Monthly Archives: March 2010

A Week In Film #072: War

Tuntematon Sotilas (1985)
Rauni Mollberg’s 1985 colour updating of the Väinö Linna novel about Finland’s Continuation War with the Soviet Union, which proves somewhat more dour than Edvin Laine’s popular 1955 version.

Whilst many of the scenes appear to have been recreated from the earlier film virtually shot-by-shot (for example, the snowy ambush, the closing battle scene), there are some interesting divergences in the characterisation, notably making stalwart citizen-soldier Rokka less of a jester and more world-weary. I’m not sure if it’s better, but it’s definitely worth watching for comparison with its forebear.

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A Week In Film #071: Back on track (definitely, maybe)

eXistenZ
I’d not seen this David Cronenberg number before, but the LLF rated it, so I gave it a spin, and was pleasantly surprised, despite those horror-inducing words ‘Starring Jude Law’.

All the Cronenberg elements are there – of-the-hour scientific stuff (virtual reality) meets body shock (spinal taps), long, meandering talky bits, inability to shoot wide convincingly – and it does seem to pull together. Nice, effective brick wall shock ending, no faffing.

Face
Antonia Bird and Robert Carlyle do well with meagre material hung on an interesting idea: a socialist-turned-robber rediscovers his roots after a double-cross. Written by Ronan Bennett, who did stir for Irish republican stuff IIRC, and he wrote that duff GM drama with Rusbridger too.

Damon Albarn’s first (and hopefully last) film role, there’s also Philip Davis, Peter Vaughan, Stephen Waddington and (naturally) Ray Winstone, and Stephen Waddington; Lena Headey (her from the Sarah Connor Chronicles) and Sue Johnstone provide some much needed respite from macho cockney posturing as Carlyle’s conscious girlfriend and mum.

Silly, contrived, implausible – but still I enjoy it. It’s a film that isn’t shy about what it thinks of the police (Gerry Conlon from the Guildford Four plays a low level dealer who’s scared shitless of the ersatz cops turning over his flat is something of a clue).

Rukajärven Tie
A Finnish film about the Continuation War, which saw them trying to reverse the territorial gains made by the Soviets in Karelia following the Winter War (which inspired the hypnotically grim Talvisota, a film like this based on an Antti Tuuri novel).

It’s a lone patrol movie, with a diverse platoon of soldiers sent on a mission to probe the Russians’ forward positions. A little hackneyed, not as powerful as Talvisota, but with some diverting moments. Of greatest interest was the wide range of period-accurate weapons on display.

The Departed
Scorsese’s studio contract-fulfilling remake of HK thriller Infernal Affairs, with Matt Damon and Leonardo Di Caprio as cop/crook hybrids duelling in the dark of the thick criminal Irish Boston undergrowth. Jack Nicholson plays the venal mob boss, Martin Sheen the driven police chief.

Second time around it was a lot more enjoyable, with all the knowing dualism and slap-you-round-the-face symbolism, and the climactic bloodbath is pleasing for its refusal to leave you with a good guy standing at the end. But it is shamefully edited (in narrative terms), with no rhythm and little tension.

Tuntematon Sotilas
Another Finnish film about the Continuation War, this one is apparently the sort of thing that plays on the telly every Bank Holiday. It’s made in 1955, so quite close to the events it’s portraying. Very efficiently photographed, again with a socially/politically balanced unit of soldiers, who are sent to the front line just as war breaks out. Nothing outstanding, but worth a watch.

A Week In Film #069: Just a trim

Joy Division
I mistakenly described this to the LLF as being about ‘sex Nazis’. It’s not. It’s a confused effort mixing together the story of a young German boy conscripted into the army to defend the Fatherland against the Russian hordes at the end of the war, and the story of a Soviet spy infiltrated into Britain in the Swinging Sixties. Of course, it’s the same person – Ed Stoppard as the adult Thomas, Tom Schilling as Thomas the boy – but this is no Europa, Europa, and it’s simply not convincing. It’s two films bolted together.

A shame, because the fall of the Reich is pretty well done, and director Reg Traviss is clearly a history buff who has put a lot of detail into props and wardrobe for this section of the film. The Cold War spy part, though, just rings hollow, It’s staged across a much more confined space than the broader vistas of derelict cities and open countryside packed with marauding Reds and exhausted refugees; it looks and feels like the set of a holodeck episode of Star Trek, or a timetravelling TV drama like Life On Mars.

Top marks for trying, though – and for giving work to Michelle Gayle!

A Week In Film #068: Spies

Quantum Of Solace
I know that this didn’t get the props that Casino Royale got, but I think it works well, developing the theme of Bond’s shift from efficient but cocky trainee shitkicker towards a totally amoral, ruthless assassin. Bond hunts down the people behind Vesper’s death, and shines a light on a previously unknown, transnational terrorist group.

Action sequences like the opening car chase, the Port Au Prince bike pursuit, the fight in the Haitian hotel room, the Bolivian hotel evasion, and the La Paz bar assault are all excellent (and clearly influenced by the more gritty style seen in the Bourne films), though there is also plenty of old style Bond nonsense (drowning in oil, the eco-hotel finale, the aeroplane escape) to balance things out. Smoothly directed by Marc Forster. Daniel Craig excellent. Judi Dench annoying (still).