This week: V for Vendetta, Army in the Shadows and The Double Life of Veronique. Plus all the usual film rumours and Trailer of the Week.
We've heard semi-promising things about the latest attempt to tranfer the genius of Alan Moore to the big screen, and after hearing David Lloyd at the Guardian Newsroom last week our hopes were up. Unfortunately we trust Peter Bradshaw quite a bit and Pete Bradshaw absolutely hates V for Vendetta, so much so that he can only bring himself to award it one star.
First off he claims that V also stands for "Valueless gibberish," and follows that up by standing up for the much maligned fanboy audience:
Yet another graphic novel has been bulldozed on to the screen, strutting its stuff for an assumed army of uncritical geeks - a fanbase product from which the fanbase has been amputated.
We love you too Pete!
Bradders also compares watching V to "having the oxygen supply to your brain slowly starved over more than two hours," something which we've never done but we're assuming it's not a good thing.
So what, specifically, is so bad about this film?
Well for a start, there's great big holes in the plot, Which PB concedes wouldn't be too much of a problem if only "the style and design were in any way witty or interesting. They sadly aren't, and McTeigue believes that by repeatedly showing people with shadows falling mysteriously across their faces he is reproducing the world of the comic book".
Portman's accent (which we mentioned earlier this week) also comes in for a bit of a kicking ("Portman for some reason has a thin, wittering South African accent as Evey, which may have been superior to other thin, wittering accents she tried out in rehearsal.") and in fact the only person who comes out the other side of V for Vendetta with any sort of dignity looks to be "Stephen Fry with an energy that hints that with a better written role, or really any sort of role at all, he could have raised this film's game a notch or two."
The film picks up another one star at the hands of James Christopher in The Times who informs us that London's future is as every bit as frightening as we had imagined:
The docile folk of Tooting sit slack-jawed in front of terrible game shows and undiluted propaganda on TV.
Jimmy C claims that he's "never seen such a deranged satire," and that's about the only bit of criticism in the whole of the review. Honestly it is. Unless you count the revelation that "a sharp cartoon strip can look utterly ridiculous in the flesh" it seems that JC feels it's not even worth disecting a film this worthless. He doesn't need to give a reason, he writes for the Times and that should be enough.
Over in the Independent the film receives two stars from Anthony Quinn mainly because it's "a film constantly in two minds, which, given that most blockbusters can barely muster evidence of one mind, must be considered a small achievement," and also because the filmmakers were sufficiently "bold...never to reveal the face behind V's mask, and bolder still to give him a long black wig like Cher".
Rather more importantly though (as far as we're concerned anyway) is the fact that "Director James McTeigue hasn't much of a feel for the texture of London, and sticks to disappointingly vague interior shots of offices, prison cells and domestic spaces." And there's a mention of a "shot of people watching television inside a "London pub" which is apparently "unintentionally hilarious, an update of Hogarth presumably intended to clue-in American audiences ignorant of our boozy culture. Such details are nugatory."
We'll wait for the DVD thanks.
And so on to Army in the Shadows, which sounds like an alternative title for V for Vendetta but is actually a 1969 war movie by Jean-Pierre Melville.
Would it be a surprise if we said that this film fairs a tad better with the broadsheet reviewers than V for Vendetta? No, thought not.
The first of Army of Shadows's five star reviews comes from Tony Quinn in the Independent. He loves it becasue it "grips tighter than a Gestapo handcuff." Kinky.
Obviously he's talking about the pacing and not any kind of weird S&M Stuff:
Melville relies less on action than a slow accumulation of suspense and a morbid concentration on the importance of security. The film shows us heroism, but heroism so muted and doom-laden that it seems closer to a shrugging acceptance of one's fate.
If you only know Melville's Samourai then, says Quinn says, you should go and see this as well as it is, "in its noirish compositions and fatalistic cool, at least its equal."
The second five stars comes courtesy of Andrew Pulver in the Guardian (how pissed off do you think Bradshaw was that he had to go see V for Vendetta and Pulver got to see this?).
Pulver also compares this film to Samourai, but he also mentions Le Circle Rouge another of Melville's films which contains "stately codes of loyalty, sacrifice and honour."
In his summary, Pulver calls this "a work of moving ideological commitment as well as beautifully detailed orchestration," and it doesn't get any better than that.
In fact, over in The Times, it gets slightly worse, with a four star review from Wendy Ide (a better reviewer than James Christopher for our money). Ide loves the colouring on this restored print: "Melville shot the film in colour, but the twilight world depicted is practically monochrome, a forbidding, looming palette of blue-greys and blacks, pierced by spotlights and car headlights," and she also mentions the central performance by Lino Ventura:
If the responsibility of bringing some of France’s most lauded fighters to the screen was a weighty one, it doesn’t show in the brilliantly understated performance that Ventura delivers.
Finally this week let's take a quick look at another reissue: The Double Life of Veronique (if only so we can have the 'who's more beautiful: Irène Jacob or Natalie Portman?' argument).
The film gets its worst mark in the Times where Wendy Ide gives it a middling three stars. She likes "Irène Jacob’s luminous presence" too and she also praises the score, but, for Ide, the plot doesn't stand up: "what once seemed hauntingly poetic and loaded with significance now feels like a film constructed around a lazy device, a series of coincidences strung together to give the illusion of portent. Perhaps it was always thus."
The Double Life of Véronique moves up a notch to four stars in the Independent where Anthony Quinn is also having problems with the narrative: "well-nigh impossible to decipher, and you suspect that's just the way Kieslowski wanted it". However he feels that Jacob's performance and the film's cinematography give the audience "the curious but not unpleasing sense of being simultaneously baffled and exhilarated."
The film gets its maximum five stars with Peter Bradshaw's review in the Guardian where the appeal of the leading lady is laid out plain and simple: "sheer, heart-stopping beauty".
The essence of the film, as Bradshaw sees it, is "a brilliant meditation on choices and alternative lives, on the presence of death which forces these choices on us, and on the terrible demands which art can make - if we choose to let it." and then he gets a bit hippy on us:
perhaps we would all fully appreciate the central astonishing fact of our own existence only if a cosmic twin were to be revealed before us, as if projected from the surface of a divine mirror
Bradders does admit, however, to "wondering if Kieslowski quite worked out or worked through all the implications of his story," so probably best to give this one a miss if ambiguous plot lines get on your wick.
In film news this week:
Full marks for excellent casting: Benicio Del Toro was practically born to play The Wolf Man.
Julia Roberts is set to star in a film about a London-based couple who have an autistic child.
It looks like Kanye West will be the latest hip-hop star to get a film 'based on his life'.
George Clooney is getting all het up about blogging (actually we might start posting excerpts from Clooney's interviews and claiming he's writing for us, can't hurt).
Trailer of the week: Kurt Russell gets all damp in Poseidon.