Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Week in Review - 30/9/09

  • Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, USA/Germany, 2009)
  • Viaggio in Italia (Voyage to Italy, Roberto Rossellini, Italy/France, 1953)
  • Gake no ue no Ponyo (Ponyo, Hayao Mizayaki, Japan, 2008)
  • Eli & Ben (Ori Ravid, Israel, 2008)

Inglourious Basterds
It's not often I see a film more than once, but after reading various articles and interviews with Tarantino, etc, I decided to give this one another go. Other Tarantino films I've seen more than once on the big screen are Pulp Fiction and Death Proof. I didn't enjoy the film more on second viewing, but I noticed and appreciated things more. Things that bothered me on first viewing either bothered me less or not at all. This is Hollywood film-making that we don't see enough of and will probably make it into my top-10 releases of the year. Tremendously entertaining!

Voyage to Italy
This is my second Rossellini film, so I have a long way to get through his oeuvre, but I'm liking what I'm seeing. I was surprised to find Voyage to Italy almost entirely in English. I was also surprised at how much like her mother Isabella Rossellini looks.

The film depicts a marriage in downward spiral. From the Senses of Cinema Annotations, I expected to find a heartless husband (George Sanders) and his long-suffering wife (Ingrid Bergman). Rossellini is clearly more enlightened a film-maker than I expected and there is a great deal of subtlety and balance than the annotations led me to believe.

The small Nova Cinema 7 was full, and it wasn't just children. I was surprised to see, in addition to the young families, teenagers, 20-somethings and older. All for a film that appears to be aimed at a domestic (Japanese) audience aged 4-9 years old. It's a tribute to the film-maker that he can create a world that appeals largely outside its target audience.

I really enjoyed Mizayaki's Spirited Away, though most of his films since seem to have been made with a Western audience in mind and have become increasingly formulaic. No so with Ponyo. If anything, it seems to be going backwards in time. Japan is famous for it's cultural ambiguity. It is one of the most technologically advanced societies on Earth and yet strangely bound to traditions that go back to the Middle Ages. Ponyo's style eschews all the advances in animation and more than ever displays an old-fashioned hand-painted look. Rather than detract from the film, it works well and differentiates the film from the competition (not that Mizayaki has any real contenders).

So, how does Ponyo stack up? Well, don't see the Hollywood dubbed version. I haven't seen it, but it would just destroy the very Japanese look and feel of the film. The magical world that Mizayaki conjures really is endearing. I'd have thought it was aimed at a pre-school to early primary school demographic, but my 8 year old loved it. I found it enjoyable, but I wouldn't go unless I was accompanying a child.

Eli & Ben
This film screened at the Israeli Film Festival, for which one must be over 18 years of age to legally gain entry. Yet, it seems to be aimed squarely at a teenage market. Basically, it's a telemovie (or appears to be), like an extended version of Neighbours, and I thought it was just stupid, stupid, stupid. I could tell this from the opening scene and it didn't get any better. I have nothing else I want to say about it.


Gerard said...

I found Ponyo truly delightful - not as rich as Miyazaki's best efforts (such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away), perhaps, but a more wonderful kid's film would certainly be hard to come by. It's been a good year for the younger set: this, Coraline and Up all stand as some of the best times I've had at the movies this year.

Great to read of your fondness for Basterds, too, Paul - your sentiments would seem to mirror my own. Speaking of good times at the movies, I can certainly see this being a favourite of '09 for me, also. You're no doubt aware of the wide range of slagging-off the film's endured in some circles, but, frankly, I don't see how this can be read as anything other than the big, grand, thematically complex love letter to cinema that I read it as. A bingo, indeed!

Paul Martin said...

Thanks for the comments, Gerard. I haven't seen any Miyazaki pre-Spirited Away. I love how old-fashioned the look and feel of Ponyo is. I liked Coraline but found Up fairly hollow, lifeless and predictable. Ponyo has buckets of cinema magic which makes Up look sterile.

I'm not particularly cognisant of the slagging of Inglourious Basterds. Most of the sources I read think highly of it. I've seen it a third time now. I think this is only the second time I've seen a film three times on the big screen. I imagine it'll make my top 5 cinema releases of the year.

Jake said...

Bit puzzled by your comment about "most" of Miyazaki's films since Spirited Away -- to my knowledge he's made ONE feature film between that and Ponyo, Howl's Moving Castle, which wasn't what I'd call formulaic. I do think Ponyo is his best in a long time.