Drama, art/France/English, French (Japanese subtitles)/115mins
Starring: Michael Pitt, Eva Green, Louis Garrel
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Fox Searchlight Pictures
"I have at last met some real Parisians!"
writes Matthew, a young American visiting Paris, to his parents.
He doesnt tell the folks back home that he met them on a political
protest and that after being invited to stay with them he has slipped
into some decidedly odd ways.
Theo and Isabelle invite Matthew to stay with them at their apartment
and he is a tad nonplussed at the frank steaminess of the siblings
relationship: they sleep naked in the same bed and wander around
in permanent undress. But its OK, they were conjoined twins
and they show him the scars to prove it.
Apart from being odd, the three youngsters are cineastes and when
Theo flunks a movie trivia quiz his sisters punishment for
him is to masturbate looking at his favourite picture of Marlene
Dietrich. Theo plots a revenge where Isabelle is compelled to have
sex with Matt. Now the steaminess turns into a full-fledged semi-incestuous,
bisexual ménage á trios. Real Parisians, indeed.
The cute thing is that this is 1968 and French students and workers
are on the verge of overthrowing their own government. Rome burns
as the three little Neros fiddle with themselves, so to speak. Real
events intrude in the form of the odd brick through the window.
In case you havent yet guessed, this is Bernardo Bertolucci
of Last Tango in Paris fame and this is no mere weirdo porno flick
though you can watch it like that if you like. The Dreamers
is lavishly filmed and quotes pretty every other filmmaker of arty
note, mostly extensively Godard.
It is a dreamy indulgence in this seminal period of history, and
when the three youngsters are not bonking they are idealizing, their
philosophy veering between youthful silliness and real revolutionary
pragmatism. Posters of Mao jostle with portraits of the stars.
This is Bertolucci, so this is no sentimental trip down memory lane
and we see him separating the fluff from the real stuff as the sex
games end in the streets, swept away in the protests as if in the
tide of history.
Western/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/135mins
Starring: Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Annette Bening
Director: Kevin Costner
And I thought the western was dead wood.
Open Range, the fourth film and the second western Kevin Costner
has directed, harps back to the golden age of this genre and stands
out as a remarkably robust and thoughtful film. Costner the director
is maturing fast and if he has not yet peaked we are in for some
good films down the road.
At the heart of the film is a clash of values non-violence
against violence, the slow old ways against grasping modernity,
corporatism against individual liberty and a healthy environment,
and so on but the spartan script is never contrived.
Costner is Charley, a civil war veteran and expert killer, who in
the ten years since the war has been disciple and friend to aging
cattle man Boss, played by Robert Duvall. Boss is for hard work
and against violence and in his shadow Charley has tried to learn
Herding their cattle across country Boss and his crew come upon
a town run by a rancher played by Michael Gambon who is of the new
fence-itall-in breed and who has a violent hatred of Bosss
kind, who exercise their rights to free grazing on ranchers
lands. Gambon rather than letting the herders pass through, provokes
a confrontation and Boss pragmatically puts away his non-violent
instincts and lets Costner off the leash.
The wills of the antagonists clash, a classic showdown is brewing.
At no point is violence glorified or seen as the better option.
The violence when it comes at the films climax is unsparing
and unpleasant, and in a nice touch, rather than standing round
and gawping as in most westerns, the towns inhabitants
all head for the hills: they know gun play aint fun.
Although Charley is the man of action, Costner gives the centre
of the film to Duvall who rises to the occasion with a deftly understated
A thoughtful and compelling film that shows the upstarts in the
newer genres what script and filmmaking and acting are all about.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry and his chums are back with more fun and
magical capers. Sirius Black, implicated in the deaths of Harrys
parents has escaped from the dreaded Azkaban prison and may be headed
for Hogwarts to finish the gruesome task of ridding the world of
Potters. Scary soul sucking prison guards or Dementors ring the
school. Harry is of course not easily intimidated and with Ron and
Hermione set about comprehensively upsetting the baddies plans.
Neat plot tricks involving rearranging time and some spot on acting
deliver what we expect from these films, but now the vision darkens
Fantasy/US, UK/English (Japanese subtitles) /136mins
Starring: Daniel Radclifffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Spideys back! And no need for sequel-phobia,
because this film delivers. There is no need for laborious setting
up in Spider-Man 2, thats all out of the way in the first
flick, so its straight into the action. This time the wannabe
nemesis is the multi-tentacled Otto Octavius, aka Doc Ock whose
megalomania will destroy New York. And he might succeed because
Spidey is not even sure if he wants to be Spidey any more, so who
will save the day? Darker and pacier than the first film, and with
more plot and character. A film to get caught up in.
SF, action/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/ 127mins
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina
Director: Sam Raimi
The Day after Tomorrow
It is the end of the world as we know it. Humanity
has finally broken the only planet it has. Short-sighted governments
fail to heed the warnings of earnest boffins and now the sky is
falling. Giant storms over the northern hemisphere drag super-cooled
air from the troposphere to create a new ice age and lots of snowmen.
Meanwhile, climatologist Dennis Quaid takes time out from knowing
everything to walk across snowy America to rescue his son from ice-bound
New York. Gripping stuff as a disaster movie, but misrepresents
the equally scary consequences of global warming.
Disaster/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/124mins
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum Director: Roland
20th Century Fox
21 Grams is the first English language film by
excessively talented Mexican Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. A fatal
car accident connects three strangers, the wife of the victim, the
transplant recipient of his heart and the driver of the car. We
learn that the accident is not the only connecting thread: they
are all fragile and troubled people, all burdened by addictions
and lack of meaning in life. The film is shot in a non-chronological,
cut up kind of way that makes for challenging viewing, but is nonetheless
Drama/US, Mexico/English (Japanese subtitles)/125mins
Starring: Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, Naomi Watts
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Walter has the funkiest uncles ever. They sit
on their Texas porch like two articles of American gothic, take
potshots at unwanted visitors, spin fabulous tales of adventure
and riches, and keep a secondhand circus lion. The young lad Walter
is dumped on this crusty pair for the summer while mum is improving
her life in Las Vegas with her new beau. Actually she is convinced
that the two old men are sitting on a fortune and she wants to know
where it is. The film is steeped in whimsy and sentimentality and
familiar home-spun themes.
Drama/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/107mins
Starring: Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, Haley Joel Osment
New Line Cinema
The Medallion is sort of The Golden Child with
Jackie Chan in place of Eddie Murphy and all that implies. Somewhere
in the far east is a child sitting in perpetual meditation, and
when the two separated halves of an ancient medallion have been
put together, the kid will be able to confer eternal life on anyone
recently deceased. Surprise, surprise, the medallion and the child
become objects of interest for certain unscrupulous types. The plot,
of course is irrelevant because we have come to see the stunts and
the goofiness, of which there are lavish helpings.
Hong Kong/HK/Chinese, English/90mins
Starring: Jackie Chan, Lee Evans, Claire Forlani
Director: Gordon Chan
Lost in Translation
Bill Murray is an aging actor who agrees to appear
in some Japanese whisky commercials more for the chance to get away
from the wife as for the money. There he bumps into young newlywed
Scarlett Johansson whose workaholic husband has left on her on her
todd and they strike up a friendship: he middle-aged and jaded,
she young and just learning what jaded is. Bitter-sweet and wise
dialogue, exceptional acting, no sentimentality and more heart and
compassion than is decent in a modern film. Oh, and possibly Murrays
best performance ever.
Drama/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/87mins
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Ruffalo, Christina Applegate
Director: Bruno Barreto
You know all about this British comedy already:
it is based on the true story of those quaint middle-class, middle-aged
ladies from the Womens Institute who decide to make a nudy
calendar to raise money for charity. Of course in the photos, all
the naughty bits are well covered by strategic still life arrangements,
but the calendar sold big time and made over a million quid for
charity. Here is the story retold with some embellishments and lots
of zest and laughs. A film designed for Julie Walters and Helen
Mirren who make it an international must-see.
Comedy/UK/English (Japanese subtitles)/108mins
Starring: Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, John Alderton
Director: Nigel Cole
Veronica Guerin, the Irish investigative journalist,
was shot dead by the people she was exposing in 1996. This is the
film of the work that lead to her death. Guerin became a household
name in Ireland in the mid-nineties for delving into the world of
the big money world of the Mr Bigs who governed Dublins drug
trade. The success of her work led to become a household name and,
eventually, assassinated. This telling ads some real depth to the
popular character, and gives a disturbing ambiguity to her undoubted
True story/Ireland, US/English (Japanese subtitles)/98mins
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Gerard McSorley, Ciaran Hinds
Director: Joel Schumacher
Paris the bloke, not the city runs
off with Helen to Troy the city, not the bloke. Hubby Menelaus
sets to off to get her back with a huge a CG army in what must be
fictions most absurd jilted man brawl where thousands die
to restore a cuckolds pride. We get the whole thing of the
siege and the battles and the horse, but we also get the story humanised
and treated not as myth but as history, which has the unfortunate
side-effect of making it all appear a wee bit silly.
War/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/162mins
Starring: Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger
Director: Wolfgang Peterson
Single mother Cate Blanchett is doing OK in the
Wild West, providing for her kids and bonking the hired help when
Injuns up and steal one of her daughters. Nothing for it but to
enlist her estranged father, who is conveniently trained in the
way of the native, to rescue her child. She takes along her other
daughter Cmon darling, button your coat properly, we
may need you in a gunfight. All the implausibilities piled on top
of each other would reach the moon, or at least the nearest box
Western/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/135mins
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Tommy Lee Jones, Evan Rachel Wood
Director: Ron Howard
Standing in the Shadows of Motown
The sound of Motowns heyday is down to the
legendary singers and producers
not quite, according to this
documentary that tells the tale of at least some of the backing
musicians. Whatever the big name, the band in the studio was likely
to be the same one: the Funk Brothers, unsung heroes of a seminal
phase in music history, whose story if iconic of the use and dispose
attitude of big corporations all unceremoniously dumped in
the labels big move to LA in 1972. Musical inspiration and
and beware exploding myths.
Documentary/US/English (Japanese subtitles)/108mins
Featuring: the Funk Brothers Director: Paul Justman