Posts Tagged ‘Twelve of Twenty’

The Illusionist (Sylvain Chomet, UK/Fr, 2010)

The One Line Review: Beautiful, elegiac paean to a bygone era and the inexorable loss that is fatherhood.

The Verdict: I have always loved Belleville Rendez-Vous, so I had been eagerly awaiting Chomet’s next project for some time. That means I held it up to high standards. It didn’t let me down. The Illusionist isn’t in the same vein as its predecessor, it isn’t surreal or exaggerated, this is pehaps the result of the source material; Jaques Tati, revered silent French comic wrote this script for himself, late on in his career. A tale about an entertainer left behind by the times and slowly fading into obscurity would have been a brave and poignant change of direction for the slapstick artist, but the script stayed on the shelf, either he, or more likely the money men, were too afraid of tainting his public image. It’s worked for Bill Murray though. Still, his loss means we gain the sumptuous animation of Chomet, drawn on location is Glasgow using British animators for the most part. This film is just lovely to look at, it’s like walking round a gallery of the best watercolours you can imagine for an hour and a half. It isn’t a criticism, but the film feels much longer than it’s slim eighty minute running time.

Running alomgside this visual ballad of a waning star, is the platonic love story of Tatischeff and Alice. She adopts him as a father figure and he gives everything to please her, to preserve her belief in magic. As she slowly outgrows him he goes to greater and greater lengths to keep her happy, while she obliviously takes it all for granted. It is a tragic representation of paternal love that we rarely see onscreen. It’s sad and it’s beautiful.

Brothers (Jim Sheridan, US, 2009)

The One Line Review: Portman brings her Oscar game a year before Black Swan drops in this fascinating and largely low key relationship drama exploring the redemptive power of grief.

The Verdict: Jim Sheridan, who made powerful immigrant drama In America, draws robust and nuanced performances from Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire. A tale of two halves, the first is concerned with Portman dealing with being widowed by the Iraq war, Gyllenhaal the black sheep finding redemption by looking after his brother’s family and Maguire not dead at all, slowly losing his humanity as a prisoner of islamist insurgents. The dichotomy between the gently evolving relationship at home, the burgeoning happiness, and the escalating horror and loss of humanity in the Middle East is stark and shocking. The depths Sam sinks to, in a hole in the Afgham desert, are truly horrifying.

The second half is where it all kicks off though. Sam comes home, broken and wracked with guilt to find the hole he left behind has been easily filled by the reprobate brother he was always favoured over. Tommy is forced out of the happy dynamic he and Grace have established with the children and Grace is torn between the man who was there for her at the worst time of her life and the violent, unpredictable shell of the man she once loved.

Brothers is all about what goes unsaid; feelings and suspicions and guilt and remorse all swirl around the wonderfully photogenic faces of the three leads, without the need to signpost every detail in exposition. I’ve yet to see the Swedish original, but it seems the Irish helmer has taken a leaf out the European’s filmmaking book, rather thanfollow the Hollywood tradition of heavyhanded remakes that miss the point.

The One Line Review: There is nothing right about this film and no excuses either.

The Verdict: The Ls and Bs of Queer Diaspora were up in arms about the cloudy sexual identities, ‘lesbian sleeps with man’ cliché and cheating. Personally, I couldget past that, but I was outraged that such a heavyweight cast were wasted. Worse yet, I found the kids respectively obnoxious and tedious- both entirely unsympathetic. I have been hearing about this film for months, on the webs and by word of mouth and whilst there is a lot of debate about the nature of the portrayal of a long term lesbian relationship in the film, most people did say it was a good film with good performances.

I hated every minute of it. I like all of the stars and have really enjoyed other films they have been in, I quite like Lisa Cholodenko too, but everything about TKAAR made me cringe. All of the kissing and the sex just felt unseemly and unecessary, the endless Cali therapy-culture talk was awful too (to my British ears it sounded like satire, but they played it seriously.) I thought the scene where Annette Bening sings Joni Mitchell at the dinner table would never end- I would have hit fast forward but my hands were occupied trying to cover my eyes and ears.

I suppose the point of the film is worn on its sleeve: Whether despite, or because, of their parenting and parentage, the eponymous kids do eventually make the right choices. They have angst and nueroses and bad influences, but ultimately, they sort themselves out without significant outside influence. It seems that, though they may be flawed, the adults in their lives do have good intentions and subsequently, the kids are alright. But the way the point is made misfires.
I wish I could say something in favour of this film, it looked quite nice I suppose, but I hope I never see it again.

and seriously- what offical allows people to call their child Laser?

My One Line Review: This concept just can’t work as live action, it just doesn’t, despite a very respectable performance from Norton.

The Verdict: The Hulk is an iconic character and his story is universal in a way: It’s emblematic of everyone’s internal struggle with their demons. It’s a big shiny metaphor for the repression of civilised society and the innate brutality of men. It’s a cautionary tale about playing God and taking the bounds of medical science too fucking far [too late, cf.animal/human hybrid embryos.] It’s a love story riddled with classic anxieties about not being good enough for someone special, or scaring your partner away when they see the real you- Beauty and the Beast.

Norton’s Banner scenes are likeable, they riff off Hulk lore with reference to stretchy trousers and such, he struggles with his monster and is a winning mix of scientific and rugged. All good.

Banner: [Speaks Portuguese] Don’t make me…hungry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry

Local Cutthroat: Eh?

Then Bruce Hulks out and unconvincing CGI crashes in. It’s a lot better than the Ang Lee version but still. it just kills the suspension of disbelief. The grossly OTT cartoon villain is just silly too. Don’t insult my intelligence now Lois Letterier, whoever the fuck you may be.  We know, bioweapons are bad, the military needs to be better regulated. Thanks. Nuance is possible in our protagonist but the antagonist and supporting characters? Broad strokes please! The big green man will distract them.

As a comic, even as a cartoon, The Hulk is a powerful allegory, on celluloid? Just falls short.

My One Line Review: Utterly tragic, desolate expose of the legacy of abuse.

The Verdict: This is maybe saddest film I’ve ever seen. Certainly the most heartbreaking live action. It is probably on a par with When The Wind Blows and Grave of the Fireflies. I have read any number of reviews saying Mysterious Skin is too explicit, or exploitative or somehow condones child abuse. It is none of these things, it simply acknowledges that these horrors do happen, on our doorsteps, and asks what happens when those children grow up? The ones who aren’t suicides or breakdowns, the ones who go under the radar and just muddle through.

That is the true tragedy at the heart of this film, it isn’t just what happens to the saucer-eyed little boy, it’s that he knows what was done to him and others and that whether or not they ever acknowledge and confront it, it will never be okay. The controversy arises from Neil’s complicity in his abuse and that of others, but I think Araki is trying to show the depth of corruption that arises from systematic abuse. Neil’s subsequent lack of regard for his own safety, his utter detachment are the inescapable legacy of his childhood.

This is by no means a comfortable watch. I am not one for visceral response  and I’m certainly not given to crying at films, but I flinched and shied away and as the haunting melancholic strains of Sigur Ros scored the closing shot,  two broken young men unable to reconcile themselves to one moment in childhood, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s thousand yard stare, I welled up.

A powerful and terrible elegy that will stay with you for some time.