Tag Archives: Film

The Hobbit

Yesterday, we went to see ‘The Hobbit’ in glorious HFR 3D …. and left feeling somewhat disappointed (spoilers below).

The 3D itself didn’t give me eyestrain in the way that 3D usually does, so that’s the high frame rate’s benefit right there. That said, I’m still not sold on the virtues of 3D, it can look like a series of cutouts overlaid on each other. A few times I closed one eye to remove the 3D effect, and the picture looked a lot more ‘integrated’ (though some of the effects noted below did not vanish).

The film itself is well put together, and I enjoyed the opening a lot, it was lovely to see Bilbo, Frodo and The Shire. Gandalf’s opening scene was really nice, as one might expect.

Plotwise, I was somewhat concerned when the dwarfs broke into song – in The Lord of the Rings they cut out all the songs (and still had to jettison some plotpoints, such as the scouring of the shire) – with the Hobbit I thought ‘Three films? They’re keeping it ALL!, Oh no….’

This didn’t feel like the same universe as Lord of the Rings – I know that is true to an extent with the books having different characters, but with the production team knowing before they started that these were all connected, a luxury Tolkien didn’t have, I hoped this wouldn’t be an issue – but it was. It felt foreign to the films already in existence, it had the same sets, many similar actors, but yet, it felt different, and not in a good way.

The look and feel of the film is best described as ‘patchy’. It felt like a ‘made for TV’ movie, albeit with a big budget. There were scenes of spectacular scenery, intermingled with quite poor CGI (by modern standards) of the type an XBox might generate.The poor CGI would have stood up to scrutiny a few years back, but by today’s standards the characters often felt animated rather than real (trolls, white orc etc).

Then there were shots which looked like they were filmed on a soundstage with very sharp, directional lighting. I know that many shots were on a soundstage, but the point is that it should not feel like that. This left me with an impression of a BBC play of the 60s or 70s – examples include when the company was leaving Rivendell and were clambering along mountain pathways, or going into the mountain cave. The mix of visual tones tended to throw me out of the film.

The film suffered somewhat from sticking too closely to the raw material, and so things could feel like non-sequiturs at times, for instance, the battle of the mountain trolls came from nowhere – in the book it works reasonably well, a gap can be bridged more smoothly, a few seconds of real time can take much longer to read – but in film the reverse is true, and it jarred.

Later on, the whole escape from the misty mountains sequence felt massively over-done to me, it was a case of ‘more is less’ (as I felt for some of the ‘Return of the King’) – and a part of me looked at those ricketty bridges and thought ‘totally unstable, not practical even for Orcs’). It was too much to be believable. The falls were massively overdone (huge falls kill the bad guys, but not the good guys). I know it’s fantasy, but if you’re going to have falls like that (as you must), soften the impact somehow!

I’m also sorry to say that James Nesbitt keeped giving me jolts back to reality, I thought he was going to suggest looking up a taxi cab in the yellow pages – his voice is too distinctive in my head for him to be a dwarf.

What worked well? Even in spite of the problems (which were mostly technical, but spread through the film), I did enjoy the film. Martin Freeman as Bilbo was well cast and utterly believable. The sequence with the riddles (he said euphemistically for anyone not familiar with the story) was absolutely superb. If I was to watch this film again, I’d go for the straight 2D version – though I don’t think the issues with ‘obvious studio work’ relate to HFR, I don’t think the 3D helped.

Honestly, though – having seen the film, I think I should have waited for it to be on TV (although that would have felt like I was missing out).

Jean DuJardin in 'The Artist'

The Artist

I saw the Artist about a month ago, and thought it absolutely superb. It’s recently cleaned up at the BAFTAs, and it looks to be a shoe-in for the Oscars. Well deserved.

Yes, the plot is thin – but as it’s a silent film, what do you really expect, Shakespeare?

The film is about the emergence of the ‘talkie’ and the often career-ending effect this had upon the silent stars. Essentially it’s ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ without the Singin’.

The style of the film, as you’ll know by now, is that it, itself, is a silent movie. Yes, that’s a conceit and one which has caused some people to shun the film unseen. A mistake. ‘Black and White’ and ‘Silent’ may not be common these days, but they’re not synonymous with ‘Bad’. If you deny yourself films with either of these tags, then you deny yourself some true greats. I’ve been talking this film up to anyone who’d listen, but have mostly got back "silent film?" – it’s great to be able to point to some awards!

Due to the lack of dialogue, the audience has to concentrate on the screen, and just watch – this is engrossing – when I saw the film, a pin could have been heard to drop, it was quite eery.

The introduction to the film is very clever, it introduces people into the world of the film very quickly – and soon one forgets the style of the film and becomes immersed, to the extent that the sequence where Jean DuJardin sits in front of his mirror and drinks a whiskey is absolutely shocking in its simplicity.

When I came out, I had a great big grin on my face, and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a comparable film at the cinema. I’ve seen many great films, but nothing quite like this.

It’s fantastic that it’s got lots of awards, and this’ll prompt more people to see it at the Cinema. This really is a film which I don’t think would translate well to the small screen – so do try to make the best of the extension of screenings that the awards have earned it, and get along.

… and yes, the dog is as good as you’ve heard.

BBC Proms – Prom 38: Film Music Prom

With all the turmoils of the week, we travelled to central London on friday. No problems at all – as expected.

Over at the Royal Albert Hall, we were attending our next Prom. This one was film music. The firs half was a little sow – for my money a ‘film’ prom should be bristling with familiarity, and I’m afraid that, at least for us, it wasn’t (apart from the odd bit of Hitchcockian music)

The second half started with a bigger bang – Star Wars – always a crowd pleaser, but then it went back into ‘pleasant, but what film was this again?’ before finishing with a great John Barry medley. During ‘Goldfinger’ the conductor was camping it up for the audience – and at one point in the Bond medley, all the Cellos got spun.

We got the ‘Harry Potter’ theme, despite never having seen the films (honestly) – this was instantly recognisable.

The whole thing was enjoyable, but for a ‘Film Prom’ there needs to be that instant ‘snap’ of familiarity in my view – and the lack of this let it down somewhat. Of course, this is purely subjective.

The programme for the prom was:

  • Herrmann: Music from The Man Who Knew Too Much, Citizen Kane, and Psycho (18 mins)
  • Ennio Morricone: Cinema Paradiso – theme (7 mins)
  • Walton: Henry V – suite (arr. Muir Mathieson) (21 mins)
  • John Williams: Music from Star Wars, Schindler’s List and Harry Potter (14 mins)
  • Jonny Greenwood:
    Norwegian Wood – suite (arr. Robert Ziegler) (10 mins) BBC Commission, World Premiere
  • Sir Richard Rodney Bennett: Murder on the Orient Express – suite (8 mins)
  • Barry: Out of Africa – Love Theme (7 mins)
  • Various: Music from the James Bond films (10 mins)

Chloƫ Hanslip violin
Rory Kinnear narrator
BBC Concert Orchestra
Keith Lockhart conductor

The encore was some Enrico Morricone, foreshadowing Prom 39.

The prom is available on iplayer until the evening of the 19th August.

The James Bond theme is available on youtube.

Les Valseuses

I watched ‘Les Valseuses‘ the other day. It was not the first film featuring Gérard Depardieu, but it was the one that brought him to fame.

The film follows two ‘rogues’ from ‘les banlieus‘, Jean-Claude (Depardieu) and Pierrot (Patrick Dewaere) as they explore their world. They are thoroughly unlikeable characters, sexual harassment is a past-time for them – and I found that certain scenes were repellent, not through their (bad) behaviour, but through the responses of others. For example, the mother who is harassed on the train comes to enjoy the attention very rapidly. Miou-Miou’s behaviour (Marie-Ange) is pretty unbelievable, but then, she is portrayed as someone who has been in an abusive relationship, and as hard as it is to fathom, people do move between relationships like this.

There are instances where Jean-Claude and Pierrot’s exploits become amusing, the cuts to the bicycle chase as they run away, for example – and there are sequences which are poignant. For example, the story with Jeanne Pirolle (Jeanne Moreau) has a beauty and a tragedy about it (even though the initial motivation is sordid) – that the men get involved with Jacques Pirolle (Jacques Chailleux) speaks to them becoming less unlikeable as the film moves on.

Though the film has a very misogynistic attitude to women (though Jeanne is treated well by Jean-Claude and Pierrot, albeit with ulterior motive). The men are portrayed as weak – the film was made in the decades following the turbulence of the 1960s, at the end of the post-war economic boom for France. Unemployment was on the rise. Jean-Claude and Pierrot are representing the no-hope, no-prospects atmosphere of the age. Pierrot in particular is emasculated by an early incident in the film which perhaps partially explains, though doesn’t excuse, some of their despicable behaviour. Miou-Miou’s ‘responses’ to both Pierrot and Jean-Claude extend this, and when Jacques does satisfy her, he recounting of the experience doesn’t do Jacques any favours.

There are moments in the film which were amusing, but I found the characters and morality of the film repugnant. All the more so because at moments there was a danger of sympathising with them, until you remembered what they’d done up to that point. This repulsion was a new experience for me, I can watch films where dark things happen, and nasty people do them. I can watch films with a dark ending (rare as they are) – but there was something about this film that prevented an appreciation on that level. It’s a film that was interesting to watch, but not one that I would want to see again for entertainment.

The imdb summary puts it well:

Two whimsical, aimless thugs harass and assault women, steal, murder, and alternately charm, fight, or sprint their way out of trouble. They take whatever the bourgeois characters value: whether it’s cars, peace of mind, or daughters. Marie-Ange, a jaded, passive hairdresser, joins them as lover, cook, and mother confessor. She’s on her own search for seemingly unattainable sexual pleasure.