Life of Pi – Review

life of pi

Life of Pi (2012) 8.5stars

Director: Ang Lee. Cast: Suraj SharmaIrrfan KhanAyush TandonGautam BelurRafe SpallGérard Depardieu 

Having read the original book several years ago (in fact, to be precise, I remember listening to its unabridged audiobook version) when I learnt that a movie adaptation was going to be made, my instant (and rather predictable) reaction was “How on earth are they going to pull that off?”.  If you, like me, have read the Pulitzer Prize winning story, you’ll understanding my doubts and share my initial skepticism: it wasn’t just the way it was written, through a continuous series of sketchy flashbacks and very internal (and sometimes rather abstract) dialogues, but mainly because, for the greater part, it featured a boy and a tiger stuck on a raft in the middle of the sea.

But as you can tell from my 8 and 1/2 star rating at the top of this review, the answer is right there on the screen: they did pull it off! In fact I liked the film so much that it’s become one of my favourite of the year and possibly my best bet for the forthcoming Oscars.

Yes, of course there were a few annoying little things here and there which prevented it from being a true masterpiece, but whist these things in any other film would have caused me to hate it, in Life of Pi the good stuff is actually SO GOOD that I am willing to forgive any other possible weakness.

Let’s start from the beginning, in fact from the very-long-beginning: yes, the film does take its time to get started and even though the first 30/40 minutes are still perfectly watchable, entertaining, charming and beautifully shot, I couldn’t help feeling that it was all a bit too loose in. The film heavily relies on voice over joining a series of slightly patchy sequences, alternating each other as the several subplots unravel (including a rather redundant – at least in the movie – love story). Interestingly the character of the cook played by Gerard Depardieu, who should have been more developed, is reduced a nothing more than a little 2-dimentional caricature…

Let’s face it, Life of Pi really starts with the sinking of the ship, which happens about 40 minutes into the film. I wonder how many people in telling their friends what the film is about, will actually mention anything that happens before this sequence.

Now I must confess, after James Cameron‘s Titanic I never thought I would ever be amazed at the sight of any ship sinking in any movie. Well, I was obviously wrong!

This scene is absolutely gripping, beautifully executed and visually stunning: in fact generally speaking the film is a constant feast for the eye throughout, but it’s from the moment Pi Patel finds himself shipwrecked that the real magic begins! Yes, Magical is the only word that comes to mind in describing the film. A succession of one amazing sequence after another showcasing some of the most advanced special effect ever seen. The cinematography is a true work of wonder with its striking palette of colours, its magical painterly feel and of course the most astonishing CGI work seen since Avatar, which makes the crouching tiger in the film (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun) not just a real visual wonder but a totally convincing character. So much so that I wasn’t even sure it was actually computer-generated until I saw a documentary afterwards.

The use of the 3D technology is also some of the best I’ve ever seen, in fact possibly THE best 3D of any movie I’ve seen. It’s clear that director Ang Lee and his cinematographer Claudio Miranda really understand how to use this new technology and have great fun not just at playing with it (changing the aspect ratio of the screen and throwing things at the audience), but also using that extra 3rd dimension to add something to the story: the sequence taking the audience into Pi’s diary is just one of the many beautiful examples of how 3D is used to add a feel that normal 2D wouldn’t be able to convey.

As you’re watching Pi’s adventures, his struggle to survive and his relationship with the tiger, you know you are watching an instant classic. This is one of those films which will work on different people in many different ways: kids will get something out of it, adults something different, religious people will find enlightenment, non-believers will still find quite a lot to enjoy (However be prepared if you’re taking your kid along for some fairly strong scenes involving animals eating each others). I’m sure in years to come people will still watch this movie.

The core of the film is framed by a “let-me-tell-you-a-story” type of device, in which an older Pi recounts his memories to a writer. This is probably the clunkiest part of the film and ultimately it’s what lets it down. For a start knowing that Pi has survived his odyssey works slightly against the tension the film is trying to build throughout the perilous journey: it’s  as if Cast Away had started from the end. It also spells out aloud the message of the film killing all those subtleties from the book (the worst offender is a scene towards the end where the true nature of the journey is revealed through some nasty explanatory dialogue). It’s really nothing to do with the actors playing older Pi and the writerIrrfan Khan is as always impeccable and brings a gravitas and sweetness to the part (reminiscent of his wonderful character in the stellar third season of “In Treatment”). The writer himself is a bit of a bland character, a proof of the fact that he’s a functional character and nothing more than that: he’s supposed to bring nothing to the table aside from asking the right questions, tell us the meaning of what we’ve just heard  and give a reason to older Pi to tell his story. It’s interesting to know that Toby Maguire had been cast for this part and was later replaced because he was allegedly stealing the scene.

When the twist finally comes at the end, it is delivered by an astonishing Suraj Sharma (a kid with no acting experience who would truly deserve an Oscar): it is spectacularly moving monologue that leaves the audience slightly bewildered, possibly disappointed at first but with hindsight, looking back at it, there is no denying, it is a powerful story, beautifully gratifying, meaningful and profound… and of course an incredible technical achievement.

I can’t wait for my kid to grow up a bit so that one day I could show it to him.

8.5/10

Ill Manors – Review

Ill Manors (2012) 

Director: Ben Drew. Cast: Riz AhmedEd SkreinNatalie PressAnouska MondLee AllenMem Ferda.

This is a very hard film to review… And as a matter of fact it was a very hard film to watch too. More than once I found myself having to look away from the screen, just to be able to catch up with my breath and I had to remind myself “It’s only a movie… It’s only a movie”… Or is it? Sure one would want to give the film some credit for attempting to talk about some really serious issues in a stark and crude realistic way. However I find myself wondering: just because a movie touches important issues and goes to places where many don’t even dare looking, does that make it a good film?

Ill Manors (still trying to work the meaning of the actual title) is clearly a film made by a first time director: it’s full of energy and ideas. It’s inspirational too… But  unfortunately some of the inexperience shows up on the screen too. It’s almost as if director Ben Drew didn’t feel confident enough of his own material and felt he had to pepper the film (unevenly, I may add) with a series of flashy visual devices: some of them work, but then, once the story takes over, the film almost forgets to keep up with them. It makes me wonder if Ill Manors could have been a much more powerful film, if the director had actually restrained some of that rather showy visual style and un-linear editing and had just concentrated more of the story. I’m not against time-laps or montage sequences edited to rap music (some of which were actually beautifully done), but I think once you establish a style, you should stick with it. In Ill Manors everything felt rather random and arbitrary: a hotchpotch of visual ideas and devices, borrowed from many other films before (Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting, just to mention the most obvious ones), but all without any real reason. And the proof is in the pudding: the strongest and most interesting bits in the film are also the plainest and the ones where the director focused just on his actors (or actually non-actors apparently) to tell the story of a broken society alive and well right in the heart of London.

Despite the claims of realism, this bleak vision of Britain feels a bit contrived in places: lines like  “Can I try some crack?” the endless prostitution scenes and the final sequence in particular when a fire takes place in a pub, all feel a bit heavy-handed and wildly exaggerated. Also most of the characters are a little bit too stereotypical and the film seems to rely more on the charisma of our main lead, Riz Ahmed (from Four Lions), for the audience to sympathise with, instead of giving him a full fleshed-out and a much more believable persona.

In the end the amount of horror and depressing bleakness is just too much and what was already a fairly long film, with too many subplots, eventually just imploded. An exhausted audience during my screening even burst into laughing during the final climax (yes, it might have been a hysterical laugh, but still a laugh… and that’s just the wrong reaction to have for such film!). The points  Ill Manorswants to make are made quite earlier on and after a while it all becomes just too repetitious, over the top and indulgent. All this makes it loose its edge and diminishes its important message.

It is a brave film and certainly must be commended for trying: there are some very intense and good moments, which I am really praising, however, even though I might talk to people about Ill Manors, I don’t think I’ll ever reccomend anyone to watch it (aside for our prime ministers and politicians).

6.5/10

Sunday Times (June, 10th)

For all its gritty realism, Ill Manors has a streak of sentimental fantasy to it. It’s one thing to suggest that the char­acters aren’t all bad, and that they are capable of moral virtue(…) But when we see an uncaring thug risking his life to save a baby from a burning building, we have left the mean streets of London for the fantasy world of Hollywood. So much for keeping it real.  

The Woman In Black – Review

The Woman in Black (2011)

Directed by James Watkins. Starring Daniel RadcliffeJanet McTeer.

I am really sorry to have to reduce most of my review about this film to the fact that it all starts with a bad casting choice, but it’s really quite hard to see past Daniel Radcliffe portraying a father of a four years old boy. I mean, how can I possibly buy into it when the DVD of the latest Harry Potter film is plastering every single window of every store in town right now? It doesn’t matter how much facial hair Daniel is growing to disguise his baby face, or how far away he’s trying to take his new character from the ‘boy who lived’, or even how little dialogue he speaks in this film (because let’s admit it, it usually all falls apart as soon as  he opens his month), I am just NOT buying into it! Daniel Radcliffe has been Harry Potter in 8 films and up until the last one (only a few month ago) we were meant to believe he was just 18 and now all of a sudden, without a single “transition film” in between, I’m expected to believe that he’s a grown man (A lawyer in fact!) who’s been married, widowed and has a child of 4? That is a big leap of faith…

However I was willing to take the leap and I did really try my best, despite the film itself doing virtually nothing to help me and convince me otherwise: there was not a single mention of his young look from any of the characters and we are just supposed to take it all from granted. At some point in the beginning there was even shot of what looked like the Hogward Express, running through the British landscape, with steam and all the rest (I was expecting to hear John Williams’ tune at any point!).

Casting Radliffe was always going to be a dangerous choice. One one hand you get all those devoted Potter fans, on the other you’ve got to be able to shake off his enormous baggage otherwise you’re running straight into the lion’s den, with your public and critics alike.

Radcliffe himself does try his best to restrain his usual trade-mark heavy breathing (even the director James Walkins admitted he’s been trying to force Daniel breathing with his nose instead of his month as he always does, whether he is Harry Potter or even naked on the stage playing in Equus). The film-makers made sure he spoke as little as possible (sadly the worse and most laughable scene, when he has to say goodbye to his son in a train station, comes right at the top of the film, setting a bad start for whatever is left to come). Wisely they managed to  avoid having him standing right next to any other cast members (so that it wouldn’t show how short he is which would have made it even more laughable). But unfortunately all this is just not enough and his presence, instead of making the film better, holds it back. Surely some Potter fans will be drawn to see it, but I doubt anyone could possibly be enraptured by it and in the end bad word of mouth will make this film disappear from the big screens pretty quickly.

It’s probably not very fair to criticise a movie just for his main lead, even less fair to compare it to previous movies in which the same lead starred, I agree. But even when you take Radcliffe out of this film, you’re actually left very little else.

“The woman in Black” wants to be a film about “mood”  and “atmosphere” more than “action” and “twists”. It’s more about the expectations of the ghost in a locked room at the end of the corridor than the actual reveal of the ghost itself. In a way, it’s an old fashion ghost story: it’s all about those creaks in an old house, the thick fog hiding a secret and those eerie shadows that should make your skin cold.

On paper all this sounds great and I am all in favour of an old-style good ghost story… If only it was all building up to something… Alas the pace is even and slow and Daniel is alone for most of the film investigating strange noises around the house for what feels like an eternity; so much so that after a while it all gets incredibly repetitive and rather tedious.

James Watkins, the director, was probably aware of this and in order to “jazz it all up” decided to pepper it all with several fairly predictable loud stabs of cheap scares. I say fairly predictable because as an average horror fan I could see most of those “jumps moment” coming from miles away. Of course some of them are quite effective, but I don’t think that should be a mark of a good horror film. It’s certainly not difficult to scare people with a loud crashes and bangs in the middle of a very quiet scene.

I couldn’t help feeling there was nothing in this film that I had not seen before… A haunted house, rocking chairs moving by themselves, spider webs, locked doors, ghosts appearing in windows, a graveyard at night, thick fog and quicksands, old fading photographs … No cliché was left untouched. Oh look, Daniel is reflected in a window! How long will it take until a ghost appears in the reflection. Not long, believe me.

As for the plot itself, it really feels rather dated, like a story that belongs to a different era, which in theory should be fine, but 10 minutes into the film I really get the feeling that I have already seen it all. There have been way too many horror films following the same sort of set up and this has nothing to add to any of them.

I haven’t read the original story, nor seen the stage play, but by watching this film alone I do get the feeling that this is a short story stretched to its limits. Probably OK for a twilight Zone episode, or maybe even or a theatre stage (apparently this is still a bit hit in the West End in London), but as a film, aside from some interesting visual and a few promising scenes (the very start with the little girls is intriguing for example), there was just not enough to keep me interested for the length of the film and by the time the ending came I just did not really care who lived or died.

I know I am going to be quite unpopular with the many Radcliffe fans out there (and please, don’t take me wrong, I do usually like the guy), but I found this film very very very disappointing. In fact, quite laughable and just boring. Sorry.

5/10

PS: I must probably say, that since I have written this review, I have spoken to a couple of friends of mine (non-horror fans) both of which were absolutely petrified by this film… and bought into Daniel from the start… The beauty of movies: they’re subjective.

 Click here to read the review from the last Harry Potter.

Tomboy – Review

Tomboy 

Directed by Céline Sciamma. Cast: Zoé HéranMalonn LévanaJeanne Disson.

This small independent film was made for peanuts (Filmed on a Canon 5D and just a handful of people in the crew) and it is unlikely to make any big impact on the box-office. However I’m sure it’ll leave a mark on those few who will actually manage to see it. In fact judging by the recently released long list from the 2012 BAFTA Awards Nominee, where TomBoy shows among some other nominees, it looks like I am not the only person who has been touched by it.

Zoé Héran is absolutely wonderful as Laure, the 10 years old girl who’s just moved into a new neighbourhood where nobody knows her and pretends to be a boy (Michaël) with her new friends. Her performance is one of the best of the year, and possibly among the best ever performances by a child: she not only perfectly captures that innocence that children of that age have, but at the same time she seems to have a deep understanding of the struggle and the pain of her character. Throughout the film she really acts as if she was a real boy in a way that’s so believable that at some point I really started to wonder whether “she” was actually a real “he”. The film knows that and it does play with you by stretching the lie as far as it possibly can, until it decides to show you the real truth in a beautifully handled scene where you do actually see briefly the girl naked. It’s a fleeting moment and the film obviously doesn’t linger on it, but it’s enough to put our minds at rest so that we can carry on enjoying the rest of the story.

The director Céline Sciamma’s ability to film children making it look real is incredible. It feels effortless as if the camera was one of the children themselves and we as the audience are left observing them playing in the forest as if we were spying on them, or as if it was all a documentary. Rarely I have seen scenes with such young children that feel so honest and real: the approach is subtle and light, the atmosphere is almost muted, dialogue to advance the story is used to a minimum and the silences are charged with meaning and intensity.

This is a subject that rarely makes the news, let alone the movie theatres. And it’s so refreshing not just to see it depicted in this film, but to have it told with such an understanding, honesty and open-mindedness.

All this together with the stellar acting from little Zoé make the internal drama of Laure/Michaël even more poignant and powerful.

Be warned, this is a slow film (a very short one too at only 82 minutes), that has “French independent” written all over it, from its pace, to its rough look and its lack of music score, but if you, like me, love films about children growing up, this sensitive, tender and never heavy-handed story might just melt your heart too.

I saw it months ago and I still remember it vividly, so it must have worked on me.

8/10

Raiders of the Lost Ark – 30th anniversary Review

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) 

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Harrison FordKaren AllenPaul Freeman

Call me childish, call me narrow-minded, call me a “blockbuster-junkie”, call whatever-you-want, but to me this is the perfect film!

Such a bold statement might require some explanation (which hopefully I will be able to give in this post) and certainly begs the question: what makes a film perfect? And, is this really one?

The answer to the second question is a simple and resounding YES.

I believe a perfect film is one that can be watched over and over again: a film that you never grow tired of and that whenever is on TV and you stumble across it, you end up watching. A perfect film is one of those where you struggle to pick up one favorite scene, because they’re all so good. A perfect film is one of those you really wouldn’t change anything about it and where all its elements (story, direction, acting, music, cinematography, editing and so on) come together in a such a way that it’s virtually impossible to choose one over the other.

Raiders of the lost Ark is 30 years old this month, but still shines as if it were made yesterday… except that it wasn’t because, as we all know “they don’t make them like this anymore“.

I still remember going to the movie theatre when it first got released (Yes, I’m giving away my age: clearly I’m not a teenager!) and being absolutely blown away by it. At the time there was nothing like it  (and arguably, that’s probably still true today).

Ever since then people have been trying to  imitate its winning formula, and, needless to say, most of them failed miserably. Just to give you an idea of what I am talking about (and to prove my point), just think of Lara Croft, Prince of Persia, National treasure, The Mummy Trilogy and even those films inspired by the Dan Brown‘s books: well, those are the most successful ones… Enough said. I won’t even go into the list of endless B-movies.

I find quite hard to write about “Raiders”, mainly because I’ve seen it so many times and I know so much about it, that I almost feel compelled to write every single details filling up pages and pages… But don’t worry, I won’t.

Right from the word “go”, from when the summit of the Paramount logo dissolves into a Peruvian mountain (a Visual device which will become the trademark of the entire series), you know you’re in for something which is not only original but clever and handsomely made.

What follows that logo is probably one of the best first sequences of any action movies ever made. The mysterious forest, the haunting music, the bloody  statue, the group of explorers, the old map, the hidden cave, the pulsating tension, the crawling spiders, the giant web, the deadly traps, the decomposed body, the big scares, the golden idol, the sliding  door, the traitor, the whip,  the rolling boulder, the French baddie, the wild Hovitos, the arrows, the chase across the fields, the swinging vine, John Williams‘s “raiders theme”, the snake on the plane, the jokes breaking the tension: and all this is just within the first 10 minutes!!! It is such an incredible edge-of-your-seat beginning that after that the film can afford to launch into a very long scene with some massive exposition

And I haven’t even mentioned the hero himself, Indiana Jones.

Harrison Ford deserves a lot of credits for the success of this film. Who knows what would have happened if Tom Selleck had played the role: he was the first choice, after all (I will be eternally grateful to Magnum PI).

Harrison Ford manages to make Indiana Jones strong and frail at the same time, funny and sad, invincible and weak. Indy is a hero but he gets hurt, tired, dirty and sweaty. It doesn’t matter how far-fetched and over-the-top the action might be, Ford makes it feel real.

Spielberg directs it all with clockwork perfection but he’s also able to improvise on the spot and use it all to his advantage (most famously, the now-classic scene where Indy shoots the sword-man, which as we all know by now, was pretty much improvised on the spot). He orchestrates it all with a mastery that’s never showy and always serving the story and the action as he uses all the tricks in the film-maker book: long lens shots during a chase sequence, a tracking shot across the desert to show the scale of the landscape, a single one-take shot during a drinking competition.

He also knows exactly how to pitch the film: helped by a carefully crafted script, all the improbabilities are always levelled by humour, the action is always counter-balanced by actual dramatic scenes, the magical sense of wonder is always routed to reality and however cartoony some of the characters might be, they’re always incredibly detailed.

Paul Freeman‘s Belloq is not just a baddie. There’s so much more to him: the care and attention he has for Marion, and whole untold back-story and a passion for archeology he shares with Indy are enough to give him more depth and somehow make him more scary. He also gets one of the best lines in the film: “we are only passing though history, this… this IS history”

What started off as a tribute to those Action Saturday Matinee that Spielberg and Lucas loved so much, here becomes a rollercoaster of sheer invention, cracking action and incredible fun. So many scenes are now become classic iconic moments in movie history, whether it’s to do with snakes in  “well of Souls”, or ghost-like creatures during the opening of the ark, running though the streets of Cairo, or fighting with a bald guy by a plane out of control, in a secret chamber underground, or in a massive warehouse with thousands and thousands crates (incidentally, one of the best “last shots” of any movie!!).

This is so much more than just pure escapism: this is a manual of “storytelling with pictures”.

10/10 

Here’s there’s a great fan-made running-commentary of the film. A real work of genius and love for the film made with great care and attention. Well done Jamie!

Raiding The Lost Ark: A Filmumentary By Jamie Benning on Vimeo.

A real moviegeek or a tired old cynic?

Some of you have pointed out that in the last few months it seems like I was disappointed by most of the stuff I saw in the cinema.

This came just at the time when I was about to choose which film to review next, of the ones I’ve seen in the last couple of days: “The Roommate” (A thriller, which is usually a genre I love), “the extraordinary adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec” (By Luc Besson who made La Femme Nikita and leon, 2 of my favourites ever!), or “Hachi” (By the director of one of the film I love the most, What’s eating Gilbert Grape)… And you know what?! I really didn’t like any of them!

It made me think: when did I become such a cynic?

It is so unlike me… I’ve always been the positive one, the smiley person who tries to look for bright side…

I love going to the movies and there’s nothing I cherish more than loosing myself in a good flick.

Whenever I go and watch something, I’m always hoping this might be the one that makes me go back to being a kid, or makes me cry or laugh with tears in my eyes, or forget about my deadlines at work and my worries at home…

The fact that I have not liked a lot films recently is probably indicative of the way cinema is today. Most of these films are just products”: they are made by a committee of advertisers, or people who need to balance their books at the end of the year.

There are very few mavericks, or real storytellers out there… Most of them prefer to play it safe and give us what their recent surveys told them they should give us.

Or is it me who is just getting pickier and pickier? Why do I seem to be the only one who thought “The King’s Speech” was a pretty average film crowd pleaser?

Why didn’t I like Scream 4, when in fact it did exactly what the “tin” said?

Should I have got lost in the colours of “Rio”, forgetting about the fact that the story line was so damn predictable?

Why wasn’t I swept away by the quirkiness of “Rubber“?

Why was I so cold in front of that tragedy that was “Rabbit hole“?

Why couldn’t I just laugh watching “The Dilemma” while everybody else was in tears around me in the theatre?

Why couldn’t I just go with “The Adjustment Bureau“, instead of looking for all the plot holes?

Why wasn’t I enchanted by Submarine?

And why am I more terrorized than excited by the idea of the forthcoming Tintin movie by Spielberg (a director I love making a film about my ultimate childhood hero?) … Why am I so afraid I’ll be disappointed?

Am I growing old and just tired of movies or are there just fewer and fewer fresh good things our there?

Source Code – Review

Source Code (2011) 

Directed by Duncan Jones. Starring Jake GyllenhaalMichelle MonaghanVera Farmiga

Source Code is a smart, suspenseful Sci-Fi action/thriller which takes the concept behind the hit comedy “Groudhog Day” and mixes it with some Twilight-Zone-Style elements in Hollywood style, for the post “Inception” era  (I know it sounds like a weird hybrid…) and somehow makes it the most exciting and original film I’ve seen this year.

As always the least you know about the film the better it is, but having said that, there are so many facets to Source Code, so many twists and turns that unless I sit down and tell you everything about it, you’ll still be surprised. But let me just tell you the rough plot, or at least the first few minutes.

Capt. Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) suddenly wakes up on a train in a state of complete confusion: the last thing he remembers is crashing his plane in Afghanistan and yet know he’s inside the body of a man named Sean. Across from him is Christina (Michelle Monaghan) who clearly knows him and yet he has no memory of her or any of the other people on the train heading to Chicago. Eight minutes later a bomb goes off and everyone on the train dies.

Colter wakes up again, this time he’s in a dark pod-like structure looking at a monitor with the face of a superior officer (Vera Farmiga), explaining to him that he’s part of a government experiment used to stop terrorism. Through a process called “Source Code”, Colter gets sent back (again and again and again) eight minutes before the moment before the explosion went off, find out where the bomb is and who set it and prevent a later and far greater attack by the same person in downtown Chicago.

Part of the fun of “Source Code” is watching our hero (Jake Gyllenhaal) re-live the same 8 minutes over and over again, each time in a slightly different way, each time getting closer and closer to the truth!

There are a couple of small clunky moments here and there (the biggest of which, is the scene, full of exposition, where we get told what “source code” is), but the sheer inventiveness, the fast pace and the emotional burden that the film carries are far greater that those little imperfections.

There are some debates about its ending (don’t worry, I’m not going to reveal it here). There is a point where you might think the film has actually ended: I’m referring to the long freeze frame (you’ll know what I mean when you see the film) and in fact it could have easily ended there, which would have made the film much more poignant and arguably better, but then the film carries on… and just when you think “Oh no, another Hollywood ending), the film takes a surprising final turn and gives you a few (slightly) unexpected twists right till the last moment and makes up for what you thought it was one of those “re-filmed-ending” after failed test screening.

There’s nothing better than a good unexpected ending! In the theatre where I watched it, it got everybody talking!

I haven’t had such fun watching a film in a very long time.

It’s a bit unfair to compare this with Inception (but it seems like everybody else is doing it). They are two completely different films and their only similarity is the fact that they both make you think and requires you to do some work while watching the story unfold.

However “Source Code” is an emotionally charged film too (while Inception, as we’ve  all noticed, was a tiny bit cold); I was almost moved to tears in couple of scenes and yet, the film still managed to have a lot of humor throughout (courtesy of Mr Gyllenhaal’s perfectly pitched performance).

What else can I say? I loved it! It might not be as stylish and fresh as Moon was (Duncan Jones’s previous film). This is certainly a bigger Hollywood fair, and a much more crowd-pleasing roller-coaster, but if you regard cinema as entertainment, you can’t get better than this!

9/10

Loose Cannons – Review

Loose Cannons (2010) 

(Mine vaganti: Original Title)

Directed by Ferzan Ozpetek. Starring Riccardo ScamarcioNicole GrimaudoAlessandro PreziosiElena Sofia RicciIlaria Occhini.

Italo-Turkish director Ferzan Ozpetek goes back to what he knows and does best: a”coming-out” comedy” about homosexuality and family values, full of memorable quirky characters, laugh out-loud moments mixed with bittersweet and poignant reflections.

These are also the themes of one of my old favorite Ozpetek’s film, the Ignorant Fairies (Le fate Ignoranti), made 10 years ago.


It is all fairly watchable stuff and it sort of works as long as it’s on the screen. However, any attempt of social comment or critique at any serious issue (the close mindedness of the South of Italy, and the way Italians like to appear which is more important than the way they are, among the others) quickly fades away and gets diluted in the pursuit of easy laughers and in the over-the-top, almost caricatural depictions of the characters. Of course, it is supposed be a comedy… but sadly that’s all it is.


The story is set in Lecce, a city in the heel of the Italian boot, in the deep south. and it focuses on the large Cantone family (so large that it took me a while to work out who was who). Tommaso, is about to come out to his parents. One night, at the dinner table, just when he’s about to break the news to the family, his older brother, Antonio announces himself to everyone that he’s gay.

The father’s refusal to accept or understand his older brother’s sexuality gives him a heart attack and leaving Tommaso at the helm of the family pasta making business, whilst at the same time trying to deal with his own hidden truth (fearing that his father won’t survive the news of both of his 2 sons being gay).

There are a lot of other storylines, and the family is certainly large enough to offer several opportunities for sub-plots. Unfortunately most of the characters remain just superficial caricatures (the wise grandmother, the loony aunt, the apprehensive mother, the homophobic father, the girl in love with the gay man and so on…) and in the end the film falls into the same clichés the director is trying to ridicule in the film.

In a way, there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before, (funnily enough even within Ozpetek’s previous films too) but it’s good to see the overshadowed-by-the-Vatican-Italy finally arriving there too.


The film is handsomely filmed and the great looking, almost-perfect settings only seem to enhanced the imperfections of the family itself.

The editing (and direction) both seem a bit too pleased with themselves: some scenes could have gained something by being trimmed a bit. Even the most emotional moments always seem to go on for a bit too much than it’s needed (I’m thinking of the scenes around the tables, or more crucially – SPOILER COMING –  the one where the grandmother decides to go for her cakes, or even the one at the beach. You get the point after a few seconds and yet both scenes go on and on and on).

The same goes for the over-used music, both in terms of the actual score (which once again stresses the slapstick aspect of the film) and known songs, most of which seem rather random and a bit intrusive.

Most of the acting is very good especially the woman grandmother (Ilaria Occhini) who seems to be the only one really sees what’s happening within her family.


In the end I am happy I saw this film, and I did enjoy it, but I’m still longing for the return of the real Commedia all’Italiana of the 50s and 60s (and to a degree the 70s too) which really provided a mirror of Italian customs and values, attacking prejudices and questioning the general thinking of elites and institutions in a much more subtle way. The sometimes dark and bleak vision of the society and the bittersweet laughers those films provoked, felt a lot less forced than they are in this film which is clearly trying to be bit more commercial. Still, we’re probably heading towards the right direction.

7/10

You can read more about “Commedia all’Italiana” on my previous post on Mario Monicelli

Mario Monicelli (1915 – 2010)

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