Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Jacques Tati: Pas Pour Moi

I decided recently that if I was any kind of film fan I should probably have a go on a bit of Jacques Tati, what with him being famous for making films and that. As luck would have it, the BFI have just released two of his best-loved films - Jour De Fête and Mon Oncle - on Blu-ray and DVD, so I gladly took receipt of a couple of screeners and spent half a day watching a tall Frenchman bimble about on a bike and getting into some "scrapes". It is now clear to me that I don't much care for Jacques Tati.

Jour De Fête (1949)
Jacques Tati bimbles his bicycle into a rural, chocolate-box French town on the day of their annual festival. He's the local postman but he gets involved in organising the festivities, with mildly amusing consequences which include people not getting their post and him getting drunk. The next day, spurred on by a newsreel about the efficiency of the US postal service, he decides to buck his ideas up and delivers both the post and a genuinely funny ten-minute sequence that's the highlight of the film.

While inarguably charming and mildly interesting in terms of its subtext - obsession with speed and efficiency is BAD - Jour De Fête is a little too gentle in its comedy. It's thirteen years since Chaplin tackled similar themes in Modern Times, with admittedly greater resources available than Tati, but also with far greater wit and invention.

What's historically interesting is that Tati shot Jour De Fête in black and white and colour simultaneously, although a full colour print was unavailable until 1995. Both versions are present on this release, but the colourisation process has left fine vertical lines all over large sections of the film. On the Blu-ray, they're visible enough on a large screen to be distracting, but on the lower-definition DVD they're less obtrusive. Bad Blu-ray.

Mon Oncle (1958)
Jacques Tati bimbles his bicycle into the lives of his rich, fat, awful sister and brother-in-law and takes TWO HOURS to make the point that their hi-tec house and push-button lives aren't as good as his humble, clumsy existence. There are more lovely scenes of rural French town squares where everyone has a fresh baguette under their arm, but they can't make up for the enormous stretches of the film where large amounts of nothing happen in punishingly long wide shots. Overlong and underfunny, Mon Oncle is destined to be one of those French things that I just don't get, like eating snails, closing everything down at lunchtime and failing to signpost towns properly.


And so endeth my brief flirtation with the work of Jacques Tati. I'd like to say it was fun while it lasted, but it wasn't so I can't. Jour De Fête and Mon Oncle were released in Dual Format editions from BFI on October 29th.

Friday, 26 October 2012

When The Incredible Suit Met James Bond: Episode Two In A Comically Unlikely Series Of Six

So there I was last Friday, minding my own business, wandering through London and daydreaming about the time I terrified Pierce Brosnan, when I received a mysterious tweet from the spectacularly-surnamed Dave Sztypuljak, of movie blogging titans HeyUGuys.
Well, two of my favourite things right now are Skyfall and checking my DMs, so I did as Dave suggested. The gist of the enormous chain of messages he'd sent (email, Dave, email) was that HeyUGuys had been invited to the Skyfall press junket, and would I like to attend on their behalf? It would involve spending an entire day at an obscenely fancy hotel on Park Lane interviewing Bond girls, the Bond film producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, Sam Mendes, Javier Bardem and Daniel Craig.

After I was picked up off the floor by some passing tourists I called Dave and told him that it seemed like an OK thing for me to do. I reckon I was fairly cool on the phone and definitely didn't cry, shake or ruin yet another pair of pants.
And so, three days later, I rocked up at the Dorchester ready to meet my second James Bond. This time, as opposed to The Brosnan Incident, he was expecting me. I had an appointment and everything. Also it would be a round table interview, meaning there would be ten more people in the room so if things got a bit hairy they could at least pull me off him.

Before I could get to D-Cragz, though, I had to meet the rest of the talent. And before I could meet the rest of the talent, I had to wait. And wait. And wait. So wait I did, in a room full of proper journalists, some of whom I overheard complaining about how Quantum Of Solace was three hours long. I resisted the urge to get the official BBFC running time of 105 minutes and 58 seconds up on my phone and jam it in their eye, and instead concentrated on trying to look like everyone else, i.e. professional and bored.

But then Lorraine Kelly breezed in, and I could faintly hear the plummy, excitable tones of Lizo Mzimba from the next room, and I realised that I was hopelessly out of my depth around such titans of celebrity interrogating. What if BBC London's Brenda Emmanus turned up as well? I'd have had to leg it before I was found out.

Before I had the chance to escape, however, my ten co-interviewers and I were called in to "do" Bérénice Marlohe, who plays Bond Totty #1 Sévérine in Skyfall. She was delightful, gorgeous and possibly mad - her description of her character as "a creature between a male, a female and an animal... and a dragon" left me baffled but enamoured. Also I managed to bag the seat next to her, and spent fifteen minutes with my left knee resting gently on her right knee. To be honest it could have been the table leg but if it was it was a very sexy table leg.

Next up were Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, two people almost directly responsible for the kind of person I am today, i.e. so obsessed with another man that I have more pictures of him in my house than I do of my wife. We had twenty minutes with Mike 'n' Barb, and it wasn't nearly enough. I could have spent all day interrogating them on Bond, and one day, when I find out their addresses and daily schedules, I will. On this occasion though, I got to press Barbara on Craig's as-yet-unofficially-confirmed comments that he'd signed on for two more Bond films. "At LEAST two more," she corrected me, placing a gentle hand on my arm. I'd managed to sit next to her too and was enjoying all the physical contact that this seating arrangement afforded.

Javier Bardem followed, and I ensured that I took my usual seat in case he wanted to cop a feel too. I mean come on, the man is biutiful. He was droll and slightly odd in an endearing, Spanish kind of way, and sure enough, while he was struggling to remember the word "audience", he gently brushed my hand in that slightly over-friendly way continental Europeans do. This was brilliant. At this rate I was going to be having full sex with Daniel Craig before the afternoon was out.

Naomie Harris, Skyfall's Eve, was also charming and stunning, but despite my proximity to her she did not molest me in any way. And while I did manage to squeeze in a couple of questions my concentration was failing because I knew that the next person to sit in her chair, just six inches away from me, would be James Bloody Bond.

And then, very suddenly, there he was. Daniel Craig burst into the room in surprisingly ebullient fashion, considering he apparently can't bear talking to the press. Immaculately decked out in a black suit, pale blue shirt, cream and black tie and an only slightly alarming puffed pocket square, he plonked himself down next to me and the interrogation began. He was in spectacular form, laughing and joking with the assembled hacks, but steadfastly refusing to stroke me no matter how close I subtly edged towards him. At one point I caught him eyeing the cuff of my shirt, no doubt wondering if the weave was that of a hand-tailored Turnbull & Asser, but the question was left unspoken. He was definitely checking me out though.
I asked him about how much he gets involved in the development of Bond's character behind the scenes, and hit him with my only vaguely-formed 'Trilogy Of Trust' hypothesis (upon which I'll expand in my BlogalongaBond post on Skyfall, if I've worked it out by then). Although his answers were unsurprising (they boiled down to "quite a lot" and "that's unintentional") they did give him the opportunity to fix me with those incredible sky-blue eyes which bored into my very soul, seeming to say "Pierce told me all about you. Ask me for a photo and I'll kick your face off."

At one point Daniel forgot who co-wrote Skyfall with Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, so I leapt to his rescue with a slightly high-pitched "John Logan!", for which he was grateful, and I took that to mean that we were now a team. It was me and him against the other ten journos. I proved myself again shortly thereafter when someone expressed surprise that Craig had kept his role in the Olympics opening ceremony a secret from so many for so long. "He's a secret agent!", I said, and turned to him expecting a high-five or a chest-bump or similar. Instead he muttered a mildly embarrassed "yeah, I'm not", and our formidable partnership ended as swiftly as it had begun.

Too few minutes later, Daniel Craig was whisked out of my life by an efficient PR-type and I was left delighted and awed. The encounter had been far less excruciating (though no less nerve-wracking) than The Brosnan Incident, and of the two Bond actors I've now met, Daniel Craig is far and away the one most likely to invite me round for a cocktail one day. All that was left was for me to chat to Sam Mendes (he talked a lot, which took FOREVER to transcribe) and float off down Park Lane to return to normal existence.

If you'd like to read the fruits of my labour, head over to HeyUGuys where all six interviews nestle snugly among exclusive new images from Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 and DVD reviews of shit like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.


Meanwhile, I am in the process of girding my loins for the next Bond to cross my path. I'm getting better at this, so by the time I meet Connery he'll be the nervous one and I'll be the one refusing a photo. Watch this space.

Further reading

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Bond Book Corner

The fiftieth anniversary of James Bond has resulted in the predictable tsunami of tie-in Blu-rays, CDs, aftershave, mugs, auctions at Christie's, interminable streams of blog posts (sorry), and books. In fact as far as the latter is concerned, there are an estimated TWELVE THOUSAND new Bond books on the virtual shelves of your local Amazon waiting to be bought. However, only two of them are published by companies savvy enough to know that flinging a free copy at The Incredible Suit is the best way to get a review, even if both of those books came out several weeks ago.

Catching Bullets
"First up", as I believe I am legally obliged to say, is this memoir of sorts from comedy writer Mark O'Connell. It's a nostalgia-laden love letter to the Bond series told via O'Connell's memories of each first viewing of the films on TV, video and at the cinema. Aware that a book-buying public may wonder why they should read what is effectively the story of a man watching some films, O'Connell hangs his memoirs on the fact that his grandfather was, for many years, Cubby Broccoli's chauffeur. This allows him to slip in a few insider details to spice up his book, and while that's what the publishers are hoping will make you choose it over the 11,999 other Bond books out there, its real selling point is the intricate detail with which O'Connell remembers the events surrounding his first experiences of each 007 adventure.

Being almost exactly the same age as O'Connell, and equally obsessed with the world's greatest secret agent (except possibly Dangermouse), I occasionally felt like he was recounting my own childhood rather than his. Tales of bolting down mid-'80s Christmas dinners in order to get into the lounge to watch Moonraker on ITV while recording it on VHS (and pausing during ad breaks to ensure uninterrupted future viewings) are uncannily familiar. But his book isn't just memories of a Bond-flavoured childhood; O'Connell also evaluates each film (in the order in which he saw them, uniquely) with wit, charm and the expertise that comes from eating, sleeping and breathing Bond for over thirty years. He even makes a good case for the defence of his favourite Bond film, A View To A Kill, which is no mean feat.

Catching Bullets is bound to be of far more interest to fully-fledged Bond geeks like me than anyone with just a passing interest in the films, and O'Connell's extensive use of often-tortuous metaphors (and an infuriating amount of wayward apostrophes) might easily get on some readers' wicks. Regardless though, it's a sweet, charming and occasionally hilarious trip down memory lane and a refreshing addition to the endless stream of officially-sanctioned collections of plot synopses and lists of gadgets that make up most Bond books.


All About Bond
Slightly higher up the price range is this inaccurately-named but admirably glossy collection of Bond-themed essays, illustrated exclusively with photographs by regular Bond snapper Terry O'Neill. It's a bit of an oddity, in that its contributors amount to a handful of writers, a few former Bond girls and legendary set designer Ken Adam, while O'Neill only gets a mention in the captions of his photos. Still, as photos go, these are glorious. Packed with candid shots of a shirtless, Diamonds Are Forever-era Sean Connery lounging around in Vegas, Roger Moore larking about with tailor Doug Hayward, George Lazenby relaxing with then-squeeze Jill St John and dozens of Bond girls in various states of undress, All About Bond boasts a boatload of behind-the-scenes Bond shots I've never seen before, which is a not inconsiderable achievement.

Sadly the words which accompany the pictures are less impressive. Recollections from actresses of their time spent lying underneath James Bond yield little that hasn't been heard before, although Britt Ekland's fond memories of her Wicker Man mammaries ("I was 4 months pregnant and had very nice big breasts") do raise a Moore-esque eyebrow. Meanwhile various other writers offer passable but entry-level contributions, some of which could have done with a more thorough proofing - one author recalls that "fourteen years later [than 1961], in 1975 after six official (and one unofficial) turns as 007, Connery decided to step down". A cursory knowledge of Bond history will tell you that Connery stepped down in 1971 (Moore had made two Bonds by '75) and his unofficial turn wasn't to occur until 1983. And when Joanna Lumley spells Blofeld as 'Blowfelt', it's enough to drive a pedant to distraction.

Still, as an addition to the straining coffee table of Bond paraphernalia, All About Bond is a delightful browse. And it's almost worth the asking price for the shot of Roger Moore on page 132, but I'll leave you to stumble upon that at your leisure.

Monday, 22 October 2012

LFF 2012 Reviewdump #4: Celeste And Jesse Forever, Song For Marion

Here's The Incredible Suit's final (and frankly redundant, now the festival's over) Reviewdump of the 2012 London Film Festival. It's a bit shorter than the others because I bailed out of The Pervert's Guide To Ideology half way through, having not understood a single word of the first hour. That doesn't mean it's bad, just that I'm a bit thick. Still, at least I'm neither of the lead characters in...


Celeste & Jesse Forever
Two minutes into Celeste & Jesse Forever, two characters are already being so unbearably kooky, driving and singing along to Lily Allen (movie shorthand for "Guys, you are not gonna BELIEVE how unconventional THESE GUYS' relationship is!!!!!") that you'd be forgiven for hoping they crash their car and die in a horrible accident which allows the real leads to be introduced. Sadly, that doesn't happen. In the next scene they're so punchably irritating that you assume it's all part of the film's plan, and that eventually they'll learn not to be so fucking annoying. Sadly, that doesn't happen either.

Instead, they wander blindly through ninety minutes of self-obsessed smuggery masquerading as rom-dram-com, oblivious to the total lack of audience identification caused by moaning about how terrible their privileged lives are while they tinker with yet another Apple product, hang out with pop stars and carry on with their careers as "Trend Forecaster" and "Unemployed but still living better than most people who work 9 to 5 every day".

Painfully hip and unbelievably misjudged, Celeste & Jesse Forever nestles in the LFF's new "Laugh" strand despite only having about one small chuckle. The festival's new head of exhibition Clare Stewart would have won immediate points if she'd relocated it to a new strand of its own and called it "Twats".


Unfinished Song
First things first: if you've ever had a mum, dad, husband, wife, child or grandchild, be warned. This film will make you cry. It will make tears gush from your face like you've been smuggling Niagara Falls inside your skull and your eyes have popped under the pressure of billions of gallons of water. And frankly that's a good thing, because although watching Unfinished Song is like squeezing yourself through an emotional mangle, it's not actually all that good.

Their Royal Highnesses Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave, as two thinly-drawn OAPz, work wonders with an occasionally clunky script. Stamp is grumpy, Redgrave is full of life despite nearing death: so far, so EastEnders. But with this kind of British movie royalty front and centre, any Prince Harrys in the rest of the film can be forgiven. Gemma Arterton, for example, just about manages to hold her own in a supporting role, but can't hope to match her co-stars when she's required to be more than a plot device; meanwhile we're expected to accept some faintly ridiculous narrative leaps for the sake of expediency which even King Terence can't make up for.

Still, if being drained of all the liquid in your body via your tear ducts is your idea of a good time, then Unfinished Song achieves that without mercy. It's just that, short of offering the chance to see two giants of the acting profession embarrass everyone else around them, it doesn't do much else.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Argo

If "advance buzz" is to be believed, Ben Affleck is going to have to use his Argo salary to invest in a massive cabinet in which to house all the awards inevitably heading his way come next year's annual months-long back-slapping season. And, to be fair, if Brian Blessed presents Baffles with the Just4Men award for Best Beard then I will gladly applaud, for that is some magnificent face fuzz. It's harder to see why Argo might win, say, a Best Picture Oscar though, because while it does what it does very well indeed, what it doesn't do is less obvious but more concerning.

To explain: Argo is a 1980-set thriller directed by and starring Baffles as a CIA agent who cooks up a plan to rescue six US embassy staff from certain death in Iran by pretending they're there to make a sci-fi film. Structurally it's almost flawless: the plot unfolds with the pace and style required to make political thrillers a viable option for an audience tempted towards the auditorium next door by James Bond. We're never in any doubt as to the seriousness of the characters' predicament, so that by the time the final-act execution of Baffles' bonkers plan rolls round, we're in for an undeniably tense half hour.

So as an exercise in audience manipulation, Argo is slick and canny. Baffles knows exactly how far to turn the tension crank and when to lay off it. What his screenwriter Chris Terrio hasn't done, though, is imbue the rescuer or the rescuees with much in the way of personality, so while we're hoping they succeed, it's because we care more about the plan than the characters. There are only six of them, yet by the end of the film they're still virtually indistinguishable from each other. There's no conflict between any of them and none of them affect the mission in any way. Even Baffles is a blank canvas, with only the hero's requisite estranged family to give him something to do in the epilogue.

Maybe I'm nitpicking: Argo is based on a true story, so perhaps it would be disingenuous for the film to stray too far from actual events. But when Alan Arkin and John Goodman get all the fun bits to themselves as comedy movie bigwigs apparently parachuted in from a different film, it's hard to understand why nobody else is drawn with equal depth. It's a film about a hostage rescue, but it's way more interested in the rescue than the hostages.

Still, it is great fun, zips along effortlessly and will leave you with a mouthful of fingernails before the end. And if nothing else, it does at least prove that the whole US government is staffed entirely by character actors:
I couldn't find the exact IMDb font or colour, all right? Give me a break.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

LFF 2012 Reviewdump #3:
Painless, The Sessions, Compliance


Painless
Initially unsettling and intriguing, this Spanish film about a group of children born insensitive to pain gradually descends into gruesome unpleasantness and laughable horror. Sympathetic characters mutate into Clive Barker-esque monsters while a tedious subplot "resolves" itself with a losing combination of incomprehensibility and hysterical posturing. Very possibly a thought-provoking parable of life in post-civil war Spain, for anyone with a less-than-working knowledge of mid-20th century European history this is a muddled disappointment. On the bright side, its LFF showings have been and gone, so hopefully you've had a lucky escape.

The Sessions
John Hawkes ditches the backwoods redneck bastards of Winter's Bone and Martha Marcy May Marlene and proves his greatness once and for all in this year's proud recipient of the "Funny And Touching" award, The Sessions. As polio sufferer Mark O'Brien, Hawkes spends the entire film acting only with his face and voice, yet still manages to create a character of far more depth than some who've been receiving inordinate praise this LFF *COUGH* Ben Affleck *COUGH*.

Hawkes is matched in The Sessions by Helen Hunt in what will inevitably be described as an equally brave performance, although where "brave" equals "disabled" in his case, in hers it means "gets her minge out". She plays a sex therapist hired by Hawkes to help him get his oats, although as anyone who's ever paid for sex knows, it's never as straightforward a process as it seems. Am I right guys? Guys? Oh.

Genuinely moving and often hilarious (I'm just looking for synonyms for "funny and touching" here), this is sensitive filmmaking without being over-deferential; at no point are we expected to pity Mark, and in fact it's occasionally difficult to stifle a LOL at some of the predicaments in which he finds himself, despite them being really quite awful. And if that isn't enough to interest you, don't forget that Helen Hunt gets her minge out.
Wed 17 (subtitled)

Compliance
I'm pretty sure that if my boss accused me of theft, took me into a store cupboard and made me strip naked to prove I didn't have the stolen goods on me (or indeed in me), then I'd jam a pen in his eye, smash a window and leg it out of there with my bits flapping in the wind. But then I wouldn't have a film made about me, unlike the dozy buggers at the centre of Compliance, who remain horrifyingly acquiescent simply because a man on the phone, claiming to be a police officer, phones their manager and tells them to.

While this might sound like the most ludicrous premise for a film ever, it is in fact "inspired by true events". It's no accident that those four words are blasted onto the screen in twenty-foot high letters at the beginning of the film, because the sheer vacuum of common sense on display would otherwise have you demanding writer/director Craig Zobel's head on a pole. The fact that all this actually happened (link contains spoilers) makes Compliance a deeply unsettling look at the extent to which people will subordinate themselves to perceived authority.

While the script and performances are utterly convincing given the literally unbelievable subject matter, Compliance isn't entirely successful. Eighty minutes of watching people on the phone becomes wearing after a while, and an unnecessary coda feels tacked on to satisfy outraged audiences - a self-defeating exercise, because it's the least honest part of the film. Probably better as a documentary than a dramatisation, this is nevertheless worth checking out just for sheer stupefaction value.
Thu 18, Fri 19, Sat 20

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Skyfall

QUALIFYING STATEMENT:
There's no way I can give Skyfall the full BlogalongaBond treatment without giving away most of the film's surprises, so if it's all the same with you I'll save that for a few weeks. In the meantime, here's a spoiler-free review which contains no comedy captions or cock jokes.
Despite all the announcements to the contrary, Skyfall's Bond girl is not Naomie Harris as MI6 field agent Eve, who gets to give Bond a close shave while he wears nothing more than a towel. Nor is she the heavily-accented Bérénice Marlohe's Sévérine, who enjoys some nekkid shower fun with 007. It is in fact Judi Dench's M, who gets to drop the series' first F-bomb, effectively giving Bond the only proper fuck in his 50-year history.

Bond's relationship with M has been gently probed ever since Dench took over the role in GoldenEye, but it's so vital here that Skyfall might just be the first Bond Film that's actually an M Film. The result is an almost subdued entry, with the usual epic action sequences reduced to staccato beats of fights and explosions in favour of wordy exchanges about the inherent danger of misplaced trust and loyalty.
That's not to say that this is a 140-minute treatise on the nature of allegiances, patriotism and complex maternal relationships. Skyfall has plenty of action: the pre-title motorbike chase and train fight are classic Bond; a pursuit through the London Underground is both a rare example of a set-piece's location being plot-relevant and a satisfying setting for the most British of movie heroes; and the requisite final-act architectural carnage is both thrilling and symbolic. It's just that for once the dialogue isn't secondary to the mayhem; all the characters are allowed to breathe, rather than hurriedly spewing out exposition before the next building collapses.

While all this might sound like a return to the form of Casino Royale after the disappointing Quantum Of Solace, it's not. Not because Skyfall isn't as good as Casino Royale, but because it's a unique type of Bond film altogether. It's a curious mixture of old- and new-school Bond which succeeds for the most part but occasionally jars: Daniel Craig's delivery of a few weak one-liners betrays his own discomfort with them, while Thomas Newman's score tries to reinforce familiarity by crowbarring the Bond theme in at painfully obvious moments. It's elements like these that sit awkwardly with the more atypical ingredients: a Bond who's an unshaven shadow of his former self for the first hour; a villain who displays a surprising interest in 007; and a plot which, for the first time, unfolds mostly on British soil.
Despite the odd eyebrow-raising moment though, Skyfall is terrifically entertaining, and director Sam Mendes is to be congratulated for turning out such an unpredictable Bond film. Helped no end by a stunning contribution from cinematographer Roger Deakins and terrific work from Craig and Dench, Mendes more than capably handles the elements which could have been fumbled by a less assured director. The new Q is a pitch-perfect take on such a well-loved character, Bond's family history is treated with exactly the right amount of dignity and the final scene could well contain the most crowd-pleasing moments for Bond fans of all intensities in a very long time. Furthermore, Mendes has pitched the humour just right: a legacy-referring gag with the Aston Martin is probably the funniest thing in the entire series.

So while it's my duty as a Bond fan to identify the flaws in the diamond on an initial viewing (and there are more that I haven't mentioned), I have absolutely no doubt that repeat visits will ensure that Skyfall takes its place among not just the best of the Bonds but the best of all this year's films. And if nothing else, it's certainly the most unexpected.

Friday, 12 October 2012

LFF 2012 Reviewdump #2:
Robot & Frank, Rust And Bone,
My Brother The Devil


Robot & Frank
Low of budget ($2 million) and short of running time (89 minutes), Robot & Frank's very existence is one of those heart-warming, faith-restoring stories which remind you that once a great script is in place, it would take colossal ineptitude to bugger up the resulting film. And Robot & Frank is not at home to Mr Colossal Ineptitude.

Distinctly unflashy for a future-set film about a robot (or "Healthcare Aid"), this is far more interested in ideas than retina-melting visions of things to come. In fact the future here feels considerably familiar, thanks to an undercurrent of nostalgia which sees tomorrow's hipsters getting as superficially misty-eyed over books as today's do over vinyl records. Meanwhile Frank Langella's dementia-stricken ex-con is suffering from a genuine crisis of memory, leading to his reluctant teaming up with the cinematic offspring of 2001's HAL and Moon's GERTY to create the most lovable double act since Christina Hendricks.

The undynamic duo set about doing exactly what they're both programmed to do, and the result is a frequently hilarious but often heartbreaking musing on the fallibility of memory, the role of technology in our lives and the depressing fact that one day we'll all become a terrible burden to our families. But if we all get to hang around with a plastic pal who's fun to be with, then old age might just be worth looking forward to after all.
Fri 12, Sun 14
 
Rust And Bone
I don't think it's any exaggeration to suggest that Marion Cotillard is probably the loveliest person on Earth. Look at her, all French and gorgeous, like some kind of fancy cheese. Which makes it much easier to be swept along in floods of manly tears by the appalling tragedy which befalls her character in Rust And Bone, Jacques Audiard's follow-up to his vaguely dull but LFF '09-pleasing A Prophet. Unfortunately it's that same loveliness that makes it a little difficult to accept the same character falling for Matthias Schoenaerts' bareknuckle-boxing loser, and gazing in loving awe at him as he repeatedly gets his nose punched all over his face.

Still, an occasional lack of character identification and a slightly aimless plot are small prices to pay for what is a unique, maturely-written relationship drama played out convincingly by its leads and shot with tender grace (and possibly the year's best CGI) by Audiard. Mercifully free of the melodrama with which a Hollywood version would treat Cotillard's fate, Rust And Bone treats its audience with the same dignity as its characters, and is all the better for it.
Sat 13, Sun 14
 
My Brother The Devil
Neither tediously clichéd nor tectonically groundbreaking, My Brother The Devil is a solid, intelligent drama about east London gang life which never gets dull but equally never quite feels revolutionary.

It seems honest and genuine in its depictions of urban life in the council blocks which lie in the shadow of the Olympic stadium, itself now movie shorthand for expensive wallpaper covering the cracks of David Cameron's Broken Britain, and offers up a sympathetic portrayal of two brothers trying to find their place in a world which mercilessly pushes them towards choices with which neither of them are entirely comfortable.

It's a little too glossy in places, with David Raedeker's cinematography romanticising the hell out of Hackney council estate playgrounds and rooftops a little too often, but writer/director Sally El Hosaini's authentic script is brought to life by impressive leads. Lazy attempt to summarise: It's basically Wild Bill meets Attack The Block without the LOLs or the aliens, but better than that sounds.
Tue 16, Fri 19, Sun 21

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

LFF 2012 Reviewdump #1:
The Hunt, Room 237, Beasts Of The Southern Wild

The 56th London Film Festival "kicks off" tonight, and as the WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD turns its gaze to London again for the capital's second-biggest event of the year (after the opening of Skyfall and well above the so-called "Olympics"), The Incredible Suit will once again endeavour to review approximately seven percent of the total films on offer in order to help you decide what to fork out for. Except by now most of the tickets have sold out, which makes you wonder why I bother. Here we go!


The Hunt
Scandinavia continues to show the world how to make gripping, slow-burning drama with this tightrope-tense tale of a kindergarten teacher whose life spins out of control after a wild accusation turns him from community pillar to social pariah.

Mads Mikkelsen quietly gets on with his successful quest to be completely ace in absolutely everything, while the supporting cast do an equally great job of acting from behind huge Danish beards, EVEN THE MEN LOL. And while the film requires you to suspend disbelief during a couple of awkward contrivances (Mads doesn't protest his innocence very strongly; everyone immediately assumes he's guilty despite a total lack of evidence), it makes up for it by allowing you to develop any number of unpalatable theories and then refusing to disprove any of them. Devastating.
Thu 11, Sat 13, Mon 15
 
Room 237
Remember all those clues scattered throughout The Shining which proved beyond doubt that Stanley Kubrick faked the moon landings? Or the way in which the film is a blatant allegory of the Holocaust / genocide of the native American Indian / rise of Simon Cowell? No? Then congratulations, you're a normal. Nevertheless, those theories and more (except possibly the one about Simon Cowell) are explored in this documentary about conspiracy and coincidence in Kubrick's horror masterpiece.

An interesting accompaniment to The Shining but nowhere near in its league of filmmaking (obviously), Room 237 gives us the testimonies of five people who have watched the film so many times that their brains have rebelled and started showing them all sorts of hidden meanings buried within it. None of them are remotely convincing, and annoyingly much of the "evidence" comes from the US cut of the film, with which most of us in Blighty are unfamiliar.

Room 237's biggest problem is that we never see the crackpots contributors who so firmly believe their theories; we only ever hear them in voiceover, which makes it easy to lose track of which insane hypothesis we're supposed to be following at any given time. Still, there's some troublingly hilarious stuff in there, not least of which is the unexpected appearance of the Overlook Hotel manager's massive erection, which will now be impossible not to see on subsequent viewings.
Thu 11, Sat 13, Mon 15

Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Shot on 16mm film in a style as freewheeling and independent as its lead character, Beasts Of The Southern Wild is genuinely like nothing you've ever seen before. Part social commentary, part fantasy, it's a magical, meandering fairytale flooded with fear, anger, love and the instinct for survival. It's entirely childlike in its execution and aimed squarely at the mischievous, wide-eyed scamps buried underneath the layers of responsibilty and cynicism that define adulthood.

The film and every single thing in it orbit six-year-old Hushpuppy, breathtakingly played by titchy but indomitable Quvenzhané Wallis with more preternatural passion than most actors manage in their entire career, and the supporting cast - most notably Dwight Henry as her father Wink - are almost her equal. But despite all the brilliance and individuality on display, Beasts Of The Southern Wild failed to move me as it clearly intended to. The focus on atmosphere and mood is eventually overwhelming, and the desire to find out what happens next gradually dissipates when it becomes clear that the film isn't interested in anything as pedestrian as a plot.

Simultaneously wondrous and dissatisfying, this is perfect film festival fodder. It's destined to flounder outside its comfort zone of the cineaste circuit though, so if it sounds like it's up your alley, see it now while you can.
Fri 12, Sat 13, Sun 14

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Listen To Bits Of The Skyfall Score If You Like

Snippets of Thomas Newman's score for Skyfall have made it as far as YouTube today. I got about four seconds in then punched myself in the face for attempting to spoil it for myself, so if you do listen to this, keep your thoughts to yourself. I don't want to know.

Friday, 5 October 2012

BlogalongaBond / Quantum Of Solace:
[Insert Lazy Bourne Pun Here]

Quantum Of Solace is not a great Bond film. There, I've said it. I've defended it for nearly four years, citing Daniel Craig's performance and David Arnold's score as its most outstanding features, but on fifth viewing it's now clear to me that - and I take no Amount Of Comfort from saying this - Quantum Of Solace is in fact Not Great.

One of the reasons many people seem to think it's Not Great is its weak villain, and it's fair to say that - as short French Bond baddies go - Mathieu Amalric's Dominic Greene is even less terrifying than Hervé Villechaize's Nick Nack from The Man With The Golden Gun. But to suggest that Quantum Of Solace has a weak villain is not true; in fact Bond faces two enemies besides Greene, and they're among the most formidable foes the series has ever seen.

The first was the Writers' Guild Of America strike of 2007-8, which struck at just the wrong time for Bond #22. Paul Haggis handed his Quantum Of Solace rewrite in just two hours before the strike began, and it shows. Several scenes and stretches of dialogue make little sense; it's taken me five viewings and some heavy use of the pause and rewind buttons just to decipher what's going on in the early scenes in Haiti between Bond, Camille, Greene, Mr Slate and the dead geologist*. It's the kind of thing that should have been tidied up with a script polish that never happened.
Meanwhile, moments of potential tenderness such as the deaths of Mathis and Agent Fields are bungled by confusing waffle: clearly set up as opportunities to explore Bond's psyche, these scenes end up raising more questions than they answer. Mathis, for example, who was arrested at the end of Casino Royale and later imprisoned and tortured, is revealed to have been innocent all along by a minor character in an easy-to-miss throwaway line. When, with his dying breath, he mutters something about "Mathis" being his cover name, confusion reigns. If anyone can fully explain exactly who the guy was or his precise role over two films (apart from Head Of Exposition: Poker Rules Dept. in Casino Royale) then, like Daniel Craig, I'm all ears.

The second agent of evil to attempt to destroy Bond is second unit director Dan Bradley.
He's still at it.

Fresh off the back of two hyper-kinetic Bourne films, Bradley came to Quantum Of Solace with the specific intention of editing Bond to death. Orchestrating several potentially terrific set-pieces as if they're happening inside a washing machine that's been pushed down a flight of stairs, Bradley is the diabolical mastermind of the incomprehensible action sequence. The blocking, shooting and cutting of the scene in which rogue MI6 agent Mitchell helps Mr White escape is so baffling that it's impossible to tell who's shooting who and who's running where; at one point it appears that M's been shot, only for her to reappear unhurt in the next scene without explanation. You have to literally watch it frame by frame to see that the bullet fired at her actually ricochets off Mr White's drip stand:
Bradley might argue that his style is intended to reflect the real confusion Bond himself might experience in that situation, and that as such, scenes like these lend Quantum Of Solace an air of cinéma vérité hitherto unseen in the canon. I would just argue that it's balls.

Thanks in no small part to these two nefarious villains, the film clumsily clatters through its brief running time (at 106 minutes, it's the shortest Bond film), always desperate to race to the next location or skip over another bit of bewildering dialogue. It all happens so quickly that Bond doesn't even get time to shag Camille, the poor bastard.

Fortunately, however, there's one thing at the axis of the Quantum Of Solace centrifuge which just about stops everything spinning out of control, and that's Daniel Wroughton Craig.

Yes, "Wroughton".

Having already kicked the doubters in the face with his performance in Casino Royale, Craig perfects his Bond in only his second film. Like Timothy Dalton, he doesn't attempt to emulate any of the previous occupants of 007's tux, instead creating a character so much his own that some complain that it barely resembles James Bond at all. That argument is clearly ridiculous; Craig's an actor, not an impersonator. Once you surround him with all the tropes of the series - the cars, the girls, the stunts, the music, the villains - he's free to do his own thing, safe in the knowledge that Bond will emerge around him, as happened with his predecessors. And it's hard to deny that, slimmed down from Casino Royale's hulking physique and beautifully clad in Tom Ford suits (far more appropriate than the Brioni clobber he sported in 2006), he absolutely looks the part.

With his Bond having failed to save Vesper from drowning in a sinking lift, Craig has learned his lesson and rescues Quantum Of Solace from a similar fate simply by being completely ace in every scene. Observe the gusto with which he throws himself into the action scenes; how he convincingly fails to convince M that Vesper wasn't important to him; his impatience with M's chief of staff, Tanner (slight niggle: Ian Fleming wrote Tanner as Bond's only friend in MI6, and has never been satisfyingly portrayed as such in the films); the casual manner with which he waits for Mr Slate to bleed to death, or his nonchalant escape from MI6 agents in the La Paz hotel.

Craig is a magnetic presence on screen, and his ability to salvage a mediocre Bond film is the best reason to be jazzed about what he might do with a truly great one. And that's why it's impossible for me not to soil myself with excitement that at last, it's October 2012, and BlogalongaBond is about to end with an almighty bang.


David Arnold's score
 
David Arnold's fifth (and possibly final) score for a Bond film is far and away his best; it elevates an otherwise muddled and disappointing film into a thrilling experience by virtue of being absolutely fucking ace on every level. The score's menacing opening tones set up a mood that permeates the entire movie, while the subtlest hints of the Bond theme and the Casino Royale score laced throughout connect Quantum to its prequel. The title song may well be rubbs but check out its opening notes and compare them to Casino Royale's theme song: they're identical, but in a different key. They don't just throw this stuff together you know.

And finally: I don't even understand how this works.

Bond and Agent Fields are in a hotel room. They met about ten seconds ago.

BOND
I can't find the, um... the stationery.
Come and help me look.
I tried this line on a sexy lady working in WHSmith the other day and all I got was directions to the stationery.

BlogalongaBond will return with Skyfall

What the hell is BlogalongaBond? I'll tell you.
Further BlogalongaBondareading here

* As far as I can tell: Camille is a (possibly ex-) Bolivian Secret Service agent using Greene to get to General Medrano for personal reasons. At the same time, she tries to buy a report from a geologist to uncover Greene's dirty deeds. Greene finds out and kills the geologist, then pays assassin Mr Slate (using Quantum's tagged banknotes) to act as the geologist and set up a fake meeting with Camille at which he will kill her. Unfortunately for Mr Slate, Bond gets to him first and Bournes him to death in his hotel room before taking his place: that's why Camille thinks Bond's a geologist. Obvious really.

Global James Bond Day:
The Incredible Suit vs. Empire

As part of the ongoing celebrations of GloJayBoDay, The Incredible Suit was invited to join forces with three of Empire magazine's finest journalists to talk Bond on their podcast. Sadly they had to drop out, so instead Dan Jolin, Chris Hewitt and Nick de Semlyen stepped in to graciously humour my constant trivia dribble and borderline-racist George Lazenby "impressions". Sadly they wouldn't let me spray my newly-acquired 007 aftershave around in the windowless podbooth, the fascists.

So set aside 89 minutes (yes, really), ensure a constant flow of vodka martinis in order to deaden your senses against the onslaught of inane banter, and wrap your listening tubes around this. Or, you know, don't.

Global James Bond Day:
Happy Birthday, Mr Bond

Adele's official theme song is fine, but if there's a better way to celebrate GloJayBoDay than by listening to Roger Moore appearing to enjoy some first class fellatio while famous Bond girl Irka Bochenko breathes "Happy Birthday, Mr Bond" in his ear, then I don't want to know what it is.



What's that? You've never heard of famous Bond girl Irka Bochenko? Anyone would think you don't remember that iconic scene in Moonraker when Bond goes to that place and sees that girl that time. Apparently her character's name was "Blonde Beauty".
No? Maybe you remember her better from French seventies soft-focus wankfest Bilitis, in which her nipples were on screen for longer than her face was in Moonraker?
Oh yeah, possibly NSFW. Happy Birthday, Mr Bond.

Global James Bond Day: Adele's Back!

After teasing us with a suspiciously "leaked" preview of her theme song for Skyfall on Tuesday, Adele has now unleashed her song on an iTunes-funding public. She's also very kindly provided a karaoke video of sorts, with all the lyrics included. The silly billy forgot to take her own voice off it, but you can still play SingalongaBond in the middle of the office and annoy literally everyone in the world. Headphones on, volume up:



Let the sky foal when it crumbowls indeed. As usual for a Bond theme the lyrics make almost no sense, but who cares? That orchestra is on fire (not literally), and when blasted out of a cinema's speakers alongside Daniel Kleinman's title sequence this is going to make your* nose bleed with excitement. Bring it on.





*my

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Here Are 89 Underwhelming Seconds Of Adele's Theme Song For Skyfall



To make up for it, here's a photoshopped picture of her without a nose.
UPDATE: Or rather here were 89 underwhelming seconds of Adele's theme song for Skyfall, before they were removed from Soundcloud. Well you can take my music, but YOU'LL NEVER TAKE MY NOSELESS ADELE PHOTOSHOP, YOU FASCISTS!!

UPDATE UPDATE: I found it somewhere else. All this is making me look silly.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: It's gone again. That's it, I'm boycotting the film.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Everything Or Nothing

This is a tricky one for me. As a certified Bond obsessive who can barely get through the day without whistling the James Bond theme or having sex with a beautiful, treacherous lady half my age (the former more often than the latter, to be fair), you'd think I'd be naturally predisposed to spraying loving review juice all over this new documentary about the history of the Bond films without a moment's thought. As it happens though, I expected very little from it: I knew I'd already be familiar with all the trivia and anecdotes and thought it would be little more than a throwaway attempt to cash in on 007's 50th anniversary celebrations. Turns out I was as wrong as a 53-year-old Roger Moore shagging a 23-year-old Carole Bouquet in For Your Eyes Only.
Everything Or Nothing is a straightforward, no-frills doc which probably could have been shown on TV or included as an extra in the new Bond 50 Blu-ray box set, were it not for the fact that it's so bloody well-made that it deserves nothing less than a constant theatrical run for at least the next two years. It takes us from James Bond's literary origins in Ian Fleming's novels of the 1950s and '60s right through to Skyfall, via every crucial touchstone in the character's cinematic history: the live US TV dramatisation of Casino Royale; the meeting (and eventual split) of producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; the intrusion of Kevin McClory which led to Thunderball and its tragic remake, Never Say Never Again; the advent of each new actor and the circumstances in which they left the role, and every significant detail in between. And it's all illustrated with a perfectly-judged amount of clips, archive footage and new interviews.

In fact, for Bondoholics like me, it's the interviews that provide the most wank-worthy material. As well as various key players from the series' past fifty years, the likes of Christopher Lee, Mike Myers and even Bill Flipping Clinton pop up to chip in. But Everything Or Nothing's trump card is its brand new talking heads with all of the Bonds - except, of course, Sean McGrumpychops, who's notable by his grudge-bearing absence.
To see George Lazenby talk candidly about blowing the chance of a lifetime by becoming a fanny-happy drunk, or Roger Moore chuckle about the ethics of a UNICEF ambassador pushing a little Thai boy into a Bangkok river, or Pierce Brosnan recount the unbridled joy he felt when he finally secured the role ("I'm James bloody Bond!") are entertaining enough, but when Timothy Dalton - who, as we all know, is the best Bond ever - bubbles over with passion about his unique approach to the character, well, I almost wept.

For the rest of you normals, I suspect it won't be quite as emotional. But if you're the kind of person who's easily swayed into watching a Bond film when it pops up on ITV2 on a wet Saturday afternoon, then there's SO MUCH here for you too. You'll leave feeling like an expert, and you'll have had a bloody good time to boot. You'll even get to see Brosnan mock Die Another Day's kitesurfing scene, despite wholeheartedly endorsing it a decade ago.

Everything Or Nothing isn't a groundbreaking documentary. It's not The Imposter. But what it is is a fascinating, revealing, massively entertaining hour and a half, and a treat for anyone who's ever seen a Bond film. And for me, it's practically porn.