Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Joys (Not) of Being an Invalid

So who's a lazy lady? Pretty Pink Patty, that*s who. I can not believe how all this sitting/lying about has sapped my energy and enthusiasm. I understand when the cast comes off (hopefully in eight days' time), I will not be skipping about like a two-year old but rather flapping about weakly like a new-born kitten. However I am determined not to make a permanent invalid of myself and hope with some serious physio to be back to my fighting weight a.s.a.p.

Despite everything I manage to remain cheerful most of the time and to take in the requisite few films a day. So what, if anything, has impressed me of late? Herewith some movies at random from the last few days which have helped to eke out the hours:

Monsieur Lazhar (2011): This French-Canadian film was nominated as best foreign language film of its year, and while it did not win any American awards, it is really a nicely tuned, small gem of a movie. It's yet another tale of an inspiring teacher getting the best from a class, but with a number of twists on the usual formula. Played by the sad-eyed Mohamed Fellag, his character Bachir Lazhar (translates as 'lucky' and 'tell the good news' he informs his new sixth grade class), has been reluctantly hired after their beloved former teacher chose to hang herself in their classroom during school hours. He pretends that he is a legal Canadian resident with teaching experience back in Algeria, when in fact his request for asylum has not yet been granted and he was previously a restaurant manager. Slowly, however, we learn the details of his flight to Canada and the horrific story of the death of his wife and children.

While he may seem an unlikely substitute teacher for a group of youngsters, still largely traumatised by grief, he manages to reach out to them from the most awkward of beginnings to reconcile both his loss and theirs. The children making up the class are without exception a remarkable bunch of young actors, led by stand-out performances from Sophie Nelisse as the precocious and bossy Alice and Emillien Neron as the troubled Simon, who may or may not have been the cause of their teacher's suicide. This is a modern-day tale in which teachers must refrain from any physical contact with their students, even much-needed hugs. When the truth of Lazhar's resident status and lack of experience emerges, he is promptly sacked, but insists upon one last day with his class to tell them 'good-bye' in his own way through a thinly veiled fable that he has composed. It's an abrupt ending to the film, but thoroughly devastating in its own small way.

Alex Cross (2012): I had no hopes for this film whatsoever since the title character is played by Tyler Perry, a multi-hyphenate actor/writer/director and cult figure amongst black viewers, none of whose films I have ever seen. He usually plays his alter ego Madea, a pistol-packing grandma, in what I believe are largely comic movies. So this was a real change of pace for him, playing a hard-bitten Detroit detective en route to becoming an FBI criminal profiler, in a prequel to 1997's "Kiss the Girls" and 2001's "Along Came a Spider", where the role was taken up by the much older Morgan Freeman with requisite gravitas. This movie was not well-received and in fact was nominated for several Razzies, but it's really not that bad. Cross and his partner, (Ed Burns) get up to some preposterous action after their wife and girlfriend respectively are murdered by a tricky assassin, played with malicious glee by Matthew Fox. Fox is nearly unrecognizable with his shaved head and anorexic frame, but his slimy character is what keeps one watching this nonsense. And then there's Jean Reno thrown in for good measure as a would-be saviour of the decaying city and veteran Cecily Tyson as Cross' Nana Mama. I've seen far worse.

"Merrily we Live (1938): Knowing my penchant for screwball comedies of the 1930s, I caught up with this one on You Tube, but despite the occasional felicity, it is really one of the lesser-spotted variety. Constance Bennett plays the oldest child of a wealthy family (Bonita Granville is her truly annoying younger sister), whose flighty mother (Billy Burke) is always taking in strays and hobos. Her latest project has just absconded with the family silver, but still she promptly employs Brian Aherne (who knocked on the door in tatters after a car wreck to use the phone) as the new chauffeur. Obviously he is not really a 'down-and-out' as everyone assumes and sparks soon fly between him and Bennett. Alan Mowbray is the butler who keeps threatening to quit and Patsy Kelly is the cook, but despite a lot of frantic business with the characters flailing themselves into pratfalls, this film is just trying a little too hard to be a comic masterpiece. It isn't, but it's watchable despite that, and I'm glad to have finally seen it.

More next time, whenever that will be...
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