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Saturday
Jan262013

Mirror


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

This is the second Tarkovsky film I've seen on the list after Andrei Rublev. I really enjoyed that so I was looking forward to this one

Why is it on the list?

Number 19 on the list and number 9 on the directors list.

Where can I see it?

By this point I'd bought the Tarkovsky box set made by Artificial Eye so I watched the one on this set

What's it about?

Ah, good question. I've seen it and I'm not sure myself. Basically it appears to be a man (probably the director, if not by name) reflecting on his life in the present and the past. There isn't so much a plot line as a plot mobius strip as it bounces between the war, post war and the present (being 1974 in this case) and they all start to merge.

Is it just for film geeks?

This is the most pretentious film I've seen so far on this voyage of discovery. Poetry read out in grave Russian over beautifully shot footage of nothing much happening. Newsreel footage of WWII cut in seemingly at random. Changing from colour to black and white film stock seemingly without reason. People appear and disappear. Actors play more than one role (or do they?).

Entertainment value out of ten?

It's beautiful but by golly it's downright incomprehensible. It might well reward repeat viewings, and it's haunting enough that I might give it a go. But we're talking entertainment here so it's a brutal 5/10.

Would I watch it again?

I probably will but I doubt it'll make much more sense to me.

Tuesday
Jan152013

The Rules of the Game


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

A black and white film about rich people and their servants. Sounds very British but is in fact French. I knew nothing about this film or it's director.

Why is it on the list?

Made in 1939 it was released on French audiences at the start of WWII and promptly bombed. It's interesting how many films on this list bombed on initial release, as if critics what to make up for past wrongs or prove the audiences wrong.

Where can I see it?

I bought it on DVD - the BFI edition.

What's it about?

It's about some rich people going for a weekend of shooting. They have intertwining relationships and things get a little tricky as a consequence. Points are made about the nature of class, truth and etiquette.

Is it just for film geeks?

I wouldn't say so. In fact I am a little surprised this is on the list, not because it's a bad film but because it doesn't share a lot in common with anything else on this list. It's not an epic, it's not a visual feast, the script isn't drenched in philosophising, etc. It's a likeable and enjoyable film but I have no idea what pushes this into the top ten above many of the other films further down the list.

Entertainment value out of ten?

In short this is pretty much a farce, although less comedic than that makes it sound, it is fun. I guess it's a farce with some serious points to make. There's much to enjoy here but it gets the lowest score of the films I've watched on this excursion so far: 7/10. That's no disgrace.

Would I watch it again?

Sure. It's fun.

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.