Entries tagged with “British cinema”.


Can the unforgivable be forgiven? What is the right attitude towards perpetrators and collaborators of crimes of war, genocide and torture? Does time really heal? Is revenge the right answer? Is forgiveness possible and who has the right to forgive? Such questions are often asked in the war and especially Holocaust literature and cinema. Answers differ, as they do in real life and history. , the strong dramatic film inspired by the true characters and life stories of Eric Lomax and Takesi Nagase, asks and tries to provide an answer in the historical context of the killing prisoner camps of British prisoners in Japanese occupied Indochina during WWII.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2058107

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2058107

 

For many of the survivors of genocides or atrocities the wars that inflicted their sufferance never end. This was for many decades the case of Eric Lomax (acted as a young man by and by at his maturity). He surrounds himself with a wall of silence and has difficulties to adapt to life after the war. The late story of love in his life (the second marriage in his real biography) imposes on him the duty to come to terms – one way or another – with his past. He has a chance that his fellows (like officer Finlay acted by ) would not have. This means meeting face to face his torturer and traveling back to the infamous Kwai river area where the allied prisoners who fell in the hands of the Japanese were held during the war. This type of prisoner – guardian (or torturer) encounter many years later can also be seen in various war and Holocaust books films. Eventually – and this also happened in real life in this case – reconciliation and forgiveness prevail over enmity and revenge, with the former enemies having the chance to look one into the eyes of the other. The balance between honor and dignity in time of war switches, as the guilt turns into remorse, and revenge into forgiveness.

 

(video source LionsgateFilmsUK)

 

The auto-biographical book written by Eric Lomax was turned by the script in a dramatic and romantic story which succeeds to be true to the essence while omitting some of the details of the story (for example Eric’s first marriage).  achieves one of the best performances in his career, with very good support from and . Director  does a fine efficient job in telling the story in a fluent manner, with discretion and avoiding useless effects. The flashbacks from the war times are very well filmed and the period rendered in a very credible manner. Conflicts between nations include a myriad of personal conflicts and stories of lives broken by wars. Peace and reconciliation between nations can become true and lasting only when most of the suffering is overcome. This film describes one possible story. We may agree or not with the path taken by the heroes,  but we need to acknowledge and respect the dignified way it is being told and made public – including in this movie.

 

Films about film making, about famous actors and directors were very much en vogue a few years ago, and “My Week with Marilyn” belongs to this wave. About that time two (good) movies about the master of suspense were made, one came from Hollywood – Hitchcock -, the other from the BBC – The Girl. ‘My Week with Marilyn’ combines The Forces,being a coproduction of Hollywood (Weinstein) and BBC, about another Anglo-American film making experience. This time it’s not about a great English director getting to the peak of fame on the shores of the Pacific, but about the ultimate American star and sex symbol, Marylin Monroe landing in 1957 the UK to make ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’.  That was from a certain point of view a stellar encounter of the third degree, between the comet of Hollywood and the star of the English stage and screen Laurence Olivier. On the sides it was also the story of the encounter of a young ‘third’ (number is important) studios assistant with the woman of any man’s dream in the epoch. Colin Clark was the name of the character, he wrote a book of memories about the experience, and the film extends the subject to a romantic story – carrying into the film the ups and downs of adaptations of memoirs or ‘true stories’.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1655420/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1655420/

 

The question one asks himself when seeing this film is ‘was Marilyn Monroe really the awful actress that is described here?’ I probably need to watch the 1957 film (it is available for free on the Internet) to have an answer. The closing text run on screen before credits tells us that the next film of Marilyn was to be ‘Some Like It Hot’ – the most famous film she ever made. Maybe the problem was her uprooting from Hollywood to the British Pinewood studios? ‘My Week with Marilyn’ does not explore this track. Was she also the terribly insecure and unhappy human being that is described here, too beautiful to be ever loved for anything but her physical appearance? This seems more plausible, especially because we know the end of her life. Did she really get comfort and moral support in the relation with a young and anonymous assistant, one of the tens of figures in the shadows in any film production, as the script claims? Were there ever buddies of a love story in this relation? Probably only in the mind of the memoirs writer, but who really cares? The character played by Eddie Redmayne is so unconvincing that I was wondering if his lack of charisma was the result of masterful acting or directing or of lack of talent and … well .. charisma.

 

(video source BTSmovies)

 

With quite a thin story, and with a BBC style of directing that avoids too thick an intervention in the story telling, much of the film relies on acting and actors. Talking about acting let me start with the supporting roles. The list is really impressive, having on-screen Judy Dench or Emma Watson is a pleasure, although for each of them I have wished the roles were more consistent. If anybody was concerned that Kenneth Branagh will approach the role of Olivier with too much deference to make it real, he can rest quite – Branach constructs a real life Olivier, infuriated by the lack of talent and professional ethics of the American star, but also a middle aged man fascinated by the beauty and by the romance of the superb blonde with the camera. In the lead role Michelle Williams creates a Marilyn that risks to replace the real Monroe in the minds of those who see this film. Her Academy Awards nomination was highly deserved.

It’s one of those films made with love for cinema, one of the cases when superb acting overcomes the lack of consistency of the story that is being brought to screen.

‘The Zero Theorem’ is directed by Terry Gilliam, a highly original creator and an explorer of the future, which he already described in rather dark colors in several memorable films like ‘Brazil’ and ‘Twelve Monkeys’. His other principal title of glory, the ‘Monty Python’ series, somehow balances in his filmography the concept of anticipation with the one of an alternate present or past in the comic registry. ‘The Zero Theorem’ was shot mostly in Romania, and part of the technical team and actors are Romanian, to the extent the in the program of the festival I saw the film in it was classified as a an English-Romanian co-production.

 

sursa www.imdb.com/title/tt2333804/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt2333804/

 

In the fantastic scenery of an abandoned church that some of my Bucharest friends might recognize we find the hero of the film (played brilliantly by Christoph Waltz), a specialist in ‘processing entities’. working frantically on a mission entrusted by a large corporation whose chief is called impersonal ‘The Management’ (Matt Damon), a mission whose goal may be finding the meaning of existence, or an absurd demonstration that accumulation of full (100%) is equal to the Great Zero. Or perhaps the essence of human existence and the absurd are the same? Actually it does not really matter, because the story and the logic of the film is focused on the frantic and obsessive search of the main character. Or maybe this is human nature, a continuous search that ends in nothing? Or in the Infinity?

 

(video source Voltage Pictures)

 

We find in this film’s many of the visual metaphors Terry Gillman used us to, in a colorful world activated by a strange retro-advanced technology, like belonging to a branching of time for human scientific developments that extends the early 20th century. We also find a fierce critique of large international corporations – the main character is provided with such items of ‘personal development’ like a virtual-dream love relationship (with gorgeous Gwendoline Christie) or psychoanalysis through tele-presence (by severe Tilda Swinton). He is subjected to tracking methods that infiltrate his privacy inspired by Orwell’s ’1984′ and Gilliam’s own ‘Brazil’  and also terrorized by a small and despotic manager, a familiar figure many of those who worked in large global corporations may find familiar.

‘The Zero Theorem’ is first of all a wonderful visual experience.  It is also a film that does not open immediately all its secret doors, but gives the impression of depth and complexity that calls for a second and maybe more viewings.

Stranie experienta este revederea unui film la jumatate de secol (sau aproape) de la prima vizionare. Cand ‘Becket’ a aparut pe ecranele romanesti trebuie sa fi fost 1964 (anul producerii filmului) sau 1965. Memoria afectiva si selectiva a pastrat in special figura lui Becket si a lui Richard Burton despre a carui cariera eram deja constient pe deplin in acea perioada. Pe Peter O’Toole nu cred ca nu il cunosteam inca bine, sau in orice caz nu imi era inca suficient de clara statura lui.  Din motive pe care numai cenzura acelor vremuri le cunoaste piosul film despre Sfantul Thomas Becket a fost adus pe ecranele Romaniei comuniste, dar cel dedicat eroului cauzei nationale arabe ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ nu. Probabil  ca abia in ‘The Man of La Mancha’ mi-a fost clar ce actor urias este O’Toole. Liniile principale ale conflictului dintre regele Henric al II-lea si episcopul de Canterbury imi erau insa de atunci clare si mi le-am amintit si atunci cand jumatate de viata mai tarziu am ajuns la Canterbury si am pasit pe dalele candva patate de sangele Sfantului Thomas.

 

sursa www.imdb.com/title/tt0057877/

sursa www.imdb.com/title/tt0057877/

 

Bazat pe o piesa a lui Jean Anouilh ‘Becket’ a fost intai un succes pe Broadway (cu Lawrence Olivier si Anthony Quinn in rolurile principale) si apoi in West End unde Eric Porter si Christopher Plummer au jucat in regia lui Peter Hall. Peter Grenville, regizorul versiunii americane si-a asumat apoi si rolul de regizor al filmului realizat in legendarele studiouri Shepperton din Anglia. In mare masura ‘Becket’ urmeaza traditia ecranizarilor marilor drame istorice shakespeariene, cu deosebirea ca textul lui Jean Anhouilh pune in balanta conflictul istoric cu povestea unei pasionate prietenii intre doi mari barbati care si-au impartit scena istoriei din perioada in care au trait.

La aproape o suta de ani dupa invazia normanda clasa stapanitoare a Angliei continua sa se afle in conflict cu saxonii invadati. Pentru Anhouilh dimensiunea politica a textului este clara, piesa fiind scrisa si pusa in scena pentru prima data la Paris la 15 ani de la eliberarea Frantei si sfarsitul perioadei de colaborare cu ocupantii germani. Reprezinta Thomas Becket in viziunea lui Anhouil o transcedentare dusa pana la absolvire a actului de colaborare cu ocupantii atunci cand se stie ca rezistenta violenta nu poate duce la mai mult decat o moarte eroica? Dilema aceasta este prezenta mai ales in prima parte a piesei si filmului, treptat conflictele religios si personal dintre cei doi trec in primul plan. In planul personal Becket pare a fi facut din materialul din care sunt facuti martirii, dar din punct de vedere istoric dreptatea este de partea regelui Henric. Centralizarea statala si aplicarea principiilor de drept tuturor cetatenilor sunt fenomene istorice care vor prevala in deceniile care vor urma si vor forma bazele primei constitutii scrise de facto din istoria Europei. Sangele varsat la Canterbury, reconcilierea si penitenta asumata de rege vor cimenta natiunea engleza si vor reglementa raportul de forte intre regatul si biserica Angliei.

 

(video source warren12401)

 

Precum multe alte superproductii istorice ale epocii in ‘Becket’ emotioneaza astazi alte lucruri decat cele care ii faceau sa vibreze pe spectatorii de acum jumatate de secol. Exactitatea reconstituirii istorice a fost perfectionata in multe alte productii care au urmat, in schimb niciuna nu a adus pe acelasi ecran doi mari actori ai istoriei filmului in momentele lor de maxima intensitate. Burton se afla la apogeul carierei sale, unul dintre ultimele sale mari roluri inainte de a intra pe panta dezabuzarii (in rolurile de pe ecran si in viata). Indraznesc sa spun insa ca in afara de faptul ca ochii sai sunt mai albastri decat ai lui Peter O’Toole, acesta il depaseste cam in toate aspectele si regele Henric supravietuieste mult mai bine celor 50 de ani de prezenta pe ecran adaugati la 800 de ani de istorie. In timp ce personajul Becket evolueaza monoton si previzibil de la nationalism saxon spre sfintenie personajul regelui Henric se convulsioneaza intre incredere oarba in prietenie, dezamagire in fata a ceea ce el percepe a fi tradare, neintelegere a motivelor si motivarii actiunilor prietenului sau, machiavelism si fariseism. O’Toole creaza cu pasiune si cruzime un personaj al carui cinism are toate motivatiile psihologice pentru faptele pe care le comite. Scena finala include in ea premizele impacarii dintre stat si biserica, prin actiunea sa de aparenta penitenta si de sanctificare ipocrita a celui a carui moarte o ordonase regele Henric pune bazele subordonarii bisericii Angliei fata de coroana. Raportul de forte dintre cele doua personaje se rastoarna in istorie.

What else can be said about Anna Karenina, one of the books that were read, brought to stage and screen so many times? We think that we know the action and the characters, and it takes quite an amount of courage for the director and the team who undertakes a new staging or film based upon Tolstoy’s novel to believe that new things can be said and a fresh perspective created, and quite an amount of talent to make it happen. This is the challenge that script author Tom Stoppard and director Joe Wright decided to take upon with making a 21st century version of Anna Karenina and to a large extent I believe that they succeeded.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1781769/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1781769/

 

Maybe I should not be that surprised with Joe Wright. Atonement (also staring Keira Knightley) which I liked a lot had the patient building of the characters and an exquisite capability of melding into the period it dealt with and bringing it to screen. I liked less The Soloist but maybe that was the exception. The idea in this version of Anna Karenina is to transpose literally to screen the concept that ‘the world is a stage’. The story takes place in the world of the aristocracy and high bureaucracy of the last decades of the Russian empire. We all know the history of the crumbling of that empire where the few ruled over a world of misery and suffering they chose to ignore, a world that will soon take revenge. Instead of investing into recreating realistic or naturalistic imagery  of that world, Wright and Stoppard create a theater, one of these fabulous theater houses that were raised in the 19th century Europe, and makes the whole action a play with windows opening to a reality that also is more idealized as in the neo-classical paintings of the period. It’s a daring concept, it takes a few minutes to get used and accept it, but then the action starts to flow and as a view you can focus on the characters – and there is enough novelty here as well for the whole film to be interesting. At some point the concept reminded me Scorsese‘s Hugo, especially as trains and railway stations play a special role in Tolstoy’s novels. but Wright stops a step behind in creating such a complex and wonderful world as Scorsese’s Paris or maybe he is just not Scorsese (yet?).

 

(video source FilmTrailerZone)

 

I was not especially thrilled by Keira Knightley‘s performance, and if I am to add the fade performance of Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Vronsky, I would say that the two make an uninspired pair of lovers. Luckily they are the only uninspired choice in this film,  as Jude Law gives life and a new perspective to Karenin’s character, Domhall Gleeson shows that there is life after Harry Potter, and together with Alicia Vikander make the lovable pair of this version (as Levin and Kitty). (Vikander is a star in becoming, I loved her acting also in A Royal Affair). At the end they add the dose of emotion everybody seeks in such screenings to declare them successful, which is added to the interesting conception and the fresh perspective on some of the characters in order to make of this Anna Karenina not only a visually beautiful version of the story, but also a film to watch for a few more good reasons.

 

 

 

If the goal of The Iron Lady was to get another statuette for Meryl Streep, the mission was accomplished. Streep receives a generous part which takes former British PM Margaret Thatcher from her early days in the Commons to the peak of her career and then to the sunset of her life, ruined by the Alzheimer disease and devastated by the loss of her husband. She does the best of this wonderful opportunity and the Oscar is fully deserved. She is so good that for a while many people who saw this film will have her image in mind when the name Margaret Thatcher is pronounced rather than the one of the real life character.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1007029/

 

From any other point of view this film is a failure. Director Phyllida Lloyd is at her second feature film and the first non-musical one, and her rich experience in theater and opera was of little help here. There are two principal threads and none of them makes it to the viewer.

 

the Real Ms. Thatcher - source http://assassinscreed.wikia.com/wiki/Margaret_Thatcher

 

The first theme is about the fight of an old woman with the Alzheimer disease, the loneliness of the old age and the feeling of loss she is encountering having lost her partner of a life, a partner she most of the time neglected as she was engaging on the most thrilling career a woman could engage in the late 20th century. This could have been a very interesting movie, but in order to make it the director and script writers should have diminished the other theme, and avoid repetitions and trivial situations. They have done none of these, so the treatment of this theme is seldom moving, but seems quite disrespectful on the other hand (after all Ms. Thatcher is still alive, and fighting the disease so detailed described in the film).

 

(video source trailers)

 

The political career of the only PM elected three times in a row in the history of England in the 20th century is obviously the second theme. This one is however treated with such a respectful superficiality that it looks not even like a biopics but at some moments as a Conservative propaganda collection of clips and dramatized dialogs, with Streep instructed to declaim all possible slogans in the Little Tory Book, and the background of the events never even scratched beyond its surface.   50 years from now nobody will understand watching this film why the British Prime Minister decided to enter war with Argentina over the Falklands or why protesters were furiously surrounding her car.

The Iron Lady brought Meryl Streep a(nother) well deserved Oscar. It will find its place in the Meryl Streep retrospectives. Mission Accomplished. Nothing more.

A few weeks after coming to Israel as a new immigrant in 1984 I started to borrow books from the public library in Lod. The first book that I ever read after becoming a free man was John Le Carre‘s ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’. Obviously the sophisticated world of Cold War espionage viewed from the perspective of the West was not the kind of theme that would allow books to be published in Communist Romania. I fell under spell from the first pages, and this was the beginning of a log term relationship of adulation and frequent reader mileage between me and Le Carre.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1340800/

 

I missed the very well made (as I hear) BBC series, so the film directed by Tomas Alfredson is the first screen version of the novel that I see. The principal lines of action and the relations between the characters are well kept here, and for most of the duration of the film the deep feeling of incertitude, the Britishness of feelings well concealed under manners, the foggy fights were the concepts of good and bad need to be found deep inside the hearts and minds of the characters receive appropriate translation in the language of cinema. The interior flow of Le Carre prose gets an equivalent in a series of short scenes, some happening in the present, other being flashbacks that get a pace and fluidity of themselves that make of the film a captivating thriller despite the lack of real action scenes. The Byzantine relations between the members of the secret services are translated into dances of characters that move and look to each other, or avoid one another like in sacred rituals. The Cold War atmosphere is put on screen using 70s-like effects, all blurred in smoke of cigarette, fog and frost.

 

(video source trailers)

 

Some nuances get lost, and this is probably inevitable. Some characters get new dimensions or different perspectives. The sentimental aspect of the story (the relation between Smiley and his wife) is told, but loses in the context of the film the emotional importance it has in the book. On the other hand Gary Oldman builds a Smiley perfectly fit for the screen translation of Le Carre’s intention. ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ is one of the best adaptations of  a novel by Le Carre that I have seen to date.

 

Here is a film whose destiny is to gather a lot of statuettes on the Oscar night this year, and this may be one of its problems in my eyes. The combination between a personal drama doubled by a physical or psychological disability (the stammering of the duke of York to become King George VI of England) which allows for great principal role performances and the obsession of the big screen with the British dynasty may lead for the third time in the last two decades for royalties get an Oscar ovation. It is not that ‘The King’s Speech’ lacks moments of good cinema, a good dramatic build-up and a human touch but somehow it is too much on the side of the predictable to my taste.

source www.imdb.com

Being duke of York is probably the most frustrating position on the planet maybe with the exception of being VP of the United States of America. You are one inch apart from the peak of the Universe, and yet most people in your kingdom or republic may not know your face. The spotlights fall so close and you are still in the shadows. Exceptional events do happen sometimes and the second-in-line is pushed ahead and needs to take responsibility. This is what happened with the duke of York who became king at the abdication of his brother Edward, just at the time the world and his country where to face the biggest challenge in history at the outbreak of the second world war. And yet, his historical fight was also a personal fight, as he head to overcome his stammering, a huge handicap at a time when leaders’ speech inspired nations and the relatively new media of radio broadcast was the most efficient propaganda instrument in the war.

(video source ClevverMovies)

The best moments of the film were for me the human dimensions that the characters of Bertie (King George VI) and Elizabeth received under the acting of Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter. I am no fan of the British royals, but I ended by really sympathizing with their representation in the movie. The personal fight of Bertie, his relation with the commoner family of his speech expert (Geoffrey Rush which is no less than wonderful as we can always expect from him) and the way he ends by facing the call of history at the right moment are well filmed and described. I liked less the way the historical context is described, with characters like king Edward or Winston Churchill reduced to their stereotype. There is one character though which draw my attention and this was Neville Chamberlain in a very exact supporting performance by Roger Parrott. I could not avoid thinking that this complex character and the dilemma of appeasement that marked his political career with the disastrous consequences did not yet get any screen version fit to the dimensions of the historical figure.