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Tag Archives: comedy

Force Majeure

Force Maeure film posterSynopsis

Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhnke ) is on a skiing holiday with his wife Ebba and the two kids.  Avalanches are controlled through detonation and one seems to be heading towards them.  Tomas grabs his Iphone and runs away leaving Ebba to look after the kids.  The avalanche leaves only a harmless mist of snow which does not reach them.  He returns to his family.  He must deal with his cowardice.

Review

This film is an unrelenting gaze at our failure to live up to the painfully flattering image we like to make of ourselves.  This is an affluent middle class family, the couple are good looking and enjoy all the status advantages, but this is undone in a moment of cowardice.  The middle class family starts to fall apart.  Ebba and the kids reproach Tomas who initially can’t be honest about running away.  He justifies himself by arguing that actions can be interpreted in different ways.  The evidence of the Iphone is irrefutable and his loss of face before his wife and friends is sadistically drawn out.  His friend Mats makes excuses for him “You were safe so you could dig them out?”.  The more he tries to excuse Tomas, the more embarrassing it becomes because all this painful justification convinces no-one.  Tomos then turns the event into a sort of family therapy session, absurdly claiming victimhood in order to win his wife’s sympathy.  He wants absolution and bizarrely seems to arrange a skiing accident which will flatter his male ego.  The desolation of the snowy landscape is good background for stripped down emotions, accentuating the transience of the affluent smugness that intrudes on it.  The wheezing machinery in the snow looks like a spidery cage opening on freezing death.  Grim.

 

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Wild Tales

Wild Tales film posterSynopsis

A collection of stories – Pasternak, Rats, Road to Hell, Dynamite, The Bill, Till Death Do Us Part – about revenge.  Set in Argentina.

Review

These stories are like a mixture of The Twilight Zone, and Bunuel with The Three Stooges.  The first story is appallingly topical after the Alpine plane crash, so its release is unfortunate.  Another story concerns the casual murder of a loathsome man.  Another is like Spielberg’s Duel, only this time the protagonists are snarling face to face.  The next starts with the buying of a birthday cake and ends up as a black comedy aimed at obstructive bureaucracy working a scam.  Then there is a story about a road death and how the rich and powerful can avoid the consequences of their misdeeds.  Another is about hilarious grounds for divorce, even before the couple dishes out the wedding cake.  There is a very jaded look at contemporary Argentina when corruption and violence are fixtures in the lives of the rich and powerful.  The stories cleverly dangle the plot twist which never really comes.  Each tale simply ends in cold vengeance, sometimes just malicious and sometimes just nobody is likeable, everyone has good reasons for bad behaviour.  The opening pictures of the film show animals and what we get is a menagerie of injured vanity, cowardice, greed, self loathing, jealousy, class hatred, and shame. The bars of the cage don’t so much rattle as clang from indignation at the sorry state of failed humanity.  It’s like torture porn scripted by Shakespeare of Titus Andronicus with a lot of Jacobean darkness.

 

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While We’re Young

While We're Young film posterSynopsis

Noah Baumbach’s comedy about Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) in their 40s trying to relive their younger years. They are befriended by Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried).  Cornelia gets into hip hop and Josh collaborates with Jamie in a documentary. Cornelia is childless but wants a child.  Josh and Jamie discuss the nature of film.  The two couples want rejuvenation through peyote-induced therapy techniques.  There is confrontation between James and Josh at the end.

Review

This is very Woody Allen (yuk).  Middle aged and middle class averagely insane narcissists worried about the direction of their lives.  I certainly didn’t sympathize with their plight, I just wish they’d grow up less embarrassingly.   It’s like all those productions in which the younger people are often more mature than the silly middle aged.  Cornelia gets involved with Mum-set types and wants a child (this is the usual Hollywood lecture, that having kids is the ultimate in life).  Josh and Cornelia want to get back to their lives before they used Google and Twitter.  They want to revive the romanticism of their first meeting.  Josh tells Cornelia it’s idiotic to text or phone each other first date wise when they’re (erm) living in the same room.  It’s Bob Ted Carol and Alice in reverse, not married couples experimenting with sexual drugs but getting back to basics.  Naturally Jamie and Darby listen to vinyl records, and to tapes, and use typewriters, and these are the things that Josh and Cornelia discarded.  Darby makes ice cream, how quirkily hip my dear!  Josh and Jamie agonise about documentary film and the nature of truth, which of course reflects the endless search for authenticity in their personal lives.  Jamie is not the seeker of truth he seems to be but can be coldly manipulative and career orientated, more than his idealistic pose would have Josh believe.  Josh has a problem with this but shouldn’t he look deeper into his art? There is guilt ridden theorising about it. The ayahuesca sessions are reminiscent of those obligatory visits to such places as the Esden Centre that middle aged hippies used to visit.  Irritating!!!!

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2015 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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Pride

Pride film posterSynopsis

About the alliance of gays and the miners in their struggle against the Thatcher government 1984-85.  Joe (George MacKay) discovers he’s gay and joins Mark (Ben Schnetzer) at his gay bookshop.  Mark launches Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners.  They go to Onllwyn to support the miners there and meet trade union chief Dai (Paddy Considine) and Cliffe (Bill Nighy) and there’s Hafina (Imelda Staunton).  The miners visit the gay bar in London.  They turn press persecution around by announcing the Pits and Perverts benefit at the Electric Ballroom.  The miners are defeated but in July 1985 they join the gay freedom march.

Review

Pride follows in spirit from Dagenham, Brassed Off, Billy Elliot, and The Full Monty.  The performances are solid.  Nighy is impressive as a dignified union official and Considine provides a steady presence as a Welsh trade union leader who overcomes anti-gay prejudice amongst the miners.  Imelda Staunton is wonderful as the working class matriarch who (like all women) is tougher than the miners and fights betrayal in her community.  I live in South Wales and can testify to the decent Welsh accents in use.  Dominic West as Jonathan does a great dance routine, when the Welsh woman sang Bread and Roses I choked and blubbered.    I myself  was involved in left wing politics in the early ’70s, I left London in the mid ’80s, and have lived in South Wales on and off since then, so I know both worlds and the film brings it all back.  I felt very nostalgic.  The film has come out in quite timely fashion, in the week when Hilary Mantel’s The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher has been published (I liked the short story) when it’s been revealed that Thatcher was prepared to declare as “the enemy within” the Labour Party and the movement.  Of course this is a heart warming film but I do have caveats: the feeling that now that the labour movement is safely defeated, it’s OK to make Ealing type films about it.  What if the actors in this film had gone on strike, in an industry not noted for being generous to all its employees?  Furthermore, although Pride is not about Arthur Scargill, I wish they would make a film showing how he betrayed the miners: by not calling for a strike ballet, getting Thatcher wrong, and his dogmatic misconception of the working class, a significant number of whom looked the other way and took Thatcher’s home buying bribe.  Still, it’s a stirring story about a lost and lamented world.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2014 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel film posterSynopsis

Jude Law reveals his past.  Hotel manager Gustave H  played by Ralph Fiennes in a sort of First World War Austro-Hungarian world.  He’s made love with elderly women and is suspected of murdering Madame D (Tilda Swinton) who has left a painting in her will to Gustave and this sets up a partnership with the lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori). Gustave is in jail and is pursued by villainous Willem Defoe.  Other Hollywood stars e.g.Owen Wilson and Tom Wilkinson have walk on parts in this chase comedy which goes through many snowy landscapes and weird hotels.

Review

Fiennes’ attempts at humour are reduced to tedious expressions of the “fuck” word as if we take his usual actorly fastidiousness at face value.  He’s a socially climbing controller and chancer and I’m sure Fiennes models his role on the Pink Panther. I managed to laugh a few times.  There are some embarrassingly stilted attempts at humour that you get in those 60’s caper movies especially Casino Royale (1967) and It’s a Mad Mad World.  We’re supposed to be amused when a well known actor turns up to do his routine until the next star vies for our attention by putting the current star back in his box.  Jerky actorly puppetry and idiosyncratic gurning are made to compensate for a decent story and sympathetic characters as we veer off on one smugly irrelevant tangent after another.  Willem Dafoe is simply a cartoonish thug looking like he’d strayed out of the set of Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines.  The hotel and other film scenes are like folding boxes in some stylized performance.  The hotel itself is served up like a First World War cardboard theatre. The chase scenes are so derivative that I kept expecting the director to arrive on set and shout “cut”, but then again that’s what he effectively does.  This is not so much a film as a scissors and cutting its way through any attempt at an amusing and coherent story.  The scenes in the film are certainly vivid to the point where colours seem to drench the set.  This is the Europe of Freud and Kafka but we wait in vain for any kind of wit or literary reference in ths failed nightmare.  A would be jolly romp that flogs to death its one joke of Ralph Fiennes trying to keep up appearances.

 

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Frank

Frank film posterSynopsis

Starring Michael Fassbender (in a papier mache head of South Park weirdness), as Frank written about by Jon Ronson (Domhnall Gleeson) who was bandmate of Chris Sievey who called himself Frank Sidebottom (who was an indie musician).  Jon wants to be a pop star but he falls foul of Frank and other band members Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Don (Scoot McNairy).  Jon tries to steer Frank in a commercial direction.  They play in Britain, the drummer tries to kill himself.  They do rehearsal sessions in Ireland and then are due to perform at SxSW in Texas and they break up.  Frank’s mental health fails, but they might get back together.  Jon learns wisdom…

Review

The weird papier mache pot that Frank hides his head in is intended to be disconcerting.  It’s an alienating joke and an Indie film leit motif which manages to avoid merely experimental caprice (because it’s part of Frank’s struggle for identity), and poses pertinent questions about our notions of acceptable behaviour.  At one point Frank says that the human face is a vulnerable wound so why not seek the freedom of the papier mache hideaway?  Those who talk to him must pay more attention to the intonation in his voice, in doing so they are at once in a what can descend to controlled monologue as they must cope with the attention drawing but emotionally deflecting absence of a face.  At times it’s like a satire on the retarded adolescence of a pop group with an artistic mission, but I do like their music.  Maggie Gyllenhaal is surely based on the Velvet Underground’s Nico, all Central European diva with a big bad attitude and questionable artistic talent.  She is like one of those people who want to spend their lives at the back of the class.  Jon is resolutely naive and exploitable, worshipping the religion of neglected genius that Frank has made of himself.  He tries to push them in a commercial direction and they despise him for it as they look like they’re auditioning for a David Lynch film.  Each of their solipistic personalities is the claustrophobic complaint of a group of outsiders whose very identity is based on rejecting the mainstream and being rejected by it.  My favourite song of theirs is “Lone Standing Tuft” (about a twist of carpet strand).  Jon becomes increasingly obtuse and you feel yourself like kicking him out of the band.

 

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The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street film posterSynopsis

This is the story of Jordan Belfort in the 1980s and 90s who gulled people with his inflated stocks.  He is instructed in this by Matthew McConaughey.  Belfort recruits a lot of apparent no-hopers and sets them on a career path of fraud, drugs, prostitution, and manic greed.  Belfort’s marriage is rocky and he is eventually imprisoned by the  FBI whose agents he’s tried to bribe.

Review

This is an often hilarious stand up comedy where Gordon Gekko is the comedian.  We’re supposed to think this film is detached irony but it seems to be laughing with, rather than at, the food chain ‘Big I ams’ masquerading as human beings.  They defrauded a lot of poor people and gloried in it, telling us that ‘greed is good’ in five hundred uses of the “f” word.  The drug scenes are part menace and part hilarity.  When they’re on quaaludes we’re back in those 60s films that also seemed to find drug-addled behaviour really funny. On quaaludes they’re staggering, then crawling along in a sort of slow motion parody of their hyped up equally mindless selves.  In one scene Belfort thinks he’s driving back to his mansion in a state of superb self control and then we see the scene as it really is in which he crashes into everything and crawls like the slug that he is.  This is like the world he wrecks, there’s the grandiose self-perception and the tawdry reality.

The film starts out in voice-over which is supposed to give it some distance from chaos, the matter of fact tone of the voice-over exacerbating the outrage of whatever he’s narrating.  His stand up comedy energy is like the comedian who shouts in order to prevent being heckled.  Belfort is a benzedrine viper and at the end he merely squirms rather than show repentance.  The long crash of his career is like that of Al Pacino in Scarface. The business arguments lack the fire of those salesmen in Glengarry Glenross.  Belfort is a cheap cult leader, too shallow to feel self hatred.  When he fails to bribe the FBI agent he becomes petulant and later self pitying.  At the end of the film we see the uncorrupted FBI agent on the metro, looking at the sort of victims that Belfort probably fleeced.  Scorsese fails to put this creep in his place and that’s a shame.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2014 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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