This week's films share the common theme of having pissed off the leaders of the countries in which they were made. Offside has been banned in Iran (well, what hasn't been?) and Secuestro Express has but a bee in the bonnet of everyone's favourite smiling authoritarian leader, Hugo Chavez. We can't confirm whether RV has annoyed GW but judging by the reviews, it's not very good. Mind you, we don't suppose GW's favourite films are really up to much. Hopefully he'll choke on a pretzel while laughing at Robin Williams finding a racoon in the oven.
First up, Offside. It seems that the only film worth watching this week is a film about football. Is nowhere safe?
Peter Bradshaw gives the film, a football comedy by Iranian director Jafar Panahi, a whopping five stars.
It is a likeable, gentle and charming film about young women football fanatics, disguised as boys, doing their darnedest to defy the all-male rule and get in to see the Iran v Bahrain qualifying international for the 2006 World Cup.
(Iranian law prohibits women from entering sports stadia, for fear of them being contaminated by the rough male atmosphere and swearing.) The quality of this film came as a surprise to him,
In recent years, I have fallen out of love with the obscurantist, miserablist tendency in Iranian cinema
Us too Petey, us too. But fear not, reader! In contrast to the obscurantist, miserablist tendency we've all come to expect from Iranian cinema (??), Bradshaw assures us that this film has an "energy and freshness" and gives is a "quietly intelligent and humorous alternative look at football, pop culture and the position of women."
Wendy Ide in the Times is less kind and gives it a still respectable three stars describing it as "certainly one of the more interesting of the footie films on offer", especially commending the "spirited female performances".
Anthony Quinn in the Independent also gives it three stars. He is glad, as many of you will be, that "Panahi's gently satirical comedy Offside doesn't actually show a ball being kicked; indeed, we only glimpse the field of play for a few seconds" You can enjoy this film even if you need the offside rule explaining to you. Offside makes "a good case for football not as a male preserve but as a bonding agent of national pride and togetherness. Yeah! Come on Iran! Unless of course they face England in which case you will crumble at the might of 'Roo' and 'Becks' ... or something.
So not a bad word written about it, and probably the best film out this week. Of course, Panahi's films have never been granted a release by the Iranian government so you can accord yourself the status of maverick, dissident pioneer of freedom of speech as you watch.
Next up, Secuestro Express.
This film has caused much controversy in it's native Venezuela where Chavez and co. have been doing their best to ban and discredit its portrayal of post-revolution Venezuela as much the same as pre-revolution Venezuela, in short, a lawless hellhole. It has been billed as this year's "City of God" but the reviews suggest that it's nowhere near as good.
Bradshaw gives it two stars, asserting that that "claims to seriousness on the film's behalf are, certainly, undermined by the way it gloatingly fetishises and sexualises the tokens of poverty in the slums of Caracas: the tattoos, the drugs, and of course the weaponry" which "leaves you with the feeling that for an hour and a half you have been taken hostage by a certificate-18 music video."
It all sounds very exciting. There is, "fast and furious camerawork and some terrific street scenes, shot in the guerrilla style" but "those flourishes are regrettably offset by the lingering suspicion that Jakubowicz can neither be fully and sexily callous in the Tarantino style, nor sober enough to attempt a thorough critique of Venezuelan poverty"
James Christopher in the Times also awards it only two stars. "It’s an ugly, brutal and thoroughly unilluminating ride." He concludes that,
The giddy sensation that the world can be turned upside down in a matter of seconds is vividly captured by the director. But the politics are desperately fudged, or desperately simplistic. The poor feel entirely justified in robbing and brutalising the rich; the rich feel slightly stupid for having been caught.
That's tough street justice.
Tim Robey in the Telegraph is less impressed by the camerawork, writing "the movie's fast-and-loose, digital-video camerawork isn't all that successful" and also that "the storytelling veers too close to exploitation for comfort." He concludes that the film is "dubious in all sorts of ways" but "never exactly dull."
We don't think it sounds too bad. Sure the politics are a bit dodgy, it's horribly brutal and the fetisization of guns if enough to make Operation Trident blush but it sounds pretty cool. Or perhaps we're just a bit too boyish.
Last. and most definately least is RV.
James Christopher, who gives the film two stars in the Times, writes,
The shallow satire is that we are all so plugged into our BlackBerries, laptops and iPods that we have forgotten how to commune. In short, the world would be a healthier place if we shacked up in gigantic motors that drank a gallon of petrol every four miles. Try explaining that to a penguin.
We'll try James.
Most of the criticism seems to be levied at Robin Williams. Anthony Quinn begins his two star review, "Oh, no. From the ranks of the comic undead rises Robin Williams, his crinkly smile and warm heart, alas, apparently inextinguishable." He does have a crinkly smile doesn't he?
Inexplicably, Bradders likes it. In his three star review he writes, "it's got such a happy, summery feeling that I couldn't help enjoying it." Is someone in love Peter? Who is it? C'mon... is it that Wendy Ide at the Times? Did you get on well at Cannes? Aww.
He writes "Just to show us he's still got the comedy chops, Williams busts out an improv spoof hip-hop speech to impress some kids" However, in the Telegraph this scene was described as "so embarrassing I felt my eyes trying to burrow back into their sockets."
It's just not going to be good is it?
Trailer of the week - The Wind That Shakes The Barley
Other films out this week - Election (Hak Se Wui) (Lethal rivalries emerge as a Hong Kong triad society prepares to elect a new boss) and I'm The Angel Of Death: Pusher III (The Serbian king of the Copenhagen underworld comes under threat from an Albanian gang)
If none of the films out this week tickle your fancy (which may well be the case), 'The Scoop', an amphitheatre next to the GLA building is showing free movies every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night at 9.15pm until the end of June. Tonight is Baz Luhrman's campo romp, Moulin Rouge! (but don't worry, the program does improve considerably!) For more information, visit their website here.
Lastly, some amusing film-related news, Heath Ledger was reduced to tears after being squirted with water at a film premiere. Heath's father, Kim Ledger claims that the incident resulted in his son immediately abandoning his homeland. "Heath had to go into the cinema and introduce that film soaking wet," Ledger told the Sydney Daily Telegraph. "He cried all night. He rang me and said, 'Dad, that's it. Sell the house'". A proportional reaction to a heinous and abominable crime I'm sure we'll all agree.