Monday, May 16, 2005

Film reviews: because someone has to ...

While Lyn continues to spurn a deeply-jilted blogosphere on the slender pretext of respecting workplace internet-use policies, I present brief reviews of my recent outings to the St John's college film group.

The Aviator

Who would have thought DiCaprio could act? Didn't see that coming. OK, his portrayal of Howard Hughes' superhuman energy and determination came through largely in a vertical crease of furrowed brow from nose to hairline, but what of that?

Despite moments of Scorsese-esque self-indulgence ("writhe like a madman Leonardo, you know you want to!"), it was thoroughly engaging and didn't feel like three hours at all.

Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn? Swaggeringly, brusquely perfect.

Yes, yes, it's about boys and toys, Hollywood navel gazing, and ... well, Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn; but it's none the worse for any of those elements - especially the last-mentioned.

(Did I mention our Cate was good? She really was, you know.)

House of Flying Daggers

Holy chinese-puzzle box of a plot, Batman! This one's a cryptogram, wrapped in an enigma, bundled into a rebus, drowned with a puzzle and lost somewhere behind the couch.

Okay, the plot twists and turns aren't quite that bad, but they do arrive in rather a rush, turning the whole show from a kind of quest/entrapment plot into, well, melodrama.

But hey ho, no-one ever went to see a subtitled martial arts film for the plot, right?

This delivers a full quotient of really gratuitous cinematic beauty, lush costuming, extravagantly autumnal lanscapes and martial arts prowess that leaves the laws of physics and probability hanging by their fingernails.

On the action sequences, cinematography and use of colour alone this was threatening to displace "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" among my all time favourite unnecessarily beautiful martial arts pics (and it still wins "best fight in a bamboo forest") until somewhere in the last third of the film.

To say the ending is unnecessarily drawn out, with operatic emotion reaching a more than faintly cringeworthy heights would be ... well, about right really. I dislike a climactic fight sequence where you really can't help thinking: "Why aren't you dead yet, you tedious person?"

So close to greatness, but as a wise man once said, "Close don't count unless you're throwing hand grenades."

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