Films

Risttuules (In the Crosswind)

What an amazing film! Certainly the most interesting and original new film I’d seen in a very long time. Anyone who’s read a few of my comments on films will probably have come across frequent complaints that a film is ‘just straightforward story-telling’, and doesn’t make use of the great potential offered by the medium of film with all its unique possibilities. Well, that definitely can’t be said of Risttuules, which makes full use of the medium and does things which couldn’t have been done using any other. (more…)

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Big Eyes

As usual when P. suggests going to see a film, I’d looked at a few reviews beforehand to decide whether I was interested. In this case what I’d read hadn’t made me super-enthusiastic, but Tim Burton’s latest film Big Eyes turned out (for once) to be better than expected. The film had received a fair bit of praise, especially for Amy Adams’ performance, but also a lot of criticism, most of which was centred on two aspects. The first of these was that it wasn’t sufficiently political, and that the sexism of 1950s America and the domestic abuse and denigration suffered by the main character didn’t receive enough attention and weren’t taken seriously. (more…)

The Imitation Game

I’d been looking forward to seeing The Imitation Game, mainly because its subject, Alan Turing, was such an interesting character. Brilliant and influential enough to be a household name but practically unknown until a few years ago outside of gay and computing circles, he was an eccentric who had an interesting life and came to a tragic end, and a war hero who was hounded and persecuted by the very society he’d worked so hard to save. Just like The Theory of Everything, which we’d seen a few days previously, this film told the amazing story of a very special person, and again with an outstanding performance, this time by Benedict Cumberbatch. Unfortunately, while I’d described that film as “far too ‘Hollywood’ for my liking”, this one went even further in that direction. Rather than any sort of attempt at a serious biography this was more of a ‘war film’ with a code-breaking theme and a bit of ‘spy film’ thrown in, an exciting adventure with lots of emotion and obviously designed more to entertain than to educate or inform. OK, the story of the breaking of the Enigma code is indeed an exciting one, but there were too many things here which were just too good to be true. I left the cinema wondering just how accurate the film was, and also surprised that Turing was seemingly such an extreme, asocial character who was so difficult to work with. (more…)

The Riot Club

My initial feeling about this film wasn’t positive, and in a certain way that didn’t surprise me. After all, if you go to see a film which you know is about horrible people, then you shouldn’t be too surprised if you end up seeing a horrible film. On the other hand, a film about Nazis, computer virus makers or even people who cough during classical concerts can be an excellent film if it’s well made, well acted and has something interesting to say about its subject. Unfortunately this film didn’t quite fall into that category… (more…)

The Theory of Everything

I wasn’t super-enthusiastic about this film beforehand, and probably wouldn’t have wanted to see it at all were it not for the fact that I’d read A Briefer History of Time a few years ago and have always had a great respect for Stephen Hawking. Not that having an interesting person as its subject matter necessarily makes for an interesting film, but this one had got good reviews so I decided to give it a try. (more…)

’71

Very well made and with some excellent acting, Yann Demange’s ’71 really manages to recreate the atmosphere of the early seventies, and I found it exciting from start to finish. Most of the film also seemed very realistic, and the brilliantly shot riot scene at the beginning does a wonderful job of showing how it must have felt for young, inexperienced soldiers who’d had no training in police work or crowd control to be heavily outnumbered by an enraged and violent mob. The soldiers are the ones with the guns, but they’re soon running for their lives. Even though officially they haven’t even left the country, they find themselves in a totally alien world, a point which is effectively illustrated when a kid asks Gary, the main character, whether he’s a Catholic or a Protestant. He says he doesn’t really know, as he wasn’t really brought up to follow any religion, and the kid looks at him as if he’s mad: how can anyone not know such an important, life-defining fact about themselves? (more…)

Werckmeister harmóniák (Werckmeister Harmonies)

I’d been looking forward to seeing this film for ages, in fact ever since watching Damnation and The Man From London, and I wasn’t disappointed: this was yet another Béla Tarr masterpiece, in his usual inimitable style.

In actual fact this film was slightly more ‘normal’ in style than those others. Although there were very long shots in which very little happened, they weren’t nearly as extreme as what I’ve come to expect from this director. But that’s not to say it was a fast-moving film; everything is relative! For the rest it was very similar to the others: brilliant black and white photography, an excellent score, and an atmosphere which words can’t describe. (more…)

Amour

Ever since I saw Benny’s Video back in 1993 I’ve been a big fan of Michael Haneke. No matter what subject he deals with, he always manages to portray it with a quite amazing degree of realism. This is partly due to his style of filmmaking – long shots with little camera movement, few close-ups and very little music – and partly due to the realistic scripts and the excellent performances he manages to get from his actors, which always emphasise everyday realism at the expense of dramatic effect. His style is often referred to as ‘clinical’, but the result is something approaching a picture of life as it really is. With his films, more than with those of any other director, it’s easy to forget you’re just watching actors performing a script, and you can’t help getting the very uncomfortable feeling that whatever is happening to the people on the screen (generally nothing very pleasant) could just as easily happen to you. This was as true of Amour as it was of Benny’s Video, Le temps du Loup or Funny Games, and in this case the realism benefited further from the truly amazing performances of Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, who are totally convincing as a couple who’ve been together for most of their lives. Every other aspect of the story was handled with equal realism, and Isabelle Huppert was also brilliant as their daughter. (more…)

Phoenix

The only thing I knew about this film before seeing it was that it involved a woman who returns to Germany from a concentration camp at the end of the war, and that it was directed by Christian Petzold and starred Nina Hoss, the same people who were responsible for that excellent film Barbara which we’d seen a couple of years ago. I’d read nothing at all about it beforehand, and neither had I seen any trailers. Not that I often watch trailers anyway, as in my experience they tend to be totally unrepresentative of the films they’re supposed to be promoting, making them look much better or (more often) much worse than they actually are. It doesn’t often happen that I see a film with so little foreknowledge or expectations, but in this case I certainly wasn’t disappointed. (more…)

I nostri ragazzi (The Dinner)

Before seeing Ivano De Matteo’s I nostri ragazzi I’d read that it was based on the best-selling novel Het diner by Herman Koch (2009), which was inspired by actual events which had occurred in Barcelona in 2005 and had already been turned into a film by Menno Meyjes in 2013. I’d forgotten all about that, however, and as I watched I kept being reminded of Michael Haneke’s film Benny’s Video (1992). There was the obvious thematic similarity, for a start. Well-off kids from ‘good’ homes who have everything going for them but commit a horrible crime, and parents who find themselves confronted with a difficult decision: arrange a cover-up and partake of the crime themselves, or risk seeing their children’s lives ruined by one mistake. And it surely can’t be a coincidence that one of the children, Benedetta, was known mostly by her nickname Benny. Well, maybe it was Benni or Bennie, but they all sound the same. (more…)