cinematographique

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Page Eight

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Very hush-hush. The world of secret intelligence is one of private encounters behind closed doors: very hush-hush. There is something inherently dramaturgical about such scenarios, whose language games unfold in the absence of extras and their entire hubbub. This works to David Hare’s advantage: prolific he may be, at a writing desk, but his directorial prowess is oft maligned. Here, that singular theatrical flair produces character-driven drama, whose plot is intimate to the protagonist, propelled by his discoveries and self-reinventions. Don’t expect pretensions to international espionage intrigue, or the genre conventions of conspiracy thrillers. Page Eight is really about the climacteric of one senior officer’s life and the changing constitution of our security services.

Page Eight

Catch my review from EIFF 2011 at The Ooh Tray.

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Written by James P. Campbell

26/06/2011 at 12:56

Perfect Sense

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Not just a bad pun? Perfect Sense presents itself as a major event at the festival, reuniting director David MacKenzie and star Ewan McGregor – last seen together in the former’s dazzling debut Young Adam, which premiered at Edinburgh in 2003. It rapidly became apparent this is a smaller film, if not in ambition then certainly in accomplishment – a footnote to the otherwise inexorable upward trajectory of both men’s careers.

Perfect Sense

Catch my review from EIFF 2011 at The Ooh Tray.

Written by James P. Campbell

26/06/2011 at 12:52

Phase 7

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Coco (Daniel Hendler) and Pipi (Jazmin Stuart) are not, despite their names, a pair of Argentinean glove puppets. Rather, they are a young couple living a somnambulistic existence in their new-build city-centre apartment. Phase 7 at first appears to be a peculiarly lifelike domestic sitcom, whose tone rapidly establishes this couple as believable and sympathetic protagonists. But wait, isn’t this supposed to be another post-apocalyptic shoot-out? It’s certainly described as such in the press notes.

Phase 7

Catch my review from EIFF 2011 at The Ooh Tray.

Written by James P. Campbell

26/06/2011 at 12:49

Bobby Fischer Against The World

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The decline of Bobby Fischer, one time chess world champion, is a sad tale to tell. And so it is to the credit of director Liz Garbus that her biography of the late great delights primarily in his earlier years, without refusing to flinch from the wretchedness to come. We witness the course of his career, from first finding his obsession at age six, through to winning the world title from Soviet Boris Spassky in 1972 (an event of such gravity that it dominated global sports coverage for weeks, before making Fischer the best-selling chess writer of all time), his recession from view and final re-emergence in the grip of madness.

Bobby Fischer

Catch my review from EIFF 2011 at The Ooh Tray.

Written by James P. Campbell

26/06/2011 at 12:37

The Runaways

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“I don’t give a damn ’bout my bad reputation”. Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) are provocative teenage girls in misogynist times. Both want to challenge gender norms, and idolise musicians who dispute the status quo.

Cherie introduces herself, after a menstrual mishap, with a high school talent show performance as David Bowie – an arresting and elegant routine concluded, amid jeers, with Fanning flipping the bird. Surely part of the objective in casting Dakota Fanning was to articulate the gradual corruption of her character: the progression from a famously recognisable face of innocence and purity to something crippled and despoiled is seamless; the joint is sewn up in several dreamlike scenes of performance and indulgence, sexual and narcotic. It is through musical performance that her self-assertion and, sadly, sexual commodification are fertilised. Her implicit corruptibility precipitates a spiral of self-destructive behaviours that lead ultimately to the band’s disintegration.

Runaways

Catch my review from EIFF 2010 at The Ooh Tray.

Written by James P. Campbell

26/06/2011 at 12:00

Black Dynamite ****

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Black Dynamite is my favourite kind of guilty pleasure. It is a perfect comedy, but its humour doesn’t turn on situational drama. Instead, it is joke driven, but those jokes are highly witty and expertly crafted homages to the whole gamut of Blaxploitation film. It has a mad brilliance which is wholly substantive. I would do Scott Sanders (aka DJ Suckapunch), Michael Jai White and Byron Minns a disservice to try capture its essence in a short review, particularly as I am so poorly versed in its source material. Take a peek at the youtube trailer instead (although be warned, it contains most of the best material). Not only does Black Dynamite put to shame Tarantino and other fanboys who have tried to resuscitate forgotten genres, but also leaves mainstream multiplex comedies of 2009 with significantly higher budgets trailing in its dust. I would pay for friends of mine to see Black Dynamite, and I look forward to seeing it with them. Let’s just hope that more of this sort of thing reaches a wider audience in the near future.

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Written by James P. Campbell

12/08/2010 at 15:10

Jackboots on Whitehall

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Jackboots on Whitehall posterThere are (at most) three jokes in Jackboots on Whitehall. That’s a rate of one every thirty-one minutes. None of them are funny.

Any attempt at a synopsis would appear much more enticing than the film itself – to avoid responsibility for any inflated expectations, I will just direct you to the trailer (which, as usual, reveals many of the ‘best’ bits).

It’s a script that sounds like one of two things. First, the catastrophic self-conscious abortion of a writer whose concept has unexpectedly secured funding, but who discovers too late that he can deliver neither character nor humour. Second, the vanity project of spoilt pseudo-aristocratic rugger buggers suffering from brain damage (was it the scrum or the lash, lads?) whose sole inspiration comes from reruns on Dave viewed through a groggy film of chunder.

Not one quip turns on something out of history – the complete absence of satire betrays the film’s unintentional historical illiteracy. It is not an irreverent film – it’s simply an ignorant one. Even if it is an attempt to pastiche pop-culture manipulation and mythologisation of the period, it fails to do so with more than half a brain cell.

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Written by James P. Campbell

22/06/2010 at 00:16