Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Four films: Prometheus, Hansel and Gretel, The Angel's Share and Moonrise Kingdom

It's been a filmy weekend - to say we're not especially monarchist in this house may be a wild understatement, so we committed ourselves instead to the glories of film: three on the big(ish) screen, and another on Neil's laptop on DVD (there was a reason for that!)

Anyway: here's the rundown.

Prometheus (2012)

It's big, it's effects-heavy, and it's the opposite of claustrophobic, though there are plenty of dark caverns within which to tear apart the human psyche and body. But it is still a glorious ride of a film.  Noomi Rapace's cheekbones persuaded Neil to attend this with me, though it's a tough call whether it's her or Michael Fassbender's turn as 'David' that is the best performance in the movie.

(And has there ever been a more loaded name in sci-fi than 'David'?)

The cinematography, especially in Iceland - when it isn't slugging things out with the CGI - is gorgeous, and some of the sets are magnificently hyper-Geigeresque.  Pietro Scalia edits the whole to make much of the swooping breadth and lighting.  Does this amount to a lot?  The narrative occasionally leaps across its own internal logic, but there is enough momentum to keep an audience on-board.  Anyway, I really enjoyed it and there is a nice mix of wonder, body horror, origin of the species (in more than a human sense) and someone on the team had clearly watched the first X-files movie.

It's probably louder than it needs to be, but I was glad to see this on a big screen (not 3-D) to get some of the effects and grandeur.  Plus Rapace is delicious to look at even when running through corridors increasingly weighed down by something of which she needs to rid herself: she looks awesome even when blood-streaked and tormented.  And she never gives up her quest, despite death and everything else thrown at her.

Hansel and Gretel (2007)

This Korean film attracted Neil's attention in Fopp with a very eye-catching cover.  Despite some technical problems getting our DVD player to play the film in colour (we ended having to watch it on his laptop), it was VERY worth getting a copy.  The cinematography is luminescent in its colour palette - vibrant reds, Gothic blacks, Narnian white-witch whites - and worth watching just for the quality of the vision.

That there is such a transfixing creepiness to the narrative - a kinda reversal on the traditional Hansel and Gretel tale - just makes the film brilliant.  Scary kids, and scarier adults.  Nothing is quite what it seems and you'll stay very clear of encouraging children to wish for things ever again.

Recently the Hansel and Gretel tale seems to be everywhere: Grimm, Once Upon a Time, memories of Buffy and MOO, and this as well.  It's everywhere and scary every time!

The Angel's Share (2012)

Ken Loach gets (relatively) sentimental.  Redemption may be possible.  A film of whisky, profuse swearing, accents that I had no problem understanding and sporadic bloody violence.  It's a charming film channelling a humanity and tenderness not always noted by Loach-haters but which fans are always aware underpins his best work.  Here, that softer, lighter touch comes to the fore, but there is also much bittersweet humour (another trademark of Loach, again not always appreciated by those who cannot get past the social realism).

The central performances present endearingly flawed characters: in the end you cannot help but cheer their nefarious acts and hope for some level of success, even as you know most of them are unlikely to get beyond the next bottle of Bucky to a happy life.  I'm not generally in favour of using non-actors in key roles - they're too easily eaten by the system and find it hard to adjust back to where they came from - but it is definitely worth in praising the bottle-glassed Gary Maitland as Albert who takes naif to another conceptual level.  And you WILL wince when he holds aloft a bottle of Irn-Bru...

All this, and Roger Allam as a whisky connoisseur / purchaser on behalf of a too-loaded-to-have-taste unseen Russian (mind, he gets a better deal than the even-more-loaded American).  Pretty delightful.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

I'd happily re-watch Hansel and Gretel if I fancy a good scare (George: this may be inflicted during a visit!), but I suspect of all the films seen this weekend - was there something else going on?  whatever - the one I'll watch several times will probably be the hyper-'60s unreality of Wes Anderson in Moonrise Kingdom.  Anderson has arguably not developed much beyond the originality of Rushmore, but happily I'd take doses of his ultra-whimsy and truth about love and life over many directors' works.

Moonrise Kingdom is chock-full of delights: the central characters generate and convey a love and intensity of commitment to each other only 12 year-olds can make feasible.  The gauche isolation and outsider-ness that Suzy and Sam share warms the soul.

The visuals are soaked in the translucent colours of 1960s fashion photographs; the characters are the typical Anderson eccentrics, but here they capture the charm that has all too often been lost in Anderson's work since that glorious high of Rushmore.  There are plenty of great turns by the adults too - the obligatory Bill Murray is outshone here by great turns from Bruce Willis and Ed Norton particularly, alongside an ever wonderful Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton - but the film belongs to the children.

I felt sad for Snoopy, but the kitten more than made up for that, and all this plus the usual well-chosen score - this time there's Francois Hardy and Hank Williams, but best of all it showcases the brilliance of Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra".  A soundtrack worth staying for the entire credits to delight in right to the end.  Moonrise Kingdom is enough to warm the iciest of hearts, to be 'true' whilst never dallying with something so cheap as reality.  A delight.


Persephone said...

. . . and it's the opposite of claustrophobic . . . .

You mean it's agoraphobic?


Rob said...

I loved Moonrise Kingdom too. And there's more Britten: the Simple Symphony and - brilliantly integrated into the storyline - Noye's Fludde. Definitely one to get on DVD.