, was, I suppose, part of the reason why the Nazis were able to gain support, by offering a better Germany, albeit at the expense of virtually everybody else.

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Dallas Buyers Club

Today's we saw Dallas Buyers Club. Another film that has been 'based on a true story'.

It is set in a time when AIDS was a relatively new phenomenon. When people thought they could be HIV infected by simple being close to an infected person. It stars Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, a solidly heterosexual cowboy who refuses to accept the fact that he will soon die as a result of contacting the virus.

The pharmaceutical industry was keen to turn the AIDS disaster to its advantage (nothing has changed) and this, combined with the reluctance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve alternative treatments, left people with little hope.

Woodroof, having been pulled back from the brink, starts importing unapproved drugs that are more effective than the AZT drug under official trials. To try to get around the law he sets up a buyers club, whereby members on paying a monthly subscription get medication free, but don't technically buy it. Obviously the FDA weren't supportive.

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Inside Llewyn Davis

We saw Inside Llewyn Davis today. My choice.

The reviews were split, polarised you might say. People either seem to have found it not worth seeing, or were totally impressed. It wasn't an easy film, that's for sure. None of the characters was particularly likeable, except perhaps for the Gorfeins (their cat is fairly central to the first part of the story), a put-upon couple that Davis visited occasionally when he wanted somewhere to kip, and Troy Nelson, a well-mannered GI who was also trying to break into the music scene.

On balance it was less than I expected. The music was good, and I would have hoped that I would have felt that I wanted Davis to succeed. But he didn't inspire those feelings. In fact he did a good job of making me just want to give up on him.

So, if you like films that make you think, and that break away from the usual formulaic styles, then give it a go. It's beautifully shot in New York and Chicago and it earned the Grand Prix at the 2013 Cannes' Palme d'Or awards. But then Cannes often favours films that the general viewing public find difficult.


The Railway Man

From one depiction of man's inhumanity to man in 12 Years a Slave to another. This time at the hands of the Japanese during the construction of the Thai-Burma Railway.

I saw The Bridge Over the River Kwai many years ago, and the fact that it has stuck firmly in my memory is testament to the impact it made. One can't begin to imagine the trauma suffered by the soldiers who actually were put to work on the railway, and this latest film probably gives an even better insight into this than did the earlier film, which concentrated solely on horrors of the time, rather than psychological aftermath.

Colin Firth was his usual brilliant self, although Jeremy Irvine was equally good as the young Eric Lomax, and remarkably like the photograph of the actual Eric Lomax that we are shown at the end of the film.

It seems that the film actually over dramatised the eventual meeting between Lomax and his tormentor, but notwithstanding this bit of creative licence, the denouement was uplifting, as it would have been in real life, and re-establishes belief in the human spirit.

Needless to say, I think that this is another must-see film. The problem is that there have been so many good films lately it's been difficult to catch them all. Not to worry, the DVDs will arrive in no time.


12 Years a Slave

This film was harrowing to put it mildly. Fantastic production values with brilliant acting made the horror of what was being portrayed all the more disquieting.

It is a film to shame humankind. But of course other atrocities continue to this day across the world. One of the most poignant scenes is where the 'gentleman farmer' preaches Christianity to the slaves and manages to find a passage in the scriptures that actually justifies his treatment of them. It's quite amazing what can be done in the name of religion, another problem that the world is still wrestling with.

This is a must-see film.


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is pure escapism, and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Modern special effects enabled the director to show the fantasy sequences to good effect, and it was a pleasant change to see these effects used so creatively rather than to show just another annihilation of New York, Washington or whatever.

Ben Stiller is ideally cast for the role and, for me, he attracted a great deal of empathy as the dreamer who ultimately discovered that life can surpass one's dreams.