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December 8, 2010 5:52 pm
I was all set to lead with The Tourist (
Oh, dear reader. If you take my advice you will never know. Do anything. Arrange an appointment in Sumatra. Go to the moon. At all costs stay away. The two stars give the appearance of having had a numbing drug administered before the movie. Jolie pouts with inanition, Depp’s self-effacing performance looks like a bid for deniability: “I was never in this film.” The plot slaloms arthritically from one predictable twist to another. Even poor Venice is barely recognisable. The main setting is the famous Danieli Hotel which sits, where it doesn’t, in the middle of the Grand Canal. (That’ll freak out Italians.) It is not enough for a movie this bad to go back to the drawing board. It needs to go back to the beginning of time, to the Big Bang, when the possibilities of its existence first took shape as a tiny particle of matter ...
| Thet Sambath (left) hunts his nemesis
Nuon Chea, Pol Pot’s ‘Brother Number Two’,
in ‘Enemies of the People’
So let’s start with Enemies of the People
Shades of Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now, as this new Kurtz is tracked to his lair. For Conrad and Coppola the landscape traversed was a jungle. Here it is a jungle of the mind: archive footage of a grisly epoch, on-screen reminiscences of Khmer Rouge torturers and executioners. These men turn tyrant’s evidence to guide Sambath towards the truth. On the way we pass through primitive madnesses almost surreal. One veteran of the 1975-79 wilderness years: “I always carried a human gall bladder to drink.” Sambath’s moment of self-revelation with Chea is awesome. You can hear a pin drop, or perhaps an executioner’s trapdoor. Cambodia and its war criminals are being cleaned up even as we write, a just if belated “purging” of the atrocities spawned by the Khmer Rouge’s earlier, more brutal one.
There are different forms of tyranny and demagoguery, some disguised as fantasy literature. I hope there is a purgatory for children’s story writers who corrupt innocent minds with Christian allegory. My aversion to CS Lewis abates a little, though, before Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (
|Joanne Froggat shows grit as returning Afghanistan soldier Suzy in ‘In our Name’|
The trucks have been out to grit British cinema again. The cold ground crackles underfoot, or under tank tread, as In Our Name
Grit? Yes, and an earnest implacability redolent of TV drama. You feel the sat-nav has been set to “educative itinerary about cruel lessons of war”. No diversion will be allowed into byroads of humanising idiosyncrasy. Brian Welsh’s film is strongly acted even so. Froggatt brings off a scene of near-breakdown in a classroom – where she and a colleague are guest-lecturing – in which only her performance prevents us saying, “Hey, surely she would be carted off for a cup of tea before things got this difficult?” There are several “hey, surelies” in this film. But the tank trundles on and finally reaches its honourable, medium-powerful showdown.
I have never been more shocked by a best film prize than by the Venice Golden Lion for Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere
In one scene the hero picks out a few bars of the Goldberg Variations on the hotel lobby piano. Hey (I thought), if this spoilt millionaire is so bored why doesn’t he learn the opus complete? Instead he must have what Coppola grandly calls his “existential crisis”. I kept thinking how good the movie might be – how lithe, how left-field, how subtle and sly – if Translation’s Bill Murray were playing the main role. Self-pity? He’d chuck that. The little daughter? He’d chuck her too, or find a way to make her maudlin subplot either astringent or genuinely affecting.
Two little sons from a broken marriage tag along. A busty supermarket checkout woman makes the impresario hero “check out” her breasts. An allergy to hotel muzak becomes a running gag. When the film is not too grim to be funny, it is too funny to be grim. “Forget it, Dad,” says his small son when Amalric can’t complete a bedtime story. Whereupon Dad, reaching for the world he knows best, starts improvising a fable about a giant balloon-dancer ...
A Serbian Film (
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