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Showing posts from May, 2013

My arrogance, sir, extends just as far as my conscience demands.

Chariots of Fire (1981) The problem with Chariot of Fire , a slight but likeable tale of overcoming hurdles (ahem) in order to bask in glory (your classic sports movie, basically), is not the film itself but its success. Garlanded with Oscars and hexed by the pronouncement “ The British are coming! ” (surely one of the most ill-advised acceptance speeches ever, perhaps topped by “ I’m king of the world! ”), Chariots became forever entwined with the Conservative nostalgia of Thatcher’s Britain. The juxtaposition of Vangelis’ sublime electronica with post-WWI period trappings was undeniably effective and evocative, but it lent itself all-too easily to artificially bolstered national pride and “British is best” sentiments. Indeed, while the film makes some counterarguments against the arrogance of public school Englishness and unfiltered patriotism, ultimately these defer to rose-tinted imagery of a triumphant island nation. Colin Welland appropriated his title

This is where I belong. As a giant girl’s baby doll.

Gulliver’s Travels (2010) A godawful nightmare adaptation of Jonathan Swift’s classic satire, Rob Letterman’s film is so limited in its resemblance to the novel I’m surprised they even carried the full title. Gulliver , or a more distancing Lemuel , would be the kind of dumb thinking a studio like Fox could be expected to embrace wholeheartedly. And, with Jack Black lending his particular brand of coarse tastelessness to the title character, you’d have expected him to rechristen the character as the more musically resonant “Lemmy”. The movie flopped in the States, which suggests audiences occasionally can see a turkey coming. Strangely, it did quite well internationally (not enough to make up for its out-of-control budget – who makes a $100m+ movie and has Black star in it?). Either there are a lot of Swift fans out there, or… No, I’m at a loss, actually. There’s no satire in here, needless to say and zero attempt to even try anything approaching wi

The play's the thing, wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.

Hamlet (1990) Hamlet was no vanity project for a movie star itching to be taken seriously. Mel was taken seriously anyway, even if he had a penchant for broad action cinema (a Mad Max trilogy, two Lethal Weapon s and counting). It was Franco Zeffirelli who seized on the idea of casting him, having been impressed by his mentalist (under Alan Partridge’s definition of the word) posturing as Martin Riggs. Gibson’s only previous access to Shakespeare was an all-male stage performance of Romeo and Juliet (as Juliet) so it’s unlikely he would ever have reached later life with an Uncle Montyesque pang of unfulfilled dreams; that he had “ never played the Dane ”. All of which makes the accomplishment of his performance more impressive. I’d go as far to say he is the only aspect of the film that really stands out; Zeffirelli’s film is a well-crafted but almost entirely pedestrian interpretation of the Bard’s (possibly) greatest work. The blame for which must come down

It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Macbeth (1948) Scores of Orson Welles biographies have been published, dutifully documenting the difficulties his directorial career endured following his stratospheric debut. Studio interference marred efforts from his sophomore outing onwards, and financing problems often prevented him from satisfactorily rendering his visions – or sabotaged them before he had even begun. Welles had famously staged a “voodoo” version of Macbeth for the Mercury Theatre and here he returned to the play for his first feature adaptation of Shakespeare.  The finished film is a curiosity rather than a daring success. The highly stylised presentation is never less than interesting, but the speedy production lends it a ramshackle quality further emphasised by some variable performances (the approximation of Scottish accents is atrocious at best).

There is no more mercy in him than there is milk in a male tiger.

Coriolanus (2011) I’ll readily admit that I don’t know my Coriolanus from my elbow but I suspect I have a glimmer of why it is one of Shakespeare’s less-staged tragedies. As proficiently mounted as Ralph Fiennes adaptation is,  the problem could be down to the title character himself. On some level we need to be able to empathise with Coriolanus (played by Fiennes) in order to be involved with the fate he drives himself towards but, unlike certain of the Bard’s better-known tragic heroes, we are allowed little insight into his psyche. He’s a born and bred warmonger, with no sympathy for the masses (they only deserve grain if they’ve fought for their country) and a level of bravery that borders on sheer bloodthirstiness. His disinterest in courting public approval might be seen as a better side to his nature (an unwillingness to prostitute his beliefs to curry favour) but it could just reflect a prideful temperament; he considers himself better than those he wo