Good weekend for films. In fact, wonder if anything else I see in 2009 will be as good as these first two?
4) Dark Knight
. Yes, months late I know but I just gave up on catching it anywhere at the cinema in time for the awards season and watched it on DVD anyway. It didn't seem to suffer much, in fact I quite welcomed the chance to get a cup of tea halfway through..
Remarkable film, even though part of me really thinks it should have been two, with a natural break definitely cutting in before the Two-Face plot starts up. Maybe they weren't sure they'd get Eckhart for two films or maybe the plot really is too intermeshed to be separated. Whatever, I am increasingly in awe of Christopher Nolan, whose film this really is, not Christian's or Aaron's or even Heath's whatever the papers say, because it's all about the *script*.
It's really not a comic book movie at all, is it? Not because they can't be good (before you all kill me) but because this film wouldn't be notably changed if the main antagonists were not Bales and Ledger, but Big Oldfashioned Stars like Al Pacino or Jack Nicholson , playing any human vigilante detective and psycho killer - the iconic quality of Batman and Joker is not really the point of the film. The freakshow and alienation element of masked heroes and made up villains is, slightly, but it's not to me the, or even a key part of the film. Indeed, the Joker is well described as "the clown" throughout - not a one-off, not a costumed villain with a capital letter, just what he describes himself as, an agent of chaos, another terrorist in a world where we don't understand what motivates any of them, psychotic or Islamic. (The terrorist analogy is nicely flagged up but not over played in Alfred's Burma war story.)
What the film in toto is, to me, is not an examination of the Batman mythos (no father figures at all this time, except in one of the Joker's fictitious? origin stories (a detail I adored)) but rather a remarkably detailed and clinical examination of taking responsibility, especially of taking the responsibility for the hard choices as well as the easy, obvious ones - about whether it is better to make compromises to achive good ends, or to stay pure and achieve less - or to stand back from moral involvement and leave it to chance. And what the effect is on your own soul of so doing. In a way I'm amazed Nolan chose to yoke this very adult film (how it got 12A is beyond me, but I mean cerebrally adult) to the risk of it being denounced as "for kids" because it featured a man in tights (OK body armour). Maybe he just had faith in his own abilities. It is SO much better a film than Batman Begins
(which I can hardly recall and had to check on IMDB just to remeber who the love interest was.)( a few spoiler points )
It is, by the way, Aaron Eckhart's film if it is anybody's. I feel for Heath Ledger's untimely death but that's the truth, even though Ledger will get the Oscar. Eckart shines making what could have been the dull moral centre of half the film more exciting than anyone. And Michael Caine has his role down to a tee (though he should have, as he perfected it between films in The Prestige
I'd love to read reviews people wrote when the film came out. If you've got one, do comment a link please!
EDIT: I've now read Wrong Questions review at http://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/2008/07/dark-knight.html
and am pleased to see that she agrees with me, I think, about my main criticism (but also disagrees. hmm.)
5) Slumdog Millionaire
. Less to say about this, but it's bloody good - far better as a FILM, a cinematic, visual event, I think, than DK, though not nearly as intellectually interesting. (I'd find it really difficult to say which is "better".. ) The action, the swiftness of the pace, the quick grasp of characters as we meet them, the liveliness of the camera, are incredibly well done. What is exceptional about the film apart from its sheer energy, is in many ways its tone, the way the horrendous evil we see - and this is *real* evil, comprehensible casual evil, not psycho comic book killer evil - somehow does not actually darken the film. In this sense it is a bit reminiscent of Boyle's previous winner Trainspotting
, which also took some of its bizarrely upbeat tone from music, male bonding and defiant humour in the face of the ghastliness of life. This film is about the resilience of the human spirit, whereas DK is about its inevitable corruption. Discuss. Or maybe Boyle is just a happier person than Nolan, or on better drugs?
Anyway it is an incredibly engaging film, do go, but be warned, it is NOT NOT NOT a feelgood movie!! Even the end, which I won't give away, has a sort of anti climactic bitter taste to it. And I kind of wish the latter part of the romantic sub plot wasn't so soppy and cliched compared to the sparkling originaility of the rest of the film, but hell I guess that is its gesture towards being a Bollywood film - kinda. The child actors are fabulous and do, I think, outshine their grown up counterparts - but Dev Patel does well and I'm so glad to see another graduate of Skins
up for Oscars!! (I hope..)
I wonder what they're making of it in Mumbai?
Also last week
(6) The Lemon Tree
Yet another really good film, of stark realism compared to the two above. This is an Israeli/Palestinian legal drama with a difference, the story of a Palestinian widow who goes to court to defend her lemon grove when the Israeli military order it destroyed as a security risk (she lives on the dge of the West Bank green line, neighbouring the house of the Israeli defense minister). As you can see, the combo of Israel and law was irresistable to me:-) In a lot of ways though, this film is more about oppression of women, especially older women, in male dominated societies, than it is simply about the oppression of Palestine by Israel; and this part got to me personally far more than the more political aspects (but then again I'm an older woman, amn't I, not a Palestinian.)
What I've said to a lot of people is that I wish more people were likely to go see this than The Reader
(good as that was too) - because seeing this might help with today's problems, whereas to some extent The Reader
just digs up ones we've managed to bury. But hey, this one has a middle aged Palestinian as its star not Kate Winslet. Go figure :-(