Pre-Christmas deadlines have kept me from my regular writing routine so this week’s reviews are somewhat abridged. Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt (2012)was tense, invigorating filmmaking that employed a rewarding, and steady pace and showcased a sympathetic, subtle performance by Mads Mikkelsen. Less about fighting a false accusation, than recovering from it, The Hunt tackled issues of child abuse and close-knit communities with humour and a lack of sensationalism that proved engaging viewing.
Alps (2012)by Dogtooth director Giorgos Lanthimos proves that it is possible to make a film more opaque than the latter – and happily demands an involved, inquisitive audience. Clearly accomplished filmmaking and an important political and social critique of contemporary Greece, nonetheless it would be a stretch to suggest that Lanthimos’ film is enjoyable per se, rather that its playful way with language and blurring of fiction/reality represents an intelligent and vigorous talent.
Tokyo-Ga (1985)was a suitable film to watch in the week that saw the anniversary of the birth of legendary director Yasujirô Ozu. Wim Wenders’ ode to the director of over fifty features including much loved Tokyo Story attempts to discover if anything recognisable from the humanity of Ozu’s oeuvre is present in modern Tokyo. Training his camera on fascinating practices such as the creation of wax replicas of restaurant menu options or Americana loving teens, Wenders also tenderly interviews Ozu’s leading man; Chishû Ryû and cinematographer; Yûharu Atsuta – who dedicated his whole career to assisting the great director, and since his death in 1963 laments being unable to find work as satisfying as that with his former colleague.
Documentary The House I Live In by director Eugene Jarecki combines personal experience with testimonies from professionals related to illegal drugs and their effects; including those from policing, law, imprisonment, psychology, history, media and politics – all of whom tend to support the argument that the War on Drugs has been a failure. Jarecki’s thoughtful voiceover connects persuasively the accounts of said contributors with the first-hand experiences of convicted men and women – predominantly African American – most of whom have been subjected to harsh minimum sentence rulings. This is a first class combination of investigative fervour and thorough, sensitive filmmaking.
Prior to seeing The Hobbit – which I’m sure I’ll get round to at some point – I decided to re-watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy and was delighted to find that the films are just as enjoyable ten years later. Fellowship grips on to you gloriously and demands you hold on through each passionately detailed set piece that follows in the two subsequent epics.
Other viewing took on a festive theme (of sorts): if it wasn’t Christmas itself, the presence of snow was enough to satisfy.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Andrew Adamson (2005).
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, David Yates(2009)
Miracle on 34th Street, Les Mayfield (1994)
Wonder Boys, Curtis Hanson (2000)
Coming up – my best (and worst) lists for 2012 with the promise not to repeat the dozens already widely celebrated and berated.