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A Life in Pieces (1990)
Fans of Peter Cook should delight in his 1990 return to television, "A Life In Pieces". A 12-part series of short interviews with Arthur Streeb-Greebling conducted by Ludovic Kennedy, broadcast at Christmas and themed around "the twelve days of Christmas". Kennedy is pitch-perfect. At the time he was a highly-respected 'serious' broadcaster known for interviewing politicians so it is a delight to have him playing along (rather than another comedian acting the role).
The credit sequence sets us up for a parody of portentous (late-night or early Sunday morning) religious/spiritual-type broadcasting. In fact the parody element is minor and the tone of the piece is more often surreal, full of improvised banter and non-sequitur. Quotable and most successful in the sustaining of the character throughout 12 rambling shaggy-dog type reminiscences, without the need for too many conventional 'jokes' or punch lines. The pieces are occasionally laugh-out-loud funny but generally quite meandering. Perhaps most immediately funny is "5 Gold Rings", Arthur divulging the time he ran in the Olympics for Barbados "because Hitler asked me to".
After watching these (perhaps at Christmas) it is worth tracking down the later radio interviews conducted by Chris Morris, "Why Bother?"
Casino Royale (1967)
Up there with Bedazzled and Beyond The Valley of the Dolls
I'd avoided this movie for years assuming it was one of those bloated '60s comedies that aimed for madcap parody but ballsed it up completely (too many of those to mention). I'd seen a bit of the ending with Woody Allen larking about and that seemed to fit my assumption. I couldn't have been more wrong. This may have used a hodgepodge of writers and directors but somehow the end result is a spot-on satire attacking how far a gadget- heavy sex-crazed Bond had strayed from Fleming's ideal. It's of the messy but intelligent school of satire, akin Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's Bedazzled and Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Someone else here rightly mentions the 1966 Batman movie.
However what sets it apart from all of these is the quality of art direction, design, acting and music. Members of the cast who are in fleetingly still seem to fit right in, accents are hilarious and some performances are absolutely superb - namely Deborah Kerr as Agent Mimi, putting on her Scottish brogue to pass as M's wife Lady Fiona McTarry. The music is terrific, including a cheeky quote of Born Free and snippets of Dusty's Look of Love ( an aquarium sequence quoted by Baz Luhrmann in Romeo & Juliet). Finally, the cast is one of the most extraordinary to be gathered in one feature - it includes:
Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven, Orson Welles, Deborah Kerr, William Holden, Charles Boyer, John Huston, Woody Allen, Derek Nimmo, Ronnie Corbett, Bernard Cribbins, George Raft, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jacqueline Bisset, Stirling Moss, John Wells, Burt Kwouk, Geraldine Chaplin, John Le Mesurier, Peter O'Toole.
They are all fantastic. I'm sure there are a few more I've not mentioned.
Beautifully made tragedy but schematic, contrived.
Just watched it, hence the ramble... Such a beautifully-made film with terrific performances. I can see how many people find it an extremely powerful tragedy but I wonder if it tackles too much for its length and medium. There's only so much you can do and say in a 2 hour conventional-ish movie without overtly manipulating the audience.
Personally I have a problem with many fictional films of this type though I understand my reaction is not the common one. To me, these films take extremely shocking or despicable events which 'could be real' or 'could have happened' and 'do sometimes happen'. They film these events realistically but they ask the audience to dive in and get into the story as you would a piece of riveting fictional drama, The Godfather etc. At the same time they insist the film has elements of reality or quasi-documentary - to have 'this is almost truthful' or 'this is currently happening' qualities. Yet the screenplay, the unfolding drama, is only as real as a Greek tragedy, say - it is carefully scripted and story-boarded to shock and amuse and provoke. It's a play. A drama. A movie. It's still only another The Godfather or The Matrix. It's not a documentary or a record of an event or events which happened. It's like having your cake and eating it - taking an irony-filled, message-laden 'impactful' stage play and putting it in the package of a realistic contemporary action-drama thriller mystery tragedy.
I think if another director had played more on the fictional 'Greek tragedy', 'heightened ironic drama written for the stage' aspects I would have loved it. (Eg if the audience understood they were being manipulated for the sake of great drama.) Conversely I think if this director had made a similar movie based on a true story without the central shocking irony I would have loved it. He's a great director.
Not meaning to 'compare' different films and different intentions, and perhaps conflicting some of what I have said so far: I liked the way Roman Polanski's 'Death and the Maiden' keeps the stage play aspects of the original. I didn't enjoy 'The Kite Runner's mixing of fact and fiction, and then its action rescue ending. I'm a fan of some films which take real events and work them into drama and then finish by revealing the actual protagonist in real life - Europa Europa is an example. I'm a fan of City Of God only because it is so obviously a complete fiction, a 'Hollywood' style shoot-em-up, rather than a 'state of address'. I'm a huge fan of Sergei Bodrov's 'Prisoner Of the Mountains' as a film depicting some themes of war and religious conflict in a fairly realistic way but somehow with a nice balance between 'this is just a filmed play' and 'this is something happening right now which carries some universal truths'.
I don't comment that often on IMDb but I do think that for films of an extreme nature (such as Incendies' central twist) it is probably worth recording people's different reactions.
Finally, I do think the director is one of the best of recent times and congratulate him on the film despite it not being to my taste.
OK but lacks tension
See this on a big screen in an atmospheric cinema and it is pretty good popcorn-fodder big populist entertainment, nothing more but more importantly, nothing less. It's unfair to compare Prometheus to the first Alien movie - considering the knowledge we have now, having seen 3 or more Alien movies, there is no way you can achieve anything like the same level of mystery and awe. We've simply 'seen it all before'. You would have to come up with a very different or novel concept to achieve anything like the shock and awe of the original. So instead Ridley attempts something a 'little' different but still keeping a few horror movie action set pieces and some conventional sci-fi comic strip trappings. The beginning reminds a little of Terrence Malick and beautiful it is too. I think it sets the tone Ridley was after even if it doesn't gel with the comic book script and characters from then on. The biggest of the flaws is the lack of tension (partly caused by very weak characters we do not truly get to know). Okay we don't expect awe and mystery and this is populist sci-fi so the comic book level of ideas is fine, but tension would be good. I'd like to think he could have achieved more tense episodes (as tense say as Kathryn Bigelow achieved in Hurt Locker or Christopher Nolan achieved in Dark Knight). As it is I think he came very close with Rooni's gruelling scene and the final alien scene: If you can suspend disbelief just enough those scenes work well. Finally if you factor in Fassbender's captivating performance, you have a decent big screen sci-fi entertainment, as good say as a recent Star Trek and perhaps better (and shorter) than the 2nd and 3rd Matrix movies.
Hats off to the writers: Clever but not so much it spoils the humour. A violent cartoon about the effect violent cartoons have on their young audience. But rather than be preachy about it the writers have turned this into a decently balanced argument on the responsibilities of the artist and the legacy of their work. I'd like to think Stanley Kubrick would have quite liked this episode: he restricted public screenings of A Clockwork Orange after reports of copycat acts of violence. I haven't watched it in years but if memory serves this film shows the producers of the cartoons to be mindless, attention/money-grabbing immoralists who do not care if their product is damaging to young minds as long as they get rewarded. It also depicts some parents (Marge) as concerned moral guardians (not just unthinking religious or right wing zealots). The conclusion, that artistic freedom (aka freedom of speech) must be defended above all, even at the expense of our loss of innocence - is a stark but honest appraisal of violent stupid cartoons the world over. In fact, creaky and transparent though the episode is, its depiction of the innocence we have lost is moving and I can still remember how moved I was when I first watched it. I can't say that about many cartoons.
Dai-bosatsu tôge (1966)
Something for everyone, and good for repeat viewing.
For various reasons, some movies are immediately pleasing while others take their time to grab you (or perhaps you take your time to become receptive to their charms).
Occasionally a film combines the two effects and Sword of Doom is one of these: It has this quality of being immediately entertaining and yet it retains or withholds so much detail that you need to watch several times to comprehend every nuance.
It's not that it works "on many levels", though you could approach it that way. Rather, Sword Of Doom simply has lots of unexplained back story, some of it historical, and the back story is so interesting that, if you wish, your enjoyment can be as much about understanding the back story as it is about the film and the performances.
It's an adult approach to entertainment: A complicated narrative made simple and entertaining by leaving a lot of detail to your imagination or further research.
I've watched it a few times now and am looking forward to watching it a lot more. Each time I do so I'll probably check a few IMDb postings and wikipedia pages to get a new angle on the film and to learn a bit more detail on the period. As a first time watch I probably rated it 8 or 9/10 but as I keep watching it it makes a 10.
Two-Faced Woman (1941)
I liked Garbo in this. It's not much of a film but she is wonderful to behold. She's certainly up there with Claudette Colbert, Jean Arthur, Carole Lombard and Irene Dunne. Personally Babs Stanwyck and Myrna Loy are the absolute stars of screwball but it's a shame Garbo didn't make a few more comedies to attest to her versatility, in the same way that Dietrich proved herself so much more than Von Sternberg's mannequin. If you look at the comedy of the era - the classic screwball - it's a very modern type of comedy and even some of the lesser entries play quite well now, especially as we are so used to American TV's sitcoms re- popularising the genre (Frasier being one of the best). I find screwballs of the 35-42 period are funnier now than most current comedies, Two-Faced Woman included.
Jules et Jim (1962)
not for everyone
This is not a review but just to say this film is not to everyone's taste, as seems to be attested by a quick glance at the user reviews. Cinematically it is a powerful, adept, breathless picture but the narrative and the characters depicted may exasperate and depress. Of course there is much that is true and wise about the cycles of despair these characters enter into, in the same way that there is much truth and wisdom in Lars Von Trier's "Breaking The Waves", say. But even so, for this viewer at least, it's an especially depressing film because the passion and control of the 'film making', its vigour, seems counter to the characters' dispiriting stasis and inertia. Visually and aurally the film is lively, optimistic and generous, yet the characters are actually revealed to be dead, pessimistic and selfish.