Showing posts with label Film. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Film. Show all posts

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Top 10 of 2014

Today marks the third anniversary of At The Back and as is now tradition, it’s time for my Top 10 films of the last year. As always I choose this date in late January to try and include as many of the year’s awards frontrunners as I can but with UK release dates still lagging behind the US, some will be included next year (if they make the list). This year’s list includes at least one Oscar winner from last year for this very reason.

It’s been over six months since I’ve written a film review on this site and in that time I’ve changed jobs, moved city and bought a dragon. I’ve still been watching as much as I can but missed more important releases in 2014 than I have in several years. For instance I didn’t get to see Gone Girl, a film which is creeping into many lists I’ve read. Other omissions include American Sniper, Two Days, One Night, Ida and Leviathan. A film I did see which I expected would make my list was Foxcatcher. I haven’t been as disappointed by a film since the first Hobbit. For me it lacked tension throughout and couldn’t be saved by some admittedly fantastic performances.

Films which just missed out included the feel good Pride, a terrific David and Goliath struggle in which two unlikely groups join forces in order to battle a much stronger enemy. The Imitation Game featured a stand out central performance from Benedict Cumberbatch and an under told story while The Theory of Everything provided us with what was in my opinion the greatest performance of the year in the form of Eddie Redmayne’s Stephen Hawking. Under the Skin was a dark and chilling film which stayed with me for a long time while Lego documentary Brick by Brick came at the opposite end of the spectrum, giving me perhaps my most fun cinema experience of the entire year.

10. Locke (dir. Steven Knight)
One of the simplest films I saw all year and certainly one of the cheapest, this $2 million movie is set almost entirely within the confines of one car. It follows a single character played superbly by the ever impressive Tom Hardy as he travels along a British motorway one evening. During the journey which is shot in real time, Locke’s life falls apart without the need for crashes, chases or anything else one associates with cars and the movies. Hardy’s subtle performance keeps the audience gripped as his inner turmoil is beautifully restrained within Hardy’s mannered execution.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Blogathon: 6 Degrees of Separation

It's been some time since I wrote anything film related but a tweet overnight from Shane at Film Actually invited me to participate in a blogathon started by Myfilmviews called 6 Degrees of Separation. The rules are simple. Each participant must connect one actor/actress/director/movie to another actor/actress/director/movie in six connections or less. Have a look at what the previous participants have done.

A Fistful of Films
Cinematic Corner
And So It Begins
Surrender to the Void
Movies and Songs 365
The Cinematic Spectacle
Film Actually 

Shane presented me the the task of connecting a director synonymous for his fight against racism with a film that is most famous for it - Spike Lee to The Birth of a Nation. So, here it is.

1. In 2002, Spike Lee directed 25th Hour starring Edward Norton.

2. A year earlier Edward Norton appeared in the underrated The Score with Robert De Niro.

3. Robert De Niro starred in Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake of Cape Fear in which Robert Mitchum, who starred in the original, had a small role. 

4. Back in 1955, Robert Mitchum appeared in The Night of the Hunter with Lillian Gish.

5. Lillian Gish was a darling of the silent era and acted in the controversial the Birth of a Nation.

I'm passing the baton to Jason of the excellent Life Vs Film and tasking him with getting from The Birth of a Nation to Daniel Brühl. Good luck.

Monday, 19 May 2014

The Two Faces of January

The Two Faces of January is an interesting little film written and directed by Hossein Amini, a man best known for penning the script of Drive. Here Amini delivers another taught script set in early 1960s Greece. American tour guide and part time swindler Rydal (Oscar Isaac) gives tours to unsuspecting travellers in the Greek capital Athens and one day comes across an American couple with whom he strikes up conversation and a brief friendship. The tour guide is charmed by the couple and drawn to their wealth and beauty but when it becomes apparent that the couple aren’t quite as well refined and put together as they first appear, Rydal helps them to evade those hunting them before becoming embroiled in their strange and murky circumstances.

There were two things that attracted me to this movie. The first was the name Amini. I was curious to see the screenwriter’s directorial debut and was interested in his script. The second factor was Viggo Mortensen. At this stage in the actor’s career I feel as though I can pretty much trust that if he’s agreed to be in it, it will be good enough to see. Mortensen does indeed impress and his choice of role is once again solid. The movie is about surface and sheen and the attraction that bright and beautiful things hold while under the surface bubbles something more sinister. There’s an uneasy feeling which envelops the film and it stabs through the false surface from time to time in a wonderfully calm but out of control manner.


Sixty years after his debut screen appearance, Godzilla is back on our screens in his second American guise. For anyone who remembers the 1998 Roland Emmerich version, this news may legitimately cause trepidation. My interest in the picture came about when I heard that the new film was to be directed by second time director Gareth Edwards. For nearly half a decade since Edwards’ first film, I’ve been telling anyone I can get my hands on to watch his film Monsters. That movie was outstanding; an ultra low budget monster-thinker which Edwards wrote, directed, shot and edited himself besides doing all of the FX work in his bedroom. In comparison to that movie, Godzilla is a let down.

Things start well with an interesting and attractive titles sequence which gives a slight spin on the traditional Godzilla back story. The film postulates that the atomic tests of the 1950s were in fact not tests at all but an elaborate attempt to destroy the gigantic titular beast. Fast forward several decades and we find Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) hard at work as the supervisor of a Japanese Nuclear Power Plant. Brody is concerned by strange seismic patterns which are unlike any earthquake he’s seen before. In fact he’s convinced there are no earthquakes at all.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

To Catch a Thief

A beautiful if underwhelming film, Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief marked the director’s third and final picture starring Grace Kelly. Joining the actress is another actor in his third Hitchcock movie, Carey Grant. Grant plays John Robie, a once jewel thief turned French Resistance fighter who now retired, tends to his vineyards high above the Côte d'Azur. When a series of robberies which display Robie’s hallmarks are committed, the police come looking for the man known as ‘The Cat’ and in order to clear his name, he gets hold of a list of potential targets in the hope of out witting and out manoeuvring the real thief. First on the list are Mrs. Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis) and her daughter Francie (Kelly).

To Catch a Thief lacks some of the dramatic tension and edge of the seat thrills of Hitchcock’s finest films but what it lacks in tautness, it makes up for in other ways. Hitchcock cleverly gets passed the Hays/Breen censors with some fantastic sexual innuendo and half hidden imagery. The romantic side of the plot is much more developed than the dramatic side and Hitch wows his audience with sexual fireworks (literally) and a John Michael Hays script which while leaving little to the imagination, somehow feels clean and moral. Coupled with the spectacular beauty on display, this is a movie which is worth investing time in.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Touble with Harry

It’s not often that I finish an Alfred Hitchcock picture unable to take something away from it but I feel like I wasted my time with The Trouble with Harry. A departure from the type of mystery that made his name, this is a black comedy with thriller elements. Set during a crisp autumn in Vermont, a retired sea captain discovers the recently deceased body of a man while out hunting on a hill. Believing to be responsible for his death, the captain attempts to hide the body but various passers by happen upon it and react in unusual ways. It turns out that several people believe themselves responsible and the small community at the bottom of the hill attempt to discover exactly what happened to the man and what to do next.

The use of the body, which turns out to be that of the titular character, is a clever Macguffin which is used to unite two couples in what turns out to be a romantic black comedy. Ordinarily when a Hitchcock movie opens on a corpse, you’d be expecting a whodunit but here that isn’t important to the director. For me, that’s one of the problems. I wanted more excitement and intrigue from the film. Although billed as a comedy, I didn’t laugh once and was barely amused. The film just washed over me with a plot that didn’t grab me in the slightest. More disappointing than the plot is the cast who are as wooden as the corpse they attempt to cover up.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Ranking the Directors

A few days ago I re-watched Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained and began thinking about how highly I've rated the vast majority of his films. I wondered exactly what ratings I'd given his movies so went through my reviews and calculated the average, thus combining two things I love; movies and statistics (I'm fun, I know). I then replicated this with Charlie Chaplin, the man who I consider to be my favourite film maker. Seeing as I'd already done these two, I thought I might as well go through my entire blog and work out the mean average mark I'd given directors. To be fair, I've created two categories, one for directors for whom I've reviewed more than three films and one group for those directors for whom I've reviewed exactly three films. Anything less than that has been ignored. The results surprised me as many of the directors who I consider my favourites, rank lower than those who I'd consider less important to me. Below are the two lists.

Park Chan-wook. 9.3 from five films. Park ranks as my favourite director in terms of average and is also amongst my favourites generally. His Oldboy is one of my favourite films of all time and his first American movie, Stoker, also impressed me last year, making my Top 10 of 2013 list.

Billy Wilder. 8.0 from four films. Twelve months ago I'd never seen a Billy Wilder film but now I count some of his films amongst my favourites. I was blown away by Sunset Boulevard and The Apartment and his average would have been much higher if I'd enjoyed Sabrina more. I can't wait to see more of his movies.

Quentin Tarantino 7.8 from ten films. There is only one Tarantino film which I haven't loved and if it wasn't for Death Proof, his average would probably be over 8. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are 10/10 films for me.

Werner Herzog 7.6 from eight films. Had I split Herzog's documentaries and features, the result here would have been quite different. I much prefer the likes of Encounters at the End of the World to Aguirre.

Alfred Hitchcock 7.5 from thirteen films. I was a late convert to Hitchcock and with only thirteen films reviewed, I still have some way to go. I'm a bit surprised that my average is just 7.5 as I've rated Rope, Shadow of a Doubt and Psycho extremely highly. His average is let down by the likes of North by Northwest and The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Martin Scorsese 7.4 from seven films. I'd class Scorsese as my favourite film director of all time so to be at just 7.4 is a little misleading. This is because I'm currently reviewing his films in order (the recent Wolf of Wall Street aside). Once the likes of Goodfellas and Raging Bull have been reviewed, his average will shoot right up.

Peter Jackson 7.3 from four films. I think The Lord of the Rings trilogy was brilliant but wasn't so keen on the first Hobbit and although the second was better, I'm yet to review it.

Steven Spielberg 7.2 from ten films. Generally speaking, the more recent the Spielberg film, the lower I'll have rated it. This wasn't the case with Lincoln but Tintin is no Schindler's List.

Ridley Scott 7.0 from five films. Alien is an outstanding movie but I'm not huge Blade Runner fan.

David Cronenberg 6.9 from eight films. I have a love/hate relationship with David Cronenberg. The Fly I love. Crash I hate. A Dangerous Method I love. A History of Violence I, well don't hate but don't love either.

Kim Ji-woon 6.8 from four films. Korea's Kim has made some incredible movies, perhaps none more so than I Saw the Devil. His American début, The Last Stand was a big let down but was at least directed with aplomb.

Charlie Chaplin 6.7 from forty-five films. I've reviewed more Chaplin films than most of the other names on this list combined but I find him languishing with just a 6.7 average. Although I love the guy more than any other man should love a man, some of his early films are poor, even to a huge Chaplin fan. The Kid, The Circus and City Lights are three of my favourite films however.

Sam Raimi 6.5 from six films. I loved Evil Dead when I saw it for the first time last year but I'm no huge fan of the Spider-Man trilogy and didn't enjoy Oz the Great and Powerful.

Steven Soderbergh 6.0 from four films. I thought that Side Effects was a good film but I'm not usually excited by a new Soderbergh movie.

Lars von Trier 5.5 from four films. Von Trier is a fascinating director whose films infuriate me. The 8/10 I gave Antichrist shows how poorly I've marked his other movies.

I've only reviewed three of the following directors movies.

Steve McQueen - 9.0
Michel Hazanavicius - 8.7
John Lasseter - 8.7
Christopher Nolan - 8.7
Sidney Lumet - 8.3
Wim Wenders - 8.3
The Coen Brothers - 8.0
Paul Thomas Anderson - 7.7
Shane Meadows - 7.0
Tim Burton - 6.7
Guillermo del Toro - 6.3
Paul Verhoeven - 6.3
Ivan Reitman - 6.0
James Whale - 6.0
Judd Apatow - 5.7
Tony Scott - 4.7

You might also like
The Oscar Challenge
500 Reviews. The Story So Far
Six of the Best... Films About Film

Saturday, 1 February 2014

After Earth

Last summer, the film After Earth was labelled as rubbish by the vast majority of critics. They were all wrong, it’s much worse than that. After Earth came from a story idea by Will Smith which was fleshed out into a feature length screenplay by M. Night Shyamalan and Gary Whitta. The movie was directed by Shyamalan and was produced by and starred Will Smith and his son Jaden. The film gives its audience so little to enjoy that it’s almost offensive and provides none of the action or comedy that we have come to expect from a Will Smith fronted movie.

Set in the distant future, humanity now resides on the planet Nova Prime with the Earth abandoned. A thousand years after their arrival on their new home, the planet is invaded by aliens (irony alert) who wish to destroy our species and conquer the planet. Their primary weapon is the Ursa; a large, blind predator that is able to smell human fear. One man, General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) has the ability to ‘ghost’ – be free of fear and as such invisible to the Ursa. His son Kitai (Jaden Smith) is a Ranger Cadet who has hopes of replicating his father’s talents. The two are somewhat estranged but Cypher takes his son on a training mission which inadvertently crash lands on Earth, home to numerous deadly creatures as well as an Ursa on the loose.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Top 10 of 2013

January 25th 2014 marks the second birthday of this blog and following on from last year, I've again chosen the day before this anniversary as the day to post my Top 10 films of the previous year. The extra month from December has given me the chance to catch up on some of the cinematic releases I missed earlier in the year as well as see some of this year's crop of Oscar nominated films. I saw a lot fewer films in 2013 than in 2012, partly thanks to a new job and partly because of a mid year blip during which I briefly lost the love of writing and subsequently watched fewer movies. Nevertheless I saw a total of 271 films of which 94 were eligible to be included on this list. (Last year's numbers were 391 & 100). To be included, I had to see a film that was released in UK cinemas between 25/01/13 and 24/01/14. Because of the slightly odd timing for an end of year list and crappy cinema release dates in the UK, a few of last year's Oscar nominated films were eligible for this list and films such as Her, Dallas Buyers Club and Inside Llewn Davis, which haven't been released yet cannot be included. The films below begin at my 10th favourite of the year, progressing to my favourite and I've also included my girlfriend's top 5 for a female/weirdo perspective. There's no bottom 5 this year because I didn't see enough of the truly awful films. As always, click on a film's title for a full review (if I wrote one).

10. Rush. As a huge Formula One fan I had my doubts about an American director taking on one of the sport's most fierce rivalries but Ron Howard captured the two personalities of Hunt and Lauda brilliantly. He also captured the speed, danger and to some extent noise associated with the sport as well as the grease and glamour that accompanies it. As a fan of the sport, I felt that the film stayed true to the routes of the story yet entertained and my girlfriend was enraptured by the movie as much as I was despite only enjoying the sport for Jenson Button's face. The movie looks great and sounds incredible while it allowed one of my favourite actors, Daniel Bruhl to give a fantastic performance that helped him reach a larger audience than ever before.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Top Ten 'New to Me' Films of 2013

As my second year of film blogging draws to a close, I thought today was a good day to look back on some of the best films I've seen this year. Ahead of my 'Best of 2013' list which I'll publish in late January on my blog's two year anniversary, the list below is of the top ten 'new to me' films of the year. The list is taken from all of the films I've seen this year for the first time which weren't released in 2013.

Although I've seen a lot fewer films this year than last (278 as of 27th December, compared to over 365 at the same point in 2012), I believe that this list features comparatively better films than last year's

10. Wings 1927. The first winner of what became Best Picture at the Oscars, Wings is a romantic drama that stands the test of time. Engaging leads and technical wizardry made it feel fresher and easier to watch than many films from the same period. Clara Bow's performance and the aerial photography are amongst the many highlights of this late period silent feature.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Passion of Joan of Arc

Sometimes it only takes a few frames to realise that you’re in for a treat. This was the case for me with Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc. It is however a film that I’d put off watching for a long time. Despite my interest in silent cinema and all the great things I’d read and heard, there was something about what little I knew of the film that put me off. Perhaps it was the subject matter (more on that later) or the idea that it would be a depressing and/or dull watch but either way it took a good five years from my first whiff of the film to actually sitting down to watch it. What a silly boy I was for those five years. Like many other renowned films that I’d put off viewing it is of course a superb movie that features some of the best acting, editing and camera placement I’ve ever seen.

The film tells of the imprisonment, trial and (spoiler) execution of Joan of Arc (Noah’s wife) who claimed divine guidance and lead France to several important military victories during the Hundred Year’s War before being captured by the English and tried for heresy, all by the age of nineteen. The film draws on the five hundred year old transcripts of the trial and indeed original documents form the basis of the script.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


Rush, the latest offering from director Ron Howard, is an exhilarating and dramatic biographical action movie set in the glamorous world of the 1970s Formula One driver. Being a fairly faithful retelling of true events, the movie focuses on the careers of and rivalry between Austria’s Nikki Laura (Daniel Bruhl) and Britain’s James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) in the mid 1970s during which the pair were the cream of the motor racing world. Though the movie begins in 1970, the main thrux of the plot is the 1976 F1 season during which the pair’s rivalry and willingness to put themselves in the path of danger reached an all time high before the season reached a dramatic climax in Japan.     

I need to mention very early on that personally I’m a huge fan of Formula One and have only missed around three races since my first in 1994. I love the history, the strategy and the technology of the sport and would rank it amongst my biggest passions. Because of this I was worried that my judgement of the film would be clouded but I’m confident that the film is good enough that my love of its backdrop hasn’t affected my enjoyment. In many ways the movie reminded me of the sublime BAFTA award winning documentary Senna in that although both movies are about F1 and F1 drivers, they could be about anything. It’s the story and characters who make both films great. They could be set within any discipline.

Monday, 2 September 2013

August 2013 Film Round-up

I stopped reviewing every film I watch towards the end of July and have gone from 30+ to (last month) four reviews a month. While I haven't really missed writing about the movies I've seen, I wanted to make sure I at least wrote something about every single one so that I could keep some sort of fluidity in my blog. So here are my very brief opinions of the films I've seen since I stopped reviewing everything.


Rebel Without a Cause

James Dean can’t play a teen. Great acting, interesting, super cool. 8/10


Better than the average slasher. Interesting. Far too grizzly for me. 5/10

Double Indemnity

Quintessential Noir. Beautifully made, gripping. 8/10

Frances Ha

A cross between French New Wave and Woody Allen. Annoying at first but I warmed to it. It made me want to live the BoHo life. 7/10


Wild Strawberries

Entertaining, funny, charming and sweet. Fantastic story. Original road movie. Better rear projection than Hitchcock ever managed. 8/10

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Man with a Movie Camera

Man with a Movie Camera is a 1929 experimental documentary film by Dziga Vertov which upon watching for the first time earlier this week, instantly entered into my top ten films of all time. The film contains no plot, characters or actors and its only discernible arc is the depiction of the passing of a day in Soviet Russia. It captures the essence of life in 1920s Russia thanks to over 1,700 shots and scenes of everyday life as well as the life of machines and industry. The film is famed now, as it was on its initial release, for its revolutionary and still bold editing and filming style. It’s difficult to put into words the wonders contained within this hour and seven minute avant-garde piece but I hope that my brief description will attract new people to it.

The film opens on one of the more surreal shots which pepper the film in amongst the more traditional fare. We see a cameraman setting up his tripod on top of a giant camera which forms the ground upon which he stands. This is the first of many examples of double exposure used in the film and the camera trickery extends to the boundaries of what was possible in the late 1920s over the next hour. I remember watching Buster Keaton’s 1924 movie Sherlock, Jr recently and being enamoured with his mastery of camera slight of hand but Keaton’s noble efforts look like potato prints to Vertov’s Mona Lisa.

Sunday, 11 August 2013


Sharknado doesn’t deserve a full review. At a time when I’m only writing reviews for about one film in eight that I watch, I’m not going to spend too much time dissecting the finer points of the plot, acting and direction of this film. The movie is the latest in a long line of terrible B-Movies commissioned by The Syfy Channel and made by The Asylum film studio. The films appear to be title first, plot second affairs which owe a great debt to the B-Movie classics of the 1950s and 60s but lack their antiquated cousins’ charm and ideas. As I can’t be bothered discussing the film in depth I’m just going to write some sentences that come into my head when I think about this ‘film’. In honour of the movie they will make little sense and won’t interest you

It’s rubbish.

The action begins with characters surfing on a beach without waves.

Different beaches are used from shot to shot.

In one early scene, it’s obvious that a pod of dolphins are being filmed instead of sharks.

The Lone Ranger

Something is happening in Hollywood. Something which isn’t new but is becoming more apparent with each passing year. Studios are throwing vast sums of money at films in the hope that the sheer amount of razzmatazz on screen, couple with stars and overblown effects will prize people from their sofas and towards the cinema. The problem with this is that the films are becoming ever more formulaic and uninspiring as studios attempt to attract the maximum number of people to their films. It’s the same with most art forms that the more broad you make your product, the less exciting and unique it will be. Mumford and Sons might outsell Goat but only one of those bands sound like a Saturday night pub band that got too big for their cowboy boots. When I think of the studios that are producing the type of big budget, low risk films I’m discussing here, the one that springs to mind first is Disney.

Disney obviously have a tradition of making family movies and as such you aren’t expecting gore or thrilling twists but they’ve managed to entertain generations of people simultaneously for decades while maintaining their wholesome image. They also have a strong tradition of borrowing stories from other sources but appear to be on a run at the moment of producing the blandest of films which are amongst the most expensive in history. Alice in Wonderland, Oz the Great and Powerful, John Carter and now The Lone Ranger are all films which make use of established, much loved characters in films which Disney have sucked all the life and fun out of. The problem they’re really facing though is that they’re no longer guaranteed $600 million if they plough $250 million into a movie and not only that, the films themselves are dull and don’t even warrant a second viewing.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Belleville Rendez-vous

Belleville Rendez-vous, known as The Triplets of Belleville outside of my native United Kingdom, is a 2003 Oscar nominated animated feature, written and directed by the mastermind behind the similarly styled 2010 Oscar nominated The Illusionist. The film tells the surrealist story of a doting grandma who trains her grandson to compete in the Tour de France before he is kidnapped by the mob. Determined to return him to his native France, she tracks him to Belleville (modelled on New York City) where she and her obese dog befriend the Belleville Triplets, a formerly popular music hall act.

As well as reminding me of director Sylvain Chomet’s quite and masterful feature, The Illusionist, the animation is also reminiscent of classic Disney. The still backdrops and wildly grotesque characters remain faithful to the animation found in the likes of Dumbo or Pinocchio but are darker and drawn with the animator’s tongue firmly in cheek. The animation also displays modern touches but these are counteracted by the wonderfully realised mid twentieth century setting. There are even flairs of psychedelia present and side characters such as an overly foppish waiter and henchmen who seem conjoined at their ridiculously overgrown shoulders wouldn’t look out of place in a dehydrated Yellow Submarine.  The surrealist nature of the animation also extends beyond the character and occasionally creeps into inanimate objects too where it is befitting of the plot.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Dead Man's Shoes

Dead Man’s Shoes is a psychological revenge thriller, co-written and directed by the toast of the British critical community, Shane Meadows. Writing with Paul Fraser and Paddy Considine, who also stars, the film focuses on the return to a small northern town of an ex-soldier who reappears after his little brother is humiliated by a group of local drug dealers. The film opens with little back story and reveals itself through the use of grainy, black and white flashbacks, building a picture of the events which lead up to the current plot as it progresses in ever more violent and sadistic ways. It saves its biggest and best reveal until close to the conclusion in a feat of wonderful storytelling which put a delicious cherry on top of an already appealing cinematic cake.

Although Shane Meadows is considered to be one of the brightest talents in UK cinema, I’ve never really found myself that blown away by his films. I can appreciate his style and especially the way in which he gets his films made but they’ve never done anything for me. This changed with Dead Man’s Shoes and instantly became my favourite film from a director I hadn’t really got until now. Not only do I think it’s one of Meadows’ best but I’m struggling to think of a better independent British film from the past decade too.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

My Life to Live

Having dipped my toe into the murky waters of the French New Wave with Breathless last week, I’m now ankle deep but the water is no clearer. I enjoy exploring new cinematic avenues, whether it be silent comedy, Italian horror or Korean thrillers but I’ve never had so much difficulty in expressing myself with the written word as I’m having while trying to compose my thoughts about the films of Jean-Luc Godard. My Life to Live or Vivre sa vie in its original French is a film in twelve chapters about a young Parisian woman who dreams of becoming an actress but is drawn into prostitution when money becomes ever more illusive. Anna Karina, Godard’s then wife, stars in the central role and puts in a mesmerising performance in a film which I struggled to enjoy but couldn’t take my eyes off.

From what little I’ve seen of Godard’s canon, I think it’s fair to say that he’s a director with an eye for beauty. The images he crates are sumptuous and filled with splendour despite the slightly crinkled, low budget style of film making in which he partakes. Breathless was amongst the best looking films I’ve seen while My Life to Live exerts its beauty in a steadier, more measured manner, lingering on beauty rather than allowing it to rush by. At the centre of all this is Anna Karina herself, a woman whose eyes flash at the screen in such a way as to make her audience melt.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Life is Beautiful

Buongiorno principessa!” Two simple words that bought a huge smile to my face during a film which has more emotional peaks and troughs than a very emotionally peaky troughy thing. Life is Beautiful or La vita è bella in its original Italian is a passionate and multi award winning comedy-drama set in Italy during The Second World War. Its dark themes are counterbalanced with some delightful comedy and a sweet story about a man trying to protect his young son from the harsh realities of the war. Italian Jew Guido (Roberto Benigni – also director) is a wildly imaginative and romantic soul who woos a local woman in amusing and inventive ways. Fast forward a few years and Guido and his wife Dora (Nicoletta Braschi) have a cute little boy called Joshua (Giorgio Cantarini). When Guido and Joshua are taken to a work camp by the Germans, Guido puts in tireless effort to hide the truth from his son, telling him that they are playing a game for points in which the winning team will win a real life tank.

Life is Beautiful really is beautiful in of itself. It’s one of the sweetest films I’ve seen and is amongst many people’s (including my Dad’s and girlfriend’s) favourite films of all time. Not only is it a good-natured story but it’s also very bold. Upon its initial release it faced some criticism for making light of the Holocaust but personally I don’t think it does anything to mock that horrific event or undermine the suffering of the millions who had to endure abysmal treatment under the Nazis and their collaborators. Instead it displays the triumph of human spirit and the deep love of a father for going to great lengths to protect his son.