Sunday, October 21, 2007

Two Film Reviews

It has often been said that Chip Dale is an intolerant man, quick to form hasty judgements about people. Which is why it’s so good to occasionally say that I’ve changed my mind or that I was wrong.

It explains the two film recommendations I have for you on this cold Sunday in Bangor. They go together so well because they’re full of actors I’ve previously found so irritating that I’ve been known to flick over and find something with plenty of Emma Thompson in it.

Seraphim Falls

This was not what I expected. The press and advertising had me believing it a slow moving western which ultimately fails to make a case for the rebirth of the genre. Instead, I found myself watching a slow moving western which ultimately makes a perfect case for the rebirth of the genre. I barely took my eyes from the screen in the whole of the two hours.

If ‘slow moving’ puts you off, don’t let it. This is slow moving in the same sense that ‘Jeremiah Johnson’ was slow moving. It’s a film that moves at the pace of riding horseback through the American landscape. It also happens to be the best westerns of recent years with Pierce Brosnan turning in another of the grizzled performances that have finally begun to win me over since the days I grew to dislike him for his prissy Bond. Last year, I saw him in a little known film called ‘Matador’, which failed in as much as it tried to be cleverer and quirkier than it was, but succeeded in giving him the freedom to play against type. Although ostensibly a killer with all of Bond’s characteristic vices, Brosnan revelled in the chance to give them all a capital ‘V’: violently alcoholic, insanely psychotic, and so promiscuous that you were left wondering if his character would keep within his species. While ‘Seraphim Falls’ is nowhere near as dark, the lank haired, older Brosnan is perfect in a film which is, for the first half, pure ‘First Blood’, as he tries to survive in the wilderness while pursued by men out to kill him. The motives are unclear until the end, when the film develops into a slightly less convincing morality tale, with overtones of Eastwood’s two metaphysical westerns, ‘Pale Rider’ and ‘High Plains Drifter’. In passing, it’s worth mentioning the other lead role. Liam Neeson is another actor who I’ve previously preferred to avoid. I thought he was terrible in the Star Wars movies, but like Jeremy Irons (previously one of my least favourite actors), leapt in my estimation after ‘Kingdom of Heaven’. Here, older and with a face that suits the moral tone of the film, he’s the perfect protagonist.

You Kill Me

I’m sure Gandhi did many great things. I’ve just never been drawn to watching a three hour film about his life. I feel pretty much the same way about Richard Attenborough. As much as I’ve always loved him as an actor (I think he’d have won an Oscar for ‘10 Rillington Place’ if only he’d made it now or audiences could have got past that film’s darkness back in 1971), I’ve never been convinced that he’s that good a director. It always struck me that his films always aspired to that same kind of epic cinema as perfected by David Lean. Attenborough’s films never had that same thematic depth. Every time I rewatch them, they strike me as being easier than I want them to be. This is probably why he has always reminded me of Ron Howard, who moved from ‘Happy Days’ to become one of the most mediocre big name directors in Hollywood. Enormous budgets, high concepts, low (or, at least with Attenborough, competent but workmanlike) delivery.

This is a roundabout way of saying that I’ve never been a fan of Sir Ben Kingsley. The stories of his demanding that even his wife’s poodles call him ‘Sir’ have perhaps played a part in my disliking him. Yet two films have recently turned me around. The first was ‘Lucky Number Slevin’, in which he played a rabbi who also happened to be the head of a gangster organisation. ‘You Kill Me’ is a smaller film, smaller than anything that Attenborough or Howard would have made, but shows that small films can have their own kind of big perfection.

Kingsley plays an alcoholic hit man who begins to change his life around when he starts to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and work in a funeral home where he meets Téa Leoni. A dark comedy, full of stand-out performance (Dennis Farina steals every scene he’s in), it’s one of those left-of-centre films that remind me of Jonathan Demme’s work, which is no small compliment when it includes some of my favourite films of the 80s: Something Wild and Married to the Mob.


Sen. Peter Higham Paul said...

...Pierce Brosnan turning in another of the grizzled performances that have finally begun to win me over since the days I grew to dislike him for his prissy Bond...

Grizzled? As grizzled as Ghandhi?

Big Chip Dale said...

Senator, you're playing with my mind now. I've just searched for where I've spelled 'Gandhi' as 'Ghandhi' and I haven't. False alarm.

Can't you just clear off under a Capital Hill desk with an intern instead of worrying a man about his spelling?

That's not to say Brosnan as Gandhi wouldn't make interesting casting.

Ms Baroque said...

Ah, nothing like a Sunday teatime film review! Thanks Chip. You always do a great job of making me want to see things, and that's not just a crazed need for hallucination I'm talking about.

No, no. The love of a good western is a Baroque trait - as is a love of Liam Neeson, actually. If not (quite) Sir Ben. (Do you think the Kingsley family might have a young man, heir to Sir B, suitable for Keira Knightley? Shame titles dont work that way. "Sir So-&-So Knightley-Kingsley" has a fine ring to it.)

Anyway these both sound fine and I will see what I can do. Did you see Quand J'Etais Chanteur yet? (Oh, come ON - in your line of work... you & Dippy will have LOADS in common!)

Randal Rogers (I. Ronin) said...

Thanks, Chip! Your reviews succeeded in making me really want to see one of those films. No mean feat I assure you. (BTW, Gandhi was just fine, but then I'm a history nut and so it was easy for me to get lost in the telling of the tale.)

Bruce Forsyth said...

I'd make a very good Pierce Brosnan.I can even do an Irish accent though I'm not sure if Pierce can. I've actually got a film script being written for me by Martin Amis where I play Gandhi with that Irish accent.

Sen. Peter Higham Paul said...

I think Sophie Marceau should have finished off Ghanhdhi with the neck twist in TWINE.

Sen. Peter Higham Paul said...

Forgot - regards to Gab.

Big Chip Dale said...

Ms. Baroque, thanks for the tip. Depardieu is a favourite but I'd missed that one. Now on my must-watch list.

Randal, I assume it's the western. I hope you won't be disappointed...

Bruce, you can do an Irish accent? I find that very hard to believe.

Senator, behave. You know I have a thing for Sophie Marceau. You mustn't mention her name on this blog again, and certainly not when I'm writing comments naked. Gab sends you her love. She thanks your for the knives.

elberry said...

Love those reviews, Chip. i had a good feeling for Seraphim Falls when i read the reviews. Check out Liam Neeson's 10" cock in Schindler's List and Michael Collins, what an actor, a real force of phallic nature.

'Sexy Beast' is one of my favourite films of recent looks gimmicky from the trailers but relies on good-old fash acting, tension, aggression, and Ben Kingsley's sinister bald head.

When i need to intimidate gangs or just people significantly bigger than me, i become Ben Kingsley, the man who can play both Gandhi and Don Logan (Sexy Beast).