Two films to see, one to miss

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.

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Duncan Riley
Duncan Riley
6 years ago

Good and Woody Allen film in the same sentence is an oxymoron.

I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
6 years ago

Nick,

We agree to disagree.
Woody Allen’s suck to high heaven. Never again will I see one.

Russell Crowe is one of the best actors going round. A beautiful mind for example. That should have appealed to you.

derrida derider
derrida derider
6 years ago

Nah, Woody Allen is a good director and better scriptwriter. His only problem is that he’s become a bit of a one-trick pony; so predictable that I’m sure someone will sooner or later make a really good parody of a generic Allen movie.

Why does it not surprise me that another Australian film dealing with WW1 or its aftermath is utterly unable to rise above crude stereotypes mixed with outright falsehoods? I am already cringing at the monstrosities that will be foisted upon us in the form of TV series, popular history books, politicians’ speeches, etc in the centenary year of the Gallipoli campaign.

I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
6 years ago

each to their own DD although I was never going to see this current Crowe movie. Every other movie i have seen him in he has been brilliant.
I am going to see the Imitation game at some stage over the holiday period.

I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
6 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

always good for non-sense around Christmas!!

John walker
6 years ago

Nicholas , do you have any idea where Russell crow got the plot/ script from, it sounds so weird so implausible I.e the cricket bat- that it might ( just)just have some base in a individual story. For instance , have read a story that in Palestine ,just before the end of hostilities ,a group of ANZACs came across a group of Arabs ( allies)that were attacking a group of Turks ,mixed combatants and civilians, the Anzacs apparently drove off/ killed the Arabs and then sat down and had a meal with the Turks.

Greg
Greg
6 years ago

Hi Nick The plot in the Crowe film sounds ‘interesting’. However almost any treatment of the topic would be interesting and potentially loaded. The bust-up of the Ottoman empire unleashed a variety of racialist nationalisms in the region which led to some very bad outcomes also including the Armenian genocide. The Greeks seem to have been stupidly opportunistic in their attempt to construct a greater Hellas in Asia Minor and the Turks were happy enough to consider driving 300,000 Greeks into the Mediterranean as they recaptured Smyrna. Choose your villain(s). In the washup some 1 million Greeks and 400,000 Turks changed country in a refugee exchange. Giles Milton wrote an accessible book on the subject a few years back.

Pappinbarra Fox
Pappinbarra Fox
6 years ago

It is a trite comment that two people can see the same film but see two completely different films. I saw the Water Diviner and thought it was a deeply thought provoking film. Understand that water divining is not some magic trick. Successful diviners have a skill in observation that makes them the ultimate geographical/hydrological detectives. Russell knew the place his sons had been killed because it was described in his son’s journal. His keen eye for detail and careful observation lead him to the correct place. There is nothing tricky or superficial about that. The film was about real men, serious men who had come through a war the like of no other and a man whose commitment to achieving his goals (as promised to his broken wife) was unrelenting.
Both characters were driven by love – one for his country (that you had to go to wiki to “check” the facts says more about you than it says about this film). The other driven by love of family, a lost family then a small light of hope.
If there is a flaw in the film it revolves around the revelation of the older brother putting his younger brother out of his misery. It was enough that he could not save him and in his own eyes failed in his promise, to deter him from coming home.
I learnt a lot from this film. Today’s “men” metrosexual types are superficial hollow men in comparison. The passion was not overstated but dealt with, as one might expect from such people living in such times, quite deftly.
Your only comment that hit the mark was the reference to the moustachioed officers who could have been from any country, but were delivered as stereotypes – minor in the overall themes of the story.

Pappinbarra Fox
Pappinbarra Fox
6 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Well you really do have a negative view. I understood that the wife had a serious mental health problem, and besides I have heard plenty of sane women say a lot worse to already anguished partners.

John walker
6 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

Nicholas the historian side of me is happy with multiple ,varying narratives of the same ‘event ‘ , except when they breach known historical facts. If the film suggests that the Greeks were the aggressors ( let alone the Armenians ) then it has crossed a important line , into dangerous sentimental crap.

I am and will always be Not Trampis
I am and will always be Not Trampis
6 years ago
Reply to  John walker

PF,
Nick is simply saying Russell has nothing to Crowe about

Pappinbarra Fox
Pappinbarra Fox
6 years ago

True, as far as crowing goes Russell would make a good drummer in a grunting rock band.