Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Week in Review - 20/12/09

  • Precious (Lee Daniels, USA, 2009)
  • Sayat Nova (The Colour of Pomegranates, Sergei Paradjanov, USSR, 1968)
  • Avatar (James Cameron, USA, 2009)
  • Bright Star (Jane Campion, UK/Australia/France, 2009)
  • Planet 51 (Jorge Blanco/Javier Abad/Marcos Martínez, Spain/UK/USA, 2009)
  • The Killers (Robert Siodmak, USA, 1946)


I'm a bit hesitant to write about this film because it's a worthy film, well-made and deserves to be seen. I, however, found it very disturbing and came out of the cinema feeling unwell. For me, it does for bleak social drama what torture porn does for horror. It subjects its audience to increasing levels of depravity, testing one's endurance.

While films like Antichrist and Irreversible challenge with their depictions of physical violence, this one is more about the sexual, emotional and psychological abuse endured by its protagonist, Precious, in an impressive screen debut by Gabourey Sidibe. Mo'Nique also impresses as Precious' obnoxious and foul-mouth mother, and the film features various raw and naturalistic cameos by singers Mariah Carey (as a social worker) and Lenny Kravitz (as a nurse).

All in all, this is a gutsy film, that others seemed to appreciate more than I - most of the audience at the screening I attended were Amnesty International members. Again, I hope it finds an audience, and its recent nominations for various awards may help. But it's not something I'll see again.

The Colour of Pomegranates
This film screened with Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev which, with a running time of 165 minutes, made it impossible for me to stay. My pneumonia earlier in the year has meant I have to overlook such late nights as I focus on staying well. And that's a pity, because that meant my closing Melbourne Cinémathèque film of the year was a disappointment.

The film is without dialogue and seems largely theatrical, and fringe at that. I had trouble staying awake and found it boring as hell. I suppose that makes me a cultural philistine. So be it.

I saw Avatar the first time in 3D and indulged my curiosity by seeing it in 2D. It was a fascinating experience.

First, the visuals are nowhere near as strong. They're relatively flat - and I don't just mean because they're not in 3D. The colours seem somewhat drained of their brightness we see in 3D. It seems that the film was made specifically for 3D and perhaps it's been further processed for 2D to try to get it to look acceptable. It is acceptable, but if this was your only experience of the film, you'd be wondering what all they fuss about this film was about. Yet, I prefer the 2D experience, because there's nothing between me and the screen. As I've written previously, the 3D technology is a distraction.

Secondly, the story stands up quite well on second viewing. In fact, some of the points that slightly bothered me the first time (like the environmental and terror messages) seemed insignificant this time. Perhaps it's because I knew they were coming and when they did they had less impact. It was like this for me with The Matrix also. The first time, the love bit at the end was a bit silly, but on repeat viewings it seemed perfect.

While the story is still nothing special, it is solid and has enough meat on its bones to engage an audience. Bear in mind that I'm not the target audience and I'm seeing it for the second time. At the point where Jake Sully turns up as Taruk-something or other, it even brought tears to my eyes. I love that scene.

Watching it in 2D, I was more conscious of the film being mostly CGI, much like Lord of the Rings, but it wasn't a problem.

As I memtnioned, if you watched this film only in 2D, you'd be wondering what all the fuss was about. If you see it in 3D, you'll know. And I do think it's worth seeing again in 2D. I may even see it again in 3D, just to take more note of the technical aspects.

Bright Star
This is certainly a beautiful looking film, one of the finest for the year, perhaps even more so than The Piano. The music ain't bad either. The narrative is a bit flat for me, certainly no The Piano. But, to its credit, its more emotionally engaging than most period films, especially by the Brits. The French do period much better than the Brits, and this seemed more in that vein and will, I imagine, be well-received in Europe.

Cornish does take centre-stage and rises to the challenge. I was impressed by both her performance and her accent. At times, from certain angles, she looked eerily like a young pre-Botox Nicole Kidman.

All in all, the film is low-key and artistically credible. Some of those outdoors shots are magnificent, and so are the indoors ones. FWIW, the missus loves it as much as The Piano, and I'm thinking maybe it's more of a chick flick than The Piano.

Planet 51
It is amazing to realise that this is a Spanish film, because it looks, sounds and feels like a Hollywood middle-of-the-road kids holiday flick. It's OK, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you're taking kids to a holiday flick. For that, it's enjoyable enough, but otherwise I'd give it a miss.

The Killers
I saw this at the discount shop by the Kino cinema and at $5 I knew I couldn't go wrong. Immensely entertaining, funny, suspenseful and a class film noir. Burt Lancaster gets top billing but his role plays out in the shadows of Edmond O'Brien who seems to be channeling Humphrey Bogart, as an insurance investigator who is attempting to discover why a gas attendant was a target for two hit-men.

The film uses every cliche, but looks fantastic in black and white, using long shadows and tough-guy speak. It's no challenge, just fun.

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