This is a re-post of a post I did on Testament of Youth last December when the lead actress and I sat down to watch it for the first time (as you do). My excuse for reposting it is that the film has now been released in Australia and so is at a cinema near you. However the blogosphere is harsh and unforgiving, even here at Club Pony. So, to keep the howls of protest down, to throw a little meat to the wolves to keep them at bay till I can slink away, the post now has an EXTRA PARAGRAPH on my favourite scene. I discovered (HT James Kent) that the screenplay for this film and many others funded by the BBC repose freely available on the BBC website. A small victory for sensible publishing and an invaluable guide to my paragraph on my favourite scene. Anyway, the review is below the fold. Continue reading
Here’s another post highlighting a film festival. It derives from my frustration at being able to actually work out what’s worth seeing and when from festival propaganda which is mainly directed at trying to get you to go, not helping you work out what you’d like to see. Regulars know that I’ve been doing this for some time. I get someone in India to identify films that have passed a quality threshold – judged by standard review sites and other reviews and then run them up for me. Then I put them up here for everyone’s benefit.
However I don’t think I’ve ever got any feedback on this, so I’d appreciate it if people could offer some comments on the usefulness of the service. Note because it’s still a hassle to identify a film and then work out where and when a film is on, there’s now a new feature, which is a timetable at the bottom of the list of best films which have been identified. That way if you’re not studiously trying to get to the best films, but want to go out on a particular night or nights and want to know if, where and when there are any good films on that night, you can now do so using the table.
I saw The Imitation Game last night and enjoyed it very much. Engaging and really well paced. Go see it if you can.
Keira Knightley was a disappointment. Her fate is a little like Helena Bonham Carter’s. Spectacular looking Young Thing HBC ended up parlaying her prim young ingénue routine in Lady Jane Grey and A Room with a View into prim older thing as the Queen Mum in The King’s Speech and endless baddies and weirdos all played in a similar way – for instance as Mrs Havisham in Great Expectations. As far as I could see she played pretty much the same character in Harry Potter and Les Miserables.
Keira’s problem is similar but somewhat different. She isn’t typecast by casting agents. She gets lots of different roles requiring a much wider range. But her most distinguishing physical feature, a certain aspect of her mouth and cheeks now seems to dominate everything she does like Louis Vuitton logos on Louis Vuitton luggage. She wasn’t much chop in this movie.
On any trip one takes in a bunch of movies, at least on the plane. I’ve seen two that I heartily recommend. Belle dramatises (meladramatises?) the true story of a girl who was the product of a British military seaman in the 18th century and a black west indian woman. Before he dies he extracts from a relative the promise to look after his illegitimate daughter that is the product of this union. The resulting dark skinned girl receives a lady’s upbringing and the film portrays all this in a way that was convincing (for me anyway). She ends up marrying an opponent of the slave trade and so the films’ producers have turned this into a Jane Austen style story in which the drama of romance (including the wider family drama) becomes the vehicle in which virtue discovers itself in the world. An difficult thing to try, but well brought off I reckon.
Magic in the Moonlight is Woody Allen’s latest. It’s everything a good Woody Allen movie is. It’s funny and built on a conceit that generates a nice, neat plot through which Allen explores some of his themes. Colin Firth delivers the humour well, though his character is rather too didactically drawn as is Allen’s way. But a very enjoyable movie, if not must see viewing.
The final movie is Russell Crowe’s “The Water Diviner”. I would have steered clear of it from the trailer alone – which allows the viewer to gorge himself on Crowe’s non-acting – but for one thing. It was opening in Istanbul and the film is largely set in Istanbul. It’s the story of an Aussie, Aussie, Aussie who, visits Gallipoli after WWI to find his three dead sons. There in the aftermath of the war he finds Australian and British soldiers going about their moustachioed business of identifying and burying the war dead. They haven’t been able to identify his sons, but hey, Aussie, Aussie Aussie is a water diviner, so he tells them where to dig. And there they are! The characters consist of Aussies (salt of the earth – with the exceptions of the moustaches which are pretty obviously stuck on), Poms (whining and stuck up), Turks, who really can wear a moustache (tough but civilised and with a heart of gold).
But the best is kept till last. Russell ends up in Anatolia where there is major unrest between the muslim and Greek Christian population. Here the Greeks are Bad. As in About As Bad As You Can Get. They’re made up in near blackface from boot-polish and their main pass-time appears to be machine gunning turks. Russell manages to save a Turkish buddy from trouble by whacking a Greek Baddie with a cricket bat with which he’s been teaching the Turks to play cricket - I am not making them up. This was the obvious place for an “oy, oy, oy” but owing to the understated tone of the movie, we are spared. Anyway, I was puzzled at this as it made little sense to me that the Greek minority in the middle of the country would suddenly become uppity – as it was so against their interests. So I looked it up in Wikipedia. There was some aggression from the Greek nation supported by its coalition allies from WWI which landed at Smyrna inflaming racial tensions in the region. the Greeks also had designs on areas in Anatolia in central Turkey where Greeks were a majority. The upshot was vast Turkish massacres of Greeks known as the Greek genocide. It accounts for the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Greeks with some accounts giving it a similar scale to the Armenian genocide. You wouldn’t have guessed it from the film. Still I wouldn’t’ avoid the film for that reason. Avoid it for its vacuity masquerading as profundity, it’s non-acting masquerading as acting.
There comes a terrible moment to many souls when the great movements of the world, the larger destinies of mankind, which have lain aloof in newspapers and other neglected reading, enter like an earthquake into their own lives — where the slow urgency of growing generations turns into the tread of an invading army or the dire clash of civil war, and gray fathers know nothing to seek for but the corpses of their blooming sons, and girls forgot all vanity to make lint and bandages which may serve for the shattered limbs of their betrothed husbands.
Vera Brittain quotes this magnificent passage from George Elliott’s Daniel Deronda in her own great work, Testimony of Youth. It is of course the story of her generation and the catastrophe of the Great War visited upon them after a century of peace (if you ignore the horrors of colonialism at the periphery). She also says this in the book.
There is still, I think, not enough recognition by teachers of the fact that the desire to think – which is fundamentally a moral problem – must be induced before the power is developed. Most people, whether men or women, wish above all else to be comfortable, and thought is a pre-eminently uncomfortable process.
One of the most iconic and haunting episodes of war, indeed of any time is the Christmas parties that broke out spontaneously – to the horror of the authorities – along substantial sections of the Western front in 1914. Those events stand for many things – most particularly the life-world, in all its fragility breaking out against the iron fist inside the velvet glove of civilisation – the organised forces of coercion and violence behind any successful mass social formation. Yet, by then it was too late. Any insight or inclination that those events stood for could not be turned to any material advantage to anyone and the soldiers were hounded back into the trenches.
I’ve been reading some of Ulysses S Grant’s autobiography and it’s notable how often he juxtaposes moral and physical courage giving the impression that they tend to substitute for one another: Lack of moral courage seems the norm, and it often exacts its price in the need for physical courage. In a world which is so often reduced to boilerplate prose, never less so than today when managers manage their brands, and their own personal ‘brands’, in which politicians of both sides gradually – nowadays rather quickly – disappear beneath the insincerity of their talking points, I loved this film for dramatising this dichotomy in our lives between life as the collection of the petty hypocrisies and insincerities that get us through a normal day and life as a creative and rational act. Continue reading
Top Picks (Looks like a good crop!)
True story of beloved singer, songwriter and accordionist, Rocco Granata, from his early life as an immigrant in Belgium to his emergence as a worldwide musical phenomenon with his 1959 song Marina, one of the biggest international hits of that era.1948 Calabria, in southern Italy, poor local worker Toto Granata leaves his wife Ida and two children to work in the Belgian mines, promising to return wealthier. But like countless others, instead of returning after a few years as planned, his family are forced to join him and adjust to a new life as immigrants in a foreign country. It is here Toto’s only son Rocco discovers his sole joys lie in young love and the music that will eventually immortalise him.
PALACE CINEMA COMO
PALACE BRIGHTON BAY
Lots more films below the fold Continue reading
It is remarkable – non? – that, with the vast amounts spent on arts marketing it’s so hard to know what great arts events are on, where they’re on and whether you should go to them ahead of other arts events. In other words that it’s so hard not just to ensure that the information turns up on some feed of yours in a form that’s easily accessible and comprehensible, but also in a form that allows you to ignore dross, unless you want dross.
As a small contribution to solving this problem (with larger contributions in the wings), as you know Troppo hosts film festival highlights in a form that makes it easy for you to identify when and where good films are on. Here’s the Israeli Film Festival films that score around four stars or more from decent independent reviewers.
What’s there not to like?