Films of 2014 remembered pre-Oscars

image

And the winners are….

The awards are in the cupboard for distribution on Stages floodlit and spot lit across the Globe in 2015 for works that reached us in the year just gone.

So many days of entertainment has been brought to us by the Film Industry without which the world would be more of a collective basket case than it already is.

It speaks against war,poverty, genocide, corruption and mostly our own harm on harm.
Human Harm
In a film not to go on the list ‘The English DoctorHenry Marsh tells of his career which he delftly, lyrically, philosophically, breathtakingly, heartwarmingly but last and most distinguishably honors his own skills with humility and amazing unheard insightful ness of his term as a surgeon of the brain and all that placed him there in the book his wife provided (plagurising the plagiarist himself – nothing’s new I’ll find it for you Larry Page) called Do No Harm. Hippocrates must have heard in from the Barrista or Barman at his social hut.

So already you have a Film unready for the Oven of Acclamation by the Semi-Greenhouse dwelling – LA – hothouse flowers renegades all and sundry.

Two films on Human Rights I have seen and neither makes it onto the Documentary category and one that enters my list but comes off it as few have seen it is Apples of the Golan.

Burn a list out.
My list is to be short -The Guardian listing 10 in 12/12/14 g2 do it ten down to one.

It is short because on any given day they could be in the top spot. So much film acclimation is about its timely delivery. Other times it is due to compelling world themes. Boyhood is particularly good and very good at that. So is Mr Turner, Under the Skin, The Grandmaster, Leviathan, The Imitation Game, there are more. Other film performances are battering down doors and some not having even been on General Release in the UK.
JK Simmons in a film reviewed elsewhere for instance is apparently a shoe-in for Best supporting actor – well being among the early viewers I think not.
He is limited in the role by the very nature of the part and is stereotypically the bad ass teacher with hidden gripes.

Keira Knightly is excellent and is convincing as the Turing foil which BC has in the same sphere every chance of nailing the Big one.
KK is a worthy Best Supporting Actor winner in my eyes.

I find it hard to restrict the year end list to 5 but it is a necessary task in my mind.

A Touch of Sin
Starred up
In Order of Disappearance
Ida
Two days One Night

They are however arranged in the order I table today with my favorite last.

Two Days One night is a beguiling, bewildering, belligerent and superfine edge of the nerves chilling visual narrative told with the finesse of any director you could care to name.
Marion Cotillard creates this part in the manner Fonteyn created her Fredrick Ashton roles. That is with exceptional artistic and wonderous enthrallment. In seeing this film I was literally thinking alongside the walking the movement of seeing Margot Fonteyn completely rowing us into the dance, into the path of the story and us being with her.
How could the comparison be made except through the lucidity and poetry of an exquisite serious acting performance? Only one answer sheer artistry of a performer on their game.

When you watched MF and RN but particularly the women, as all ballet of significance and importance is a homage to the body of a woman.
The waif like strength of Margot Fonteyn beholden alongside the extraordinary masculine figure of the supreme male dancer Nuryev could not be more telling.

Telling is the word. Fellow French actress Juliet Binoche who inhabited my favorite contemporary film ‘Les Amant du Pont-Nuef‘ sought to herself engage with herself and have witnessed through dance this perilous journey.

I was totally absorbed beginning to end with this film for it’s telling of our times.

It’s delicate properly respectful pride of the French people whose identity is a contested place as far as a lot of Europeans are concerned.
(Rider: a lot of this film is shot in Belguim but that’s not the point).

I love the French people though there may be one or two exceptions that spill that cannot deign to wipe it up.
The essence of the people is encapsulated, the French character, flesh and bone, not just in The mesmeric Marion Cotillard but her fellow performers who each also reach the levels of the film making intent and delivering it so extraordinarily.

For me there is no question of it every being taken off the 2014 top of the mantle pride of place. For the second year in a row a French film gets my top vote. Last year it was the quite literally incredible ‘Holy Motors.’
The beauty of film making is distinctly alive in France (..and by locale Belguim..!!)

Further up and down the see-saw are found the wonder filled Polish film, Ida which I defy anyone not to be thoroughly engaged by. It has a generosity of will and sacrifice, saviour, coming of age emotion enriched as it is treated without necessity to adjust to much for the past circumstances which are carried and refuse to leave the stage of life’s drama.

Then there is one which I do not list as it is far too close to home to be yet considered as a depiction of truth. It takes as it’s timeframe 1971, abbreviated it, ’71 and turns it into a slave of the events in Northern Ireland.
It is framed in and around the city of Belfast and uses settings configured and still standing in Sheffield as the flats.
image
I once was a colleague of Brian Anson the GLC Architect who employed his Liverpool guile to turn against London’s philistines and was THE prime saviour of London’s Covent Garden – not the Opera House (since reformed and Floral Halled keeping the stage and Main Auditorium as it’s appendage – but the Market. Now Covent Garden District is a lesson in retention of civic space. Brian Anson came to challenge and have pulled down the Division Flats featured in the seventies for their cumbersome social experimentation – ghettos satin is an equally applicable franchise. Franchise Architecture doesn’t work – Jean de Renet and Mies Van de Rohe – never related their compositions of buildings, streets in the sky or skyscraper hip Philosopy much farther than their adopted surfaces. France and USA.

‘71 is a depiction and a violent one. As a film it gives insight to a degree but has no insider knowledge of the huge kind which The Guildford Four had.
On which in my view was only a scratching at the truth.
I am assisted in this view with the absurd way in which Twelve Years a Slave is held in totally undeserving acclaim. It is film racial porn. Fletcher was a name used in Whiplash and that has more Fletching as integral abuse in scale.
While Fassbinder flails and assaults the scene shots of horseman in the fields is disgusting hubris given what actually went in and widely chronicled. It would have turned out to have more credibility had Sam Taylor-Wood tackled it and twice as much delivered. But there you go awards and opinion.

image

Who is the slave – the Film Industry?

John Graham

15 January 2015

Belfast

Serena : A Film Review

image

Cast : Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, David Dencik, Sean Harris, Ana Ularu, Sam Reid, Conleth Hill, Charity Wakefield, Douglas Hodge, Christian McKay, Philip Zanden, Ned Dennehy.

Serena
The pairing of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are is a proven combination. Having been made in 2012 by the Director and part Producer, the Danish attendee to close detail and a comprehensive storyline without too much diversion is Susanne Bier. A distributed is clearly now in place and we get to see what has been held back for a few years.

This is a period drama set in East America, the North Carolina Forests, soon to become State Parks. The time is 1929 and the colonial fore bearers are gone and the land is allocated on a lost continental basis. The victors took the spoils of much land and the forests were an enormously valuable natural commodity. Like the mining, oil and agricultural wealth grasped post civil war, some winners were founded sufficiently to create their own banking systems.

The character George Pemberton (Cooper) is a young entrepreneur with a vision for making heaps of money from deforesting large sections of forestry which is mainly relatively cheap and easily accessible Pinewood.
He has enlisted a partner to share the risks and also to be an additional pair of eyes.
This is the redoubtable, advisor Buchanan (David Dencik) whose homoerotic attraction to George is a slow burner ignited by the return after a trip to retrieve more funds from a Bank, of George with a wife. Swept up from an encounter his sister who is in the closed elitist society set, is the formidable attractive, fair and astute alluring Serena. The fair fine features of Serena are not reduced as she puts a white horse through its paces.
image
Her commanding positive teamwork with the animal are enough to impress George from a distance. George’s sister gives him the tale of her loss of her entire family. From her father a large scale timber baron whose empire was many leagues above the North Carolina operation George has started.
To call a woman feisty is I am given to understand an unfettered insult and demeaning as often applied ingloriously to women.
Hot, quarrelsome, courageous and single minded on the other hand can not have those accusations leveled and it is only part of the character summation this beautiful horsewoman turned married woman.
image
In marrying she thinks she finds her soulmate and fellow adventurer with plenty of common direction and interest.
As a partner in business George is confident of what she can bring outside the house. The comparability of the couple have no sexual shortcomings and she quickly becomes pregnant.
As an operator of business from a horse or in her boots on the hills she carries every action out without error. Her countenance is accepted.
The person who we see most put out by her presence is the directionless Buchanan. There are a couple of head woodsmen that all three rely on to enforce their instructions

These are familiar actors which is a feature of this film.
II is odd to see Douglas Hodges as a fiery logsman with a passable impression of a doughty American shouting the odds of the new America.
Also the squat doleful Toby Jones is cast as the righteous Sheriff of the adjacent town. He is implausibly plausible given the cock a manny story.

Sean Harris and Rhys Ifans are the two dependable.
Rhys Ifans under his ten gallon hat does a mean meany oddball.
Serena accepts his judgement if not his outsider withdrawn, need to be an outsider. Rhys paces alongside things. Rails freshly laid. Logs freshly felled and houses freshly inhabited. He acts feral (not unlike the feral under-panted 4W+1Funeral wimp) as the other dependable Harris we recall from the newly released ’71 in which he plays the Long haired beatnik guised Spook of her majesties finest. He is here an only mildly less savory self interested pugnacious beetler in the wood pile.

It is a right ant-heap and by way of relation Serena sends for a trained Eagle to take care of the snakes which have killed several of the needed workers.

The first section, well over halfway into the story little hens of any consequence. The anti-romance is played. George does not meet her expectations and is easily given instructions without being aware of them, she has a major plan in mind. She has to in my mind emulate and better the achievements of her lost Father. The Father lost in the fire and the ghost of the loss of an entire family explains much of her driven nature.
She is not conscious of this herself and is therefore not able to forgive readily for minor transgressions.
George on the other hand is reflective and cautious. Serena is the risk taker.
image
When the film becomes a highly intense crime thriller it is complete with murder, conspiracy, corruption and revenge all told.

A side story involves George’s child conceived with his ‘maid’ the delectable Rachel (Romanian actress Ana Ularu), whose continued presence upsets Serena on occasions, despite her instruction to George when she realises, as soon as she arrives that this past and child exist.
Only occasionally does she have cause to make anything of it but on the triangle swings several twists.

Serena is at the centre of this melodrama and with flawless imperious portrayal of restrained imploding self confidence the magnetism I for one see, as many others recognise, Jennifer Lawrence delivers a brilliant performance with the panoply of emotions suited to her poise and beautiful face and stature. It is a character that for the reasons addressed earlier requires the unbelievable passage of the story at times to be delivered in the manner which makes you think of the wider possibilities.

To this it has to be added the impression I took of Bradley Coopers performance was it was wooden not only in the material but delivery. He may have drilled to much; making him out at times was a problem hopefully most didn’t experience. Don’t worry as most of the best lines are Serena’s. Rhys Ifans just comes out with cliches through clenched teeth.
The forest as it turns out is in Czechoslovakia – presumably they have stopped deforesting large sections of North America and now have a preference for Fracking.

I would like to see Jennifer in a political Drama. I wonder if she would play the courageous life of a French woman scorned and driven to show the guys what women can do in Politics. Beware what you wish.

The story turns into a very suspense driven implosion of the relationships which have taken you to the North Carolina timber rough sawn America.
The lush scenic background of the Smoky Mountains and the attention to costume detail are (Czech shoot aside!) very natural and give the film the cosmetic of convincing cinema.

Conclusion. ###3

The full dynamic of the film is from my viewing the character of Serena shaped by the events. That makes it succeed on a couple of levels but it has some one dimensional aspects which takes away from what could be a more incisive film. If the one to one scenes between George and Serena were more complex; after all it becomes a complex relationship.
The challenges and the difficulties of making a life in this territory is there but folk like Toby Jones who succeeds in making a Good guy fighting for the locals acerbic. A bad turn – I dread to think how he will turn us against Captain Mainwaring – yes currently being filmed and Michael Gambon – is the hired ace to play a Buffon – how does that work? What the hell is happening to the Film Industry.
Can you not rely on the actors to choose their parts wisely and to embrace the craft of cinema without looking at the paycheck first?

This film will appeal as a kind of un troubling drama and will hardly bring down too many trees. The he digital age. Will newsprint ever cease?

John Graham

23 October 2014

Belfast

On at QFT from Friday 24 October to 6 November 2014
Check times

SHOWTIMES
This Week
Fri 24th Oct – 6:40pm
Fri 24th Oct – 9:00pm
Sat 25th Oct – 6:40pm
Sat 25th Oct – 8:50pm
Sun 26th Oct – 6:40pm
Sun 26th Oct – 9:00pm
Mon 27th Oct – 6:40pm
Mon 27th Oct – 9:00pm
Tue 28th Oct – 6:40pm
Tue 28th Oct – 9:00pm
Wed 29th Oct – 6:40pm
Wed 29th Oct – 9:00pm
Upcoming
Thu 30th Oct – 6:40pm
Thu 30th Oct – 8:50pm
Fri 31st Oct – 6:30pm
Sat 1st Nov – 8:40pm
Sun 2nd Nov – 8:50pm
Mon 3rd Nov – 8:50pm
Tue 4th Nov – 8:50pm
Wed 5th Nov – 9:15pm
Thu 6th Nov – 9:15pm