May 20, 2013

"The Great Gatsby"

F. Scott's Fitzgerald's most widely read novel is brought to the screen by Baz Luhrmann.

The story is told from the perspective of Nick Carraway: a young bondsman who has just landed a job on Wall Street.  Moving to Long Island, he is soon the recipient of undivided attention from his neighbour: the notorious (and notoriously wealthy), Gatsby.  A bizarre love story emerges as Carraway begins to play the intermediary between his new friend and his married cousin Daisy.

What is there to say about Baz Luhrmann?  Famed for his outrageous style and hyperactive editing, the director doesn't appear to realise that trends change, and that a style that was popular in 1996 may now be old news.  Most of the film is submerged in this wave of fast action, and glittering costumes, though there are moments of tenderness where you can actually focus and appreciate that the story has themes.

The acting is pretty basic.  Carey Mulligan plays her usual victim role, Tobey Maguire plays his usual geeky upstart, and fails a little at conveying his obsession with Gatsby.  DiCaprio (who I consider the greatest actor of my generation) does a reasonable job, but he's overshadowed by the sensationalist style of the movie.

To its credit: the film has a really interesting soundtrack: reinterpreting modern artists (such as Amy Winehouse and Beyonce) with a 1920's jazz and blues infused spirit.  The original score is beautiful.  And needless to say, the costumes and set design are beautiful.

So overall?  The film isn't a wash out, but most of it's potential is lost under the pervasiveness (and oldness) of it's style.   If you see it as all it's worth seeing on a big screen.  The 3D effects are cool: particularly the end credits.

I wasn't even being sarcastic there.


March 13, 2013


"Lore" is a rarity:  A World War Two film, from the German perspective.

The protagonist is Hannahlore, a teenage girl with four younger siblings, and an SS officer for a father.  As defeat trundles through Germany, both her parents are forced to take responsibility, and the children are left alone.  Armed with a pocket of golden jewellery, Hannahlore must lead her siblings across a newly occupied and divided Germany, to the safety of her grandmother's house.

I have a personal interest in World War Two, and was looking forward to "Lore" because it offers something different: a film about that period from the German perspective.  As the children travel through the country, they witness the grief Hitler's death has caused, and the confusion of the German people about the atrocities that were committed.  Germany is presented coldly, yet compassionately, which is a brave statement, and makes a unique change.

However, the story is weak.  There are a few shocking events thrown in for good measure, an attempt at a love story, and an unsatisfying resolution.  The film basically pivots on stunning, visceral shots of flowing fabrics, blades of grass, and the haunting expressions of beautiful .

Nonetheless, the sympathetic treatment of Germany is fresh and daring, and the director's willingness to offer another perspective on a exhausted genre is it's saving grace.

The fact it's a visual feast doesn't hurt either ;)  People who don't like art house films should probably keep away.

7 / 10.

March 11, 2013


"Broken" is a coming-of-age drama about an 11 year old diabetic girl called Skunk.  An unstable single father's violent attack on a disabled neighbour marks the first of a series of changes that impact her life and force her to deal with her fears.

It's difficult to comment on "Broken" without giving too much of the plot away.  The debut feature from British theatre director Rufus Norris weaves beautiful, documentary-style shots, starkly punctuated editing and non-linear storytelling together in a humourous and touching way. Or at least it does for the first two thirds of the film.  The final third (or "Act") suddenly descends into unmitigated madness.  It's shocking, and harrowing, but feels oddly out of place, and more like an attempt to shock and pull heart strings.  Let's just say it makes sense that Norris was formally a theatre director.

On the positives:  I'm a big fan of both Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy, and overall the acting was fantastic.  Also the theme song carved a place in my heart - it's a cover of a the Blur song "Colours", and it's ridiculously catchy :)

Sweet to watch to a point, after that I felt manipulated.  5 / 10.

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