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The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Monday, 12 September 2011

More like the movies

A propos of nothing in particular, I've been watching a fair number of movies recently, catching up on stuff I somehow missed when  first released.  I try to follow the spirit of the advice  an old friend once gave me to the effect that  every now and again  one should go to see a play that the critics have rubbished simply because the critics aren't always right. Of course this works both ways and sometimes they rave about the most appalling old tosh. Joaana Hogg's Archipelago is a case in point. I thought it was tedious and pointless. Why would anyone want to watch what looked like  home movies of the banal  mumblings of a bunch of toffs on holiday? I certainly didn't and, having lost the will to live, I couldn't watch it to the end.
I had to take Bela Tarr's The Man from London over two nights and after barely surviving the first hour it was touch and go whether I would go back to it. On the whole I'm glad I did because for a movie in which very little is happening in front of your eyes - sometimes literally nothing - it kind of grows on you. The action is mainly psychological and after a while you succumb  to the mesmeric way in which the film is shot. 
The Bill Douglas Trilogy won't be to everybody's taste, but I thought it was superb. Douglas has the reputation of being a bit of a miserablist and he certainly had a lot to be miserable about. Even by the standards of the time his upbringing was harsh and at times brutal. You can't go through that sort of childhood without being damaged in some way. To turn those experiences into an autobiographical work  of cinematic poetry is little short of redemptive. I'm lost in admiration for the man even though he could be, by all accounts, an awkward cussed bugger. Great artists are allowed to be intolerant of things and people that get in the way of achieving their vision. I also enjoyed his feature film Comrades about the Tolpuddle Martyrs. It's a simple story, simply told from complex material and succeeds in narrating the human tragedy without the political preaching that comes from hindsight.
Other things I've enjoyed recently: Capote  (brilliant performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman); Of Time and the City (Terence Davies' love song to Liverpool); The Cement Garden (a very creepy rendition of Ian McKewan's early novel); Black Cat, White Cat (a hilarious Serbian gypsy comedy); 4 Months, 3 weeks, 2 days (grim but exceptionally well made Romanian film about illegal abortion); The Visitor (a tale about illegal immigrants in New York with superb ensemble acting from the 4 principal players).

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