Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

It is said that one of the indicators of a great director is that when you see a section of a film they’ve made, in isolation, you can tell who has made it. That their style is a fingerprint that easily identifies them. One director who fits into this category is Wes Anderson. His incredible attention to detail is apparent in all of his films. He explains purpose and relationship and beautifully gives you the context of the story he’s telling. Rather like a novelist setting the scene before the protagonists begin.
This is the case with Moonrise Kingdom, to an extent. We are shown an island off the east coast of America; we are also shown a house and it’s habitants of two parents and their sons and daughters. In the house they play Benjamin Britten’s Young Persons’ Guide to the Orchestra. This shows us how important different elements are in making up a whole, and that those instruments, however seemingly insignificant so of them may seem have their part to play in the prosecution and the outcome of the piece.
Suzy is the girl living with her parents and brothers. She’s thirteen and spends her time reading novels and observing life through binoculars. She meets up with Sam in a field and they go off together to elope, and therefore go missing. He is a Khaki Scout who has resigned his place and no longer wishes to return home, as he is living in a foster home and doesn’t get on so well there. Unconventional family units are another of Anderson’s motifs. Whether there is a portrayal of adopted children or there are families that just don’t get along at all, to the point where they falling apart.
Anderson’s characters are often square pegs in round holes. In this film all the characters seem to be individuals in group settings. For instance most of the Khaki Scouts seem to get along in the pack, but Sam is apart from the rest, he learns their skills but does not feel himself to be an integral member of the group. All of the scouts as well have differing uniforms; they’re like a scouting version of Kelly’s Heroes. The members of Suzy’s family all seem to exist as individuals as well. Her parents do not necessary always act in concert.
Another characteristic of Anderson is the apparent overcomplication in descriptions and depictions. It’s rather joyous to see Sam walk through all of the rooms seeing all of the cast members of Noye’s Fludde, all those people dressed up in their costumes, before he met Suzy for the first time. The cast certainly outnumbered the audience. There are often outrageous overreactions to events and behaviour that verges on being unsafe and unwise. The Police officer requisitions a number of well armed Khaki Scouts into his search party to find the eloped couple, for instance.
Also as along with his other films children are again depicted as being far more complicated and worldly wise than the bickering and petty adults. Sam and Suzy act in a very urbane manner as they discuss life in general, books and art. Suzy’s parents seem to take part in a succession of one-upmanship exercises, the Scout leaders seem far more interested in their own situation and position than anything else and Sam’s foster parents only have their own interests at heart.
This is a lovingly made, intricate film by a filmmaker who has built a reputation for ideosyncracy which is well deserved, and he continues to build on that. What I like about this film is that he has created ridiculous, almost surreal situations, but they are executed in such a way that the audience is always engaged. That's drama I suppose.

Nostalgia For The Light

A documentary that on the face of it seems to be about the Atacama Desert in Chile and the astronomy that takes place there and that has gone on there for a number of years. The point though is made at the beginning about how peaceful Chile is and how nothing goes on there, except when it seemed like it was the centre of the earth. The same could be said of the desert.

Nothing has happened really in Chile except for General Pinochet and his followers generally eliminating the opposition. They all disappeared a number it seems to the Atacama Desert. There are women who dig in the desert looking for their loved ones, some are found, and sometimes it’s the scantest of remains that are discovered. These include skull fragments and foot bones in a shoe.

One of the most arresting sequences of the film is when we are shown a wall of photos of the disappeared. Their pictures are fading and degrading with time as those who them personally and miss them are also fading away and dying. The hope though is that new generations will be told stories of the missing so that in a way they will live on.

This documentary often floors you with its honesty and bravery. The indomitable spirit of those who want to find and honour their loved ones puts so much of modern western life into perspective and makes you think about what’s valuable and what’s important.

Monday, 30 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

As with every other Batman film, and most other costume hero stories, identity plays a major part in this film. But then identity and the concealment of identity has been a theme ever since people started telling stories. Bruce Wayne is for ever trying to conceal his identity, whilst trying to expose the villain he’s fighting against. I often get the impression that Batman is as well fighting his alter-ego. Perhaps Batman is really Tyler Durden. In this film the villain is a man in a black mask by the name of Bane. I did think at one point that Bruce Wayne can be shortened to Bane.

This is not really uncharted territory for Christopher Nolan either. This film is of course being the third of his Batman trilogy and the latest in a long line of psychological dramas; a list that stretches back to films such as Following and Memento. He’s discussed identity before in films such as the Prestige. He’s a man that is clearly fascinated by the human psyche and the effect that it can have on individuals and those around it.

Anyway, the aforementioned Bane wishes to destroy Gotham City as well as Batman and Bruce Wayne. He wants to do this though psychologically as well as physically. I wonder if Bane had seen Clockwise, because he talks of using hope as a weapon against the people of Gotham. It was at times like these that I was reminded of the Doctor Who stories The Sound of Drums and the Last of the Time Lords.

I was very pleased to see that Gary Oldman’s role is meatier and is so integral to the story. It’s curious, though, to see him as another character wearing large glasses. Another highlight was Cillian Murphy’s role in the film. With his appearance I can see that his involvement in the trilogy will engender at least one pub quiz question.

So we have another era coming to an end. Christopher Nolan will not return to characters, apparently. Although there could be a sequel of some form in the future featuring a male or a female character from this or the other films. I was left feeling though that I was glad that the series had finished. The series reached its peak with the second film and to me the first and third seemed very similar. I think it’s a bit of a shame that the same characters are rehashed again and again. That we develop new technology and the first thing we do is go back and reinvent the past. I for one won’t be looking forward to Batman beginning again in 2022.