Friday, 19 March 2010

Old Boy

I watched this film on the same day that I saw Alice in Wonderland, which may explain my negative approach to that movie. The two films couldn't be further apart. I suggest watching it without any information, but otherwise carry on. Old Boy, by the Korean director Chan-wook Park, is about a man who is privately imprisoned for fifteen years. When he is mysteriously released, he sets out for vengeance against whoever put him there, unaware that that person is still watching him, and waiting. As you can tell, this dilemma is intriguing and pulls you along easily. Min-sik Choi, who plays the main character, is very likeable and makes a brilliant transformation from ordinary man to crazed killer. This isn't, however, a film based round violence, or for which violence is the main attraction (as I had thought). Instead, it is the psychological consequences of the actions which are emphasised, and are far more compelling. This is a modern day Greek tragedy, but I wondered as I watched it whether it really successfully works for a Westerner. It was hard for me to be as strongly convinced as the characters seemed to be by what had happened. Their notion of shame, guilt, and confidence differs from mine and the conclusion of the film felt over-dramatic and strained. I didn't believe in what was happening, couldn't sympathise with the characters any more. I don't think I can blame Chan-wook Park for this. He's created a brilliantly sinister film that you can't afford not to have seen.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Alice In Wonderland

I was surprised by how quickly I became complacent of the 3D IMAX experience whilst I was watching this film. At first, it was once again astonishing (as it had been for Avatar), but you begin to forget it, or take it for granted. you live inside the film, as it were, as if it was a play or real life. You see the full dimensions of characters interacting with their scenery, but because this is what you do everyday, you quickly begin to overlook it. I wonder if the really astonishing thing is actually 2D, and the effort it takes to make us think that's real. Anyway, aside from the interest in the technology, I have to hesitate before saying whether the film is any good or not. You may have heard that it is not a retelling of Lewis Carroll's book. It inhabits that world, but is more of a continuation rather than an adaptation. It also includes elements from his other books. The main problem I had with the film is that it makes sense. This may be a strange complaint, but the essence of Carroll's world was that it was absurd. There was no over-arching plot to be followed, merely incidental ones. Tim Burton gives the film a narrative, which I'm sure Carroll would have detested. There is a quest feel to the movie, and a conventional battle scene at the end. So, I can't say that I like or what see the film again, but what was Burton's aim with the movie? He appropriates the iconic moments of the books, and then deploys them in his own narrative. Characters are given motives and back-stories, essentially contradicting the original intention of Carroll. Of course the film is enjoyable (I don't know what children would make of it), and we shouldn't get hung up on whether or not it does justice to its original, but there's something perfunctory and empty about the experience, which left me relatively unchanged when I exited the cinema.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Break-Up

I think I've reviewed this film at least twice already, so I'm not going to do it again. Instead, I want to remark on something new that occurred to me as I was watching it recently. If you haven't seen it, I'm going to talk about the ending, which may ruin the whole thing for you. In my previous reviews I pointed out that I particularly liked the finish, avoiding the typical Hollywood ending. The main characters accidentally meet up again (perhaps six months or a year later), are happy to see each other, exchange pleasantries and then move on. Everything points towards this being a kind of closure to the relationship. They can finally see past all the anger and unpleasantness, and feel that that chapter of their life is closed. This is what I thought, and I liked it. However, looking more closely at that scene, perhaps I'm completely wrong? Are they going to get back together? The conversation is short and they don't make any plans, but they exchange compliments and both suggest catching up again. He invites her to come on his tour and she says she will. They're both extremely happy to see each other, and both (as far as we know) single. Throughout the film you are made to feel that they could resolve their differences if only they would stop being so stubborn, or explain their situation properly to each other. There is still obviously love there. I know this isn't exactly the riddle that is Michael Haneke's Hidden, but The Break-Up is a better than average film, and I think it deserves some consideration.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

10 Things I Hate About You

This film is much older than I thought it was (it came out in 1999). Notable is how young Heath Ledger - he was twenty at the time - and Joseph Gordon-Levitt look (star of the brilliant Brick). It's ostensibly based on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, and is probably part of the spate of teen comedies derived from classic works (like She's All That and Get Over It) that I think was started by Clueless. On the surface you have to say that it's fairly awful. Gordon-Levitt falls in love with one sister, who isn't allowed to date until her older sister does. Now here's the twist: her older sister hates everyone. Enter Heath Ledger, who is willing to be paid to date the older sister, so that the younger is freed up. There's a few more twists and turns, but you get the idea and can probably guess what's going to happen. Nonetheless, this is a bit more refreshing and original than most teen comedies, but perhaps this is like being the best car in the scrapheap. Their teacher and the sisters' father are both enjoyable characters, but aside from them no one but Ledger is very interesting. The typical high school jock/jerk is just so obvious it's almost painful to watch (compare Ferris Bueller's Day Off). Overall I think it sits awkwardly with the original material, and doesn't have the post-modern irony and sharp wit that Clueless had. The school the film was shot in does give it an impressive background and feel, though.

The Hateful Eight

Tarantino has said he'll only make ten films, and then retire. I don't know if he still stands by this statement, and if he does we ...