Tag Archives: Film

1234, a reflection

So much to say about 1234, but where to start? The soundtrack was immense and guitar led as fitting for an Indie tribute of a movie. Giles Borg’s first feature film is a veritable trove of indie music with each short scene preceded by a title track of a classic song such as ‘c is the heavenly option‘.

Short little fragments of scenes followed each other in the exploration of a band’s aspiration, union and evolution. The story was sweet and character based, the pauses were a fitting accompaniment to the sound filled-gigs and I mostly enjoyed watching Stevie, the main character, and his expressive appearance. He was the loveliest thing about the movie and was also there at the Q&A afterwards (sans the glasses unfortunately). The sound was basic on purpose, as the cast members Ian Bonar (Atonement, Starter for Ten) and Mathew Baynton (Gavin & Stacey) told the audience at the Watershed.

1234 is about the musical aspirations of Stevie and his pursuit to form a band. With a demo in hand the band go through the process of trying to find a record deal and getting out into the music scene. Jobs at a call centre are endured and play out with a familiarity that is not unlike the BBC show The Office and probably real life as well.

There was such a music-infused feel to the movie that at times I was in gig-mode, sinking back into the seat and just enjoying the sound. One audience member was so convinced that it was a real band, that he commended the actors for their musical abilities and suggested they try X-Factor and Fame Academy.

The Watershed screening was part of New British Cinema Quarterly which is a brand new programme of distinctive and original films from British filmmakers. Selected from the UK’s major film festivals, a new film will be screened each quarter and accompanied by a Q&A from the filmmakers involved.

1234 was the first film and there will be another screening in April with a similar format of presentation.

Watershed, Work1 Canon’s Road,Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 5TX United Kingdom, info@watershed.co.uk, +44 (0)117 927 5100

MicMacs, a reflection

Half-way through MicMacs I wanted to walk out of the cinema and by the time the credits rolled, I wished I had. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. The movie was pretty and was beautifully done, the characters were probably interesting but there was no overarching theme to keep them all together.

Danny Boon plays Bazil, our hero for the duration of the film. A land mine killed his father and a stray bullet, lodged in his brain, could cause him sudden death. No surprise perhaps that the protagonist feels much animosity towards the two responsible ammunition companies although I would have been angrier at the people that caused the situation. Bazil is out for revenge and after being rendered homeless by the errant bullet he is adopted by a fun filled motley crew. The second-hand dealers have diverse talents and motivations as exemplified by their names: Remington, Calculator, Buster, Slammer, Elastic Girl, Tiny Pete and Mama Chow.

I found it hard to engage with the movie or the characters’ pursuit. I had little invested in the outcome of their journey and the storyline appeared to provide a weak pretense of a purpose but ultimately was just a weak excuse for getting the people on stage to perform various antics. Few of the antics added to the storyline and little of it was enough to engage me with cliché following cliché and much stolen from other movies.

There’s a scene where a police officer in the airport imitates Robert De Niro’s ‘you talking to me’ moment from Taxi Driver and the reference to American humour is swiftly followed by a caricatured performance, by the ethnographer, that mimicked Eddie Murphy’s scene from Trading Places.

Ethnographers try to get ‘inside’ social worlds and see them ‘through the eyes’ of research subjects in order to understand and explain them in all their richness, complexity and specificity. It’s a fascinating research role to take on but in this movie the ethnographer had no purpose other than to say funny lines and even those were a laughable caricature. Some of the jokes were phonetic ones ‘Rambo’ not Rimbaud’ etc. which may have failed to work well because of the subtitles and I didn’t find them funny.

The film itself looked beautiful and there was one scene where Danny goes foraging for neglected items that was filmed at road level. The next shot is filmed from high above and looking down at him in a dumpster. The scene looked good although I wonder how it aided the story if I was detached enough to notice it rather than be carried away by what it was meant to convey.

Being made to look upwards in a movie is supposed to inspire amazement, a sense of grandness, awe. You watch and feel amazement – you don’t watch and notice that you’re looking up.

The two empires reign, facing each other in opposition (literally – one building on each side of the road), is a theme that runs all the way from Romeo and Juliet’s feuding families to the tedious Lucky Number Slevin. MicMacs had more in common with the latter. There was none of the purpose, the striving, the attachment that I felt with Amelie. I just couldn’t identify with the main character and it may well have been due to the actor who failed to engage me in his journey.

The biggest remnant of the movie was a sense of a stolen hi-jinks from American comedies and sitcoms. I’d give it 3 out of 5.

I saw MicMacs at the Watershed on its last screening 11 March 2010. +44 (0)117 927 5100, Watershed, Work1 Canon’s Road,Harbourside,
Bristol, BS1 5TX United Kingdom, info@watershed.co.uk

Brothers, a reflection

Valentines Day just passed by and there were love hearts in shop windows, flowers, beautifully packaged chocolates on offer along with many other promotions. That was under a week ago and love was meant to be all around and celebrated by sparkly eyed romantics. Love as the blue eyes smiling from the pillow next to yours, and back from the mirror when you brush past in ordinary intimate moments. The romance part as best captured by films like Love Actually and Valentine’s Day, perhaps.

Brothers was promoted as a woman torn between two men but in fact was an in depth look at all the love in your life that can break your heart even more than the blue eyes not smiling back.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire are the aforementioned brothers, Tommy and Sam, in director Jim Sheridan’s remake of a 2004 Danish film of the same name. The first, is a sloppy, drunk, careless, criminal who attempts to get his life back together. The other is an upstanding, moral, brave, courageous Captain in the US Marines with two little girls and a beautiful wife. The lack of approval and the overt contempt flow constantly towards Jake and the lifelong pattern of their lives isn’t hard to realise.

The ebb and flow of love between the brothers is mirrored by Sam’s two little girls with one remarking that everyone loves Meg (her sister) because she is lovable. What can you say to that and what characteristics make you unlovable? The story sets about to explore this in a complex interweaving of personal relationships and histories which culminate to the point where we start to watch.

One brother rejoins the family as he leaves prison and the other leaves the family to go to war. The filming is flawless and the story unravels so easily that you could be stepping into someone’s home rather than deciphering the lives of fictional characters.

In fact we do step into their home, with the story taking place between the house of Sam and his family, the empty shell of Tommy’s motel room and Afghanistan which Sam also calls home.

I cried throughout although there was little manipulative tugging of the heartstrings. Much of it was an understated glance at people getting on with their lives. The sad part was watching it happen to someone held prisoner and tortured or while watching a woman grieve over the death of her husband. The movie was split between the two brothers and the ease and ordinariness of getting things back on track on one side was balanced with the tense intensity of Sam’s attempt to just hang on and survive.

I thought the movie was gripping but it did feel a bit rushed and Americanised towards the end. Layers of love and reality were touched on and traced throughout the 105 minutes and it seemed to be about all the days that follow the initial mesmerising glances. The theme was more about perseverance than enthusiasm and celebration but then so is love, isn’t it?

Girls on film

As mentioned in Saturday’s Guardian, a touring festival dedicated to contemporary Japanese films about women is making its way around the UK. After Sheffield, Belfast, London and Edinburgh it also makes its way to Bristol.

The Japan Foundation’s 2010 touring film programme looks at contemporary Japanese cinema made about and, in some cases, by women. Touring to five venues during February and March, the programme is composed of works from the past few years and showcases how Japanese contemporary filmmakers, from the very established, such as the late Jun Ichikawa, to young and promising filmmakers, like Satoko Yokohama, approach the issues facing women and adolescents. This season also includes works by female directors, reflecting the exciting trend of a marked increase in the number of female directors working in the Japanese film industry. This is a unique collection of films not to be missed!

The Japan Foundation

In Bristol, the Arnolfini will screen the six movies from 13 to 21 March and they are as follows:

  • Kamome Diner (2006)
  • ASYLE (2007)
  • Fourteen (2007)
  • German plus Rain (2007)
  • How to Become Myself (2007)
  • Non-Ko (2008)

The festival still requires some evaluators in Belfast, Edinburgh and Bristol. In exchange for a complimentary ticket, you will need to attend two screenings and answer an extended questionnaire giving your opinions on the season and films you have seen. If you are interested in acting as an evaluator, please email info@jpf.org.uk, telling them your full name and which is your closest venue.

For more details see the Arnolfini closer to the date and The Japan Foundation.