Monthly Archives: July 2015

  • Love and Mercy Bill Pohlad (USA 2014)

    Love and Mercy Bill Pohlad (USA 2014) John Cussack; Elizabeth Banks Viewed: Tyneside Cinema 11 July 2015; ticket £8.50

    An alternative Life of Brian

    The spectacle of Hollywood trying to simulate mental illness is as degrading unedifying and unconvincing as Hollywood’s simulation of sex. It all looks hammed up.

    Everyone is an object†. We watch the objects move around and go through their routines, sex madness, both have their film routine. In Love and Mercy three of them pretend to be Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Two (John Cussack and Paul Dano) of them have to pretend to be ill, their performances aided and abetted by the designed sound sound mix of ‘Voices off’ and ‘internalised chaos affects’ that tries to ‘dope’ out what our Brian might be hearing.

    With its formulaic gestural TV acting; a scenario with a structure that flip flops promiscuously between different times without the honesty to provide a temporal context, this is a typical biopic. One strictly for the worshippers of the life of Brian and the Boys.

    Love and Mercy is pitch for Brian’s somewhat shaky claim on genius and thereby to secure both his artistic legacy and also importantly, the royalty incomes from the songs that the rights owners hope will roll in for many a year. Let the Good Times Roll…. adrin neatrour

  • Slow West John Maclean (UK NZ 2015)

    Slow West John
    Maclean (UK NZ 2015) Kodi Smit-McPhee,
    Ben Mendelsohn; Michael Fassbender

    Viewed: Tyneside Cinema; 3rd July 2015; ticket: £8.50

    Flatpack Western

    Like a flatpack of MDF with bolts and washers, MacLean’s Slow West is assembled out of all the bits and pieces you need to make a Western. There are some guns, a couple of nags, scenic backdrops, bearded dodgy looking baddies in old boots etc. But still Slow West amounts to little more than a transposed British road movie of 70’s vintage.

    Set in 1877, Slow West follows Cavendish, a young Scot (he describes himself as British but quickly and correctly changes this to: Scottish) on his quest to find Rose, his old sweetie. In the course of his search Cavendish in the tradition of the ‘80’s Scottish road movie, meets up with a lot of funny old eccentric geezers; a soldier, a rough likeable villain, a seer. These all help guide him towards the object of his desire and his destiny.

    These road encounters are accompanied by dialogue encrusted with words of putative wisdom and insight in the same way a ships hull is encrusted with barnacles. They weigh it down. The dialogue staggers along under the weight of its own cleverness and banality: “ Love is universal – like death.” Writer director MacLean is more interested in showboating his writing talent (such as it is) than using dialogue to open up character for the viewer. Another trait that inspired Brit 70’s film making.

    The film is so politically correct that I waited on the credits to see if there was a political commissar on the payroll. But I forgot that these days directors, particularly male ones, are on a self censoring autopilot. So: the women are good and most (but not all) of the men are bad or perhaps stupid; the native peoples are all subject to anachronistic positive evaluation, there is a yoga lesson in the middle of a stick up; the upper classes are bad the peasants good etc. All unusually interesting.

    The film is supposed to be a post modernist conceit, the stick up Yoga session has a Monte Python feel: Just “Breath !”. But Slow West looks and feels as much traveloguesque as Pyhtonesque. We pass through the woods and mountain plains of New Zealand accompanied by anodyne music and come across flat pack structures. The store in the mountain pass, the cabin on the plain both look like Ikea builds. Conceits accompanied by story telling and wiseacring and laboured visual jokes.

    It’s difficult to care about anything in the movie. By the end, after its Straw Dogs like siege with the ‘correct’ ending (no rape the sweetie kills all the bad men), the film amounts to little more than: Welcome to New Zealand – you can do whatever you want here – make a Western.

    One element in the film that I enjoyed was Kodi Smit-McPhee’s performance. He does possess the face and presence of the clown. There were moments in the film when it seemed as if the film would honour this clown and release itself from the strictures of post modernist indulgence. But these moments were fleeting and this strand of development of the material never sufficiently realised. MacLean’s vision seemed to look past the clown attribute of his movie, and followed a plot line into the blue mountains of forgetfulness and the immense field of wheat. Adrin Neatrour

  • Mad Max: Fury Road George Miller (2015 USA)

    Mad Max: Fury Road George Miller (2015 USA) Tom Hardy; Charlize Theron

    Viewed: 15 June 2015 Gate Cinema Newcastle upon
    Tyne; Ticket: £7.95

    They’ll love this in Ramadi.

    Mad Max: Fury Road, the colon in the film’s title is interesting. It anticipates the movie in as much as the self important looking colon seems to mean something but actually means nothing. A bit like the portentous philosophical twaddle disguised as dialogue put into the mouths of the the film’s characters.

    The movie opens with the lines spoken in deep gravelesque male gothic: ‘My Name is Max my world is Fire and Blood.’ Add Allah as a final flourish to Max’s opening declamation and you have a perfect advert for Islamic State. And the movie’s script written by Miller seems to have picked up a trait or two from the killer Islamists.

    For instance the War Boys, sort of punk Rude Boys stylistically cloned from one of the Ring cycle farragos, are Jihadi simulacra’s scripted by Miller to seek death in battle so that they may enter Valhalla, rather than Isis’ preferred destination: the Garden of Allah. And Max’s punishment for trying to escape is to be lashed to the front bonnet of War Boy battle vehicle, with his face shackled in a steel mask. Shades of the Daish’s cruel execution pranks such as burning men to death in steel cages and executing people with rocket propelled grenades. Terror is the best advert both in fact and fiction.

    The problem is that it is not possible to make a movie like Mad Max without paying homage to the current practitioners and masters of Terror. Which is why I suspect that just as Hitler and Stalin liked nothing better than to spend the evening watching Hollywood gangster movies. The current master practitioners of extreme politico religious ideologies will like nothing better than to settle back in their bunkers in Ramadi Mosul and Fallujah, light a fag and press play on the pirated DVD and cheer on the War Boys.

    Away from Islamic State turf, Mad Max impresses as a cultural desensitising vehicle for the mass audience. A film that in a sense normalises extreme violence both proactively and perhaps in our response to these sort of events in the world. The issue is whether this desensitisation is a consciously adapted Hollywood stratagem or rather a absorption of the mood of the times. Either way you could say that films like Mad Max are preparing us for the logic of evil, a moment when we might have to decide whether we in the West are to become ciphers in that logic.

    The film itself although it looks like a quest\chase movie, in fact belongs to that genre that we may call ‘Computer Game’ movie. The film takes its characterisation, its format its testosterone fuelled reactive insistent pace from the world of the electronic game. There is only technically induced tension and there is no dialogue only declamation (cf Allah Akbar) as people ask: Who killed the world….? ( I said the fly with my little eye!). The film is designed like computer games to be immersive: incessant action repeated time and again in escalating variations, overwhelming the audience with image, music and big sound effects. Don’t think – you exist only in the action. One for the Jihadi recruiters.

    Mad Max: Fury Road is a stylistic scatter gun sampling of every epic ever churned out in the history of Hollywood, made possible of course by the modernist galley slaves thousands of SFX manipulators and compositors chained to their machines. So we have appropriately enough given the quasi religious text, lashings of Cecil B de Mills, full on old testament stuff, Niblo’s Ben Hur (also OT), Grithiths, and more recently LeRoy’s Quo Vadis. In some ways the stylistic form reminded me most strongly of the Western, you know cowboys and Indians where the Indians circle endlessly around the wagon train allowing themselves to be neatly if acrobatically picked by the whites. And of course Miller also owes big time to Scott and his sci-fi design teams as well as Jackson for his characterisations of Tolkien. Mad Max is not original in concept but certainly cleverly stitched up in a familiar way.

    And of course it is a successful and popular movie, so perhaps subliminally it is giving us what we want: an initiation into the dynamics of a coming world order. Adrin Neatrour