Today's been a bit like the very old days at the Sydney Film Festival when a subscription ticket allowed you to attend any session, all day, every day. So far I've seen three films, starting at 10.00 this morning and am currently home for a rest, before returning for a 9.30pm session this evening. Thank goodness I live so close to the city centre.
Brief reviews from today, so far:
First, a British film, 'Four Lions'. A comedy. About terrorism. For me, the most interesting thing about this film is the question of whether you can make a comedy about terrorism, in which the four central terrorists and several other people (plus a sheep and a crow) are blown up. I think the director Chris Morris (who, by the way, gave one of the most self-indulgent introductions ever) fudged the whole issue of whether terrorism can be funny by making a film that has stupid people as the butt of its humour. Always an easy way out with comedy. There are some ironic, surprising points along the way - the depiction of a happy' normal' family (including a charming little boy) that accepts suicide bombing as a happy choice, and terrorists who are not fundamentalist Islamis. However, I'm not very good at comedy anyway and overall, I didn't like this film. But I guess it will do quite well at the box office. I'll give it 2 out of 5.
Secondly, a restored print of a classic Luciano Visconti film from 1954,'Senso'. This is a lush melodrama that pits the rich, married Contessa's love of a seductive and beautiful, but avaricious and faithless young man, against her loyalty to the movement for the unification of Italy. This is most enjoyable. Lush, sumptuous sets and costumes and what now looks like a great deal of over-acting. The budget must have been enormous, and the battle scenes in particular, with hundreds of extras, are superb. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to see the work of one of the greats of cinema - though I am glad we have moved to greater emotional subtlety in modern film-making. A 3 out of 5.
Thirdly, a Russian film, 'How I Ended This Summer'. I loved this film. Far too long, but mainly because maintaining suspense for more than 2 hours just exhausts the viewer. There are only two actors in this film - and the stark, isolated and life-threatening landscape. It's set in a weather monitoring station in the Arctic Circle, with an older man who prides himself on the hardiness with which he's survived the lonely and inhospitable conditions, and the dutifulness with which he's carried out the detailed but drearily repetitive work. There's a younger, technologically competent colleague who is monitoring the reliability of the technical equipment that will replace the routine monitoring. So already there's tension between the two which becomes unbearable when the young man is unable (unwilling? fearful? too cowardly?) to tell the older man the news of the accidental death of his wife and child. Some critics have said the motivation for the young man's actions are unclear, but I think that misses the point. For me the film is primarily about the disaster that can follow from even a momentary and minor lack of courage. There's so much more to be said about this film, but I'll spare you. For me, a 4.5 out of 5.
Back to the city for my final film of the day, so - that's all, folks!