Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The B Phenomenon

Hello there. Long time no see. That's what having no internet where I live and being rather apathetic about film does to me. But, now both situations have been rectified, and I am happy to say I'm back! How happy that makes you is a different matter. Anyway. I was studying my sidebar (as you do) and noticed a strange thing: almost every grade I've given out recently, with the exception of yet another viewing of David Lean's Brief Encounter- which, despite seeming hilarious when I think about it (oh, those children; no, dear, there aren't any pantomimes in June), is really rather affecting when you experience it, and there's no doubting it's stylistically masterful- was either a B-, a B, or a B+. Of course, this doesn't really mean anything, except that I've managed to avoid watching crap recently, but it makes a nice segway into some short little reviews to get this blog rolling again.

Michael Clayton (Gilroy, 2007): Highly polished, adult and compulsive, Michael Clayton seems better than it is while you're watching it; reflection points out the cracks, and time makes you wonder what the film actually does at all. Excellent performances from George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson and particularly a panicked Tilda Swinton (kudos for casting her in a major Hollywood flick) are really the only things that mark the film out in my memory; the plot, complex and rabbity as it was, seems largely ineffectual, and the ending is either unnervingly fitting or a damb squid. B-

A Mighty Heart (Winterbottom, 2007): A Mighty Heart perhaps had the exact opposite effect to Michael Clayton; on reflection, it seems more cleverly constructed, more powerful, than it did while I was watching it. Seeing Angelina Jolie- by the way superbly believable and quietly powerful throughout- as Mariane Pearl, literally screaming her guts out when she discovers her husband's fate, is of course galling, but all the crafty little narrative threads and quiet moments last too; and ultimately this is a low-key but important, and finally hopeful, piece of superb work. B+

It's A Free World (Loach, 2007): Loach's film, made for the UK's Channel 4, is as timely and shattering as ever; the subject of immigration is particularly hot here right now, and Loach, along with screenwriter Paul Laverty, play this very coolly: central character Angie (newcomer Kierston Wareing in a superb performance) is both the villain and the heroine. The trouble is, the construction of the plot around her is rather familiar: she needs to do what she does because she was fired and needs to support her son, who lives with his grandparents- and so her sympathetic side seems so lame and done that the entire film would fall in on itself without Wareing holding it up. Loach's sense of realism (most of the cast are non-actors) is ever present but he can't help but succumb to formuliac structures. B-

Rendition (Hood, 2007): I think it's easy to overlook this film's strong points in favour of damning it for the admittedly simplistic arguments it sometimes puts across. As I watched this, conscious beforehand of the criticisms the film had been attacked with, I tried to work it out: is this ever justified? How would you feel if this man really was guilty? Would the fact that he was mean the way this information is achieved any less horrific? To its credit, and yet also to its detriment, Rendition covers all bases- and, as that comment implies, this means Rendition can never win. Surely, if the film had squarely taken one side, it would have been catcalled for doing so; and yet, objective as it tries to remain, it cannot escape criticism for exactly that. Yes, the entire thing is almost cheapened by a last act, audience-pandering twist that really doesn't matter- but the film is well crafted enough, thought provoking enough, and powerful enough (Reese Witherspoon is particularly strong) that I would still recommend it. B-


J.D. said...

Yay! You're alive! And you liked A Mighty Heart! Yay!

Catherine said...

I loved A Mighty Heart and Michael Clayton. When I saw the previews, I was so excited about Rendition; it had some of my favourite actors and a worthy storyline that I could really sink my teeth into, but I ended up dissapointed. It was so damned impartial and fuzzy! Argh. I was hapy to see Reese on screen again, though. And Alan Arkin.