Thursday, 31 December 2009

FILMS OF 2009 (Part One):

Time was, when I seemed to do nothing but review films here. This time, I find I’ve only previously written about three the whole year long. So perhaps an end-of-year catch-up is timely. This will be done in reverse order, in the vain hope of generating some kind of excitement. This time, those films I have ranked Tin-Plated and Not-Even-Going-To-Say-What-Substance. Coming soon, The Bronze, closely followed by The Silver and then The Gold!

Please note, if I seem to have more to say about some films than others, that shouldn’t be taken as a measure of appreciation but just the way the words came out.


THE TIN-PLATED:



Broken Embraces

I either end up persistently seeing the wrong Almodovar films or else he’s quite absurdly over-rated. But this was almost definitively a ‘meh’ movie. The film-within-a-film they keep making is often played as a joke, yet it seems so much more alive than the film we’re actually watching.

Che (Parts 1 & 2)

The great thing about the old Cold War films about Cuba, whether pro or anti, is that they’re so impassioned. Even Alea’s Memories of Underdevelopment, so insistently a tale of non-involvement, is ferventlynon-involved. By contrast, these two films feel almost un-involved. It’s like the difference between a speech by a political campaigner and a dry broadsheet analysis, stuffed with diagrams and tables. They’re like a project, another weighty topic to research and add to your film-maker’s CV.

Admittedly I would be less harsh on this two-parter if comparing it to its contemporaries rather than predecessors, and the second part is more involving than the first. And it was a lot better than...

THE NOT-EVEN-GOING-TO-SAY-WHAT-SUBSTANCE:

The Baader Meinhof Complex

aka The Baader Meinhof Simple As reviewed here.



Public Enemies

After seeing the trailer, I was actually looking forward to Michael Mann’s presentation of John Dillinger’s life of crime. That trailer didn’t lie, particularly. In fact you could stick together pretty much any scenes from this film to engender the same sense of excitement. The problem is when you stick them all together. There’s no take, no engagement either with Dillinger’s life or his public image. There didn’t necessarily have to be insight, but some kind of through-line might have helped! All we get is a shopping-list of (apparently well-researched) moments from the mobster’s life transformed by a crew of professionals into event movie-making. It’s like picking nice-sounding words and calling them a sentence.

But even that was better than...

Il Divo

A great artist can take a complex subject and present it to you simply, memorably and with great clarity. This film does the reverse. It’s not even that it’s gimmicky and expensive-looking. It just looks expensive-looking. Somebody could make a fantastic black farce out of the current state of Italian politics. (Whose stinky goings-on seem even more egregious than here in Britain.) Hopefully, somebody still might.

But even that was better than...

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The risible low-point of my filmic year. I can’t believe David Fincher... yes, the man who made Fight Club... was behind this sickly-sweet slice of Oscar bait! If anything surfaced that was worse than this, I simply don’t want to know about it.

What really sums the film up is that bloody humming-bird, so clearly signposted as ‘symbolic’. But doesn’t a symbol have to be a symbol of something?, not just some slo-mo arthouse stand-in for redemption. Or transcendence. Or rejuvenation. Or whatever. I don’t know which, and neither does anyone who made this overlong indulgence. It was like eating sugar from the bag whilst a tuxedoed waiter compliments you on your “excellent choice, sir!” No it isn’t.

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