Saturday, August 28, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
2009, Italy, directed by Matteo Garrone
Despite the rather different subject matter - the influence of the Camorra on life in the region around Naples, versus the state of the French education system - my first reaction to Gomorra reminded me of how I felt after watching Laurent Cantet's Entre les murs. Both films work hard to present an apparently "realistic" view of their chosen subjects, through a series of interlinked anecdotes, and both raise a degree - even a strong degree - of concern in the viewer about the situations depicted onscreen. The question that lingered for me, however, was what to do with this sense of outrage, that things are broken and need to be fixed. That's perhaps a question more important for people closer to the ground; perhaps notably, when I visited Naples this year there were DVD copies of the film everywhere, including in the sheaves of pirated disks outside the central rail station.
Sunday, August 08, 2010
2009, US, directed by Tony Scott
I haven't seen the original The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 for a while but if memory serves it showcases plenty of the grit of mid-1970s New York, just as this generally enjoyable updating has the slickness, and perhaps some of the more commercially antiseptic qualities, of the city's current incarnation. This is Tony Scott in relatively toned-down mode: he doesn't engage in nearly the same level of visual experimentation - particularly with changes of film stock and colour schemes - that have become his recent stock-in-trade. That said, his characteristic focus on atmospherically-lit sets is very much intact, as the aesthetics of the film's subway tunnels amply demonstrate - giant fans artfully creating shadows and blinking light effects, contrasted with the warmer lighting of the control room where Denzel Washington does his work.
As ever, Scott loses no time in plugging us into the action; that's perhaps his greatest strength as a storyteller, his ability to cut to the heart of the matter within a minute or two of the opening sequence. The storyline established, he has an exceptional ability to then hold the audience's attention as the plotting grows more outlandish, while still delivering the natural confrontations and resolutions that a film like this demands. Despite its generic qualities, the final shot is also nicely chosen, marking a return to the benign normality from which Washington's character has been so unexpectedly plucked.