It's not been especially fertile period since my last summary - and, unlike my previous two blogs on latest releases, this time there is no stand-out film. However, protocol demands that one should be nominated as 'Film of the Month' and I therefore accord it, with muted fanfare, to 'MICHAEL' - no, not the ' John Travolta-as-slovenly-angel' 1996 film, but a rather darker Austrian offering with the same title. More of it later.
So here is my list of films seen in the cinema, with my scores marked out of 10, stressing again that these represent my own personal experiential value of each, rather than whether or not they are intrinsically 'good' or otherwise.
In order of viewing:-
A Dangerous Method (5)
Wuthering Heights (4)
Bel Ami (7)
The Help (6.5)
The Hunger Games (7)
A Dangerous Method - Moderately interesting drama on the Jung/Freud professional acquaintanceship - but little more than that.
Wuthering Heights - (2011) - a real curiosity, with rough edges in several senses - and containing, for me, at least one execrable and unnecessary scene.
The 'big' story behind this one is having a black actor playing Heathcliffe, the only one in the film. Okay, we can all take a deep breath and watch it 'colour-blind', but for me in this production, it tended to be a major distraction. Should we expect authenticity at all times? Of course not. It is, after all, just one version of a work of fiction anyway - based, of course, on the Emily Bronte classic which I love - or at least part of it. But here it really was an ever-present feature which skewered away the focus of the original.
There were things here which I thought commendable - namely the complete absence of any background music (a huge plus for me!), and the bleak views of the inhospitable Yorkshire moors of the book, (in fact, the same county where I grew up) where the film was actually shot on location. Truly filming 'in the raw'.
Now to that scene to which I referred which will haunt me for evermore. On having to leave his home a boy kills his little pet dog by hanging it by the neck in a noose. We don't actually seeing it dying but the scene which lasts probably not much more than 10 seconds shows the little thing struggling in panic when it is hung up. I'm as sure as I can be that it wasn't c.g.i. - and I have absolutely no doubt that as soon as the camera was taken from this shot the dog itself was saved from its implied fate, though its fear, alarm and distress was clearly evident.. But why did they do it at all? As far as I recall there is no such scene in the book. But I'm afraid that, for this reason alone, this will join the list of films which I've seen where something about it will forever remain distasteful in my memory.
As a whole, I think the film would have been better served if it had been given the title of 'Heathcliffe' - with an appended sentence "as suggested by 'Wuthering Heights'".
By the way, the actor referred to, one James Howson, has apparently done himself no favours by failing to appear in court last week to answer charges of allegedly racially abusing his pregnant ex-girlfriend. The latest I read is that he is now on the run from the police - though there is also a suggestion of mental health issues, so who knows how this will turn out? Judgment may be premature.
Michael - A quite disturbing Austrian film (German dialogue) of a 40-something paedophile who keeps a 10-year old boy locked up in his basement. There is little of the situation that is actually spelled about what is happening but it very soon becomes clear what is going on. Nothing is graphically shown - apart from one very brief but shocking interchange between the two of them during mealtime. The boy is allowed upstairs to have meals with the man and to occasionally watch TV with him. In his fully furnished prison-basement he also has all mod-cons, though not his own TV - and is never allowed outside alone. It's not a film for those who don't like inconclusive endings and who demand to know "what happens next?". It certainly leaves one wondering. But all in all, quite a good effort.
Bel Ami - A pleasant surprise. Didn't know what to expect, but this Don Juan-ish story kept me absorbed throughout.
The Help - After all the hype, both pro and con, had no idea which way I was going to come down. In the event I thought it was competent, and certainly not uninteresting , though rather longer than I might have wished for. I haven't read the book on which it's based but I kept getting the impression that the film-makers wanted to get as much of it into the film as possible, which is fine, but it left me with the nagging feeling that a bit of judicious editing might have helped to have made it more effective.
However - and it's a big 'however' - I have two major aversions in film (three if you count negative treatment of animals). The first is seeing pre-pubescent kids so worldly-wise as to teach adults, usually their own parents, all about life and its problems - and the latter shamefacedly accepting such revelatory 'instruction' from these little brats. Mercifully, there is little of that going on in 'The Help'. But my other 'biggie' is background music which signposts you to laugh, cry, smile, be cross, shocked, indignant.....whatever - and, boy, does this film have it by the bucketload! The damn thing hardly ever stops! As it goes on and on I find my resistance to feeling what they are telling me to feel growing stronger, and my irritation increasing accordingly. It's just so hellishly distracting!!!
It's not a film I'd care to see again though overall I'd recommend it for at least one viewing.
The Hunger Games - During the course of watching this I did feel myself being won over to what might otherwise have been a hard watch. It had its moments - but only on hindsight did I realise how unoriginal it really was. Once again, I haven't read the book which has now got renowned status - and it might be that it comes over better in that format. But, on the whole, a worthy offering - and a film from which I got more than (say) any of the Harry Potter films. (An invidious comparison, I know, though both have this 'fighting-against-the-odds' premise.)
Just as a footnote, every so often a film comes round which, from what I read, I'm pretty sure would have been to my own tastes, but for certain reasons (usually financial) I'm unable to attend a screening of it. So it was this last month for one such - 'Martha Marcia May Marlene'. Big regret. Only hope a chance will come round again to see in the cinema.
Well, that's it for another month.