Showing posts with label Keira Knightley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Keira Knightley. Show all posts

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

The apocalypse is just three weeks away, your wife has left you and you regret most of the major decisions you’ve ever made. What do you do? Some people try to fuck everyone they can, others drink to forget. A few carry on as normal and some riot. Dodge Peterson (Steve Carell) decides he’s going to seek out his old High School sweetheart after discovering a letter from her telling him that he was the love of her life. With him he takes his kooky English neighbour Penny (Keira Knightley) who he just met with the promise that he can get her a on a plane to be with her family before the end.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a sweet indie type of movie with its heart in the right place. It features two watchable leads and a nice story but is short of laughs and far too formulaic. It was a movie that I’d hoped to see in the cinema but my girlfriend’s dislike of Carell and Knightley coupled with a short theatrical run put a stop to that. It is a film which hasn’t enriched my life and won’t stay with me long but was worth the hundred minutes of my life.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Anna Karenina

Director Joe Wright’s adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s 1877 novel Anna Karenina is one of the most visually stunning and artistically bold films I’ve seen in quite some time. Wright places most of his plot within the confines of a dilapidated theatre and has his actors make use of the stage, stalls and behind the scenes areas when forming the sets of late Tsarist Saint Petersburg. Actors will walk from one part of the theatre to another with sets and costumes changing around them, all with the hustle and bustle of both a real theatre and lively city. It’s a stylistic decision which was probably met with scepticism by studio bosses and the like but works incredibly well to bring to life the characters which themselves are so wonderfully written by Tolstoy.

Anna Karenina (Keira Knightly) is married with a son to senior statesman and a man who is greatly admired and respected in society, Count Alexei Karenin (Jude Law). Their marriage is typical of the society in which they live in that it was not for love and he is much older than she is. On a trip to visit her brother Prince Stepan (Matthew Macfadyen) in Moscow she attracts the attention of a young, rich and handsome cavalry officer called Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). After an infatuation the two fall madly in love but in a closely nit society in which infidelity is ‘against the rules’, Anna must decide which is more important? Her standing, child and image or true love.

Monday, 13 February 2012

A Dangerous Method

David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method is a visual joy that charts the birth of Psychoanalysis in the early part of the 20th Century. Michael Fassbender stars as Carl Jung, the father of analytical psychology opposite Viggo Mortensen’s Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. In between these great historical figures is Keira Knightley who plays Sabina Spielrein, a young Russian woman who is sent to Jung for analysis as she is suffering from hysteria.

Cronenberg is known for intertwining the physchological with the physical and in a way that is the shortest description of this film that one could conger up. The relationship between the psychology and the principle characters personal and physical relationships are wonderfully played out here. Cronenberg’s use of focus is masterful. He is able to create a better 3D effect that I have seen in even the best 3D films. Quite often, and especially when two people share a scene, the focus is set on the actor in the distance with the actor closest to the camera out of focus. Occasionally, this setup is reversed. The rest of the frame is in very soft focus and this can also include the actor’s clothes. The audience’s eyes are drawn to the actor’s faces in an exceptionally clever and visually pleasing way. The background is always beautiful but Cronenberg wants the audience to know that it is what is being said is the focus, not where they are saying it.

An example of the soft focus used by Cronenberg

The story itself is fascinating and rekindled my interest in psychology which first developed during my A Levels. I felt as though I could listen to Freud and Jung talk for hours or even days. I understand that the subject matter is not for everyone however and this is perhaps why we had to travel to our local Art House Cinema rather than our usual multiplex. In addition to the absorbing psychological debate the audience are also treated to a magnificent personal story which revolves around Jung and Spielrein. It has anticipation, romance and heart and is full of twists and turns.

Many scenes are shot with unusal acting positions
All three principle actors are fantastic. Keira Knightley delivers a wonderfully outrageous and over the top performance as the confused and frenzied Spielrein. She is as accomplished as I have ever seen her. It was a pleasant surprise to see her push her physical acting abilities in ways which I had not seen in the past. Fassbender gives a somewhat subdued performance but he too is more than competent. Mortensen’s Freud is understated but occasionally vicious and calculating. His voice is both relaxing and seductive, a cross between John Hurt and The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. Mortensen and Fassbender are at their best when sparring opposite one another. The three leads are joined by an able supporting cast which includes an all too brief cameo from Vincent Cassel who is excellent here as the sex addicted Otto Gross.

I am unable to think of a single facet of this film which I didn’t enjoy or thought could have been improved in some way and am utterly delighted that I took the time to see it. It has been one of the highlights of an already stellar couple of months at the cinema.


Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Duchess

Based on the life of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire The Duchess is set in late Eighteenth Century England. It follows Georgiana’s life from a teenager on her family’s estate and through her life as the wife of the Duke of Devonshire. Before the film I was unaware of her but her story is fascinating. Married to the Duke at a young age with the promise of bearing him a male heir, Georgiana settles in to a life in the spotlight with great ease, charming everyone she meets. Behind closed doors though, life is very different as her husband becomes increasingly angrier that despite three children, none are male. He looks elsewhere for a male heir, eventually inviting Georgiana’s closest friend in to their house as a second partner for himself.

Keira Knightley is well cast as the Duchess and gives grace and poise to the role. She is an equal match for the men around her and shows both great strength and vulnerability. She looks the part of an Eighteenth Century aristocrat, helped in no small way by the fantastic costume and makeup. It is not surprising that the film won an Oscar for its costume design. Each outfit looks wonderful and of the period. It must have taken months to design and manufacture the hundreds of dresses seen in the film.

Ralph Fiennes does a good job playing Knightley’s husband, The Duke of Devonshire. No one is better than him at playing an arrogant, grumpy bastard. Where the casting falls down I believe is in Dominic Cooper’s Earl Grey. I think that Cooper is a solid actor but here he seems out of place and hidden by the great performances around him. 

No one does grumpy like Ralph Fiennes 

I enjoyed The Duchess much more than I expected to. The story of a spoiled aristocrat played by an actress who I am not particularly keen on had little promise for me but the film makes the audience feel very sorry for Knightley’s Duchess, something that I believe is not easy to do. The story is interesting and the setting and costumes are impressive.