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I Give It a Year (2013)
Truly dreadful. Avoid it.
If there was the option to give 0, I would have done so. This is one of the worst films I have ever seen recently and I've seen a lot. I went with modest expectations, I wasn't hoping for great art. But I did expect a laugh. It simply was not funny. Endlessly repeating swear words does not, contrary obviously to the assumptions of this film maker,constitute humour. Neither does coarse and crude humiliation of people. It seemed to me to be an awful reflection of the "dumbing down" intellectually which has taken place in our society and of the appalling public behaviour, where crass lack of consideration for anyone but yourself has become all too frequent. The cinema itself (full of popcorn crunching, fizzy drink slurping grazers who left the auditorium looking like a midden) was in tune with the film itself.
Grim but great
This was not an easy film to watch and even less easy to reflect on. However, I thought it was a great film. Original and brave. The acting was totally convincing and the theme important and challenging. The repeated reminders of the hypocrisy of our society regarding sex and violence were clever and uncomfortable. I was very disappointed, but not surprised, that this film received no recognition at the awards ceremony. Normally, "sex, sells" is written on the heart of all promoters. But not in this case, as it is not at all titillating. A genuinely adult film (not the usual meaning). Fine performances from Michael Fassbinder and Carry Mulligan.
Jodaeiye Nader az Simin (2011)
Moving domestic drama
I have never lived in Iran, so I cannot comment on the accuracy of the film as a portrait of Iranian life. But it certainly convinced me of its authenticity in terms of the problems faced by most ordinary people at lot of the time. I assume that the characters were played by actors, but they never seemed like actors and never intruded their own personalities into the piece. The film raised a number of importance moral questions, without preaching at the viewer and no easy answers were offered. I had one reservation - about an event hidden from the viewer but critical to an understanding of the action. However, apart from this, I thought it was excellent.
Brighton Rock (2010)
Excellent overall, shame about the ending
I went to see this film with some trepidation. The original Graham Greene novel is very good and one of my favourites. The original film from 1947 was also extremely good, with Richard Attenborough as an unlikely but splendid villain. However this version was excellent. The fact that it had been updated to the 60s, which had worried me a little, worked well. Of course it did not have the period feel, but the aggression, violence and fighting for territory of the Mods and Rockers (which I remember well) echoed beautifully the behaviour of the gangsters and gave the opportunity for some very effective scenes visually. The acting I found completely plausible, with Phill Davies, John Hurt, Sam Riley and Andrea Riseborough all giving authentic portrayals. Helen Mirren, perhaps, looked a little too glamorous physically, but her acting was fine. Brighton itself was a wonderful additional character in all this. The contrast between the somewhat mindless hedonism of the holiday makers and the violent and ugly activities of the underworld was extremely effective and the use of the landscape beautiful and horrific in equal measure. The theme of sin, guilt and Catholicism was probably not dealt with as interestingly as in the novel, but that is a frequent limitation of the medium of film. Why on earth the makers of the film felt that they were entitled to "improve" on Graham Greene's ending I do not know. But it did not spoil my overall judgement that this was a very good film. I hope it will inspire those who have not already done so to read the novel.
Self indulgent and vacuous
This was the slowest film I have ever seen. There was certainly no midnight oil burnt over the dialogue. All the dialogue put together probably would not have made 20 minutes, in a film which last nearly two hours. Approximately 10 minutes into the film, not a single word had been spoken. Shots which would normally be allowed to last 30 seconds went on for minutes. Perhaps the director had recently seen some Pinter and thought it was good. Worse than this was the implausibility of events. It seemed like a preliminary sketch for a film to be developed later, but which never was developed. Slight and time-wasting like so many films nowadays.
Another Year (2010)
Well acted, but only partially successful
Mike Leigh, in my experience, always produces films for grown ups. Thoughtful, brave and interesting. His actors are also excellent. He has built his reputation on realism. The acting in this film was as good as ever. But I was left wondering why I felt so dissatisfied. I reflected and concluded that the film is very sentimental in its portrayal of marriage. The married couple here are, apparently, blissfully happy. They clearly share interests, so far so good. But there were several points in the film where it seemed to me that there bliss was founded on neither of them actually challenging the other's opinions or behaviour. Is this really what Leigh intends us to see as the recipe for a happy marriage? The moment there is the whiff of conflict, shutting up? The issue of their son was also hinted at but never explored. Even more curiously this happily married couple appear to socialise solely with singleton social mis-fits. The single people in this film are unremittingly portrayed as lonely, drunk, sad, incompetent or aggressive. How realistic is this? It seemed that we were being treated to a piece of propaganda in favour of marriage. Finally, what happened to the opening character, played by Imelda Staunton? Either this section was irrelevant and should have been cut, or it had a relevance and was left hanging. Untidy and lacking in form.
Letters to Juliet (2010)
Luscious Italy, shame about the film
I did not go to this film with very high expectations, but discovered that, as low as they were, my expectations were still too high. Italy is a beautiful backdrop for a load of tosh. The acting was wooden and totally implausible. However, it may be that no-one could have made much of the plot and script. It looked as if someone had managed to secure Vanessa Redgrave and then set about finding a suitable vehicle for her. I have seen this actress over the years on film and the stage and found her to be exciting and intelligent in her performances. This was a total waste of her talent. There are far too many films coming out and more is definitely less as this shows.
Io sono l'amore (2009)
Pretentious and self-indulgent
I went to this film because it was receiving such rave reviews. It was long, very long. I looked at my watch several times. The screen was filled with visually gorgeous images much of the time, which, after the first 10 minutes, added little or nothing to the plot, theme or the viewers' understanding. Using visual images as a metaphor for meaning is all very well, but endlessly repeating them is simply lazy. The plot was slight. The ending farcical (one women in the Cinema I was in actually laughed out loud and I don't blame her). The acting was wooden, but given the material they were handed perhaps one should not blame the actors. When is the western cinema going to grow up? How many more romantic films do we have to sit through being expected to believe in the overwhelming love between two people, when we are shown nothing between them but sex? This was a very disappointing experience and I would advise people to spend their time more productively.
Leap Year (2010)
Silly and boring
I went to see this film because it had been advertised as a romantic comedy and other reviews had said that it was indeed funny and enjoyable. I did not find it at all funny. There was a good deal of slapstick, but nothing funny. It had also been recommended as showing Ireland at its beautiful best. Ireland is, indeed, beautiful, though very little of it was to be seen in this film. I was also extremely irritated by the obvious contradictions (the Dingle is on the west coast of Ireland, Cork on the East, but when sailing from Cardiff to Ireland in a storm the boat has to "put in" at the Dingle when it is bound for Cork!). The Dingle itself is famous for its food and restaurants. It also had a number of great hotels. We were asked to believe that nothing decent in either category could be found by the heroine there. The landscape around Dingle is outstandingly beautiful (the ring of Kerry etc.)The scenes we were shown were clearly not shot there. I know this is not intended as a travelogue, but why be to perversely wrong? All the usual stereotypes were to be seen (superstitious Irish; emotionally cold professional Englishman; posey American) and, of course, the obligatory and completely implausible happy ending. This was rubbish of the first order. I know Dr. Johnson said that one had to suspend disbelief in the theatre, it would seem one now has to suspend all intelligence for this film.
My Life in Ruins (2009)
Tired plot, ham acting, very poor.
I was not expecting this film to be great art, but this was dreadful.It was really the worst film I have seen in a long time. The plot was entirely predictable and very tired and the acting was really poor - hammy and crude. It also appeared to lose its nerve part way through and introduced much darker notes which were completely out of place in what was a farce. Yes, it had the very occasional laughs, but very few indeed. We went to see it partly because we had just returned from a delightful holiday in Greece and wanted to be reminded of happy experiences. Well, we did see some familiar and spectacular ancient sites and scenery, but that was all. Do not waste your time on this.