30 March 2012

26 March 2012

PARTY (Dir. Govind Nihalani, 1984, India) - Lipstick, Politics and Art

Party benefits from a fantastic ensemble cast of parallel cinema regulars.
Director Govind Nihalani’s 1984 film Party was based on a popular play by acclaimed writer Mahesh Elkunchwar. Party is one of the first films to have been restored by the NFDC and re-released on DVD in a new print. It’s reassuring to see the film industry responding to the need for film preservation and as a result many more parallel films are making their way to DVD. Party is one of Nihalani’s best films. Events unfold in real time and the action largely takes place in the house of Damyanti Rane (Vijaya Mehta). Damyanti is a widow who we discover has regularly supported artists, mainly writers, of what appears to be middle class Mumbai. She hosts a party in honour of Diwakar Barve (Manohar Singh), a celebrated playwright. The party brings together petty bourgeois poets, playwrights, journalists and intellects that over an evening of intoxication and debate revel in their own righteous indignation. The title of the film has a double meaning as it also refers to political parties that individuals and groups subscribe to for validation of their ideological beliefs. The set up makes for a scathing piece of experimental cinema, reflecting analytically and slowly upon the often maligned question of middle class educated intelligentsia hiding behind their words and rarely involving themselves directly in the social and political issues that defines them as so called socially committed artists. The party itself is a grotesque affair and functions vividly as an appropriate deconstruction of the pretentious, unfulfilled and clawing middle class guilt that lingers amongst many of the broken relationships. Actress Rohini Hattangadi as Mohini Barve, the wife of the self-obsessed poet Diwakar, is superb as a retired stage actress who is resigned to a life of self-hate and alcoholic abuse. Mohini’s disgust for her husband’s neglect is in fact an extension of bourgeois perversions; her smudged red lipstick becomes a symbol of such wider moral perversions. The only character we venerate is Amrit (Naseeruddin Shah) who is represented as a symbol of political activism. Amrit’s skills as a poet are a continuous talking point of the party and we discover he has abandoned his middle class lifestyle to go and fight for the rights of the disenfranchised and oppressed in a tribal community. Everyone at the party shows great respect and affection for Amrit. It is only with the appearance of Avinash (Om Puri) towards the end of the film do we finally see an outsider trash their middle class liberalism as apolitical dogma. Amrit’s death and bloody corpse staggering towards us the audience and some of the artists from the party is a powerful final moment as it reminds us that his pain is real, his pain is truth unlike the fictional pain endured by the artist. Party is a cold and at times savage dissection of middle class hypocrisy.

The NFDC has revamped its old website and is adding more content. They have also set up a useful YouTube channel with trailers and interviews:

NFDC YouTube Channel

25 March 2012

THE HUNGER GAMES (Dir. Gary Ross, 2012, US) - Some initial thoughts

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games
As I have said on many occasions before, the best science fiction films especially those which offer us a dystopian future tend to deal with the politics of class and perhaps that’s why I liked what the film was trying to do in the context of a mainstream blockbuster. Nevertheless, what I found disappointing was the lack of political context because the uprising is mentioned and lingers as backstory but is never really fully explored. The same goes for the creation of districts – which are obvious representatives of the economic divisions now prevalent in America.

Casting is king in many cases especially when it comes to big budget adaptations. Given the recent high profile failure of John Carter and the anonymous Taylor Kitsch, the producers of The Hunger Games were brave enough to cast someone more than competent in the lead role – Jennifer Lawrence. However, the same cannot be said for poor Josh Hutcherson’s abysmal one dimensional performance that recalls the droid like paralysis of Hadyen Christensen from the Star Wars films.

The Hunger Games draws from many science fiction films and even though this may go unrecognised by the target audience, it is still worthwhile isolating some useful points of reference. This includes films such as Rollerball, Logan’s Run, Death Race 2000, Metropolis, and perhaps more pertinently The Running Man and Battle Royale. The Running Man is a hardcore eighties sci fi shoot em up in which contestants are paraded on a new age reality TV show that involves them having to kill one another to stay alive – it was a gladiatorial idea which has ancient roots but one that translated successfully into the bloodbath that is Battle Royale which upped the stakes by making Japanese youth as the focus.

One of my biggest concerns with the film was yet again the length. This is an origins film and the first of three films but does this necessarily warrant a running time of 2 hours 20 min? Not really given the narrative gradually loses momentum. The first hour is quite strong and I actually enjoyed the build up more than the action itself which I thought was disappointing. The main selling point of the film is ruthless predatory games that unfold in a virtual forest but what the contest lacked was any kind of formidable nemesis for the resourceful Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). Instead we have to make do with ridiculous over sized CGI attack dogs which are not scary at all.

Not having read the books, I don’t know how violent or explicit they are but yet again this is another Hollywood film that feels somewhat santisied and calculatingly manufactured so that key ingredients like sex and violence are airbrushed out of a dystopian reality – what annoyed me the most was the relative absence of blood in a contest hinged on fighting to the death. This seems to echo the way in which Hollywood action films can sometimes present us with physical conflict minus the blood. Of course, much of this has to do with the LCD.

From what I could detect from the ending, the next film is likely to get more political and if it does then it might just build on the foundations of a competent first entry in a potential franchise. Amy Taubin's recent piece in Film Comment (Jan/Feb 12) titled 'Girls Gone Wild' suggests defiant women have been central to recent films such as The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, Haywire, A Dangerous Method. So perhaps we can also include The Hunger Games in this cycle of 'hard women' films.

18 March 2012

THEY LIVE (Dir. John Carpenter, 1988, US) - False Needs

They Live, released in 1988, marked a high point in the work of John Carpenter. This science fiction allegory is the closest Carpenter came to making a political film. The shots are taken from a key sequence in which the main protagonist slips on some sunglasses and finally comes face to face with an Orwellian reality based on social control.

17 March 2012

TRISHNA (Dir. Michael Winterbottom, 2012, UK) - The Troubled Maiden

The beautiful Freida Pinto as Trishna.

Micheal Winterbottom works so quickly that it's hard to keep up with him. His latest feature sees him returning to Thomas Hardy, this time adapting Tess of the d'Urbervilles for a contemporary postmodern treatment. The setting is modern day Rajasthan and the cast is made up of Riz Ahmed (Four Lions) and Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire). I had no knowledge of Hardy going into the film and I haven't seen any other big screen interpretations of Hardy's novel so my judgment is based purely on the film I saw. I'm not sure how entirely successful Winterbottom is with this one. I can’t really fault the performances, camerawork or use of locations; they are uniformly vivid and engaging. My biggest criticism with Trishna is when it comes to the script – the characters do go on a journey of self-discovery but we never really feel any emotional connection with them – they remain at a distance. Perhaps this is deliberate, if so, it was the wrong decision. Additionally, the film shifts frantically in terms of narrative from one setting to another, so we never get to really fully experience and savour the milieu which is an essential part of the story. Jay (Riz Ahmed) is a young, wealthy bachelor but looking for an outlet so to avoid having to run his father’s hotel business in Jaipur. On a trip with some friends, Jay meets Trishna (Freida Pinto), an impoverished but moderately educated girl who belongs to a large family. Jay falls in love with Trishna and gets her a job working at his father’s hotel. The courtship rituals that take place in the hotel leads to a decisive moment between the two of them and it is a moment which will come back to haunt both characters. Jay takes Trishna to Mumbai and briefly they seem content. The sequences in Mumbai involve a reflexive backstory with director Anurag Kashyap and music composer Amit Trivedi appearing as themselves. Once Trishna has revealed her dark secret, the relationship disintegrates. Jay retreats back to his father’s hotel and takes Trishna with him, humiliating her through sex. Without giving away too much about the ending, it was to be expected. The fact that Jay and Trishna cannot reconcile points to a wider class conflict at work and also underlines yet again the economic void between rich and poor in what is a rapidly transforming India. Pinto as Trishna is perfectly cast and she really does carry the film with her understated performance. At times, Winterbottom seems to rush through the narrative so the film could have done with some more time in the editing room. Winterbottom has said in interviews that the film brings together elements from European and Indian cinema. What I found most interesting was the secondary narrative of Trishna which involves her impoverished family who seem out of step with the cosmopolitan side of Mumbai. It is an obvious yet prescient conflict between tradition and modernity which is still at the heart of many of the best Indian films. Winterbottom doesn't make bad films; each film he has made is unique and his body of work shows an impressive range that would embarrass most contemporary filmmakers. Trishna has its flaws, like most films these days, but Winterbottom has to be praised for his creative autonomy and capacity to think cinematically about universal ideas which can just as easily and carelessly be reduced to simplistic visual fodder. Trishna has appeared without much of a fanfare and the distribution of the film has been weak. The film has received mixed reviews but given the marketable presence of both Freida Pinto and Riz Ahmed, I feel the distributor and marketing dept might have missed a trick here. Trishna is still on general release so it will be interesting to see how well the film performs. Writing this has made me want to go back and watch Trishna again so I can try and understand more about what exactly Winterbottom is trying to achieve. I just want to finish by saying that technically Trishna is faultless and offers some imaginative images of India. It's just a shame that this film isn't going to be as successful as it should have been. Ken Loach is right; the cinema screens have been colonised and the consequences are being felt each week for specialised films.

14 March 2012

LAND AND FREEDOM (Dir. Ken Loach, 1995, UK/Spain/Germany/Italy) - Transformative Political Cinema

The POUM militia - The Workers Party of Marxist Unification.
‘Come, join in the only battle wherein no man can fail,

Where whoso fadeth and dieth, yet his deed shall still prevail.’
The cinema of Loach is transformative. What this means is that his way of looking at reality, which is through a leftist internationalist political prism, is one that can alter the manufactured and largely consensual reality of the spectator who has been normalised into adopting apolitical conformist ideology. So much of mainstream cinema is intrinsically connected to the idea of the market that dissent is suppressed in favour of maintaining a derisory status quo in which materialistic ideals are aggressively promoted as a mass aspiration. Some mainstream filmmakers and industries justify the transparent propagation of the market as entertainment for the masses because apparently film should be viewed as an escapist and sensory medium. Such an obviously conformist position points to a cowardice and subjugation that is implicit in the way a film is produced, marketed and celebrated in the media at large. Any kind of political critique can rarely occur in the same space in which the film is celebrated because the media and subsequently film discourse tends to be patented by an infectious and at times myopic Euro centric agenda. What this means is that limited ways of thinking about certain films, genres and narratives circulate, thus political cinema specifically becomes obfuscated so much that its absence from critical discourse makes it appear unimportant and insignificant to the common perceptions of film. The worst kind of mainstream Hollywood cinema seems to give the impression of empowering the spectator when in fact it is asking us to obey and validate wider ideological ideals that contradict our own criticisms of the market. The film spectator is not merely gazing but fully participating in the spectacle of the market by maintaining the processes, thus transforming spectatorship into a secondary narrative that mirrors the fictional one. It seems almost sacrilege to accuse postmodern mashup artists such as Quentin Tarantino of dissolving ideology and rendering it obsolete because their work have become embedded within the history of film as beatnik bricolage, which means his films are hip yet apparently sophisticated given the depth of the intertextual discourse on display for our instantaneous diverted spectator like minds to savour. And savour we do, with the instantaneous preoccupations of a YouTube browser. If the market dictates what kinds of films are made and which are distributed then where exactly does Ken Loach fit in this corporatist universe? 

To begin with, filmmakers who usually have something overly political to articulate as part of an on going participatory discourse find it virtually impossible to work in the mainstream because of market regulations - this means that iconoclasm can only exist in a designated vacuum aimed at supposedly marginalised tastes. Another mismatch when it comes to political filmmakers is that they are usually middle class. The political disconnect between someone as middle class as Loach propagating politics of the working class left to a predominately middle class audience is usually a class dialectic that critics are quick to acknowledge in an attempt to skew the argument or to throw in doubt the true intentions of the director. It might actually be more accurate to propose that if Alan Clarke understands the psychology of the working class then Loach understands the politics of such psychology. Is Ken Loach the only British filmmaker to have been able to make a film about the revolutionary militia that took up arms against the fascist takeover of a democratically elected socialist government in Spain? He might be alone in having achieved such a political feat but he has done so on his terms and with collaborator Jim Allen, the film is resolutely political in its entire being. In the context of the market and mainstream cinema, Land and Freedom proves a critical point: transformative cinema functions on the intrinsic relationship between history and politics. The historical context is Spain in the 1930s and the conflict between socialism and fascism may seem likely candidates for points of ideological discussion but Loach politicises the narrative by training his gaze on the internal power struggle that occurred within the communist party of Spain. Additionally and perhaps most importantly the film internationalises the POUM's revolutionary ideals as a Marxist class struggle. By opening and ending in Liverpool, the story of David Carr (Ian Hart) is interconnected through a working class solidarity that transcends nationality, culture and identity. Upon hearing a talk about the POUM in Liverpool, David volunteers to join the people’s army in Spain. The narrative charts David’s journey as part of the international brigades and his eventual face to face confrontation with Stalinist opposition to the militia, leading to the death of Blanca – a symbol of Marxist ideology. Ken Loach has argued that the rise of fascism was a direct result of Europe's failure to stand up to Franco. The POUM was a true Marxist group betrayed by Stalinist propaganda, thus sealing the fate of an entire generation. The final reading of a poem by William Morris titled ‘The Day is Coming’, suggests that although the POUM were unsuccessful in their revolutionary aims of collectivism, political integrity and the refusal to compromise are aspects of a dissident ideology that should be celebrated in today’s largely apolitical apathetic society.

12 March 2012

EL DORADO (Dir. Howard Hawks, 1966, US)

I'm paid to risk my neck. I'll decide where and when I'll do it. This isn't it. - Cole Thornton (John Wayne) 
El Dorado was one of Howard Hawks last films and features John Wayne as aging gunfighter Cole Thornton. The cast also features the ever dependable Robert Mitchum and James Caan in one of his first roles. Like all great westerns, this is a splendid meditation on the gunfighter growing old in a changing America. It's also a film about violence, professionalism and power. The above split second reaction shot from Wayne is one of the most memorable moments in the film. Utilising a dramatic zoom in, which was about to be made commonplace in the genre because of Peckinpah and Leone, the shot not only recalls Porter's The Great Train Robbery but by having Wayne shoot into the camera, the gunfire and subsequent violence being expressed is directed to us, the helpless spectator. Such an unconventional shot is just one of many Hawskian touches imprinted on the DNA of this classical western. With a script by Leigh Brackett, the film's semi revisionist approach prefigures the radical westerns of Sam Peckinpah. It's also the only film to feature Wayne and Mitchum and together they are superlative. A masterpiece and one of Hawks most under rated films.

10 March 2012

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (Dir. Paolo Sorrentino, 2011, Italy/France/Ireland),

Sean Penn as Cheyenne - a dead ringer for Robert Smith from The Cure.
Italian director Paolo Sorrentino’s latest film takes its title from the Talking Heads song. That’s not the only aspect of 1980s pop culture referenced by Sorrentino. Cheyenne (Sean Penn) is a retired rock star with an iconic goth look who lives a reclusive life. Cheyenne is a dead ringer for singer Robert Smith who founded the British goth band The Cure. Much of the film’s dead pan humour comes from the harsh juxtaposition of Cheyenne’s seriously committed Goth look to the ordinariness of everyday people. This is Sorrentino’s most unexpected work to date. The narrative is littered with absurdest twists and benign moments. Paying homage to the American road movie, the film starts in Ireland then moves to America with Cheyenne in pursuit of his dead father’s tormentor, a Nazi war criminal. The influence of indie filmmaker Jarmusch is noticeable throughout especially in the delayed exchanges that goes on between Cheyenne and the assortment of American characters. The music by David Byrne is superb and he shows up in a strange cameo performing a Brechtian rendition of his classic song. This is one of Sean Penn’s quirkiest turns and it is a film that has all the hallmarks of becoming a cult hit. As for Sorrentino, well, he continues to flourish and evolve as a filmmaker. This Must Be The Place is a cinematic oddity and collaboration between Penn and Sorrentino. Here is Byrne with Talking Heads in 'Stop Making Sense' which was directed by Jonathan Demme in 1984: 

YOUNG ADULT (Dir. Jason Reitman, 2011, US)

Charlize Theron as Mavis Gary.
Charlize Theron as Mavis, the ‘psycho prom queen bitch’, is a delicious self loathing figure of thirty something neurosis. Mavis is not suffering from a mid life crisis; she is suffering from a case of frustrated boredom induced by memories of a teenage romance. Mavis has a job, which is to write trashy tween romances for a generation of vacuous teenagers who live in an instantaneous culture of repetition. An inflated case of self importance means that Mavis assumes she has some sort of influence as a writer. Her life as a ghost writer in the city of Minneapolis is depicted as a chore trapped in a disconcerting regime. Escape from a small rural hick town may have given Mavis anonymity but she seems imprisoned and essentially lost in a quagmire of resentment. To reclaim her self worth, Mavis returns to her home town with an absurdest plan of reuniting, permanently that is, with her high school sweetheart. Such an attempt to reclaim a happier past leaves Mavis looking both desperate and foolish as she slowly discovers that her arrogance offends everyone. Diablo Cody, who also wrote Juno, is a great scriptwriter and has a wonderful feel for details. It’s the observational touches that make Mavis such an embarrassingly real creation. Young Adult is kind of the antithesis of Juno and should be viewed as a satire on wasted youth and a terrific trip back to the 90s.

THE HUNTER (Dir. Daniel Nettheim, 2011, Australia)

Willem Dafoe and Sam Neil in The Hunter
Firstly, this film should not be confused with Rafi Pitts The Hunter - the only real thing they share in common is a title. Starring Willem Dafoe in the lead role and based on Julia Leigh’s acclaimed novel, The Hunter is director Daniel Nettheim’s second film. Although the film doesn’t really hold together, a notable thematic interest to do with the extinction of wildlife and erosion of nature complements what is largely an understated directorial approach. The film rests on the shoulders of Dafoe who plays a mercenary sent by a European company to kill the last remaining Tasmanian Tiger so that they can use the animal for more sinister bio weaponry. Dafoe never fails to impress as an actor and what he plays best is the existential loner as is the case with the character of Martin, a methodical and enigmatic hunter who ultimately questions his role in the corporate machine that is depicted as grotesquely pathological. Martin’s presence in the enclosed community produces hostility from the indigenous people who view him as an outsider with a threatening agenda. What doesn’t chime well with the uncertainty and ambivalence expressed by Martin’s behaviour through most of the film is the misjudged final sequence. Not only does this final embrace between Martin and the orphaned boy seem a little far fetched, it makes for a garishly sentimental moment. Nevertheless, the magnificent cinematography and solid performances on display prevents The Hunter from becoming swallowed up by what is a disjointed and languid narrative.

8 March 2012

TRIKAL - Past, Present, Future (Dir. Shyam Benegal, 1985, India)

Benegal’s interests in narrative subjectivity seemed to reach a creative epoch with his masterful Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda (Seventh Horse of The Sun, 1993). However, before Benegal arrived at such a sophisticated point in his career, his 1985 film Trikal marked the beginning of a formal interest in narrative structure. Trikal is a political melodrama set in a 1960s Goa, which focuses on a wealthy, powerful and decadent family fading into obscurity as British rule is giving way to Indian nationalism. This is one of Benegal’s most ambitious films taking an Altman like approach to narrative by using an ensemble cast and probing the personal dilemmas faced by the family members. Ruiz Pereira (Naseeruddin Shah), a close friend of the family, arrives in Goa after many years to an empty mansion. His role as a narrator initiates a flashback, retelling the demise of the family but the narrative storytelling is complicated by questions of memory and nostalgia. Pereira’s reminiscence begins at the funeral of the patriarch in which he is able to pin down each of the family members and their various flaws. The funeral and especially the death of a figurehead in a family of such prominence is a narrative device typical of the Hindi melodrama. What we discover is that the family see themselves as Goans first and Indians second, thus Benegal also explores the way identity is shaped by regional allegiances and communal loyalties. Although the death of the patriarch symbolically points to the destruction of the family, the real figurehead of the family is actually the matriarch Donna Maria Souza-Soares, played by the actress Leela Naidu. With her husband gone, Donna Maria is deeply protective of the increasingly fragmented family and appears powerless in the face of wider social and political change. It is change that many of the family members fear the most and their aloof social status brings with it a degree of false superiority, which is out of place in modernist India. It would be right to say that this is a family that lives in a bubble, in an alternate reality built on former glories which no longer offers them economic immunity. Additionally, the family’s destruction is accelerated by the children, a younger generation who reject tradition and embrace a kind of emotional intellectualism that recalls European values. Along with the funeral, marriage is another thematic that creates a crack in the psyche of the family. None of the family members who are in relationships seem particularly content and a malaise of unhappiness is sharply juxtaposed to a mood of defiance; the family becomes a symbol of class delusion. Another fascinating point of ideological discourse is with the secondary narrative storyline of Vijay Singh Rane who appears as a terrifying spirit from the past, reminding us of the deceased patriarch’s murky political past and possible hegemonic collusion's. Epic, ambitious and resolutely political, Trikal is yet another distinguished film by one of Indian cinema’s finest filmmakers.

3 March 2012

PUTTY HILL (Dir. Matthew Porterfield, 2010, US)

If Putty Hill is part of the Mumblecore movement then director Matthew Porterfield’s style is altogether more distinct, unique and neo realist. In many ways, Porterfield’s unfiltered and largely observational approach bears more resemblance to the films of Ramin Bahrani and Kelly Reichardt than Mumblecore regulars like Aaron Katz. Although Putty Hill is Porterfield’s second film, it was embraced as if it was his directorial debut. In fact, Porterfield directed a film titled Hamilton in 2006, which clearly and rightfully positions him amongst contemporaries such as Bahrani and Reichardt. Hamilton was shot on location in Baltimore, a working class district that also provides the backdrop to Putty Hill. Released in 2010, I’m not sure if Putty Hill has been given a release in the UK and if it did then it must have been a limited distribution deal aimed at a specialised audience. Porterfield dispenses altogether with narrative and by utilising the perfunctory idea of a death that effects an enclosed community, means that characters and their behaviour within the given social milieu become the real source of audience engagement. Porterfield seems to be testing the audience throughout by repeatedly blurring the line between documentary and fiction. It is not clear if the people we meet are friends of the director or if they are merely performing and recalling lines from a script. Perhaps then given the way Porterfield dissolves the barrier between documentary and fiction, the film transforms into something more organic. Such belief in the notion that characters and stories come naturally out of the landscape and milieu have connections to a neo realist aesthetic and ideology. Ever since Gus Van Sant transported the cinema of Hungarian Bela Tarr into his slow cinema trilogy including the landmark Elephant, the use of selective focus has risen to become a defining cinematographic feature of many American independent films. Porterfield employs such a technique, sparingly though, to train his camera on the edges of reality. And it is a working class reality that Porterfield feels comfortable with especially the lives of seemingly anaesthetised youth cults such as skaters. Putty Hill is a poetic work that at its most simplistic shows us the wasted lives and broken dreams which continue to haunt the ordinary.

Here is the trailer to the film: (IMDB lists the film as having been released in June of last year in the UK)


Road to Nowhere
ROAD TO NOWHERE (Dir. Monte Hellman, 2011, US) - Monte Hellman’s film is one of the most self reflexive I have come across in a while. The story of a director who sets out to make a film based on true events results in a series of offbeat encounters, producing a tone which one could only describe as Lynchian.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA (Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011, Turkey) - The images Ceylan gives us are indelible. A police procedural combined with a lyrical feel for landscapes makes for one of Ceylan’s most poetic films. The film also features one of the most surreal car journeys in film history.

THE INTERRUPTERS (Dir. Steve James, 2011, US) - Interrupters are ex gang members who spend their days intervening in gang disputes and preventing violence from taking place. Set in Chicago and predominately in the black community, The Interrupters is a powerful ideological analysis of gang violence.

GANGSTER NO. 1 (Dir. Paul McGuigan, 2000, UK/Germany/Ireland) - A disappointing British gangster film which uses a strangely unconvincing voice over and predictable narrative. The saving grace is a snarling Malcolm McDowell who is brilliant in the final sequences.

The Shop Around The Corner
THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (Dir. Ernst Lubitsch, 1940, US) - Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 masterpiece has not aged in the slightest. This is a superior romantic comedy and an intelligent take on relationships. The dialogue is sharp, witty and brilliant.

IN TIME (Dir. Andrew Niccol, 2011, US) - Another perfectly shaped science fiction allegory. It’s not surprising this one bypassed American audiences as it actually had something ideologically worthwhile to say about class. Not sure about the slightly compromised ending.

THE PRINCESS BRIDE (Dir. Rob Reiner, 1987, US) - I can’t believe I hadn’t seen this classic American eighties fantasy film. With a great script by Goldman (based on his own novel), this is a sophisticated and superbly told postmodern critique on heroism and storytelling. A great feel good movie.

QUIET CITY (Dir. Aaron Katz, 2007, US) - In my personal opinion, Aaron Katz is one of the smartest American independent directors working today. Quiet City is a film about two lost youth slackers who randomly meet one night and become good friends. It is a film that captures the essence of the Mumblecore movement.

Quiet City Opening Title Card
CINDERELLA MAN (Dir. Ron Howard, 2005, US) - This might be one of Ron Howard’s best films. I don’t rate him as a director but this downbeat boxing film proves an important point; that the marketing dept of most major film studios haven’t a clue or interest in how to market films which attempt to critique the status quo especially the American dream. This is a great genre piece and Russell Crowe’s actually quite good in the lead role.

ABSENCE OF MALICE (Dir. Sydney Pollack, 1981, US) - This is a well made studio film which seems particularly relevant today given the current focus on the ethics of the news print industry. Sally Field plays a journalist who is only interested in the story and this leads to the distortion of plain truths, the invasion of privacy and a dubious relationship with wider public bodies.

THE GREY (Dir. Joe Carnahan, 2012, US) - Carnahan finally shows the promise of his early film Narc and with Liam Neeson in the lead role, The Grey is a survivalist genre film with a strangely philosophical edge. Terrifically poised ending.

IMMORTALS (Dir. Tarsem Singh, 2011, US) - Tarsem Singh understands the image but unfortunately even his visual finesse cannot salvage this confusing and empty historical action epic. Henry Cavill, the next Superman, is in the main lead with a supporting cast made up of John Hurt, Mickey Rourke and Freida Pinto.