Saturday, September 12, 2009

Broken Embraces

So, un film de Almodovar, yet again starring Penelope Cruz.  What's not to like?

Hmm... well, for once this is all a bit meh, to be honest.  Cruz is very good, don't get me wrong, and the film is very nice to look at, but it's all a bit staid, and left me with an overall feeling of "hang on, is that it?"  The whole plot is a bit sub-standard soap opera fare, but that doesn't have to be a problem - in the past Pedro has run with some pretty OTT plotlines, but directed with such vim and vigour that you end up with something not unlike Coronato Streeto, but on acid.  Dare I say that Alomodovar is getting a bit old, or bored?

Si, claro

-although of course it is always nice to pick up the odd Spanish phrase here and there, so I shan't complain too much.  But in my search to find foreign language films to recommend to older students, I'm afraid that this one's a nada.  (Call it a minor mission, or obsession of mine - to persuade a 6th year pupil that they can cope with reading the wee words at the bottom of the screen, and will emerge the richer for having been immersed in the joys of another culture.  Mind you, maybe I should just tell the boys that Penelope Cruz gets 'em out...)

How is la Mathematica?

Well, obviously there's less maths going on than in my other recent Spanish effort, Fermat's Room.  But it's interesting to note that this is yet another film (a la Time Traveler's Wife) full of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey backwards-and forwardsness, as we nip back and forth through time to unravel the secret of the main character's  doomed love-affair with PC.  So I guess you could play with negative numbers yet again... or maybe you could pose the question, which year should we take as the starting point (or Origin, if you will), for the movie?  If we take the earliest event as x=0, then we won't need to worry about negative numbers at all - the benefit of a change of axes, or rather axis, what with time being one-dimensional.  At least I think it is.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Inglourious Custards

Ah, dear old Quentin... what's to be done with you?

I know I'm really late to the party for this movie, and everyone else has said their bit a long time ago, but all the same, this is a bit of a mess of a movie. I enjoyed most of it, don't get me wrong, but I can't help but feel that somewhere inside all this self-indulgence there's a truly great movie trying to get out. Mind you, I feel the same way about The Beatles' White Album, yet these days people rave about it. Perhaps time will be kind to QT on this one.

The main problem is that there seem to be two competing movies for most of the film. On the one hand (and in the great opening scene) we have high tension and slow-burning drama, with Christopher Waltz putting in a movie-stealing performance as the evil Nazi Colonel Hans Landa, whose job it is to round up Jews in Nazi-occupied France. Meanwhile, elsewhere, Brad Pitt leads a band of renegade misfits and erstwhile custards (hey, this is a family blog), in the shape of crack Allied soldiers who somehow - Lord alone knows how - manage to rampage behind Nazi lines, killing Nazis (and scalping them) seemingly at will. Let it be noted that Brad is actually not too bad in this role, but it's a comic book performance, and I feared the worst as it became apparent that these two plotlines were headed for a crash in the last reel. Which film would win out?

Sad to say it's the doofus-brained OTT extravaganza which carries the day, at the expense of any semblance of reality. And with that goes any remaining nuance in Waltz's perfomance, which is the biggest crime - to see him acting down to Brad's level is a crying shame.

How is the maths?

Not much to report here, though weirdly at one point Waltz talks about a 999.999 chance in a million of survival... I think QT surely meant "in a thousand", yet Waltz seems to say "millionen" and not "tausend". Much more interesting however is to learn - by way of a crucial plot point - that Germans hold up a different combination of fingers to signify "three" than do we Brits. You learn something new every day.

Final kudos to Quentin, though, for having easily half of the film spoken in a foreign language - the idea of American audiences having to actually read subtitles is very, very appealing.