The Films I've Watched This Year #35

Film Here we are then in the brave new future of exactly the same.  Which feels good either way.  No one likes uncertainty and certainly this unit didn't enjoy the uncertainty of what was going to happen his it's beloved BBC should Scotland have gone independent.  With ever plan to stay awake all night and sleep all day, when it became apparent, even after for announcements we were witness a forgone conclusion, I dragged myself to bed at about half past three, awakening about three and a half hours later for the confirmation.  The television presentation itself, at least on One was the now customarily boring efficiency presided over by Huw Edwards with all the surety of purpose of John Harriman at the helm of the Enterprise-B.  The revelation of the evening was Sarah Smith, whose razor sharp, tactical interviewing style demolished contributors left and right, giving every impression she should have been presenting the thing instead and probably Today or Newsnight in the future should she want to.

Killer Joe
Stake Land
The Sword and the Rose
Promised Land
Le chant des mariées

One of those rare weeks when I don't really have much to say about any of these films.  The most fun I probably had was this lunchtime watching Non-Stop, with its many twists, turns, Neeson channeling his inner Qui-Gon in places and Michelle Dockery in the 90s Sandra Bullock role.  Oh and Julianne Moore elevating all the material just by being there, though I'm bound to suggest that there's not one element of any of this which wouldn't have been even more interesting if her and Neeson's roles hadn't been reversed.  Stake Land's vampire road movie's the other purely generic piece on the list offering not a single moment which hasn't been seen elsewhere, essentially cross matching the DNA of Daybreakers and Zombieland but with less levity.  Both made me rather nostalgic for the old Blockbuster days when you'd walk into the air conditioned shop full of anticipation of what was on the new release wall, see hundreds of copies of both, that evening's entertainment well provided for.

Killer Joe and Promised Land seem like odd bedfellows but they're both attempting the same trick of having the audience sympathise or at least identify with a morally dubious character.  Of course they couldn't be any more different, Emile Hirsch's misguided hick and Matt Damon's shill for the fracking companies, and their story arcs similarly drift in opposite, if inevitable directions.  But there's a moment in each when their plans go south that we feel genuinely remorseful.  The essential problem in both is that the viewer also realises how they're being manipulated, patronised almost, so ultimately lose their sympathy with the filmmaker instead.  Yet both stay watchable because Matthew McConaughey's eponymous Joe is so damn charismatic and Damon's so likeable even though the twists in both are entirely obvious.  Perhaps they're supposed to be.  But I'd worked out both within seconds of the merest whiff of the related characters appearing on-screen and I really wish I hadn't in both cases.

This week's two French language films are also thematically connected, about young women being emotionally manipulated by their partners.  Structurally Suzanne is a female counterpart to Boyhood presenting snatches from a girl's life until she gains her independence, though shot with different actors, in a much shorter schedule and with a darker tone.  It's involving but structurally problematic because it can't decide if it should focus on Suzanne's life of crime or her family's reaction.  The Wedding Song follows Jewish and Muslim friends torn apart by family and politics in Tunis during World War II, at a moment when the Nazis are pretending to be a benevolent force in Arab lives.  Five years later Lizzie Brocheré who plays the Jewish girl here turned up in The Hour as Freddie's wife Camille and is an astonishingly powerful presence especially in a scene when she's being painfully "prepared" in the "Oriental style" for her oaf of a husband.  Ugh.  My French cinema "serendipity engine" continues to offer its surprises.

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