Monthly Archives: October 2012

Skyfall by Sam Mendes (2012)

Skyfall

Skyfall

As Peter Bradshaw has neatly put it in his review of the newest James Bond film for The Guardian – this is the blond-on-blond Bond. Both the villain (amazingly portrayed by Javier Bardem) and the 007 are fair haired.

James Bond embodied one more time by the square shaped Daniel Craig is a tough guy with elements of self-irony, which has been one of the main traits of Craig’s great predecessors . I love the scene when he is being brought on a boat to the casino in Macau and his bow-tie is unevenly tied. I read this as means of reflecting his rebellious character – same as in Casino Royale where we saw the shaping of his personality with the help of Judi Dench’s “M.”.  Dame Judi Dench has been with the series for so long it will be a massive change to future films but we see her leave.

Craig’s Bond is not predominantly a gentleman. He is predominantly a tough guy with a gun who can tell an occasional joke. He is an intense agent licensed to kill with few remainders of humanity in him. This Bond is down-to-earth physical and much less intellectual (see the elevator scene in Shanghai), with tons of passion and sense of duty in him. In a way he has also become a robot (that can be explained by the cruel Vesper from Casino Royale) which is not only visible in the way he fights but also in his love moves. Disturbing, shaken not stirred.

Javier Bardem as Silva is a perfect villain this time perhaps more than ever an antagonist so close to Bond, to who he is, to who he might become any minute. The first scene where Silva appears is a magnetic demonstration of power which is not brutal at all and yet intensely hypnotic. Some of Bardem’s face expressions and body language bring to mind the late Heath Ledger’s energy from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. The innuendos of that scene are bringing the audiences to tears of laughter.

The opening sequence is introduced quite late after the actual beginning of the film – so late that it actually comes as a surprise. But it works great and the opening titles tie in well with Adele’s co-written and performed song Skyfall we all heard on the radio so many times already. Bond is killed in action before the opening credits so for us Bond experienced viewers we know what we’re dealing with. Again he will come back to life and again he will embrace the evil side. His audience knows his tricks and this Bond film is a magic combination of old with the new. As his fellow agent says at one point Bond is an ‘old dog with new tricks’. And ‘old’ is the adjective permeated throughout the whole story multiple times. Because he feels old or is perceived by others as too old. It is true as others have pointed out – this is a film about Bond (and so was Casino Royale in my opinion). A very successful one at that.

I love how thanks to an unexpected twist we are taken back to the classic old Bonds with Miss Moneypenny heading M’s lair (i.e. office).

I love how London has no tourists, no cyclists in the streets and how nobody gets stuck in its normal daily traffic. London is made up to look more like in the good old days.

It’s a great story that looks good, feels good and does not fail the James Bond fan base.

Thank you Sam Mendes for this challenge that you have decided to take. Skyfall is funny, fast and phenomenally close to the classic Bond films in the spirit of Ian Fleming’s novels.

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Never Let Me Go by Mark Romanek (2010)

(spoiler alert)

A successfully conveyed adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel.

The book was considerably alarming in its concept, whereas the film has been made to a little milder version of being seriously disturbing. The story will be revealed below so please do not read if you hate spoilers.

The concept is known to those who had read the book. Clones bred to become vital organs donors who usually do not survive their third donation. Ethical or moral questions are set aside as nobody in the national organ programme seems to care that the clones actually have souls.

Hailsham is a peculiar place on the map as children clones are being educated there just as at any public (=private) school in England. They do sports, they learn art, literature and geography. Hailsham is an experiment led by some idealists who wanted to question the ethics of transplants from bred humans.

The story centers around 3 main characters – classmates watched from early childhood through to final stages of their lives.

Andrew Garfield turned out to be a disappointment for me. I haven’t seen him in Spiderman, but after the Social Network and Never Let Me Go, I concluded he cannot act (and neither can Keira Knightley, but that has been established long ago). Carey Mulligan, however, delivers  a convincing tragic role and has created a convincing character.

This is a film that brings cold thrills to your spine as you sympathise with the donors and as you recognise they have no way of escaping their fate. They cannot just refuse or even postpone their deadly donations. They wear the electronic bracelets and not even a thought is cast as to perhaps ridding of that and tasting freedom.

Great film based on a sick but not that unreasonable or out of touch concept.

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Filed under Catching Up, Warsaw Film Festival 2010

Global Home by Eva Stotz (2012) #rdff

I love a good documentary, I love travelling and I love German cinema. I used to Couchsurf and I had an opportunity of watching this film with a visiting Couchsurfer sitting next to me. Perfect conditions for a documentary about the phenomenon of Couchsurfing one would say.

Unfortunately for the film makers of Global Home, both myself and my friend have a sense for film. I write and critique, my friend composes music and soundtrack.

Usually the above paragraph would never have made it to the review. But this seems necessary this time given we did not manage to watch this film. My friend fell asleep 15 minutes into it, whereas I gave it a full 40 minutes and gave up.

I always give a film 20 minutes and then decide if I will watch it in full or leave the cinema/switch it off. I was full of hopes for this one and gave it 40 minutes. As an exception. Because of the topic, because I love documentaries, because I love German cinema.

The good sides of this film are: topic (it’s about Couchsurfing!), cinematography (nice colouring, lighting).

The rest is hard to describe.

The unbearable voiceover motioned in the style of a 3-year old recounting a holiday to their 90-year old grandma. Surely this is not a film intended for Couchsurfers. Although the idea sounds entertaining at first, although the characters selected for interviews are great personalities – this film is unwatchable and insanely boring. It is  long paced, has no atmosphere I expected it to have and although it is against my general rule to overly criticise a piece of work such as this, which required effort, funding and certainly a lot of planning, I cannot begin to describe how much this one is a failure on all fronts. Stay away! Save your time, respect yourselves.

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Dans la maison (2012) by Francois Ozon #LFF

 

Complicated story of a relationship between a master and an apprentice, a teacher and a pupil.

This is an adaptation of a play, yet the way Ozon transformed it onto the big screen does not give that feeling. The voiceover which I usually strongly oppose – here works perfectly and I even did not realise it was there – as it blended so smoothly into the narrative, into the story, into the film.

Emmanuelle Seigner as Esther is the perfect middle class woman, fascinating a 16-year old Claude. As a crude experiment he lets himself into her house by trickily making friends with classmate Rapha, who appears to be Esther’s son.

Claude also teams up with his literature teacher who, spotting a rare talent, becomes an unlikely ally to Claude’s excursions. Mr. Germain is married to Jeanne (Kristin Scott-Thomas) and the duo become avid readers of the story that Claude unveils in front of them inch by inch. Every episode (submitted in the disguise of homework) is finished by the ‘to be continued’ term.

Magically all the characters get entangled into what soon becomes a very blurred mix of fiction and reality.

As Germain teaches Claude the basics of storytelling, it is Claude who will soon take over the baton and teach his professor a lesson he will never forget.

Ernst Umhauer (Claude) has the magnetism of an Adonis, with an inconceivable amount of innocence. It is immensly hard to depict Claude as the evil puppet-master.

What opens up as a light comedy turns out not so light towards the end.

Great costumes, interior design, amazing dialogues – brisk and canny, impeccable acting and as always fantastic entertainment with a grain of salt.

It’s a story about crossing the lines and seeing what’s on the other side. It’s a story about exceeding the limits that would normally not be reached. It is a valid lesson for those who write and do not hesitate to source their inspirations from real life people. Sometimes it is simply safer to rely on imagination. For both sides.

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Love Tomorrow by Christopher Payne (2010) #rdff

Winner of the UK Feature section at Raindance 2012.

This is yet another ballet themed film at Raindance. Two dancers meet at the tube escalators and what seems to be a reactivation of a previous acquaintance, it turns out they had never met before. They spend the night together – in the Linklater’s sense of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset – walking around London, talking, or not, sometimes dancing, drinking, exploring the outside world through each other’s eyes.

Supposedly it is a non-mainstream love story. Supposedly it is a fake love story without a happy ending. Supposedly it is a warm tale making us believe in humans again.

It is nicely photographed, craftily lit and London always looks stunning in October, the duo surely knows how to dance.  I liked the costumes.

Would a ballet dancer riding a bike to the audition throw in two bricks into his backpack? Just a thought.

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StringCaesar by Paul Schoolman (2010) #rdff

Where the depth of this project begins and ends is incredibly hard to establish. Schoolman has achieved results that cannot be compared to anything done in the resocialization of prison history.
Schoolman entered three prisons as distant as South Africa, Canada and the UK. There, he worked with the inmates on recreating the life of Julius Caesar between the ages of 14 and 33.

The project is fascinating not only because of how it has been created but also with the merit it delivers.
There are a few actors (only 10% of the whole cast) such as Derek Jacobi, Alice Krige and the main Warren Adler playing Caesar. But the main corps cosists of prisoners.

The fascinating story changed the lives of the inmates and apparently noone before did drama workshops in prisons.

All in all the film should be admired for not only the idea of making it in prison, but also for the story that Schoolman took on board. This is not Shakespeare’s Caesar. This is Caesar as presented in historical sources. The dialogues, the songs, the majority of the text has been created by the inmates involved in the project.
The result is stunning for its theatricality – remember prison has a very limited amount of space, for its drama, for the involvement of all who took part.
Amazing, incredible watch delivering a proper old Greek classic catharsis for the viewer. A must see.

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Culture Shock by Steve Balderson (2012) #rdff

Lightweight comedy bringing to mind Scooby Doo group of teenage friends solving criminal mysteries.

Four twenty-something Americans are forced by their parents to visit Europe ‘as adults’. That means they have to deal with issues by themselves rather than ring parents for help, who refuse to pick up their calls.

Realised in a true indie spirit – most of the film was shot on a handheld digital camera. A list of thankyous is quite long – mainly to locations. Apparently the cost of the film did not exceed £3000. And yet, it is a nice dose of entertainment.

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Ballroom Dancer by Christian Bonke, Andreas Koefoed (2011) #rdff

How often does a documentary watch like a love story? Not that often in my experience.

This is a love story.

Camera follows Slavik – a Russian ballroom dancer, who works on returning back to fame, back to the good old days when he was the World Champion. He starts anew with new young partner and competes against his old flame, who kept the title – winning with her new partner.

This film is so amazingly photographed and scored, that only for those two elements it is worth a watch. And on top of that you have a great true story of one man fighting for his career, his love, his life. Amazing film.

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Percival’s Big Night by William Sullivan (2011) #rdff

One room, one continous take, four characters, three bags of ‘herb’.

Salvatore (Sal) is an ‘herbal enterpreneur’ – i.e. NOT a drug dealer.

His flatmate named Percival (Percy) is a struggling actor.

The two behave like an old married couple – but it becomes obvious that just like a married couple they couldn’t live one without the other.

What do they talk about? Girls, life, future. Then – when the girls arrive, they split into twos, however, whoever leaves the room is not followed. Just like in theatre, just like on stage.

I like such confined setups. It allows to focus the whole attention on what is being said rather than what happens. In a way this is a social analysis of contemporary 20-year olds and their lives, their hopes, their plans.

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Flor de fango by Guillermo González (2011) #rdff

This is a Mexican drama. It tells the story of a hopeless case of middle-aged Augusto, who is a teacher, husband to beautiful Ruth and falls for a destructive passion for a 13-year old sort of adopted daughter of his.

The tragic journey to catch the escaping dove (or maybe in Mexico it is more like a seagull) should teach him a lesson. Yet he never learns and carries on through neckbreaking quest. The trip he undertakes is less geographical and more existential. There is a very high ladder he falls down from.

Perhaps this is a portrayal of contemporary Mexico and how thin the border is between the rich and the poorest. Perhaps this is a tale showing how relatively simple it is to switch from a fairly comfortable life to a life in the gutter.

All in all, perhaps the strongest side of this film is the costume, the colour, the music and the illusive beauty of the girl, who seems so innocent.

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