Monday, October 26, 2009

LFF: Pander, Provoke, Perplex

More from the LONDON FILM FESTIVAL, where Dave had a rather dreadful day at the movies, but I've omitted tearing apart "a new Slumdog Millionaire?", Ride the Wave Johnny (which is, can you believe it, even worse than our newest Best Picture winner), and have instead finally decided to give you my (briefer than I wanted them to be) thoughts on Cannes winner The White Ribbon. But first...

Glorious 39 isn't. Glorious, that is. In fact, it's a remarkable disaster of a film, one of those that slowly goes further and further down the road of dreadful and eventually emerges at somewhere completely laughable, although I'm sure everyone involved saw the ridiculous developments as some masterstroke. Stephen Poliakoff has received critical laudings for his television work over the last decade, but there's no sign of any of that supposed quality here at all. A superb British cast, mixing promising youngsters (Romola Garai, Eddie Redmayne, and a delectably absurd Juno Temple) with seasoned performers (Julie Christie, Bill Nighy, Christopher Lee), is wasted on a story that is delivered in so hackneyed and laughable a manner that it never convinces. If you've missed ripe thriller cliches such as the message from 'beyond the grave' through a piece of film, the disembodied wails of a lost baby, or, most delightfully, our heroine becoming gothically unhinged, then maybe it is worth checking this out - it is entertaining, just in all the wrong ways. D-

Harmony Korine clearly loves his title of provocateur, for Trash Humpers is as repulsively erratic as you'd expect. However, while it slowly becomes more and more embroiled in the darkest of places with this group of elderly people - whose favoured pastime is, literally, humping trashcans - it's really less striking than it wants to be. A few moments of absurdity strike the funny bone, and a few strike the gag reflex, but mostly this is an unbearably boring piece of work, featuring actors wearing masks that make them look more like Freddy Krueger than OAPs and one with laughter so piercing I repeatedly had to stick my fingers in my ears. There's some vague point about how these people "choose to be free", all handily spelt out for us in one scene, but mostly it's an excuse for Korine to try and baffle and disturb. Instead, he merely bores. D

There's some edge taken off the clinical deconstruction usually so typical of Michael Haneke in The White Ribbon. Perhaps it's the black-and-white photography, so glowingly attractive that it's markedly different from the perverse, bare visual appeal of his other features. Perhaps it's the surprising presence of romance and acidic humour. Perhaps it's the mediation of a cypher in the uncommonly nice young schoolteacher, a inclusion that seems a bit too designed to make the audience like the film more than Haneke usually allows. Haneke's searing portrayal of the gradual undoing of a hypocritical bunch of people - in this case a small German township just before World War I - is as insidiously intriguing and deliberately constructed as ever, but ironically the attempt to make an audience more emotionally invested had the opposite effect of pushing this viewer away. The lack of conclusions, and the lack of importance in the offered solution is as effective in making the film linger as Haneke's work always is, but despite the strong ensemble work and Haneke's technical supremacy, something about the film's project feels disconnected. It doesn't quite fascinate and enthrall with the same punchy strength Haneke has made his trademark. B

11 comments:

amir_uk said...

Dave, absolutely agreed with your sentiments re: The White Ribbon. Very fine film, but slightly undone by its tendency to essay.

But with Glorious 39, I think you're being a bit harsh! It definitely falls into some of the cliches and trappings of this well-trod genre (though I must admit I liked what Poliakoff did with the 'message from beyond the grave film' sequence, in terms of how it was shot, cut and played), but its also very involving and entertaining, I thought anyway. The costuming is just exquisite - like nomination-worthy period exquisite - and the cast are great together and great to watch. Especially Romola Garai who, along with her Emma (which just finished a 4-part run on BBC) - has never been better.

amir_uk said...

...Basically it exceeded my expectations, what I thought would be a substandard period Britflick. Good thing you didn't catch the truly awful From Time to Time!

Brook Brooks said...

I was wondering why the buzz completely disappeared for Glorious 39. Now I know why. I so do love the title, though.

NATHANIEL R said...

I love the title too.

i still want to see it since i love Garai and Christie and i love "nomination worthy period exquisite" costuming like Amir says ;)

and I basically agree on The White Ribbon though i love that Haneke makes films that are not easy to have an immediate reaction to. More filmmakers should worry about how their film goes down weeks later.

Henry said...

This may be the stupidest question of the day, but is that Julie Christie in the first picture?

Dave said...

Henry: No offence to Julie, but I think even she'd admit she's not that youthful. It's Romola Garai. (Looking rather like she's just remember she left the gas on, but it was the most striking image available.)

Whom I love, by the way, and she's not bad exactly, but she can't really improve on such a duff part. Amir, I'm afraid there's no backing down on this one for me - it was all just badly made and horribly cliched and I didn't care at all about the cast. (Also, Bill Nighy - his kind of smooth whispering way of talking irritated me more than anything else.) The 'beyond the grave' sequence, apart from how overdramatic it all was, was just logistically absurd. How would no one have noticed? How did he get to film it in the first place? So many inconsistences throughout the whole movie.

Nat, a below-par Haneke film is still more worthwhile than most other films in general - it is still playing on my brain on occasion, just not with the same alarming severity that, say, Cache did.

NATHANIEL R said...

dont get me started on Cache, I could barely think of anything else for days afterwards. It was torture that it was released in the thick of so many other movies (another reason i hate the holiday movie season. spread the wealth! i would kill for some of these movies in march or april!)

Henry said...

Like I said, it was a stupid question. But I was just guessing out of thin air, based on what was written in the post.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed at all the negative reviews Glorious 39 has been getting but I will have to wait till November to really see for myself.

Atleast Romola Garai is geting good reviews for it, even in the bad reviews her performance is being hailed so I definitely see it for her and I agree with Amir Garai was fantastic as Emma.

Lev Lewis said...

Yup, "Glorious 39" was absolutely abysmal. It was so sad too, cause I knew it was going to be terrible as soon as those awful dissolves 20 seconds into the film. And you're right about Garai too. She's not bad, per se, but I couldn't imagine any actor in the world being able to pull of that role with that script and that direction.

amir_uk said...

I saw Garai hanging out the Konditor & Cook at the Curzon Soho last night. She had no make up on and is so naturally beautiful - more so in fact - without it. I think she was having a coffee with the actress who played Georgiana in Joe Wright's P&P... Together they looked like pale English rose heaven.