This week, we have a film about Irish Republicanism (The Wind That Shakes The Barley), a nonsensical thriller with Demi Moore (Half Light) and a movie about true-life legend of patriot fighter-hero, Huo Yuanjia (Fearless).
First up, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, a film that won director Ken Loach the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes film festival.
As discussed at the end of last week's Friday Film News, there has been a great deal of controversy about this film as it was attacked by right wing journalists, not least pig-faced Simon Heffer who although was yet to see the film wrote, "He hates this country, yet leeches off it, using public funds to make his repulsive films." We can't help feeling that this sort of attitude smacks of a dangerous unwilingness to face up to our past which, let's face it, isn't exactly the most admirable with respect to many places, least of all Ireland.
Anthony Quinn in the Independent begins his 3/5 review, "So Heffer's got the hump: could a movie ask for a more reliable commendation?" There are few more reliable commendations, it is true. Well.. there is always Peter Bradshaw. He awards it 3/5, writing, "It is not Loach's best film, but it is a fine and powerful drama, with relevant things to say about what happens when an occupying force withdraws"
This film obviously has an added relevance in today's climate, "Certainly, it is difficult to watch the torture scenes without thinking at least fleetingly of Guantànamo and Abu Ghraib" but the impression given is that this isn't too explicit. Quinn writes, "The memory of an imperialist power intruding upon the affairs of a country and then leaving it mired in civil war has obvious contemporary parallels, though Loach isn't inclined to press them."
Bradshaw concludes that "It is a finely made, finely acted piece of work. For this, and for his remarkable and uncompromising career, Loach deserves his golden palm."
James Christopher at the Times really likes this film, giving it 4/5 and writing that, "This is Loach at his creative and inflammatory best"
The controversy over this film has been about the portrayal of the British. Christopher writes "His view of the colonial Brits as greedy, swaggering sadists is unhindered by a single complimentary frame." while he "has a rose-tinted nostalgia for the Dad’s Army rebels who train for action in the peaty hills of Cork as if it was a Sunday ramble."
The Independent also picks up on this. Quinn writes that "Loach doesn't really see it in shades of grey: the Irish are, by and large, champions of truth and right, while the Brits are mostly foul-mouthed sadists."
Perhaps that is simply the consequence of a film-maker grappling to communicate enormously complicated historical forces within a framework that divides the world between good and evil: it's the Loach way, and it keeps forcing his artistic instincts into the headlock of propaganda. This tragedy of Ireland's lost future will stir the blood on both sides of the argument, and if it generates more heat than light then let's be grateful that Loach still wants to raise the argument at all.
Well said that man.
One of the uncontroversially positive aspects of this film seems to be it's cast. Christopher in the Times writes, "the real power of his film is rooted in the cast, who inhabit their roles with unsettling and understated conviction. Murphy is magnetic as a local hero. and Quinn describes the characters as "acted with such passion".
As a final note, the Respect party has endorsed the film and implores you to go and watch this on its first weekend of release so that the film will be distributed more widely.
So if you go, you may well get the pleasure of sitting next to Gorgeous George and hearing first hand as he screams "imperialist dogs!" and "your mother was a whore!" at the screen while thrusting up your middle finger up at Simon Heffer. Cracking.
Next up, Half Light.
We do love it when a film gets a drubbing from the critics. The reviews really speak for themselves. Demi Moore plays a novellist racked with guilt about the death of her son who moves to Scotland. Wendy Ide Times gives it one star,
Her tenuous grip on reality is further strained when it turns out that she may have been carrying on a flirtation with a man who has been dead for seven years. Angus (Hans Matheson), the hunky local lighthouse-keeper, seemed flesh and blood when she lay in his arms listening to his favourite bit of Gaelic folk music, but as Angus perceptively observes: “Loneliness can make you go a little crazy.”
They always seem flesh and blood when you lie in their arms listening to their favourite bit of Gaelic folk music, but they never call the next day, do they?
Bradshaw also deals it a one star review, writing "For "light" read "wit"".
Someone's been copying someone else's homework again - Quinn in the Independent concludes his two star review, "Almost enjoyable in its clumsiness - Half Wit would have been a truer title." He also dubs it "preposterous junk", a quote that we doubt they'll be putting on the posters.
Last, but not least, Fearless.
Anthony Quinn writes in the his two star review in the Independent that, "This, according to its star Jet Li, will be the last martial arts movie he ever makes, and if we could get that in writing I'd feel a whole lot happier" which isn't very nice.
Bradshaw is kinder, giving it three stars, "robustly made, brash, sentimental and entertaining picture set in early 20th-century China and based on the true-life legend of patriot fighter-hero Huo Yuanjia."
We've never really got into the whole kung fu thing and truth be told, we'd never heard of "true-life legend of patriot fighter-hero Huo Yuanjia". James Christoper in the Times, giving it two stars, writes "Fearless is strictly for kung fu addicts, hopeless sentimentalists and officials in the Chinese Government."
Are you a hopelessly sentimental Chinese government official addicted to kung fu? What are you doing reading this? Get to your nearest cinema!
Trailer of the week - Borat - the movie. "She is my sister, she is number four prostitute in all of Kazahkstan"
Other films out this week - Aquamarine (Two teenage girls discover a mermaid in their local pool - I guess that's better than the usual old floating elastoplast), Pretty Persuasion (An indignant teenage girl wreaks revenge on her drama teacher by accusing him of sexual harrassment - what a palava), The Lake House (A lonely doctor and an architect fall in love, despite living in parallel time frames, two years apart - eh?), Ultraviolet (In a war between vampires and humans, one woman must protect a young boy who has been marked for assassination - why can vampires and humans never live in harmony?)
Bored? Try out this London movie location quiz. We got 4/10. Rubbish. How many did you get? Anyone who gets all 10 (be honest!), we'll send a picture of Sandra Bullock.
'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 Nine Queens and next week Dr. Strangelove and Cabaret are being shown on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. For more information, visit their website here.