Film 2Oh!!

24
Apr 11

Film2Oh!!:Camilleau

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Film 2Oh!! stats update: Seen 90 films, written about 16 (including these two)

Talking about Cheri the other day reminded me that in the last sixth months I have seen three other films with the same setting of turn of the century Paris about high-end socialite prostitutes. I saw Gigi at the end of last year so it doesn’t quite fit into this project, (and possibly thank heavens I don’t have to take apart Thank Heavens For Little Girls). But two I did see this year were two versions of the same story, Camille – based on La Dame aux Camélias by the younger Alexandre Dumas (cut and paste courtesy of Wikipedia). One of my winter pleasures was to work through a box set of Greta Garbo talkies (of which more soon), of which Camille was the middle one I hit. On a quiet night I slipped the DVD in and through fat fisted wangling and surprise the 1921 version of Camille (with Rudolph Valentino) started playing as an extra on the DVD. Intrigued I kept watching….

15: Camille (1921) (DVD)

Silent films clearly rely on the visual, both for storytelling purposes but also to drag in their punters. If every story was set in the same neighbourhood as the viewer then there could be less of a draw. The setting of Camille is part of its innate charm, and this early flapper movie really does try to stuff the film with outrageous sets and costumes. Valentino plays the male lead Armand, but this is before Valentino’s made it huge and the film belongs (much like the Garbo Camillle) to the lead actress, here Russian actress Alla Nazimova. Nazimova plays Marguerite (the lady of the Camelias, hence the name of the film) with an unhinged gusto. The story in itself is pretty simple, Armand falls for loose courtesan Marguerite, and oddly for her she reciprocates. They nip off to the countryside, where love blooms and she decides to settle down with him. Then his family step in to say they will disinherit him if he marries this woman on loose morals. Therefore she decides to push him away to save him. And as ever in this kind of drama, someone ends up coughing up blood and dying of consumptions (all the better for deathbed confessions my dear).

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25
Apr 11

Film 2Oh!!: The Extraordinary Adventures Of The Last Woman In Paris

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17: The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec (Cinema)

I really want to try and link the order I write these in, you know, with amusing parallels between very different films. But as it happens, like the two Camilles, Adele Blanc-Sec is also about a woman living in Paris. The titular adventuress may first be encountered in Egypt, but she is clearly a woman of Paris. Indeed, once the initial Pterodactyl attack is over and done with in the first five minutes, she appears to be the only woman left in Paris (if you leave out her comatose, plot driving sister).

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4
May 11

Film 2Oh!!: Thor Is Just Birther and OBL Conspiracy Theory Propaganda

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18. Thor (Cinema)

This may contain hints at spoilers. And below the break actual spoilers.

Some films get lucky with their release date, others are unfortunately pre-empted by real events. Imagine if you will what would have happened if next weekend was the release date of Morgan Spurlock’s “Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden”. But such is the risk when making topical films like Spurlock did there, or indeed Kenneth Brannagh has done here with Thor.

Now hold, you say. What can be topical about a film made of a 45 year old comic based on thousand year old Norse myths. Everything and nothing. Now I am not saying that Thor has been made to specifically stoke up conspiracy theories around Osama Bin Laden’s death or to throw additional fuel to the fire of the birthers in the US. Its just one of the many readings that can be teased from this dense narrative (you may also read dense how you would like). For the record let it state that as a blockbuster Thor is lots of fun (especially in 2D), having the right level of comedy leavens what might otherwise be a stodgy brew. But you may also need to consider that the best character in it is also one which has no origin in the original material at all (take a bow Kat Dennings and your snarky one liners). Spoilers from here on:

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18
May 11

Film 2Oh!!: The Point Of Bad Art

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19: Manasse (Movie)

Earlier this year I worried that I didn’t know how to talk about silent films. That I did not feel that I had the critical toolkit to enable me to safely say if one was good or bad. And, unacknowledged at the time, was also a fear that it was difficult to see such a spectrum anyway, what with so much destroyed and only the good ones being saved.

Well never fear, I finally saw a truly bad silent film, and now I have a much better idea of what a bad silent film is. And why other ones are better.

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24
May 11

Film 2Oh!!: Now That’s What I Call Neo-Realism

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21: Germany Year Zero (DVD)

I’m not sure what I expected from Rosselini’s Germany Year Zero. I knew it was a key Italian Neo-Realist film without perhaps knowing what that meant (my neo-realism begins and ends with The Bicycle Thief, and I come to that via the Icicle Thief). I suppose I didn’t expect dubbed Italian dialogue as Edmund slumps through the rather powerful ruins of Berlin. Now I know that Italian films were routinely dubbed, but I supposed that part of the draw of neo-realism was presenting a story in a more raw, documentary style than the forties were used to. Germany Year Zero does this except everyone seems to be speaking with a fruity Italian accent (I don’t speak Italian, but I can tell when its not German). The fact that the actors are all German and are clearly dubbed by others isn’t really the point – and the diagetic sound mix is excellent. But, my years of seeing subtitled films suggest, wouldn’t it have been better in German? Perhaps the most powerful and jarring moment of the film is when a record of one of Hitler’s speeches is played. And that is in German.

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1
Jun 11

Film 2Oh!!: That Feminine: Mystique

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22: X-Men: First Class (cinema)

A film like X-Men: First Class is pretty hard to review. I thoroughly enjoyed it in a way I haven’t enjoyed an X-Men film since X2, which is to say that its an intelligent action movie for stupid people. These being the only team superhero films on the block at the moment, they manage to have issues about pacing, the amount of plot and characterisation that needs to be stuffed in and multiple simultaneous action sequences. To his credit Matthew Vaughn handles all of this pretty well and churns out a clever flick which almost rehabilitates the idea of a prequel. At least here the key sense is if being slavish to continuity spoils your story, then always go with the story. Which is exactly how it should be in every medium.

What interests me the most about the X-Men films is, once minted, how they have had a life of their own, and thus how they have mutated. Certain choices in the initial film begat continuity issues later on. So X-Men: First Class has a pretty different actual first class to the comic X-Men: First Class, many of whose first class were in the class in the first film. (I hope that made no sense). Dramatic arcs for the first were lifted from the comics, but also expanded upon – the Wolverine, Jean Grey, Cyclops lover triangle has significantly more importance in the films. And some characters, almost throwaway henchmen like Mystique, took on a life of their own.

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2
Jun 11

Film 2Oh!!: EXTREME!!!

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23. Robogeisha (DVD)

Yesterday I filled in a questionnaire about Extreme Asian cinema which wanted to know why I might watch something that may be filed under “Asian Extreme” cinema. It was quite a thorough questionnaire, trying to pinpoint what I thought the appeal of such cinema was, as well as probing my definitions of it. I get a sense that it is trying to repeal some BBFC decisions, but its interesting area of research (though how truthful its answers will be may be unclear). If you are interested in the questionnaire it is here:
http://www.asianextremecinemaresearch.co.uk/

Anyway the point is I don’t watch an awful lot of what I might consider Asian Extreme cinema. That said I see plenty of Asian films which tiptoe into this area, and certainly in the J-Horror period saw some quite nasty stuff (fish-hooks in the fanny movie The Isle being an obvious example). I am particularly queasy about sexual violence and extreme body horror, but I do try not to self censor too much if a film seems worthwhile (Audition was tough but rewarding for example). But on the other side I do have a bit of an interest in schlocky gore horror, and just genre trash movies. Hence renting Robogeisha – from the man who bought us Machine Girl. Robogeisha has a mix of gore, splatter effects, ridiculous body horror and odd stabs at eroticism that is as enjoyable as you want it to be. I probably took it at the level of an X-rated Power Rangers episode, replete with ejaculating demons and some truly poor effects. And yet it cutely goes all the way to try and string together a coherent plot, its not just happy with Cyborg Geisha / gore / sex. Though it is quite happy with that.

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7
Jun 11

Film 2Oh!!: If Ozu Had Made Tron

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25: Summer Wars (DVD)

I became aware of Summer Wars last year, flicking through some news item trying to work out why so few Japanese films were being released in the UK at the moment*. There was someone bemoaning the lack of anime releases, and in particular when would they get to see Summer Wars. I watched this trailer below I think and though it looked like a cute, if somewhat serious, Pokemon type film. But it was by the director (Mamoru Hosoda) who made The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, which I liked, so on the list it went. I am glad I did as I don’t think I have been as surprised and delighted by a film I selected at a whim since Ping Pong.

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13
Jun 11

Film 2Oh!!: Formula 1, Blindness, Cannibalism, Self-Mutilation and Creepy Fred Astaire

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Film 2Oh!! is an attempt to write about every film I have seen this year which is really quite tricky. This year I have seen 124 films, written about 25. Its tricky. So lets try and mop a few up with some thoughts on some films I have seen lately.

26: Senna (cinema)
Remarkable how cinematic a documentary made completely from grainy TV footage can be. Remarkable how much the non-stop historical cigarette advertising throughout the film made me want a gasper. Particularly Rothmans, the Williams and my Dad’s formula one cigarette of choice. I remember one Christmas at family gathering racing a packer of John Player Special against a pack of Rothmans on the dining table as we “played” Formula 1. And being mighty disappointed that no-one in the family smoked Marlboro’s.

27. Julia’s Eyes (cinema)
Dear the makers of Julia’s Eyes. I can understand why thematically it may make sense in a film about someone losing her sight, you may want to mirror her failing eyesight with dull fading cinematography. I understand it, but it is as bad an idea as associating “unremarkable” with “invisible”.

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21
Jun 11

Film 2Oh!!: You Know, The Other Nazi’s

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31 & 32: Ip Man (DVD) and Return Of The Fist: The Legend Of Chen Zhen (DVD)

The cinema shorthand, when I was a kid, was that Nazi’s were evil cannon fodder. Classic dehumanising techniques from a jingoistic media trying to make sense of years of war, and the aftermath. It was handy that the Nazi’s made it pretty easy to portrayed as such, Hitler and his Final Solution still seem objectively much more evil than most wars about territory. And as Mitchell and Webb pointed out recently, wearing skulls as insignia suggest that you might be the bad guys.

I don’t know much about Chinese history beyond some of the bulletpoint bits and Chairman Mao’s really rather versatile jacket. I do know that Japan and China were at war pre-WWII, and that Japan had significant gains within China, such as Shanghai and so on. But Japanese cinema barely touches anything resembling modern history, and Chinese cinema (depending on its provenance) also seemed to avoid films about this time too. Both national cinemas seem to play a lot more on the long history and Wuxia and Samurai type historical films (with their own codified genre tropes).

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