Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Quarterly film roundup - October to December 2007

Angel-A ** - A desperate small-time crook is saved from committing suicide by a beautiful woman who may or may not be an angel - although if she is, she's a highly unconventional one. A typically stylised, black-and-white film from Luc Besson, there is exceptional beauty to be uncovered in its more whimsical scenes, but this is marred by a lack of chemistry between the man and his saviour, by the lead being essentially unlikeable, and by a thoroughly disturbing subtext of misogyny and sexual violence.

Flags Of Our Fathers *** - The first in Clint Eastwood's pair of films about the American attack on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima explores the complex emotions and relationships of a small band of soldiers feted as heroes due to their involvement in a staged reconstruction of an heroic moment. As such, the film strives to comment on the artificiality of media and the need of any political campaign to have its icons - as relevant today as ever.

Ratatouille *** - A beautifully-animated, if wildly implausible, Pixar tale about a rat who loves fine cuisine. Patience and repeated viewing does help to draw out the heart from the tale; unfortunately, at first sight, the story and execution seem a little too cold and clinical.

Gulliver's Travels (TVM) *** - An epic and comprehensive retelling of Daniel Swift's most famous work, with Ted Danson in the title role. A surprisingly complete and involving experience.

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame **** - Disney's animation seems to take as its cue the musical adaptation of Les Misérables - and indeed, the comparisons are legion. Apart from source material by the same author, there are thematic similarities; for example, a blurring of right and wrong and a villain who believes himself to be righteous. Even the musical set-pieces are staged and shot like a live-action musical. Altogether, an effective piece of work.

Caché *** - A disturbing and occasionally deliberately confusing thriller in which a normal couple suddenly start receiving video cassettes showing themselves, as filmed by a hidden cameraman, going about their daily lives. As they investigate, they must come to terms with a dark past. The tension is palpable.