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Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

Never Let Me Go (2010)

In based on novel, film, Recommendation, Review on 28/11/2011 at 12:21 pm

The story of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy is all but ordinary. Never Let Me Go, a film based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed 2005 novel by the same title, takes us back into the young lives of these three, somewhere in the rural England of the 1970s. As the story progresses it becomes clear that something is amiss. The build up and unravelling of the plot is quite subtly done – and I here attempt to give as little away as possible.

Delicate drama here achieves its tremendously difficult objective: to show what happens to people in a highly dystopian reality. Narrator Kathy (Carey Mulligan/young: Izzie Meikle-Small), her friends Ruth (Keira Knightley/ young: Ella Purnell) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield/ young: Charlie Rowe) grow up in an orphanage far from the real world and are fed nasty versions of reality in the outside world. Also, they are special; they are different. It is only towards the end of their story that the full, unabridged truth about them is revealed.

As I am already hopping around spoilers there is little more I can say about this beautiful film other than that it is moving and very well acted, by Mulligan in particular, who makes the most complex mixture of emotions surface effortlessly. The remainder of my praise goes to the writer who succeeded at making things seemingly impossible quite confrontationally realistic.

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Wuthering Heights (1993)

In Amazing, based on novel, Classic Story, film, period drama, Recommendation, Review, romantic, supernatural on 19/11/2011 at 6:41 pm

Emily Bronte’s famous and influential 1847 novel has been adapted for the screen a number of times and they’ve done it again recently. However, a very reliable source urgently warned me off this new attempt, so I’ll do the same for you and instead direct our attentions towards a worthy adaptation. This 1993 production is an absolutely amazing tribute to the masterful tale of Wuthering Heights. There are also very funky hairdos to admire (they failed to keep the 1990s out of the 1840s, it’s hilarious).

I couldn’t have thought up a better Heathcliff than the young Ralph Fiennes, and what a treat to see Juliette Binoche as Cathy! Heathcliff’s character is frightfully tricky because he is the object of Cathy’s desire as well as the antagonist in the sense that he is a very nasty person. Fiennes and his piercing blue eyes luckily possess the remarkable ability to play absolute bastards and still make you sympathise with them (although I wonder if he has the same effect on straight men, let me know?). Binoche plays both Catherine the mother and the daughter superbly, adding just that little extra charm with a hint of a French accent.

In my memory (I read this classic a very long time ago) Wuthering Heights was a somewhat tragic love story with something about a ghost. This great film revived the entire novel for me, bringing back to life how thrilling, original, dark and generally genius this tale is. It deserves to be read and watched many, many more times.

 

The Tempest (2010)

In Classic Story, film, Review, supernatural on 16/11/2011 at 11:58 pm

You basically want to watch this because Helen Mirren is brilliant as Prospera and you love Shakespeare. If you don’t like those two beautiful people, don’t bother.

This recent adaptation of the 400 year old story of the Duke of Milan – a sorcerer called Prospero – who has been exiled to a remote island with his daughter Miranda (Felicity Jones). Here, the Duke became Dutchess: Prospera, magnificently portrayed by Mirren. Her performance is honest, forceful and balanced, as William would have wanted it to be. Prospera makes a ship containing all her enemies strand on her shore by creating a tempest, thus intending to restore her daughter to her rightful place by marrying her to Ferdinand (Reeve Carney), the son of the King of Napels. Prospera is aided by the enslaved airy spirit Ariel, very charmingly and convincingly brought by Ben Wishaw. Though to my knowledge everyone agreed upon Ariel being male, he sometimes appears to be hermaphrodite.

The language has been for the greatest part left intact by writer and director Julie Taymor and it works well. But there are some reasons you might find certain parts of this production somewhat tiresome, and most of them will be related to Russell Brand as an annoying joker type called Trinculo whose Shakespearean abilities are questionable, Reeve Carney who is the soppiest prince Ferdinand in existence, and depending on your taste, Djimon Hounsou who does a savage slave Caliban that’s a wee bit over the top if you ask me. Also, the costumes are a bit too funky for their time. However well made and classically cut, that many zips combined with all the special effects make it look more like sci-fi than the early 17th century.

Big yes for Helen Mirren, Felicity Jones, Ben Wishaw and William Shakespeare. No to the rest of it.

 

The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)

In BBC, period drama, Recommendation, Review, series, war on 12/11/2011 at 6:04 pm

This girl from Amsterdam certainly lived on after her unfairly premature death, for much of what we know about what WWII was like for people in hiding in the Netherlands is determined by Anne’s diary. Her story of life in the secret Annex (famously known as Het Achterhuis in Dutch), has been dramatised quite a few times – and I believe this concise but beautifully made BBC miniseries is the best yet.

Indeed, Anne Frank wasn’t at all a pleasant teenage girl. She was self-centred (as many are at that age), spoiled and couldn’t keep a thought to herself. She was also smart, quite funny and a little too ambitious. Whether this interpretation is based on thorough research or the writer’s vivid imagination doesn’t matter much, because it makes this Anne (Ellie Kendrick) very real. Kendrick is a very talented young actress, and perfect for this part because she much resembles Anne Frank and isn’t (no offence intended) too pretty. All the other inhabitants of the Annex are superbly cast, amongst whom Felicity Jones as Anne’s ‘perfect’ big sister Margot, Lesley Sharp as the too extravagant and dominant Petronella van Dam and Tamsin Greig as the silently tormented mother Edith Frank.

Despite the issue of this series completely ignoring the famous chestnut tree that so inspired and soothed Anne from the attic window, it’s a gripping and absolutely very moving watch. I sobbed relentlessly at the end despite knowing what was going to happen – but I was ill at the time and it makes me very emotional. Do let me know if it had the same effect on you.

Worried about the Boy (2010)

In Amazing, BBC, film, LGTB, Recommendation, Review on 07/11/2011 at 10:52 pm

Boy George that is. This film grabs you by the delicates from beginning to end, taking you on a glam-ride through 1980s London with the very young and yet undiscovered George O’Dowd, pivoting round the drug related crisis period before the big breakthrough of Culture Club.

The make up and costumes are above stunningly well done and the dramatisation by writer Tony Basgallop certainly deserves credit. A lot went on in George’s life in very little time, it’s tough to pick out the bits to elaborate on and what to leave in the shadows. Rising star Douglas Booth does such a convincing job at being George (apart from being prettier) I have no doubt we will see much more of him shortly. There are some surprising appearances by Mark Gatiss as Sex Pistols manager Malcom McLaren and the young Freddie Fox as the ever so feminine Marilyn.

There isn’t much to love about the rough, shoulder-padded, Thatcherite London of the 1980s, but perhaps the movement started by George and his friends, known later as New Romantic, is one of the sparse lovable things of that era. They certainly brought colour – and not to forget androgyny – into night-life. Also, while Boy George has been notoriously vague about his sexuality, this film makes no secret of his being gay.

If this is the BBC making a habit of bringing us fantastic dramatisations of the lives of influential people, I’m all for it.

Here’s the bit where David Bowie visits the Blitz – the night club where George works in the cloakroom.

 

Heaven (2002)

In Amazing, Crime, film, Law, Recommendation, Review, romantic on 07/11/2011 at 11:25 am

Yet another reason to love Cate Blanchett. Heaven tells the story of Philippa, an English teacher set out to avenge her husband’s death of a drug overdose. The Italian drug baron she holds responsible must pay with his life. In Turin, all doesn’t go according to plan and we find a woman torn by grief, consumed by determination and led by love and a great sense of injustice.

From a story about fanaticism driven by personal loss, it takes a quite different turn when Philippa’s interpreter Filippo (Giovanni Ribisi) falls in love with her and decides to take charge of the situation.

Blanchett has been labelled ‘the Australian dramatic chameleon’ for her ability not only to tackle parts varying from Queen Elizabeth I to Bob Dylan, but also for capturing an astounding array of human emotions within a single scene. In Heaven she gives life to an immensely complex and terrifyingly human character – despite all its extremities. It makes Heaven an utterly gorgeous watch.

The trailer didn’t do much for me and contains rather many spoilers. Here’s a clip – also harbouring some spoilers- but then it’s such a good scene that I’m hoping you won’t mind. Lots of this in Italian. But I don’t speak Italian and I got every single word, so most of you should be fine without subs.

V for Vendetta (2005)

In Amazing, film, future, political, Recommendation, Review, romantic on 05/11/2011 at 6:03 pm

Remember remember the 5th of November, gunpowder treason and plot.

I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.

V for Vendetta is a gorgeous tale inspired by the Gunpowder plot – when a Catholic called Guy Fawkes plotted assassinate the king by blowing up the House of Lords in 1605. Fawkes’ plan was thwarted, and since that day Britain celebrates Guy Fawkes Night on 5 November by lighting bonfires and burning self-made Guy effigies (it is also said the word ‘guy’, meaning ‘oddly dressed male’ comes from this).

In V for Vendetta, the masked, knife throwing and poetic hero/terrorist/freedom fighter who calls himself V (Hugo Weaving) is the lone conspirator against a cruel, totalitarian British government. He comes to the rescue of Eve (Natalie Portman) who was cornered by ill-intentioned secret police ruffians called Fingermen, and thus Eve gets entangled in V’s plot against the terrible regime.

V’s cause is just, for who agrees with a government who subordinates its subjects like this one does? As the story unravels, it investigates the psychology of the masses (Why do people submit to oppression? When do they decide to stand up?) as well as the beliefs, motives and fears of the individual.  Meanwhile, V is one of the most hopelessly romantic as well as deeply tragic heroes and even Eve doesn’t ever get to see the face under the mask.

Great supporting roles are played by Stephen Fry as Eve’s colleague Dietrich, Stephen Rea as government baddie Finch and John Hurt as the embodiment of all evil: Chancellor Sutler. The dialogues in this film are especially stunning, and so is frankly everything else. A terribly entertaining good story, magnificently told.

 

 

Lilies (2007)

In Amazing, BBC, Giggles, period drama, Recommendation, Review, series, war on 02/11/2011 at 12:25 am

A gripping, moving, original and witty telling of the lives of three Catholic Liverpool sisters, Iris, May and Ruby, as they grapple their way through the first year after the Great War on the brink of poverty. Their ‘Dadda’ was widowed early and has a hilarious temper, their brother is being haunted for supposedly having been a coward. Ruby is an avid swimmer and she is cross with the boys coming back from the front for taking away her beloved job delivering the post.

This short BBC series (8 episodes) was much acclaimed but soon forgotten, which I think is a shame. After all, it isn’t often that a period drama is cheeky but not trashy, while it seeks out surprising topics taking unpredictable turns as well as deals with the pressing matters of the time (the rise of feminism, class divisions, inequality etc).

Especially recommended if you were disappointed by the latest series of Downton Abbey, which turned into a soap for lack of depth.

Here’s the first ten minutes of  Episode One.