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Friday, 22 November 2013

The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

While I'm not yet back to regular blogging, at least the gap is decreasing. I am still far from peak fitness, but at least I can get up and down the stairs (upright!) and have even ventured outdoors for some short walks. Will wonders never cease? I don't mean to keep going on about my recovery, since I'm meant to be writing about movies, but forgive the odd moan...

When I noticed the above film premiering on a terrestrial channel, I was sure that I had previously seen it somewhere, since it sounded like the same old familiar, depressing British drama of thwarted love that one has seen time and again. But I was wrong -- it really hadn't been on previously and I felt obliged to have a go, since I could recall some positive press reviews. Based on a play by Terence Rattigan and directed by British national treasure Terence Davis, it boasts an A-list lead in the shape of Rachel Weisz. Set in about 1950, it is indeed another variation on the theme of, yes, thwarted love. Weisz's character Hester is married to the much older Simon Russell Beale, a highly respected Judge, when she falls into lust with ex-World War II flying ace Tom Hiddleston.  Note the not too subtle reference to her namesake from "The Scarlet Letter". She leaves her hubby acrimoniously (he swears he'll never grant a divorce) to move into a downmarket boarding house with her feckless lover. The initial non-stop sex soon develops into hopeless devotion on her part and 'he'll never love me as much as I love him' on the other part. When he forgets her birthday while off on a golfing weekend with one of his drinking buddies, she attempts suicide. She survives but the affair doesn't, despite her nagging and pleading which only push him further away from her neediness. When the Judge hears about developments, he forgivingly offers her a lifeline, but she is too obsessed to reconcile with him. In the end Hiddleston leaves for a new life in Brazil, and in an ambiguous ending Hester will either embrace a scary future on her own or contemplate suicide yet again.

There is no denying that Weisz is a fine actress -- she suffers beautifully. However I do wish she would lighten up in the roles she accepts. Perhaps now that she is married to James Bond/Daniel Craig, she will find her sunny side. Russell Beale is also a superb actor, although little seen in films. As for Hiddleston who has become something of a flavour of the month with his villainous Loki in "Avengers Assemble" and the "Thor" franchise, I don't quite see what all of the fuss is about from his role here; he's not even that good-looking for goodness sake to inspire 'the hots'. The film seems to underline the British mantra of keeping a stiff upper lip and is largely devoid of believable heat and passion.

I have never been a particular fan of Davies' normally low-budget movies, from his "Trilogy" in 1983, through "Distant Voices, Still Lives" (1988) and its companion piece "The Long Day Closes" (1992). He went rather more mainstream with "House of Mirth" (2000) -- an extremely mirthless movie. That was followed by a well-received documentary paean to his native Liverpool "Of Time and the City" (2008), which I have no particular desire to see. While the above movie may boast his biggest budget yet, I remain unconverted. One thing that I will give him however is his brilliant use of popular music to underline the feeling of the periods he recreates in his films, a la Dennis Potter without the lip-synching. Oddly enough Hester describes her plight as being between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, but that is not one of the pop songs chosen for the nostaligic sound tract.    

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Movie Update -- and not before time!

This must be about the longest gap in my blogging for quite some time, but there is no one to blame but myself and the lethargy that has overtaken me. To update on my precarious fitness, I am now rid of the god-awful moonboot and begin physio today. Even before that, I am now able to sort of walk about indoors without support and can get up the stairs, if not down them (still bouncing on my backside going down) -- horrible thought! Anyhow I need to rebuild the strength in my somewhat withered-looking leg (another vile thought), so that I can both drive again and get about outdoors on my own. Soon, soon I hope.

What I miss most of all, of course, is not being able to get out to the cinema -- and we will draw a veil over my missing the London Film Festival this year. Since I keep a list of my actual film-viewing, I find -- much to my amazement -- that I have seen 29 movies since I last wrote on 26 October. That is not counting the part-films where I just gave up trying to work up any interest in the proceedings (I sometimes wonder just why certain films are released or who was dumb enough to finance them). Then again 29 in 18 days is well below my peak viewing pattern and that number still includes more than a few dubious titles.

For example, only because they were included in the week's premieres on Sky, I have seen such gems as "Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3 - Viva la Fiesta", "Treasure Buddies", and "Santa Paws 2 - The Santa Pups". I am now well and truly fed-up with talking dogs, monkeys, and cats (all powered by CGI) and wonder aloud, yet again, why Sky Movies think that such films are a treat or suitable for prime-time viewing by any sentient adult. I have also seen probably half a dozen or more television movies, largely with Christmas themes (some channels seem to start celebrating the festive season earlier each year) -- mainly interchangeable and forgettable.

On a somewhat more intellectual level, I have seen three documentaries of varying absorbing worth. First up was "Smash and Grab", an in depth look at highly organised gangs of jewel thieves originating out of the former Yugoslavia. OK, but so what? Next up was the highly praised "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" from auteur Werner Herzog. In all fairness it was probably spectacular in its 3-D glory in cinemas, but it was I thought somewhat underwhelming on the small, flat screen. Finally there was (to me) a fascinating doc called "Celluloid Man" which outlined the achievements of one P.K. Nair (no, not previously known to me either), who single-handedly set up the Indian film archive and saved any number of now classic movies from disintegrating or being stripped of their silver nitrate by greedy chancers. The importance of movies as part of out national and international heritage was forcefully underlined and one must honour such dedicated enthusiasts.

Also in the mix were a couple of oldies: "Carnival Boat" (1932) getting its first television airing with an early Ginger Rogers role, but hardly one of RKO's period treasures, and "Penguin Pool Murder" (also 1932) which I have seen before and which remains great fun with the incomparable Edna May Oliver and James Gleason sparring over the detective tale. There was only one foreign-language movie in the period (although Australian movies usually sound to me like a foreign language), but it was a true gem. "Sant Tukaram" (1936) has been on my 'must see' list for several many years, and I was under the impression that only incomplete copies were extant. This showing was, I believe, of the complete film -- no doubt thanks to the efforts of the afore-mentioned Mr. Nair. It was a na├»ve yet moving portrait of a simple soul and poor family man, whose devotion and poetry to his God inspired previously unfelt religious feelings in his many followers. In contrast to his holy goodness, we are presented with his would-be nemesis, the local 'cartoon-villain' Brahmin, who continually tries to bring down the poet-saint, ultimately to no avail. With a number of primitive but clever special effects (no CGI back then) the story unfolds beautifully, captivating the viewer with the same child-like wonder. Definitely a 'must-see'.

I also watched some previously-viewed movies which I couldn't quite remember, like my fave Tyrone Power in "Abandon Ship" (1957) -- not a patch on Hitchcock's "Lifeboat" and Paul Newman as the white-boy-raised-by-Indians in "Hombre" (1967) -- quite a decent outing with Frederick March unusually in the villain role. I was also looking forward to a very rare showing of the two-part "Little Dorrit" (1987) which has not been on the air for more than twenty years. I recalled that I 'hated' it the first time around, but wanted to give it a second chance, especially since Alec Guinness is always, always, always worth watching and the supporting cast is also spectacular. So what happened? Part One was absorbing and really reversed my earlier opinion and I was looking forward to Part Two -- the same events but from a different character's perspective. Anyhow, due to some kind of transmission fault, the second part was totally unwatchable with frozen pictures and disrupted dialogue. I have now purchased the DVD of the complete movie, which is some kind of recommendation I think.

Finally there was the usual smattering of A-list movies foremost of which was "Zero Dark 30" regarding the hunt for Bin Laden. It may be well-thought of but it hardly qualifies as any sort of entertainment in my book. I know why it was made -- and Katherine Bigelow is a super film-maker, but I can't imagine that it left a good taste in many viewers' mouths or memories.

I'll leave it there for now, with many of the 29 unmentioned, but with enough of a sample of what your faithful viewer has been up to on these long, healing days.