Time Regained

As much as I’d like the title of this post to actually be in reference to a blog update, whereby I’d allowed myself more time to watch these films than the allotted five years, alas it is in fact the title of a 1999 French film about the life of novelist Marcel Proust. The film is as thrilling as that sounds, and holds the position of the biography I’ve seen that, after having watched it, I know roughly the same amount about it’s subject as I did before watching, and all I knew beforehand was that at some point or other he’d written something.
Beginning with Proust (Marcello Mazzarella) on his death bed, dictating to an underling and going over old photographs with a magnifying glass, he then proceeds to remember his life, in whatever order he damn well pleases. Scenes are shown more than once, overlapping with similar yet different details, characters wander in and out freely, most with no introduction and some with several, and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to tell what is real and what isn’t. How much is memory? Is this his version of events or what really happened? With such little concrete fact to go on, nothing is learnt because nothing can be trusted.
Just as the opening credits show a stream washing over pebbles, so to did the entirety of this film wash over me. I was bored within the first 20 minutes, having nothing to affix my attention to but the sumptuous visuals and interesting uses of lighting, colour, focus and mirrors. At times it takes a meander into Bunuel territory, with rooms of upturned top hats lined on the floor, aristocratic party goers momentarily becoming mannequins and revolving audiences at a musical performance. At one point a woman visibly grows younger, then older, within a scene.
If the film was designed to be impenetrable, as I think is the case, then congratulations should go to director Raoul Ruiz, for this film is alienating if you have no knowledge of it’s central character. If you’re watching to try and discover details of the writer’s life, then flee, run full pelt in the opposite direction and head to the library instead, for there will be no assistance here. When party guests (there’s a lot of soirees in this film) complain at being confused at meeting so many new people, I can truly empathise.
Whilst the film looks astounding, it’s essentially pointless.
Choose life 3/10
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Dangerous Liaisons

John Malkovich: object of desire? Talk about playing against type. As the Vicomte Sebastien de Valmont in 18th Century France, he is challenged by the Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil (Glenn Close) to deflower Uma Thurman’s virginal bride-to-be Cecile. Deeming the task too easy, he instead chooses to bed Michelle Pfeiffer’s Madame de Tourvel, a virtuous, devout, happily married woman staying with the Vicomte’s aunt. The Marquise then drafts in Keanu Reeves’ Danceny to woo Cecile instead. If the plot sounds familiar, it’s because it was adapted more recently (and poorly) in the modern-set Cruel Intentions, which succeeded in dumbing down the many deceits and allegiances in the plot, but retains the deeply unlikable protagonists, too rich for their own good and revelling in destroying the lives of those around them.
More erotic than most period dramas, with necklines set to plunging and cleavages set to stun, this sees more bedhopping than a season of Desperate Housewives. Malkovich is on excellent form as the callous, vain and calculating lothario, deemed “conspicuously charming” and Close walks the line between on/off romance and hardnosed bitch, but every time Keanu opens his mouth you get the feeling Bill and Ted got their time travelling phone booth stuck in the reign of Louis XV, so thick and distracting is the slacker dude lilt he so desperately tries to hide.
Choose life 5/10

Changeling

In the spring of 1928 Walter Collins, the 9 year old son of Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie, restrained, passionate, focused) goes missing. Five months later, the police find a boy that matches Walter’s description, but Christine is sure that he is not her son, seeing as he is a few pounds heavier, circumcised and three inches shorter. With the help of Walter’s dentist, schoolteacher and the local pastor (John Malkovich), she begins to uncover a web of conspiracy and lies within the Los Angeles police department, so eager to have good publicity they’ll manufacture it themselves, but when she digs too deep she is shipped off to an insane asylum. Jolie remains just the right side of hysterical throughout, and Amy Ryan pulls off an outstanding but far too brief performance similar to her scene stealing role in Gone Baby Gone. The film is gripping, and the true story is at times chilling and sickening as truths begin to emerge, but I feel it would have been a more superior picture had we not discovered whether Jolie’s replacement son was the real deal or not.
Choose film 6/10

The Killing Fields

OK, I’m going to try and post a little more frequently now, instead of allowing a stock pile of watched films to be reviewed en masse at the weekends. I’m thinking maybe if I watch a film, I post about it the same day. Sound good? Awesome. I’ve checked my stats, and I’m a few films behind where I should be (I just made a graph, how I love Excel!), so I need to step this up a little. Also, I’ve had a check on LoveFilm, for when I eventually join, and there’s quite a few films I’m going to have difficulty getting hold of as they’re not available for rental, but we’ll cross that bridge another day.
I’ve just watched The Killing Fields, a film in two halves that deals with Sydney, a reporter for the New York Times (Sam Waterston) stationed in Cambodia, and his interpreter/assistant/friend Dith Pran (Dr. Haing S. Ngor). During the troubles in Cambodia, Sydney and his fellow reporters (including John Malkovich) are taken capture by the Cambodians. If not for Pran, they would surely have been killed, so when the reporters are evacuated and Pran is unable to leave, Sydney does all he can to help his friend escape.

R.E.D.

Do you want to see Morgan Freeman beat up Richard Dreyfuss? John Malkovich take out a rocket with a single bullet? Helen Mirren threaten to bury someone in the woods before unleashing Hell with a sniper rifle? Of course you do, so you should go and see RED. This movie is all about playing against type, with almost all of the principle cast not being well known for action roles. Bruce Willis, obviously, is the most well known for out-and-out balls to the wall action, and Karl Urban, perfecting his unemoting suit with balls ready for his next role as Judge Dredd, has done his fair share, but personally I’ve never seen Brian Cox unload an uzi on someone.