Friday, 14 August 2015

Films 2015

Still Alice


When Alice, a professor of language, world renown and learned, starts exhibiting the early signs of Alzheimer’s, in her case a rare form of the disease, her first reaction, after the initial shock, is to try an salvage all she can of herself; her identity, her memories. She knows it is a pointless exercise but does it nonetheless. Through the expedient of modern day technology, using her mobile and her laptop as tools to assist her she develops  set of counter measures that work, in part, but only in the short term.

A harrowing film with a fine performance from Julianne Moore who’s ability in portraying an Alzheimer victim is subtly done without a shred of sentiment or outward signs of seeking sympathy. She rightly has been given many awards for her playing of the part.

The supporting cast provide a solid surround of family and co-workers with no one, for obvious reasons, taking any of the spotlight away from the central focus. The only minor whinge I have, and it is so minor as to be almost insignificant is that her husband, played by Alec Baldwin, is give promotion during the mid-term progression of the disease. His excitement and natural enthusiasm briefly over rules concerns for Alice’s well being. It is only the briefest of moments but I felt deserved greater reflection. The modern world, or at least the people inhabiting it, remain first and foremost human with human concerns a priority. Here, with this promotion, we see exhibited the corporate world, cold and uncaring, enter their lives. I’d like to have seem just a little of that.

No, this is a good film with an even better leading actor. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Paddington


If you aren’t familiar with the story, and I am certain somewhere in this world there are those who have never heard of let alone read of our favourite, marmalade loving bear, then this film is a good place to learn.

Paddington is bear. Not just any bear but a bear who hails from Peru.

Having been discovered some forty years ago, his Aunt and Uncle encountered an intrepid English explorer hell bent on discovering new species with an eye on shooting, for scientific purposes of course, anything wild, wonderful and new he encounters. He doesn’t shoot Paddington’s relations but befriends them and they him. Years pass and following a terrible earthquake Paddington is forced to leave his aunt.and flee to Britain.

It is not the country his uncle told him it would be. No one goes around anymore greeting perfect strangers with ‘morning, its pouring cats and dogs isn’t it?’ The old ways have gone replaced by new, more austere, less friendly, less welcoming ways. The Browns finally take him in and the adventures begin.

Yes, this is a family film filled with fun, frolics and utter mayhem. It is an adventure also but it so much more than its sum parts.

Paddington is an immigrant. A stranger in a strange land, one who desperately wants to ‘fit in’ but who is in fact, at least at first, excluded. As political statements go this is a fine way to make one.

Nicole Kidman provides a superb villain with her surgical precision and insane desire to have Paddington stuffed. Jim Broadbent admirably is the foil by which we learn the value of long standing migrants who have contributed so much to these shores. Hugh Bonneville plays the reluctant hero who first dislikes, then dismisses the idea of having some ‘foreigner’ in his home before not only accepting him but embracing him; Peter Capapaldi, AWOL from Doctor Who presumably, is the nosy neighbour spurned by the wicked villain; Julie Walters is as ever just simply perfect as the Scot’s relative come housekeeper and of course Sally Hawkins, a fast growing actress of ability. But it’s Ben Whishaw (the new Q in Bond films) who steals the show for me. His amiable voice, delivered with such precise and refined politeness is the epitome of how I think of Paddington.

Here is a film that deals with xenophobia, of prejudice and also vivisection, exposes them as the ugly stains they are but dresses the whole thing up, wraps it in coat of fun, a duffle coat of course, then sends it off to entertain. And that is something it does supremely well.
This is truly an excellent film.

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya



Word has it that this is the last film directed by Isao Takahata to come out of Studio Ghibili. A great shame if that is the case but what a fond farewell this film makes.

Rather than have the normal highly detailed, beautifully drawn cartoons, the makers have elected to portray the frames as though they were watercolours primitively painted onto porcelain. This has the effect of drawing both eye and attention directly into the film. Its simplicity carries an intimacy that invites you to enter the fantasy being shown you. The minimal images, many of them stills, gives the viewer the feeling of walking through a landscape inhabited by animations as though they, the panels and the audience, are passing through a gallery.

Sanuki no Miyatsuko is a bamboo cutter who one day when chopping bamboo comes across a miniature female apparently growing within a glowing shoot. He takes her home to his wife who instantly falls in love with the baby with both husband and wife believing the girl is a divinity, a woodland sprite. They call her Takenoko which means ‘Little Bamboo.’

The story that follows is as complex and enchanting as only a fantasy can be. There are many moments of humour with George Segal (the voice of Sanuki) delivering some delightful, if a little throaty, lines.

The film took a painstaking eight years to animate. Many scenes, especially those featuring ‘Little Bamboo’ when in a state of emotional turmoil use fading colours, watercolours and roughly crafted charcoals, to add and blend with the moment adding a rich flavour as though an antique scroll is rapidly unraveling.

Being the penultimate film in the studios output before they close their doors, put down their pens and, hopefully, take not too long a break away from film making, this comes like the coda in some magnificent symphony.

For me this film speaks of the speed of life. Of how soon it passes and how fleeting life really is.

Other films I have enjoyed this year have been ‘Birdman,’ quirky and off beat. The beautiful love story with the superb acting of Eddie Redmayne, ‘The Theory of Everything.’  ‘Mister Holmes’ is probably Ian Mckellen’s finest hour. The subject matter appeals to me but it is Ian’s acting that makes an ordinary film rather special. The other film that came as a bit of shock, a pleasant one it has to be said, is Andrey Zvyaginsev’s ‘Leviathan.’ With some magnificent photography that impresses upon you how big, how vast, how unbelievably huge Russia is even when compared to Canada but also how dark and, in some places, uninviting. Although the raison d’etre of the film is to show how corrupt Russian society is it also encompasses a larger contagion, one that is also to be found in the west.

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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

2 comments:

Cara H said...

I've had people try to talk me out of this thought, but if I'm ever diagnosed with any sort of dementia, I'm going to off myself before there's none of me left. It isn't a slow fade into gentle twilight. It is losing everything of oneself, and it is horrible. I started working with the elderly, which included a lot of people with dementia, in 1988. Rarely have I seen it to be anything but an absolute nightmare.
My father had vascular dementia. He did know his family up till the end, but he'd started sundowning, and he would confuse events on TV with reality. He would read the same few sentences in a book over and over again. He had been a college professor.
My aunt has dementia. She can't remember how to do things that she's done all her life. Even writing simple sentences is very difficult for her.
I was devastated when I learned last year that one of my personal heroes, Malcolm Young, has dementia. His brother has said that Malcolm "isn't in there at all any more." He started exhibiting signs of confusion and forgetfulness when he was only 55. He's 62 now and can't remember anything he did during his lifetime, or the people who meant the most to him.
Sometimes dead isn't the worst thing. I won't put myself or my son through it. To me, dead would be preferable to going through that hell.

Russell Duffy said...

I totally agree. Would rather die than exist.