This week - Sofia Coppola tells the story of the French queen, (Marie Antoinette), a tale from British ASBO land (The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael) and a family is torn apart by bigotted attitudes to immigration, (Gypo).
When writing this column, reading all of the reviews side by side, it becomes clear to us that some homework copying goes on. Either that or great minds (and let's be straight about this this - we are talking great minds) think alike.
Anthony at the Independent (2/5) writes that Marie Antoinette is
an experience so rich and cloying that by the end you may feel that you've just cleared the whole pudding trolley.
Wendy Ide at the Times (3/5) writes,
Let them eat cake? Watching Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette is like devouring a patisserie.
Bradshaw is more of a free thinking chap and does not make a reference to Antoinette's favourite phrase. We can forgive Quinn and Ide though, apparently Miss Coppola lays on the cake imagery quite thickly. Quinn writes,
At one point, someone whispers of the teenage princess that she looks "like a little piece of cake", and in case we don't pick up the motif, there are frequent shots of fruit tarts and various fancies arranged in tableaux of glazed abundance.
All of the reviewers also make a feature of the music which they all describe as "anachronistic". It most certainly is, featuring the likes of Bow Wow Wow, Adam and The Ants, New Order and Siouxsie and the Banshees. It sent Quinn "right back to an age of school discos circa 1979-81. It was good to hear them again, but I'm not sure that the images and music make a good fit." and Bradshaw writes, "What a curious soundtrack album this is going to make."
The main problem for Quinn is the storytelling,
She [Copolla] likes to establish a sense of place, be it a sleek Tokyo hotel or a French pleasure palace, and then hang around to see what happens next. The problem here is that nothing happens next.
Bradshaw also picks up on the comparisons with Lost in Translation, writing,
Lost in Translation was about a beautiful, intelligent young woman, locked in an unsatisfactory marriage, who finds herself disorientated in a foreign country. Marie Antoinette is about ... well, much the same thing.
He applauds the "dazzling visual tableaux" but there are problems with the characters.
Ide writes, "most disappointing is the dialogue" and the direction of the actors seems a bit lacklustre,
Coppola makes no attempt to age her actors, despite the fact that Marie was in her thirties by the time her tenure at Versailles ended... She permits her cast to work in whatever accent suits them — Dunst keeps her American drawl, but the Australian actress Rose Byrne (Marie’s partner in crime, the Duchesse de Polignac) plays it for laughs with an aristocratic British bray. The style is closer to a teen movie than a conventional historical drama; the atmosphere is a sugar-rush of giggly excitement.
The result however is forced and faintly ridiculous. The doomed queen is as fluffy as a meringue, and, watchable as it is, so is the film.
Next up, The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael
A British film! Wonderful! Best of British and all that. Oh dear, it's rubbish.
Quinn gives this three stars but we're not sure why.
The film, from writer-director Thomas Clay, is a "grim bulletin from Asbo Britain that turns horrifically nasty." This film sets out to shock and will be "remembered for two rape sequences, one off-screen, the other very harrowingly on." Quinn also describes it as "a horrible film to sit through, but that may not stop you looking out for Clay's name in future."
Probably not first date material then.
Bradshaw gives it a less kind two stars calling it a "deeply horrible and objectionable film" although,
No one could deny the technical promise of the 27-year-old British film-maker Thomas Clay, who as director, co-writer and sound designer for his debut feature has made what is undoubtedly a formally accomplished film.
There is much praise also for cinematographer, Yorgos Arvanitis. Wonderfully shot but really horrible.. hmmm. Horrible films really need to have a purpose, the violence needs to have a reason and a justification, if it doesn't you may as well watch tramps fighting on youtube. Bradshaw isn't convinced that the violence is justified,
Critics have cited Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange: but perhaps it should be remembered that Kubrick's movie is also concerned with the effects and aftermath of violence. Nothing appears to interest Thomas Clay less than this.
This left Bradshaw with "a nasty taste in the mouth".
Ide gives it only one star. She too is displeased by the shocking scenes of gang rape and violence but finds other faults too. The director "is incapable of getting a decent performance from his cast." The acting is "laughably dire" and the characters are not convincing, "given the unconvincing vernacular, lack of character development and an apparent ignorance of the fundamentals of recreational drug use".
Last up, Gypo. In this film, the same story is told three times, from the point of view of a put-upon mother, her bigot of a husband and the young Czech refugee whose presence causes the family to fragment.
Ide gives this two stars, citing, "clumsily contrived plot devices and a staggering naivety about immigration law".
Bradshaw gives it three stars. Aside from "a bit of shouty youth-theatre improv acting" there is,
A warm and generous performance from Pauline McLynn carries this minimalist Dogme movie by Jan Dunn: it's a performance that shows she's entitled to put behind her the days of being Father Ted's tea-fixated housekeeper.
Quinn (3/5) describes the 'Dogme 95' style that this shot is filmed in. It is a "code of film-making that outlaws props, artificial lighting, music and anything else that hints at forethought." Quinn doesn't make any comment on whether this works or not though. For him, the film threatens to pile up too much despair "yet the performances of McLynn, newcomer Sirene and Rula Lenska keep you on its side."
Other films out this week - Barnyard (A carefree party cow somehow becomes entrusted with the running of a farm when the farmer is away.), Gypo (The arrival of a Romany Czech refugee causes dangerous friction in a working-class family.), I Saw Ben Barka Get Killed (J'ai Vu Tuer Ben Barka) (Dramatised account of conspiracy surrounding the abduction of Moroccan militant leader Mehdi Ben Barka in 1965.), KZ (The residents of Mauthausen, Austria come to terms with its past as the site of a Nazi concentration camp.), The Last Kiss (A self-obsessed man who is about to turn 30 gets cold feet when his pregnant girlfriend suggests that they get married.)
Our pick of the London Film Festival this week -
The Bridge, The Golden Gate Bridge is the site of more suicides than anywhere else in the world. In 2004, first-time filmmaker Eric Steele set out to explore this phenomenon, setting up his cameras on every day of the year during daylight hours, observing people crossing the footbridge on their journeys from San Francisco to Marin County and back, and occasionally capturing them attempting to end their lives from it, filming 23 of the 24 people who died there in that year. A documentary about suicide, touching on wider issues of mental health.
Oct 23, 9pm, The ICA and Oct 25, 4.15pm, National Film Theatre.
Shut Up & Sing, A documentary about the Dixie Chicks' derogitory remarks about George Bush which were widely reported as 'unpatriotic', and sent the band into freefall.
Oct 25, 6.30pm, Odeon West End and Oct 26, 1.30pm, National Film Theatre
A Soap (En Soap) Transsexual Veronica is obsessed by daily soaps, and when Charlotte moves into the flat above him their lives begin to mirror the storylines of his favourite shows.
Oct 24, 9pm, National Film Theatre and Oct 25, 1pm, Odeon West End
Trailer of the week - Dreamgirls