20 July 2009

The herring

The herring is a fantastic film. I give it 9/10.

Jolly gosh.

03 July 2006

La Haine (1995)

Originally inspired by the real-life shooting of a Zairean teenager in police custody in 1993, this film portrays a single day in the life of three young friends from a low-income housing estate on the outskirts of Paris. It's far from an average day for Jewish Vinz, Arab Saïd and black African Hubert, a friend has been beaten to coma in custody while their estate has been rioting.
The trio try to maintain their ducking and diving lifestyle while dodging various dangers the most aggressive being the local police. The tension mounts as the day continues, not helped by a brutal police interrogation for Vinz and Saïd, during which a gendarme explains to a colleague the most effective way to administer a beating, nor by Vinz revealing he's found a police revolver lost during the previous night's riot.
Despite their testing existence the film almost draws towards a happy ending which is then twisted back into cruel reality in the last sad minute.
"La Haine" is an incredible piece of work which has a filmic total far greater than the sum of it's parts. Firstly it's a cracking portrayal of the contemporary France which minorities and the poor find themselves subject to. It's stylishly shot in grainy black and white, with a mix of highly mobile and static cinematography and is perfectly paced. The intense action scenes are short and shaky and those of urban boredom slow and long.
Partly funded by a community arts grant it's unlike any similarily funded film from any other European state. Similarily it was a big success, selling half a million tickets in it's first six weeks of release and even bringing the French Cabinet to arrange a hurried viewing because it created such an incredible domestic political furore.
It also set the three actors and the director on to healthy careers, Vinz was played by a relatively unknown Vincent Cassel who has since become the most famous; Saïd Taghmaoui and Hubert Koundé have also enjoyed many roles since; and the director and writer Mathieu Kassovitz (who also played one of the Front National skinheads) has gone on to most recently direct "Gothika" and star in "Munich".
Finally it had a brief but positive effect on what had become a slightly stale French film industry. It rejected the two most powerful trends; "heritage" films -`le cinéma du patrimoine' such as "Cyrano de Bergerac" which specialise in a tasteful Disneyfication to delight the older more middle-classed viewer; and `le cinéma du look' like "Nikita" based on advertisements and MTV videos aimed at younger escapist viewers. "La Haine" uniquely dared to bring modern and very real problems and tensions to the big screen.
"La Haine" is available on DVD in a number of editions and is rated 15.

"M" (1931)

It's unusual for a seventy-five year old film to maintain any vitality but Fritz Lang's "M" manages just that. Co-written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou this tale of a serial child murderer stalking city streets undetected offers a highly watchable film without basking in the sordid theme. Rather it holds relevance to modern viewers, but more thoughtfully than anything you're likely to see, read or hear now.
The lead was Peter Lorre's first role, masterfully played with the natural creepiness which he became so famous for. Every moment he's on screen is a delight with his expressive acting owing more to silent pictures but gently blessed with the addition of sound.
The other acting is high quality, the photography superb; murders are only hinted at with simple visual metaphors, such as lunch set at table but lacking child, while the style is pure noir.
When released it was highly influencial, partly because it was one of Germany's first films with sound but also because German film enjoyed a great reputation between the wars similar to that enjoyed by modern French cinema today.
Hitler's rise to power and the decimation of the creative industries led to both Lang and Lorre moving abroad, a wise move considering images from "M" appeared in the Nazi propaganda film "Der Ewige Jude" (The Eternal Jew) as an example of the contortion of "the normal sense of Justice".
I've avoided giving away the twists and turns of plot because my meagre words can't match the celluloid tale, and it's far too good to spoil. "M" has been restored by Eureka, is available on DVD and is rated PG.

12 June 2006

"Stoned" : Stephen Wooley: 2005

Last nights DVD: a bio-pic based on the last weeks of Brian Jones, original Rolling Stones life.

Enjoyed this a lot. Thought Leo Gregory's lead role was excellent. A cast of lookalike actors and the use of mixed film stock to help capture the era all work to good effect. Certainly not a typical Rock Bio-pic thankfully !

Official Film Website

05 January 2006

King Kong 2005

King Kong (2005)

Peter Jackson can do no wrong if you are to believe the slavish following he has amongst the cinema going public and the hordes of film magazines out at the moment.

He single handedly managed to allay the fears of the Lord of The Rings fans worldwide and at the same time broke box office records and walked home with more than a fistful of awards including several Oscars for his triumphant interpretation of the trilogy.

When it was announced several years ago that his next project was a remake of the classic King Kong you could feel the excitement building. Jackson had always wanted to remake the film that turned him onto films and eventually film making. It was always a project close to his heart and with the momentum of the rings behind him and a huge budget and studio backing it was obvious his dreams could be realised.

So what we have here was certainly the necessary elements to make a huge popcorn blockbusting movie-and has he succeeded?

Well yes and no is the answer to that one. Certainly KK works effectively on many levels. It has the big budget feel to it-but certainly lacks in other areas.

Its pace seems slightly odd with Jackson deliberately attempting to build the excitement with a long slow drawn out first hour which he does by padding out some of the characters in the movie-I found this totally unnecessary. What we have here is a movie where the hero is the monkey. Everything else plays second fiddle-and to pad out a lot of the characters many of which die seems a pointless exercise and one that doesn’t add a great deal to the film except give the film goer a sore arse.

By the time the extended Skull Island section arrives I felt my attention was starting to wane somewhat.

At this point however Jackson really flexes his muscles. The characters come face to face with the natives in what can only be described as a very scary and bloody sequence that seems to have come straight from the cutting room floor of LOTR-the passing resemblance to the Orcs certainly didn’t go unnoticed. From this point on the action becomes relentless-infact too relentless.

The slow initial pacing is completely thrown out of the window and we’re bombarded with CGI effect after CGI effect (some of which is slightly rough around the edges) with lots of death, screaming and close up shots of KK. After the first glimpse of KK-and when the amazement of the facial expressions along with other CGI effects had sunk in-once again I felt somewhat bored.

Herein lies the weakness. I just didn’t feel engaged enough with the movie-certainly not enough to warrant a 3hour and 15 minute sitting.

By the time the final sequence arrives (by far the best in terms of FX) I was wanting it to end. Just as I was waiting for the boat to sink in Titanic-the ape falling off the Empire State Building couldn’t have come quick enough.

Certainly the performances of the leads are excellent (particularly Jack Black)-the cinematography is breathtaking but that is of no consequence-what we have here is an exercise in blockbusting action with a CGI hammer wrapped around ones head several times.

If this is your cup of tea KK will certainly float your boat. Behind it all though is a flawed remake which doesn’t even match the original but beats the 70s remake well into second place (which lets face it that isn’t too hard).

Maybe if Jackson had trimmed off the excessive fat on the movie (by at least an hour) we would’ve had a more satisfying and lean rollercoaster of a ride action movie.