Monthly Archives: July 2009

MOON

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Writing my opinion on the new Duncan Jones film MOON is proving difficult as the strange feeling of exhaustion and sleep deprivation coursing through my fatigued veins right now is causing frequent typos and disjointed thoughts the likes of which are usually reserved for those coming out of suspended animation…..

Quite a fitting state in which to discus this movie.

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I really don’t want to give too much away in terms of plot structure as I think I knew a little too much going into the picture. Critics are expected to wax lyrical on the pros and cons of a picture but I feel this discourse, along with explicit trailers, really diminish the discovery that comes with entering a theatre knowing NOTHING.

It’s without doubt the best way to approach this film.

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Sam Rockwell is Sam Bell, an astronaut / engineer serving a 3 year stint on a lunar surface base which harvests Helium 3, the green energy of the future. Bell is unassisted by humans but has GERTY (the base’s computer) for company and technical support, voiced by the excellent Kevin Spacey. With only 2 weeks left to serve of his 3 year stint, Bell takes a maintenence run in the Moon buggy which leads to a happening, which kick starts all kinds of strange stuff, none of which I’m going to explain.

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The immediate GERTY / HAL comparisons are inevitable but, as Matt Etheridge pointed out in our post flick discussion, a tad lazy. The film wears its influences proudly on its sleeve but never allows them to become distracting. You come out of the theatre thinking about the picture in the same context you do the great sci-fi pictures without feeling the need to hang too much homage baggage onto it, Jones has created a piece of work which speaks on its own terms.

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Despite the fairly slow pace of the flick, and that’s no criticism, revelations come early on, giving the audience the space and time to digest and involve themselves in what’s happening rather than eagerly anticipating an M. Night Shyamalan style twist at the end.

………. I really don’t want to tell you any more about the story to be honest. These films should be supported and the best way to do that is to go and see it. At the very least buy the dvd.

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5 Reasons to see MOON:

1: It’s a $5m movie that looks better than most 9 figure efforts.

2: At 97 minutes, the flick doesn’t require you to put a week aside to view it.

3: Rockwell is perfectly cast and plays off himself wonderfully.

4: The film stays with you long after you leave the theatre and demands discussion.

5: Duncan Jones is a director with great potential. He needs your movie dollars.

Here’s the trailer…….. But only because it doesn’t give too much away and I want as many people as possible to make an effort to see this flick. Watch the trailer, but avoid reviews.

For The Love of Gwynyth

A strange thing happened to me last night that very rarely occurs but did last night in the most unexpected of ways.

Gwyneth Paltrow came on screen and I YELPED.

Yes faithful readers, like a dog….. A small dog.

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This is a picture I remember watching not long after its release and thinking little of it. Matt Damon is generally decent, Jude Law and Ms Chris Martin Paltrow are generally banal, hence the lack of tangible enthusiasm for revisiting the flick. Fate led me by the eyes however following a decision to do my dissertation on the ethics of adaptation, a viewing of PLEIN SOLIEL and the reading of the excellent Patricia Highsmith book on which both films are based….. It was time to head back to Mongibello.

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In respect of being honourable to the source material, Anthony Minghella’s screenplay sticks to the structure of Highsmith’s original work far closer than it’s older French cousin. We are very quickly introduced to Ripley’s fantastic world where the desire to rise above his lowly social status is all consuming. This Ripley as not the pathological character Highsmith dreamt up, but still carries with him a creepiness that never allows you to get comfortable with him.

I was pleased that Minghella retained Papa Greenleaf’s plea to Ripley to travel to Europe to return his wayward son Dickie. This element of the book provides a constant narrative thread as well as a further motive for Ripley’s actions, Dickie lives off his father’s wealth which requires his regular correspondence, Tom just happens to be a master impersonator. This is the life Ripley feels he deserves though he has no reason for believing so. These two facets of his personality were always going to be a catalyst for trouble.

Disappointment came with Ripley’s initial social standing. In the book he lives in the crummiest of abodes, filthy and rundown. In the film, despite hearing a couple arguing in the flat above, he seems to live in the kind of place a Greenwich Village bohemian might frequent, tuning into Charlie Parker and Chet Baker in preparation for his future encounter with the Jazz loving Dickie.

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In the interests of cinematic pace (although this is still considered the slowest part of the film) the friendship that blossoms between Dickie and Ripley is intense and rapid. Contrary to the book, Dickie’s girlfriend Marge, adequately dealt with by Paltrow, is instantly taken by the newcomer and the two also develop a bond. This is neat screenwriting. Minghella has cut out much of the time from the novel that Dickie and Tom spend together; this gives no motivation for Marge to dislike him so much which also makes her change of opinion later in the film all the more powerful.

The friendship between the two men has a distinct homoerotic hue to it. One only has to look at the chess in the bath scene. This is also a factor of the Freddie Miles relationship, camped up by an ever reliable Philip Seymour Hoffman. What transpires is a love triangle between the 3 men with Marge reduced to the role of mildly attractive screen furniture.

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“But Paltrow made you yelp” I hear you think silently…

She did.

And I’ll tell you why.

Following the disposal of Dickie in a brilliantly staged boat scene (EXACTLY as I pictured it when reading the novel but with a more pronounced emotional angle) Tom takes up the role of Master Greenleaf whilst the police try to find the killer of Freddie Miles. (Also disposed of by Ripley when he rumbled his scam) It’s this section of the film that lacks the tension of the book but it does score in one respect….. Gwyneth Paltrow.

In the book Marge does not leave Mongibello to look for Dickie, she’s in constant contact through Ripley’s forged letters, and believes he’s alive, but she doesn’t think to travel for a confrontation. This after being inexplicably dumped like a hot stone…… in the film she does, and it’s that first time she bumps into Ripley in Rome that has me squealing like a baby. “She’s not supposed to go to Rome!!!!”

And here’s where literature and cinema come together in perfect harmony. You only have 2 hours to tell this story and you’ve got to make the film audience taste the suspense of the book….. Minghella does a fine job, a real fine job.

Should we sympathise with a man who has killed twice by such brutal means? In the case of Tom Ripley, it’s hard not to. He doesn’t do anything throughout the film to alienate the audience besides be a little clingy, he’s like the guy at school who no-one hung out with but was really rather cool when you took the time to speak with him. Do we want him to get away with it? That’s a completely different question and one which the movie answers completely differently to the novel…..

I take it all back….. This is a fine movie.

Lured

Jealousy’s eyes are green my dear, don’t let yours turn that dreadful colour.

You’re incorrigible.

Of course I am. I am an unmitigated cad.

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That’s George Sanders playing the smooth as silk Robert Fleming in Douglas Sirk’s 1947 whodunit LURED.

The film starts with a good looking girl travelling on a bus in the heart of 40’s London, in her hand is a tiny piece of newspaper. The camera punches into a close of said paper and we see it has been taken from the personals section. This girl is on her way to a date. She disembarks the bus and meets her potential suitor on a street corner, we do not see the chap of course, only his shadow protrudes from behind the wall, the girl seems pleased to meet the man and they walk off. We see the pair enter a restaurant but the mysterious figure is only shown in silhouette behind a curtain, the girl, sitting opposite him and in full view, chats excitedly. We jump cut to an interior. A shadow, obviously our man, types out an envelope marked to the police, a gloved hand removes the letter. We cut to a letter box as the gloved hand posts the note. We then find ourselves in the offices of the police the next day as they read the letter, revealing the “Poet Killer” has struck again……

Have a look at the aforementioned scene. It’s a great example of cinematic “showing” not “telling”. Watch out for the neat delivery of information on the sandwich board and also the clever way that Sirk instigates the camera move as they walk into the restaurant.

Following the initial deliberations by the law we are taken to a wonderful dancehall scene. Girls line up at the side of the room and willing punters have to pay sixpence for the honour of dancing with them for 5 minutes, it’s interesting stuff. Did these places really exist?? If so, it just shows how crass our courting rituals have become. The fact that lonely gentlemen were happy to part with their hard earned cash for a 5 minute waltz is quite sweet, and totally alien.

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We are introduced to two of the dancing girls (both American) they chat and one reveals she has scored herself a hot date via the personal columns, it’s like the internet but with personality; the other (whilst her freind “dances”) is approached by a talent agent and offered an audition at a higher class of establishment. The unfortunate half of the pair with the date inevitably ends up as the poet killer’s latest victim, the lucky one, who goes by the name of Sandra Carpenter and is played by Lucille Ball, ends up getting a job as a lady detective with the police to be used as bait to snare her friend’s killer. There’s no interview for this job, she’s only asked to hitch up her skirt to the knee and describe Charles Coburn with her eyes closed.

Fake notices are placed in the personal ads of London’s newspapers in the hope that the serial killer will come out of his rotten woodwork and attempt to abduct our powerful female protagonist. It’s at this point the film takes a fantastic diversion. It involves Boris Karloff in a 10 minute cameo and should really just be watched rather than explained……. It’s GREAT!

It’s during a faux date that Sandra finds herself tricked into the company of Robert Fleming, the creamy smooth nightclub magnate who originally offered her the audition. Does it sound far fetched? Well it is. This is where the film strays from its initial path; the investigation is dropped from our attention for a noticeable period to concentrate on their blossoming relationship until Fleming himself finds himself implicated as the poet killer. The last act and eventual revealing of the killer plays out in a rather rushed fashion.

Although a weakness, it wouldn’t say it renders the picture ruined. Sirk, like ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (the only other offering of his I’ve seen to date) gives us a strong female lead who effortlessly holds the cards in a man’s world. There are some great scenes here and Charles Coburn delivers his usual enjoyable performance as the no nonsense police chief.

Recommended………

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EIFF Off

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The EIFF is over for another year.

It’s a shame I never got round to posting fresh analysis and opinion on the films as I saw them but to be honest, my desire to type has been waning of late. It seems like the only thing I’ve done for the last 2 years is type so I thought it best to take a break and regain my thirst for communicating. Via the gift of innocent smoothies and some decent sleep, it seems to be back.

It was a good festival, maybe not as complete an experience as last year due to my work commitments but I got along to a decent amount of stuff and met some cool people.

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The opening film was the new Sam Mendes pic AWAY WE GO which had John Krasinski (star of the US comedy TV show The Office) and Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live) in the leading roles. It was a good natured, whimsical start to the fest which neither offended nor inspired me. The dudes at Filmspotting ripped it to shreds but the picture, in my opinion, doesn’t strive to be anything beyond what it is on its surface, 2 people in love trying to find their way after discovering they have a child on the way. Mendes himself came out and introduced the film and his summing up of what we were about to see was in no way weighty or philosophical. And that’s ok by me. You can’t sit and watch PERSONA over and over after all.

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The EIFF wouldn’t be what it is without its weird midnight pictures. Those pictures that may not see the light of day beyond the festival circuit. These are the real finds and it always annoys me that these little gems are what make a festival, but very few people get to see them.

One such example is White Lightnin’.

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The film stars up and coming Brit actor Edward Hogg as Jasco White, a real life character from the deep south of America who has his troubled life dramatised in this picture (Jasco, incidentally, is currently in jail) Hogg does a tremendous job bringing this hardened individual to life. There are moments of striking beauty despite the grimness of the subject and I never once felt that director Dominic Murphy pushed things too far. I loved this film and would say it was the best of my festival. I hope this picture gets a release, if it does it’ll probably run late at night, it’s worth staying up for!

The real highlights for me this year were the In Person interviews. I took in Darren Aronofsky, Bill Forsyth, Roger Corman, Sharmila Tagore and Joe Dante sharing their cinematic views live on stage. It was especially pleasing to see my college tutor Jonny Murray doing a great job interviewing Bill Forsyth. It’s now clear in my mind that Scottish cinema can be funny, insightful and important without having to resort to drab, arbitrary stories of drink, drugs or violence. Our nation has more to offer, we just don’t know how to fund it.

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Kim Newman interviews Roger Corman

I’ll lastly mention the Roger Corman retrospective that was running as a compliment to his In Person appearance. I’ve mentioned Corman a few times on this blog but I don’t think his contribution can be overstated. I had the pleasure of watching THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, THE INTRUDER and THE RAVEN on the big screen, more on THE INTRUDER soon as I’ve bought it and will dedicate a full post to the flick. People need to get into this guy. The films, although quite rough around the edges in many cases, show an ingenuity, a passion and an energy for story so often lost on glossier, more expensive productions. This freedom, I believe, is now returning thanks to the digital age, how that freedom will be utilised is another discussion altogether.

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