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.