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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Same old...

Well it looks like another one of those all too frequent weeks where I have sat through -- rather than enjoyed -- a depressing number of films and there has been no single one crying out for its own review. It's probably just as well that I'm not a newspaper or magazine film critic -- although I probably would have loved the idea once upon a time -- since I would find it increasingly difficult to write several hundred words or more on a movie that has left me cold.  For example, last night we watched a French sci-fi flick that has been gathering dust amongst our DVD backlog, "Eden Log" (2007), and I thought to myself 'Great, there's tomorrow's subject'.  Wrong! A more boring and less coherent waste of 97 minutes can not be imagined: a washed-out colour, virtually black and white, apocalyptic future where our hero, the totally uncharismatic Clovis Cornillac, awakes in a darkened industrial maze and must work out not only where he is but how to get the hell out of there.  I know the feeling!  Nearly unwatchable with constant fades to black, it has now gone into the 'discard' pile.


OK, it hasn't been all bad.  I did see three properly black and white films from the 50s that were new to me: "Imitation General" (1958) with Glenn Ford pretending to be a slaughtered general to inspire his fellow soldiers, "The Blue Gardenia" (1953) an earlyish-noir and probably one of Fritz Lang's least impressive films with Anne Baxter convinced that she has murdered masher Raymond Burr whilst in a drunken stupor, and "Backfire" (1951) with the rather weird cast of Virginia Mayo and Gordon Macrae (in a non-musical) trying to clear buddy Edmund O'Brien of a murder charge.  While I was pleased to catch up with these films, particularly the last two, none of them were sufficiently stylish or involving to warrant repeat viewings.


Then there was this week's dire premieres from Sky.  While I admit that at least two of them could boast some pretensions, I remained unimpressed.  Firstly there was Rachel Weisz in "The Whistleblower" (2010) as a peace-keeper in Bosnia exposing the trade in cross-border prostitution to the indifference of just about everyone else with vested interests (ho hum).  Then there was the third in the "Paranormal Activity" series which I believe was a box-office winner Stateside;  I was singularly bored by the first two films with their video-eye footage and the third had at best two minor scares, lost in the middle of its rather humdrum proceedings. A TV movie "Cupid Inc" (2012) was impossibly obvious in its heroine's coy quest for Mr. Right, having ignored the obvious contender in her own office, and something called "Formosa Betrayal" (2009) put me to sleep ( it must have since I can recall nothing about it).  Finally what should have been the gem of the week, the Iranian film "A Separation" (2011) which took home the best foreign film Oscar this year left me mystified as to why it won this trophy.  I think I have seen just about all of the highly-thought of Iranian films that have made it to the West and can't think of a single one that I would wish to add to my own collection.  Perhaps that says more about me than about the films in question.  In this one a couple have separated since she wishes to immigrate with their 11-year old daughter and he refuses to leave his Alzheimer-suffering father.  He hires a pregnant day-carer and is accused of causing her to miscarry; he therefore faces a murder charge unless he pays the necessary blood money.  We know that he may have pushed her, but that other circumstances are the culprit.  As yet another insight into a culture alien to us, this film was little more than 'worthy' and like so many similar movies, I was annoyed by the too open ending.  The film just stopped at the moment that we began to care whether the family could indeed be reconciled.


What else?  A two-part miniseries from 1995 "Love and Betrayal" with Mia Farrow and Woody Allen clones acting out their ten-year relationship and ultimately bitter split, complete with Andre Previn and Frank Sinatra clones in the back-story.  A television movie from 1979 "Champions, a Love Story" -- yet another tale of a female figure-skater finding a male ice hockey wannabe to partner her to the championship.  The only difference between this and umpteen other similar tales is that he is killed in an airplane crash before that goal can be reached.  Finally, there was the old stand-by: re-watching favourites from the past.  This week included "Things Change" (1988), a sweet yet slightly strained story of elderly shoe-shine man Don Ameche being hired by the mob to take the fall in a murder case and being baby-sat for the weekend by Joe Mantegna in Lake Tahoe, where the simple, Italianate Ameche is taken for a Mafia bigwig. Then there was another outing for "Absurdistan" (2008) which I have favourably reviewed previously, an enchanting peasant fable shot in Russia (and in Russian) by a German director.  Finally I am having a mini Josef von Sternberg season (formerly known as Joe Sternberg) re-watching his three great silents.  I've viewed "The Last Command" (1928) a major success starring Emil Jannings,  and"Underworld" (1927) with his pet actor George Bancroft -- considered the first film to look at crime from the criminal's point of view. That leaves "The Docks of New York" (1928) to complete the trio which is on today's programme.


I sometimes think I should restrict myself to only watching old favourites together with the best of the current crop and those oddities languishing on my 'must-see' list, but that wouldn't be PPP. I have this weird compunction to watch anything I've not seen previously and therefore find myself with' blah' results like some of the above.  I don't suppose I'll ever learn! What's the saying about old dogs and new tricks? 
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