Films seen January:

Silence (2016 – Martin Scorsese)

 

Written about, in a round-about kind of way, here:

https://asidesteps.com/2017/01/03/great-american-directors-martin-scorsese/#more-1019

 

Largest screen at the Greenwich Picturehouse.  Ticket cost £11.  A great start to the year.

 

 

Charley Varrick (1973 – Don Siegel)

 

Pulp Fiction (1994 – Quentin Tarantino)

 

I’m not sure behind the pairing of these two films in a double-bill, but I like both of them, and I haven’t watched Charley Varrick for about a decade.  There was a good forty minutes of the film where I began to doubt I had ever seen it, my memory repressing most of its mid-section.  It’s a greasy, burrowing, enjoyable heist of a movie, which satisfies those parts of me that enjoys the thrillers of Richard Stark, Ross Macdonald et. al.

It’s also a Don Siegel film from the seventies, so its sexual politics are completely queasy, and the audience loudly laughed at these scenes to show how ‘woke’ they were.  It’s always a risk seeing these films in public.

 

More people showed up for Pulp Fiction, including a top-knotted couple in front of me, one who danced in her chair and the other who leant so far back that his chair came out of its fittings and crushed my knees.  Pulp Fiction is good; its charms are immediate and I know I will never love it the way that I loved it when I was fifteen.  Tarantino has gone on to produce work with greater tension and a more subtle love of cinema, that this.  But it is a thrilling experience and great to see with a crowd.

 

Double-Bill on the downstairs screen at the Prince Charles Cinema.  Ticket cost £7.50!!!  35mm showing.

 

 

Manchester by the Sea (2016 – Kenneth Lonergan)

 

Which everyone else says is devastating and I say isn’t miserable enough.  I loved seeing a film that didn’t seek easy answers and presented trauma for what it is… something you can never recover from.  The utter devastation that hangs in the air of this film and the complete horror of having to revisit a life you had abandoned and repressed is a totally draining viewing experience.  It also presents teenagers for what they truly are; unknowable, strange creatures who perform in a way that seems alien to us.  Sexual harasser Casey Affleck is superb, but Michelle Williams destroys in her small moments on screen creating a person who is carrying as many ghosts with her as him.  We all knew she was this good when we watched her on Dawson’s Creek…

 

Small cinema, but decent sized screen, at Bluewater Showcase.  Ticket cost £11.25, but I was given a large number of vouchers for the cinema for Christmas, so technically, it was free…

 

 

La La Land (2016 – Damien Chazelle)

 

After that fucking opening number on the motorway I was ready to storm out.  ‘Bullshit,’ I thought, ‘Complete bullshit.’  But my inability to ever take a stand for anything I feel dominated, and so I settled down in my chair to endure the next two hours.

And it won me over.  For no truly radical reason – the faults of the film are there on the surface.  Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds can’t sing or dance with any great deal of proficiency.  Part of the problem is, along with the inevitable over-praise, that this is a film designed to be churned out rather than become prestigious.  It is a factory formula musicals, but the factories have closed, and no one wants to see even the one or two musicals that come out each year (except when we do and its Moulin Rouge or Mamma Mia…).  This film is meant to be everyday populist cinema in the way that those ruddy Marvel movies are sold to us.  So we lack the leading men and women who would be trained to carry off these films.  Stone, particularly seems to realise this, and works her hardest to charm the screen (flirting along to eighties cover bands by the pool) and add weight to moments that would be pedestrian otherwise (breaking up over dinner.)

But it’s a film about the paths not taken and the romantic dreams we have of those relationships that never reached fruition.  It’s a nostalgia we can only indulge in when we are young, so few are the moments of our lives.  But it would be dishonest to say that the film didn’t affect me deeply, and gave me a melancholia that hung over me for the rest of the weekend.

 

Large screen at Bluewater Showcase.  Ticket was £9.50/free.

 

 

Hacksaw Ridge (2016 – Mel Gibson)

 

Which is the cinematic equivalent of a Coldplay concert… shallow, occasionally amateurish, but ultimately able to push the right buttons.

I mean, I hate Andrew Garfield.  Hate.  Too earnest.  No charm.  Very ordinary.  And here I am having seen two films of his in a month.  In which I thought he was good.  Acting is important because wisdom is the recognition and understanding of another soul, and acting, along with literature, are one of the few synthetic things that can evoke that wisdom.  Garfield is beginning to display that quality of great actors – the ability to convince you of a person who is utterly unlike you.

A day later, and the memory of the music has faded and I can see the film for what it is.  It is an unsanctimonious, honest depiction of how war turns boys into murderers, and what it must take to mentally resist that indoctrination.  A far cry from the sanctimonious condemnation of Gibson, such is the lack of sympathy for those in recovery that inures our society.  Morals are easy when they’re held at a distance…

 

Medium-sized screen at Bluewater Showcase.  Ticket was £11.25/free.

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