By Becca Hutson
By Becca Hutson
By Becca Hutson
George Clooney may be the oddest star in Hollywood – when Adam Sandler uses a film shoot as an excuse for a vacation, the result is the appallingly lazy (and depressingly high-grossing) Grown-Ups, when Clooney films around his Italian getaway we end up with dark, paranoid drama The American. It can only be a matter of time before some film studio accountant declares him to no longer be a ‘bankable’ star and we have to go back to safer, more boring actors.
Playing a character who is morally indefensible – an expert gunmaker who retreats to Italy following a botched job – Clooney makes for an interestingly blank presence at the centre of The American. Delivering a minimum of dialogue in a monosyllabic, understated manner, he nonetheless manages to command attention and sympathy, partially down to his easy charm, partially because the film’s economic style doesn’t focus on any other character.
However, what really sets the film apart is its cinematography – presumably the result of Control director Anton Cobijn’s background in photography. Corbijn uses the techniques of the medium to astonishing effect – in essence creating suspense and emotion with merely the effective use of framing and focus-pulling. The soundtrack is also worthy of note, being as it is largely silent, which either brilliantly provides the viewer with more space to think and reflect or merely highlights every single annoying bit of chatter or rustling that a cinema audience will make during a film.
While much of it has been done before – the existential crime movie was a hallmark of European cinema of the 60s and 70s (the film’s sexual politics hark back to that era, with its women appearing nude as often as they possibly can, even in sex scenes where Clooney keeps his clothes on), and choosing the backdrop of a traditional, small Italian village has been done as recently as Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr Ripley (The American’s climactic action set-piece, or rather the closest the film gets to an action set-piece, will look familiar to anyone who’s seen Minghella’s film) – and it could do with a fair amount of cutting for length, The American does make for an interesting, thought-provoking diversion.
By Jonathan Campbell
I love playing with fire.
Well, who doesn’t?
Fortunately, thrice weekly therapy sessions for my pyromaniac tendencies are one of the many luxuries afforded to bourgeois sprogs in life.
I’d suggest Lisbeth Salander, the protagonist of The Girl Who Played With Fire, hasn’t enjoyed quite as much exposure to the self indulgent, middle class virtues of counselling.
The second silver screen adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s hugely popular Millennium trilogy picks up one year after The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo left off; having cleared his name, Mickael Blomkvist has returned to Millennium magazine to continue exposing the corrupt and the crooked of Sweden’s cognoscenti.
And although his partner in solving crime walked off into the sunset with enough money to ensure a life time of happy endings, Salander has reluctantly resurfaced in Sweden to tie up some loose ends and remind her former guardian of the consequences should he tire of keeping up her facade.
Salander’s powers of persuasion would make a Soho dominatrix blush as she takes pleasure in administering a taste of their own medicine to those men who hate women.
Yet it is this brand of vigilante justice that draws her into a web of murder and deceit that Blomkvist must decipher if Salander is to clear her name.
Having enjoyed the taut action of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but not enough to pick up the subsequent books, I was a little underwhelmed with this second instalment of Stieg Larsson’s legacy.
As with many modern sequels, The Girl Who Played With Fire doesn’t have the same power or impact as Lisbeth Salander’s origin story.
Part of this stems from the inescapable feeling that this film is half a story, to be completed by the release of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest this November.
The self contained first film followed by the two part sequel is de rigeur in contemporary cinema, but I find most “second acts” suffer in comparison to the satisfaction of watching a complete story unfold.
However, the main reason The Girl Who Played With Fire feels less satisfying is because Blomkvist and Salander, whose burgeoning relationship provided the emotional resonance of the first film and a welcome counterpoint to the stark violence portrayed, only share one scene together.
Naturally, there are only so many liberties you can take when adapting your source material to the big screen. Still, I found myself waiting for the moment where they meet again and peculiar that Larsson would choose to jettison the human heart of his first book.
As a result, The Girl Who Played With Fire is a little unbalanced compared to its predecessor and leaves the viewer with more questions than answers.
Which I suppose is the point of the second film in a trilogy, but not if it leaves you wondering whether you care enough to see these issues resolved.
The ending also stretched credibility to breaking point, taking the audience out of a story the author has grounded in reality and slapping you in the face with acts that defy belief.
Of course, it doesn’t matter whether these make sense or not; it’s in the script and that’s all you need to know.
So it would seem Lisbeth Salander isn’t the only one who likes playing with fire.
I wonder how many other people will feel burned by Stieg Larsson’s sophomore effort.
By Katherine Romero
Former actress Brigette Bardot has revealed that sparks will fly if a US director goes ahead with a biopic of her life.
Speaking in an interview, she said: “A film about my life? But I’m not dead!” She added, “They wouldn’t dare do it without talking to me. If they do sparks will fly.”
For months, rumors have been rife that producer and director, Kyle Newman, plans to make a biopic of Bardot’s life, casting his wife Jaime King, as the lead.
In response to King, a former fashion model from Nebraska, portraying her, she retorted: “I am typically French… “I never left France for Hollywood nor stashed my money in Switzerland,”
When asked who she thought was responsible in the role she replied, “No one. They have their own personalities but they don’t have mine.”
By Jonathan Campbell
Greed is good.
At least that’s what Oliver Stone’s most infamous cinematic incarnation espoused on the streets of wall.
But, to judge from his love of documenting all things socialist South of the Border, it’s probably not a sentiment Stone buys into.
South of the Border is Stone’s latest release and, as if living up to the promise of his name, he rolled into London last week for a promotional tour of a film he didn’t expect to get this far.
Stone’s original ambition reached no further than releasing his interview with president Hugo Chavez to Venezuela’s local TV networks.
Yet after meeting Chavez, and having debunked the demonisation perpetuated by an increasingly paranoid and reactionary section of the American media for himself, Stone was sufficiently inspired to embark upon a political road movie that tells the story of neighbouring South American countries that have since elected socialist governments in the wake of Chavez’s success.
South of the Border opens with some witless banter between three Stepford coiffed TV presenters that neatly establishes both their collective inability to read from an autocue, as well as confirming that misinformation delivered through America’s modern media represents a far greater threat to their way of life than socialism ever could.
Following a brief history of Chavez’s rise to power, including a failed coup d’état’s committed by and against him, the direction settles into a traditional documentary format consisting of one on one shaky-cam interviews between Stone and his subjects, those ubiquitous talking head shots and stock news footage.
The most pertinent revelation of which was the tacit support from the west, predominantly America and Spain, for Pedro Carmona’s illegal and undemocratic coup of Venezuela in 1992.
A coup which lasted less than 48 hours, for that was all it took for the Venezuelan people to march upon the presidential Palacio de Miraflores and demand the man they elected be reinstalled.
Interviews with democratically elected socialist presidents of Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Ecuador and – of course – Cuba followed, illustrating the social reform sweeping through this continent and the positive effect this is having on the poorest people of these countries.
A revelation conspicuous by its absence from the majority of western media outlets I’ve encountered.
And this is South of the Border’s raison d’être; to raise awareness of events that have taken place in South America over the last decade that our media seem reluctant to cover.
As with any film that chooses to represent one side of an argument over another, South of the Border leaves itself open to accusations of partisanship.
It’s difficult to accept any director, or anyone for that matter, wouldn’t be swayed by the swathe of palatial hospitality granted to them when given such access to the intimate trappings of national office.
Perhaps South of the Border would have benefitted from granting President Barack Obama, or even former incumbent George W Bush, an interview in the name of even handedness.
But, in a wider context, it makes sense to marginalise western views that its intended audience would already be familiar with to give a platform to the underrepresented ideas of modern South American politics.
We can then decide for ourselves what we believe for, much to the chagrin of Bacchus, truth lies in discourse.
After the film Stone talked of his ongoing project, The Secret History of America, and his hopes that this will leave a lasting legacy for Americans bombarded with one eyed interpretations of their own history.
For a man who has achieved so much, you could accuse Stone of being greedy.
But perhaps greed can be good after all.
By Becca Hutson
Having proved her acting clout in The Runaways and Adventureland, Kristen Stewart is back in the independent drama, Welcome To The Rileys, in which she plays a runaway and a strip club dancer, starring alongside the likes of James Gandolfini.
Following the story of a family dealing with the death of their daughter, Kristen Stewart once again demonstrates her talent outside of the Twilight franchise.
The film played Sundance, Berlinale and LA film fests. It opens in September in Norway, France and the US in November, so far.
The notoriously shy star apparently flew in one her best friends Nikki Reed to coach her through the difficult nude scenes the film requires – and also allegedly worked in a ’strip bar’ for a week to prepare for her role.
By Natalie Wotherspoon
The Daily Mail tells us that Meryl Streep could take the lead in a biopic of the long-serving former Conservative Prime Minister which is being made by Mamma Mia! director Phyllida Lloyd. The film is based on a script by Abi Morgan, whose previous screenwriting has included Sex Traffic and Brick Lane. Movie companies Pathe and Film4, which will co-finance the production, confirmed Streep’s involvement was under discussion with Meryl and her agent. Jim Broadbent is rumoured to be a favourite for the part of Dennis Thatcher, according to the Metro.
The film will be set in 1982, chronicling the countdown to Britain’s involvement in the Falklands War. The war proved to be a pivotal moment in Thatcher’s political career, the conflict eventually sent her popularity soaring in some areas and it helped her to win the second of her three general election triumphs.
Streep has adapted herself to a number of movies and roles, including the moving ‘Sophie’s Choice’, the ever so romantic ‘Madison County Bridge’, and more recently she was nominated for a Golden Globe for ‘Mama Mia’. If Streep accepts the role it could mean yet another Oscar for her. The Academy Awards tend to favour biopics when it comes to giving out statues of little golden men.
Ben Stiller takes off his clown shoes and rubber mask for Greenberg, a comedy that frequently teeters on the edge of despair before pulling itself back with a well placed joke or uncannily accurate observation. Stiller looks gaunt and frail, his small size accentuated by the mass of unruly hair he has accumulated recently, and his turn as Roger Greenberg is enough for me to forgive him for Night at the Museum 2, Meet the Fockers and any number of other atrocities that he has committed to celluloid over the past decade.
Stiller’s character is an OCD misfit; a carpenter from New York who returns to LA for six weeks to house/dog-sit for his successful brother while he takes his family to Vietnam. Here he meets Florence (Greta Gerwig), the organised but subtly quirky assistant to his brother, and they develop a relationship which, like every other aspect of this film, feels realistic and cliché-free. This is a rare treat indeed, as nothing is idealised, and the couple’s every encounter feels natural and unforced.
It is revealed early on that Greenberg has just left a psychiatric hospital after a mental breakdown, and his social manner flits between shyness and an extroverted, combative aggression which are both pegged down by a self-assuredness that deny him the ability to accept criticism or make apologies with any ease. This has clearly resulted in the destruction of many important relationships over the years, and although his time in therapy has left him seeking partial redemption as he rejoins the LA crowd of his youth, it is clear that fundamentally he has not changed.
Like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Greenberg sees no reason to be anything other than honest, and it is this honesty that strikes others as rude and bitter. His character is epitomised in the letters of complaint which he writes to corporations and government authorities over the course of the film, all of which are hilarious, but all tinged with an Aspergic obsession for order and a world that conforms to Greenberg’s often unreasonable ideals.
His relationship with Florence is juxtaposed with his reunion with former friend and band mate Ivan (Rhys Ifans), now working as a computer technician and suffering under a temporary separation from his wife and child. Greenberg and Ivan were part of a band that was offered a record deal fifteen years earlier, and it was Greenberg’s controlling, overconfident nature that lost them their one shot at fame. Ivan has sympathy for Greenberg in his current state because he got over addiction to drugs in his twenties, although Greenberg fails to see the connection with this rehabilitation and his current position as a recently released mental patient. Ifans’ performance is just as strong as his co-stars, evoking both melancholy and humour.
What marks out Greenberg from its contemporaries is the script, which deals with the themes surrounding its lead’s middle aged dilemmas with wit that is not so polished as to be beyond the realms of everyday conversational speech. Scene after scene rolls by, developing the characters causally but completely, and there are some truly stand-out encounters. I particularly enjoyed the way in which Greenberg’s brother Phillip and his wife were characterised during their preparations for the trip to Vietnam, defined entirely by their dictation of menial tasks to Florence in a manner that was both polite and callously dismissive.
Greenberg is funny and painful in the same breath, and it begs to be seen, because its message is poignant and ultimately warming without being stereotypically sentimental or romantic, and its ending is frustratingly poetic, which is all I’ll say on the matter. See it.