Tuesday was my four film day.
First up was Mr. Turner
, Mike Leigh's biopic about the painter. ( Which has a striking poster )
I knew Turner's paintings, but nothing about the man, so it was fascinating. The film shows Turner as a rough character (he was the son of a Covent Garden barber) but as it goes on you get more glimpses of his vulnerabilities. One thing I found stood out was how much death is shown to be a part of everyday life in 19th century England. Every single character is shown to have dead children, spouses and siblings. And as Turner, Timothy Spall does a bang up job, doing much with just a look or a growl. It's not a perfect film, and does perhaps drag a bit, but it worth a watch.
My second film was Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2
, a Hong Kong rom com directed by Johnnie To. To is prolific and works in all sorts of genres, and he's produced a number of masterpieces. (If you want to see a brilliant Chinese action film, check out his Drug War.) This is not a masterpiece. It's not even very good. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's bad. The film is full of wacky misunderstandings that make even less sense than usual in this genre, and at the end, when the main female character dumps her fiance at the altar for the bloke who's been pursuing her throughout the film, it comes off as creepy and dumb rather than at all charming. If you're looking to check out a HK rom com, this would not be the one to start with.
Next up was Far from Home
, the first film with Viggo. It's set at the start of the Algerian war for independence. Viggo plays a teacher, Daru, in an isolated area who's given the job of transporting a young Arab man accused of murdering his cousin to the nearest town. Knowing he'll be taking the young man to a guaranteed death sentence, Daru is reluctant to carry out his assignment, but his hand is forced when the man's relatives arrive to try and kill him. He and the young man make a run for the town, and are caught between the rebels and the French forces fighting them. ( Here's a couple of still from the film )
In spite of the fact that both the above stills show Viggo with a gun, what's so refreshing about the film is that the character keeps trying to avoid bloodshed, and what's truly important to him is teaching his students. (The final scene, with Daru back in his school, had me in tears.) And Viggo has wonderful chemistry with the actor playing the young man, Reda Kateb. All, in all, I'd highly recommend it.
My last film for the day was In the Crosswind
, an Estonian film about Stalin's deportation of people from the Baltic states to Siberia during World War II. I picked this one for its connection to my family. My dad was Latvian, and two of his cousins were deported to Siberia during this time. (Astoundingly, they survived. When I went to Latvia with my dad ten years ago, they were still alive, and were two very sweet, very tough old ladies.)
The way In the Crosswind is filmed is extraordinary. The director set up a tableau for each scene, with the camera tracking through the actors and the scenery, gradually revealing what's going on as on the soundtrack an actress reads the letters of a woman who was deported and also survived. At the Q & A afterwards, the director said he decided on the technique when he was reading letters from deportees at the national archive and found one where the writer said he felt that time had stopped for them in Siberia. The director also said that it took between two and six months to film each separate scene, and four years to complete the film.( Here are a couple of shots of tableaux )
This technique could have fallen completely flat, but it works incredibly effectively. In each scene, the camera travels through the set and actors to only gradually reveal the horror of the scene. The whole thing was very tense, and very affecting, and if you get a chance to see it, I'd highly recommend it.