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Monthly Archives: February 2011

Praise the Lord, or the Filmhaus Nuernberg, rather, for their great programme (be their friend). You come to town, and the first film that is on is this precious gem from Taiwan, a comedy-action-mafia-slapstick-coming-of-age thing that introduces the fate of a Taipeh precinct gang of crooks, their ambitions in life, their coolness and mortal peril. Not much to be said about it, apart from: evidence again that there is so much out there beyond the English-language film world that I am completely ignorant about…

British mainstream arthouse raunchy working class cinema… whenever you have Bob Hoksins in  a working class movie, be careful, it might be less… again: edgy (I think I used the word in every single one of the last 10 film notes) than it could be. Just to note: great British film modern making to me means “This is England” or “Red Road”. “Made  in Dagenham” is not of that class. It is a true follower of “Full Monty” or “Kick it Like Beckham” in the British film world, or of “Les Choiristes” in the continental domain of well-made harmlessness.

This does not mean that the film was not entertaining. It is definitely worth watching, and if you are into solid English cleavages, it will provide more than you cared for (it is very warm in these Ford factory sowing halls, you know…). Even without knowing what actually happened in Dagenham and London in the late 1960s, you will not be surprised a single time by what happens in the film, you have a prototypical set of main characters and a more prototypical cast of side characters. It all fits together well, it all runs smoothly, and when you are having a prosecco after the screening with your girlfriends at the cinema bar (hopefully you are watching it in a cinema that still has a bar – hopefully you are watching it  in a cinema to begin with) you will all be in an uplifted mood. Maybe even plan the odd revolution for next Monday!

If Paul Haggis in in charge of a movie, I think it’s no exaggeration to expect something substantial, something  edgy, something worth spending two hours with. He is responsible for Crash, after all, as well as for the splendid script for the Clint Eastwood masterpiece “Million Dollar Baby”. He knows a good story, and he knows how to build and execute it.

Or so it seemed.

“The Next Three Days” is actually a bit embarrassing. The starting point is fair enough, even though it is by no means original:  wife accused of murder, husband seeks to get her out. First by legal means, then by any. Of course problems start with casting, because nobody can take Russell Crowe serious as a city college teacher, and nobody who starts to believe he is a college teacher follows the transition to urban McGyver-Rambo-Fugitive. This character is just utterly inconsistent und ridiculous. As I have seen Crowe try to play serious for the umpteenth time now, and have never seen anything good come out of the effort, I suggest: stick with GladiaHoods, that suits you better, mate!

As he is so dominant and his character is so off, there is hardly anything to say about the rest of the film – apart maybe from me not even caring about whether the wife actually committed the crime she is incarcerated for. She indicates at one point she did it, and the film is kind enough to give some (again: utterly ridiculous) “evidence” at the very end that she did not, but at that point, most of the few people in the cinema audience did not bother. Oh yes: and the opposing detective is odd, too, as he is build up to be the Fugitive-Tommy Lee Jones, but then is almost completely absent throughout the film.

An extremely strange mix of professionally designed mainstream elements, put together in the most ill-conceived fashion.

I am not even sure whether the story does in any form resemble the original Rapunzel story, but what the hell: Rapunzel gets kidnapped by an old (actually: ancient) hag who needs the magic powers of Rapunzel’s hair to sustain her own youth. Locked away in a tower for almost 18 years, Rapunzel’s routine of talking to herself and to her pet chameleon is only interrupted once every year on her birthday by the spectacular sight of lights rising above the far city. She wants to see those lights from up close, and when the thief and crook Flynt escapes into the tower by accident and happens to free her, she gets a chance. As with most Disney animation movies, there is little not to like about Tangled (except Rapunzel maybe, who is a bit annoying): nice chameleon and horse-dog sidekicks, an actually fabulous scene in a run-down bar that almost costs Flynn’s neck and that involves a very cute old dude angel with bow and arrow as well as a pantomime and a hooked-handed pianist who has the boogie. Some scenes are laugh-out-loud funny, some surprisingly morbid (again, some of the characters in the pub). As with the Princess and the Frog before, I am not sure whether I will remember any of this a year from today, but as long as it lasts, it’s all jolly good fun.

The King’s Speech is one of those films where audience enthusiasm develops a rather inexplicable dynamic: scenes of applause when the end credits roll around the world, repeated viewings, strong attendance of non-cinema-goers… it’s what made films like “Not without my daughter” or “Schindler’s  List” the huge box office successes that they were – a success that did not necessarily have to do with the respective qualities as a movie. The King’s Speech does have a lot of qualities, however, there is no doubt about it. It is coherently structured, with all the elements required for highly emotional drama. The build-up to the final speech is well directed, a thrilling countdown. The stakes are high, if he fails, the world seems to be at risk. Hm, well…. No. Maybe here is the issue I have with the film: I do not believe those stakes. Maybe because I lack the details of the role he played historically, maybe because I do not care about the historical facts in the context of a movie as a work of fiction, I never got involved in the drama. What is the importance of this radio speech beyond a complicated person overcoming his personal demons and troubles? Nobody explained to me why history would have played out differently had he stammered more. So the historical gravitas did not exist for me, throwing me back on the personal drama. This is very well done and extremely well played, with Colin Firth playing straight for the Academy (disability = Oscar guarantee, does that still work?), but also Helena Bonham Carter not being a nuisance for a change and the old pirate from that terrible Johnny Depp vehicle as a worthy counterpart (why it seems to be so clear that Colin Forth has the only lead role in this film eludes me, by the way)… ah right: the excellent Geoffrey Rush!

All in all, the film is a solid bit of entertainment, a bit too perfectly made, a bit too professionally designed, a bit too streamlined and a bit much lacking originality. Sometimes (as in the build-up to the finale), I felt the timing was slightly off, however. And what actually annoyed me was when very early on, the speech therapist and His Royal Highness start to systematically work on his speaking abilities – and there comes an odd “Rocky” moment, when a montage of all the training and practice methods shows their progress. Since “Team America:  World Police”, thou shalt not do that anymore, really – it exposed the simplistic mechanics of these montages with the Oscar-worthy song “Montage” and the world of montage has never been the same. Solid entertainment for the whole royal family, but a tad overrated as a piece of art.

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