Search
Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.
Navigation
Friday
Jan042013

Sunrise


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

None really, although I am aware that the director, F W Murnau, also directed Nosferatu. I've not seen Nosferatu

Why is it on the list?

Considered by some to be the greatest film ever made, Sunrise is at number 5 on the list.

Where can I see it?

I got it on blu ray where it can be seen in magnificent condition as both a 90 min Movietone print with a small frame size and a 70 min Czech print with larger frame size and better contrast. I have to say that I watched the 90 min print and found the quality excellent for a film of this age.

What's it about?

A man considers killing his wife when his head is turned by a city girl. And if you think this describes the whole plot then you're in for a surprise - that's just the starting point.

Is it just for film geeks?

There is a bit of "silent film acting" (big gestures, over-wrought emotions, men-acting-just-by-using-their-bushy-eyebrows, you know the sort of thing). However this is counteracted by the extraordinary look of the film. It is deliberately artificial looking giving it a dream-like quality, but it also has some special effects and amazing sets that look great to this day. A lot of money was spent to make this film a spectacle and it still works.

Entertainment value out of ten?

While this is certainly an unusual film that is not easily categorised it's not a difficult watch at all. There is humour, and you'd have to have a heart of stone not to find it touching in some way. If nothing else you could simply enjoy it for it's spectacular good looks. Not only does it look great but it really takes enormous risks in it's story telling that I can't imagine many modern directors getting away with - it's very clever stuff. I'll give it 9/10.

Would I watch it again?

Absolutely. In fact I plan to give the Czech print a go just to see if it adds anything to my enjoyment.

Tuesday
Jan012013

Andrei Rublev


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 know nothing about this film. Zero. I know nothing about the director other than he's got three films in the top 50 so I guess he's considered hot shit.

Why is it on the list?

Andrei Rublev is 26th on the Top 50 critics list. It's on the top ten lists of Mike Leigh (a favourite director of all red-blooded English men and women) and Mark Romanek.

Where can I see it?

It's available on YouTube for free and is available as 1080p. The quality is excellent, although I can't swear to the quality of the subtitles, they seemed mostly OK.

What's it about?

It's about Andrei Rublev, a real person, who was a monk and a painter of religious icons in the 1400s. The film is in seven chapters where Andrei and an associated cast of characters appear and reappear during several tumultuous events.

Is it just for film geeks?

Let's do a little thought experiment. In your mind try to picture what a film critics favorite foreign film might look like and once you're done we can go through the list.

Ready? OK, the film you pictured is subtitled, of course. It's in black and white. The actors are strange looking, with a large number of old bearded men. The pace is glacial. The film is long. The characters don't say hello to each other but will immediately launch into philosophical discussions about life, death, religion and politics.

Yes, this film has all of these things.

Having said that it's an incredibly handsome film and these powerful images make it compelling from the first few minutes onwards. It does take it's time to unfold but the film becomes more powerful as it continues.

So no, it's not just for film geeks but it's not for the faint of heart either. Adam Sandler fans might be slightly confused. Not by this film, I just think Adam Sandler fans might be slightly confused.

Entertainment value out of ten?

I was completely won over though I did have to watch it in two parts over two nights (yes I know, but it was either that or nothing). After the first half I was uncertain but keen to see the next part. By the end of the second part I was completely convinced that it was a brilliant film. I'd certainly give this 9/10 and I'm almost tempted to give it 10/10 but I think I need a second viewing.

This film is clearly not for everyone so if you want to know if you'll enjoy it then I'd make a clumsy comparison to 2001. Both films are long, have long moments of silence and neither film holds your hand and guides you through a story but both are visually stunning and hypnotic. So I suppose what I'm saying is if you want medieval version of 2001 then you're in the right place.

Would I watch it again?

Absolutely. In fact I'm looking forward to doing so as I think it'll help me understand the paths of the characters. Also, I suspect the subtitles on the YouTube videos are not doing the dialogue justice.

Monday
Dec312012

Top Ten Albums of 2012

Time once again for the only regular feature of this blog!

In no particular order...

Field Music - Plumb

I make no bones about it: I love Field Music. So it's not surprising that this was one of my favorite albums of the year. This time they went for brevity and came up with a 30 minute mini-epic that reminds me of The Fingertips Suite by They Might Be Giants and Todd Rundgren's A Wizard, A True Star. If you love experimental pop music then this is a treat

Bellowhead - Broadside

Every time I've heard a Bellowhead for the first time I feel convinced they've lost it this time, and then a few listens later I'm convinced they're genius. This 11 piece band are the ELO of folk; their brillant arrangements and musicianship make these songs thrilling and exciting.

The Neil Cowley Trio - The Face of Mount Molehill

I've been getting into jazz in recent years and discovering this band was amazing. This album is beautiful and energetic. And now I have an album I can recommend to my jazz-sceptic friends with some hope they may enjoy it.

Guided by Voices - Let's Go Eat the Factory

GBV are in serious danger of over-exposure this year having released three albums. Still, it was great to hear them make a great comeback with this album.

Ginger - 100%

Ginger has had a pretty extraordinary year and there was this extraordinary album. A pop metal extravaganza of unhinged experimentation. Addictive stuff.

Shoes - Ignition

I can't resist power pop and this album is as a great an example of the genre you could hope to find anywhere.

You Slut! - Medium Bastard

Finally they released a successor to the genius Critical Meat and it was a very worthy successor indeed.

Django Django - Django Django

I was instantly put in mind of sixties folkies by this album with a few synths thrown in. A very tasty pop album with no pretensions.

Eugene McGuinness - The Invitation to the Voyage

I was hugely looking forward to this album and it didn't disappoint - it's a remarkably confident modern pop record that seamlessly merges it's many influences.

Get the Blessing - OCDC

Another jazz album - I'm in danger of listening to nothing else. An amazing title track worth the price of admission alone and I'd strongly suggest you get the edition containing the two bonus tracks with John Hegley.

A Spotify playlist is here.

Saturday
Nov172012

The General


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

Well it's Buster Keaton isn't it? I remember watching silent movies when I was a kid, including a few Buster Keaton shorts. I remember liking his stuff but not much beyond that. Although I do also vaguely recall a Canadian film board short he did towards the end of his life. Oh, and I've probably heard Paul Merton droning on about him at some point too. Most of all though I was looking forward to this one as I felt pretty sure it'd have at least a few laughs in it.

Why is it on the list?

Apparently it's considered by some to be Buster Keaton's masterpiece, a slapstick classic. Made in 1926, it cost an absolute fortune and then promptly bombed, scuppering Buster's creative freedom in Hollywood.

Where can I see it?

The YouTube video is here:

Be aware that the music bears no relation to the action and just sounds like "Now That's What I Call Classical" on shuffle.

What's it about?

Buster Keaton is Johnny Gray, a man who loves two things: the titular train and his girlfriend. Unfortunately the civil war comes to town and he looses both when the Northern soldiers steal the train and kidnap his girlfriend. Weirdly this is based on a real incident of the civil war.

Is it just for film geeks?

Absolutely not. Anyone can enjoy some slapstick and this has loads of laughs in it. Modern audiences might find the pace slightly slower than they're used to but that's a very minor complaint. One thing I always find a bit odd is when we're expected to root for the Southerners in the civil war. They were the pro-slavery guys right? Anyway, if you ever wondered where Jackie Chan got most of moves from, stop looking at Bruce Lee and watch this instead.

Entertainment value out of ten?

This really is a funny film and I can easily believe it cost a fortune because every penny is on the screen. It truly is a slapstick epic! 8/10

Would I watch it again?

Definitely. This would probably make a perfect hangover film.

Wednesday
Nov142012

Battleship Potemkin


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 had certainly heard of this film before.  I knew there was a scene that influenced the pram scene in the train station in The Untouchables (not necessarily a great film but that's a great scene).  Other than that I knew pretty much nothing and didn't know what to expect.

Why is it on the list?

This has been a feature of the S&S list since it's inception and has regularly been in the top ten. On this occasion it's at number 11. It's considered by many critics to be one of the greatest films ever made. Whether it is the greatest or not is debatable but it seems that it had a huge influence in the early days of film and shaped modern cinema.

Where can I see it?

It's was available for free on YouTube but it now seems to have vanished. It looked very rough so it probably wasn't the best print.

What's it about?

You might assume from the title that this is a war movie; not quite. It's the partially true story of how the Russian revolution began with a mutiny on the eponymous boat. It is, in short, a Russian communist propaganda film and it seems apparent, even to my meagre intellect, that the ship appears to be a microcosm of T'sarist Russia. But don't let the dread term propaganda put you off; if it makes you feel any better, apparently Lenin was not a fan.

Is it just for film geeks?

I don't think so. There's nothing in this film that's pretentious and I don't think it needs any special knowledge to be enjoyed. The version I saw has a soundtrack (rather crudely) edited together of Shostakovich which, while it isn't the original score, really enhanced my enjoyment.  I'd also note that at 1 hour and 15 minutes this is one of the shortest movies on the list and so there's really no excuse not to make a little time for this one. I should note that the acting is quite in line with the period: it tends towards the melodramatic but thankfully not enough to distract very much (although if anyone can resist laughing when "Rasputin" turns up they're made of stronger stuff than I am).

Entertainment value out of ten?

Potemkin is gripping, compelling and moving. It's often impressive to look at, featuring an array of extraordinary looking faces and hundreds of extras. It would be easy to damn with faint praise and say it's a good film for it's age, but many modern films struggle to be this watchable or engaging. I'll give it 8/10.

Would I watch it again?

Definitely.  Although I'd probably try and find a better print, especially if it has the original score (I love Shostikovitch, but I'd like to hear the real deal).