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November 3, 2010 5:36 pm
|Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent|
Another Year (
Caricatural? Well, we are all two things at once. We are all specimens in a jar, easy to label. At the same time we are infinitely more. Binary humanism is the essence of Leigh’s cinema, even trinary. In Another Year each character can simultaneously seem a nothing, a singularity and a multitude. In a narrative divided into changing seasons, Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen play the all-parenting couple in southern England who keep open house for friends and family. Each
of these human waifs and strays is unforgettably drawn. The gregarious son with a surprise romantic secret (Oliver Maltman). The overweight loner (Peter Wight), devoted to the oral comforts of food, drink and nicotine. The insecure social butterfly (Leigh regular Lesley Manville in superb form), unattached, bibulous and borderline bipolar.
Leigh adds layer upon layer of humanity. A master of the behavioural “tell”, he catches every tiny facial response or flicker of body language. When the conversations are not endearing dialogues of the deaf – “How many cc’s is it?” someone asks Manville innocently of her new car; “What do you mean?” she snaps back aggressively – they are full of weird blossomings of emotion. When Broadbent’s bereaved north-country brother (David Bradley) comes south for a visit, there is a touchingly, comically awkward moment when Manville, arriving, finds him alone in the house. They have nothing to say to each other. Then suddenly she says, “Do you want a cuddle?” As in a Chekhov play the volatilities are presented straight. We know the inner map of the characters, so nothing is illogical even when a
Some of these people are at the bottom of a well of loneliness. An introductory vignette has Imelda Staunton (not seen again) talking with a psychotherapist. “On a scale of one to 10,” he asks, “how happy would you say you were?” “One.” It is sad and funny, comical and desperate. But the brilliance of the plot scheme that follows is that the lost, the damned, the confused have a centre of capricious help and enlightenment to go to – Sheen and Broadbent’s home – just as we mortals, no less lucky, can knock, every year or three, on the door of Mike Leigh Villa.
|Demonically inventive: ‘Jackass 3D’|
I enjoyed it a lot. As the adage goes, regarding loud, over-adrenalised American showbiz jocks: “If you can’t beat them, watch them beating themselves and each other.” The film went straight to the top of the US box office charts, proving that audiences will go anywhere to see the dangerous, the disgusting, the demoralising. We love things we can barely watch. That includes the herpetophobe (Bam Margera) screaming to be hauled out of a pit of snakes, the claustrophobe (Steve O) locked in a faeces-filled portable cabin which is bungee-bounced up and down on giant ropes; the two stripped-to-the-waist performers picked for supergluing who must tear themselves apart; the fart trombonist; the bee-attack volunteers choreographed as if by St Vitus . . .
I even admired the ingenuity of the landscaped miniature railway with a green mound in the middle that suddenly, volcanically spurts a thick brown liquid. Only it isn’t a mound, it’s – well, go on, imagine. Perhaps it is a sad reflection on humanity that we flock to this kind of stuff. But there we are. Humanity is sad; Mike Leigh said so. But it
can be a demonically inventive sadness. Rabelais would adore Jackass 3D.
Vampires, by contrast, are too much with us, these cinema-going days, while not being effectively part of us. Let Me In (
The Swedish original, Let the Right One In, was blanched, spooky and sombre. This remake by Matt Cloverfield Reeves misses almost everything. The lemony pallor seems out of Paintbox. The spookiness is supplied by make-up. The sombre, melancholy mood seems done with an applicator: a large swab of slow-tempo gloom in which the action high-points – the blood-draining murder in the park, the girl vampire’s savaging of a nocturnal pedestrian – are presented with mechanised flairlessness. Even horror stories about the super-old (“I’ve been 12 for a very long time,” says the girl) should seem fresh in the presentation.
Here the writer-director himself plays the dance teacher, a dreadlocked, lisping, Afro-gay Jesus handing out sermonettes to his mixed AC and DC pupils, who disperse for their respective subplots. The result is often charming, like a Shane Meadows film without the dour bits. Rather, the dour bits are in home-movie colour and all end happily after the requisite rites of conflict. At the end we feel torn between “That was lovely” and
“Can we go now?” The film is on the money, morally and humanistically. Whether it will earn any, in the big bad popcorn world, is another question.
Ten years ago, Sweden’s Lukas Moodysson was hailed as the new Ingmar Bergman. Bergman himself almost handed on to the young maker of Show Me Love, a luminous teenage lesbian drama, his magical hair shirt. But Mammoth
no stars, and none but the slenderest, most superfine idea.
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