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Saturday
Mar162013

The Godfather II


When I saw the Sight & Sound list of Top 50 films I was surprised at how few of them I'd seen. So this is a series of posts where I'll watch as many of these films as I can and share my findings with you. Most importantly, are these movies only relevant to film geeks, or will an average bloke like me find anything in them to enjoy? You can see the other reviews here.


Preconceptions

Another Godfather film. I'd already seen The Godfather III ages ago and I watched The Godfather I the week before this so I pretty much know the drill.

Why is it on the list?

30th on the critics poll and 31st on the directors poll.

Where can I see it?

It's probably on telly tonight - check your local listings.

What's it about?

It's about the mafia. And this time out we get a dual storyline telling us the origin of Don Corleone's family and the continuing of that family under the leadership of his son Michael - who I think it's fair to say is doing a pretty shitty job of it by almost every conceivible measurement.

Is it just for film geeks?

You must be kidding.

Entertainment value out of ten?

I liked this more than part one, largely because the parts with DeNiro are so entertaining. I think it also helps that less of this film is in the culture so it seems less familiar. I still find Coppola's efforts to make the mafia poetic a bit ridiculous - these are a bunch of thick-necked goons who communicate by shrugging, mumbling, shooting and stabbing. Oh, and does anyone else think Diane Keaton is completely wasted in these films? Still, I give it 8/10.

Would I watch it again?

It was good but I think once was enough.

Friday
Mar152013

The Godfather


When I saw the Sight & Sound list of Top 50 films I was surprised at how few of them I'd seen. So this is a series of posts where I'll watch as many of these films as I can and share my findings with you. Most importantly, are these movies only relevant to film geeks, or will an average bloke like me find anything in them to enjoy? You can see the other reviews here.


Preconceptions

Um, this is a weird admission. The only Godfather film I'd seen was the third one. Don't ask me why that it is, I really don't remember, I guess it was just on telly one day and I couldn't be bothered to change channel. So since I and II are on the list, and my wife has them on DVD, I now have no excuse not to watch them.

Why is it on the list?

21st on the critics poll and 7th on the directors poll. Oddly in the previous Sight & Sound chart both I and II were considered a single film and so they were in the top ten.

Where can I see it?

Where can you not see it.

What's it about?

It's about a mafia family in the post war period and change is in the air. The family come under attack and Michael Corleone has to make some decisions about his future. But you know the drill: horse's head, "he sleeps with the fishes", "we made him an offer he cannot refuse", etc

Is it just for film geeks?

Even the idiots in the mafia watch this film so I guess not.

Entertainment value out of ten?

While it's nearly three hours long it is still stuffed to the gills with story. There are so many characters and events that it doesn't take any prisoners and pushes along at an incredible pace and with great energy. While I enjoyed it as a story it did leave me a little bit cold on the character front. You don't watch a mafia film and expect to like the characters but I found pretty much everyone in it repulsive - but I guess that's the way it should be. 7/10

(As a side note, watching this film reminded me of watching Psycho as a teenager in that there were so many elements of the film floating around in the culture that watching it was not an act of discovery but of joining the dots and understanding the broader context. It's certainly good to get the full picture.)

Would I watch it again?

I wouldn't be against watching it again. There were some minor plot points that I think passed me by so I'd like to get a better handle on those, but I'm no particular rush.

Thursday
Mar142013

Stalker


When I saw the Sight & Sound list of Top 50 films I was surprised at how few of them I'd seen. So this is a series of posts where I'll watch as many of these films as I can and share my findings with you. Most importantly, are these movies only relevant to film geeks, or will an average bloke like me find anything in them to enjoy? You can see the other reviews here.


Preconceptions

Here we have a Russian Sci-Fi from Tarkovsky. I'd already seen Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev, which I loved, and Mirror, which I was a bit ambivalent about.

Why is it on the list?

Here's an interesting quote: "The film needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theatre have time to leave before the main action starts." - Andrei Tarkovsky on being told Stalker needed to be faster paced

Where can I see it?

I watched the copy on the Tarkovsky box set by Artificial Eye, but the good news is you can watch it legally for nothing on YouTube.

What's it about?

The Stalker takes a writer and a professor on a perilous journey through the Zone so they can get to a room where wishes are granted. This has to be the most bare-bones, stripped back sci-fi film that has ever been made.

Is it just for film geeks?

I won't lie - this is not an easy watch and is quite a test of the viewers patience, and deliberately so. But if you put yourself through the grinder for two and half hours you should feel rewarded - or maybe cheated.

Entertainment value out of ten?

This film is more interesting to talk about or think about than it is to watch. So, as a source of entertainment in it's own right I will give it 5/10 but as a source of thought and discussion it's 10/10. So, if you like conceptual, cerebral films and are willing to take a risk then go for it.

Would I watch it again?

Definitely. I could see myself becoming a bit obsessed with this one.

Wednesday
Mar132013

La Dolce Vita


When I saw the Sight & Sound list of Top 50 films I was surprised at how few of them I'd seen. So this is a series of posts where I'll watch as many of these films as I can and share my findings with you. Most importantly, are these movies only relevant to film geeks, or will an average bloke like me find anything in them to enjoy? You can see the other reviews here.


Preconceptions

Probably more famous as a movie poster than as a movie. And of course there's the Trevvi fountain scene. None of this told me anything about the movie.

Why is it on the list?

39th on the critics poll and 37th on the directors poll.

Where can I see it?

I bought a second hand DVD box set that contained this and 8½. Weirdly the box said that La Dolce Vita is 104 minutes long when it is in fact closer to 170. This fucked up my schedule for the day and I had to watch it in two parts.

What's it about?

Ennui. Lots of ennui. Rather glamorous, rich people lounging around doing nothing, wondering why they're so bored and unfulfilled. Complaining that this film contains a lot of whining, over-privileged people is like complaining that the Godfather contains a lot of murderous psychopaths; that's what the film is about. Having said that there is more to it, but it's quite tricky to get your hooks into. The invasion of American culture, spiritual bankruptcy, the choices required for a creative life. There's no traditional storyline here, just a series of events with recurring themes and a central character.

Is it just for film geeks?

Good question. Probably not, but I can't see many people having much patience with this; I certainly found it a bit of a struggle in parts.

Entertainment value out of ten?

The ennui, oh the ennui! There's no getting around the fact that these people are seriously dislikable, as they should be, but sometimes making a film about irritating people can lead to an irritating film. On the other hand there's much to like too: it's beautifully filmed, and some of the scenes are very compelling (I particularly enjoyed the scene about the miracle). But it's also occasionally quite tiresome and the supposed profundity was a bit too much to bear. 6/10

Would I watch it again?

I think I might, as there's certainly things here to be enjoyed.

Tuesday
Mar122013

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles


When I saw the Sight & Sound list of Top 50 films I was surprised at how few of them I'd seen. So this is a series of posts where I'll watch as many of these films as I can and share my findings with you. Most importantly, are these movies only relevant to film geeks, or will an average bloke like me find anything in them to enjoy? You can see the other reviews here.


Preconceptions

I must admit when I saw the title, saw a still from the film and saw the running time, I assumed I would be in for a tedious time. When a film appears to be a small scale domestic drama but with the running time of The Godfather II then that seems like a safe assumption.

Why is it on the list?

The description on the BFI website is slightly tart: "Three days in the life of a bourgeois widow who supports herself and her moronic son by taking in a 'gentleman caller' each afternoon."

Where can I see it?

I saw it on YouTube but I don't know about the legality of that copy. I had to watch it over two nights, pausing after the first hour and a quarter.

What's it about?

It follows three days in Jeanne Dielman's life. She cooks, she cleans, she sleeps with men for money, she goes to the bank, she goes to the shops, she knits. It's all filmed in the most static style imaginable.

Is it just for film geeks?

This isn't so much a movie as an art installation, as it makes you experience the tedium of Jeanne's life almost in real-time. In a rather odd way it reminded me of when I saw 24-hour Psycho (basically Hitchcock's Psycho is projected at such a slow speed that it runs for 24 hours). The stillness gives every frame more significance than it would normally have, every move has added heft. Interestingly this film shares the 35th spot in the top 50 with Psycho.

Entertainment value out of ten?

I think I'm being generous giving it 3/10 for entertainment value; it isn't entertaining and that's the point. Having said that I rather liked the film and I'm glad I've seen it. I liked her, I admired her efficiency and lack of pretension. When things start to go wrong for her and her confidence slips it all seems so sad and poignant. The static way it's filmed I found oddly appealing and the lack of dialogue highlights the sounds around her and their rhythms. If you are in any way open to experimental art then you might want to put aside some time for this.

Would I watch it again?

I liked it but I honestly cannot think why anyone would want to watch this more than once.