Review 2010: The Opinion Engine: 26/31: My year in films that aren't Inception. Part One.



Agora

Astonishing film that deserved to be seen far more than it was in the UK (especially since it was Spain’s biggest film in 2009) and was perhaps suppressed somewhat due to its politically sticky subject matter, the rise of Christianity including the sack of the library of Alexandria and the assassination of the Greek philosopher Hypatia because of her scientific and pagan beliefs. Rachel Weisz's fleet footed performance as Hypatia is the backbone of a film which meditates on the eternal struggle between belief and reason. The production design harks back to the old Hollywood classics by creating huge sets in Madrid rather than employing CGI which gives the piece a bags of authenticity, even when the work being carried out by Hypatia on the structure of the solar system is entirely conjectural.

The Concert

Probably the best place to see The Concert was at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall during one of the “Classic Film” screenings with the sound of the on-screen orchestra reverberating around a real venue. Somewhat dismissed on release as something of a Cinema Paradiso for classical music, there’s a stronger political thread running through Radu Mihaileanu’s evocation of censorship in the Soviet Union and some pleasingly ramshackle storytelling which gives the piece bags of character. The face of Mélanie Laurent is most associated with the film because she’s on the poster and she’s very good, but the emotional heart of the piece is Aleksey Guskov’s conductor boldly holding his own against each set back.

Daybreakers

Or Gattaca 2: It Bites or The Matrix with vampires. An entertaining attempt at something interesting and new with vampires, a Soylent Green style allegory on our morally ambiguous reaction to the scarcity of natural resources, ultimately handstrung by following the hero’s journey story structure beat for beat. Not without some decent scares, especially in Sam Neil’s executive’s treatment of his daughter and it’s good to see the undervalued Claudia Karvan in a reasonably big release. Though to be fair, Toy Story 3 would probably in this slot, but I've not been able to see that yet.

Frozen

Open Water on a ski-lift doesn’t sound like the most enticing pitch and indeed to an extent the three kids trapped on the chair in the sky during a cold snap are fairly annoying and the kind of victims of the week that might wander through an episode of Veronica Mars. William Goldman suggests that films are rarely about dialogue, which is lucky because most of the dialogue in Frozen is in the order of "Are you ok?" "It's cold." What Goldman doesn't mention is the dialogue coming from the viewer and Frozen is all about that. I swore, I screamed, and director Adam Green understands that the best way to creep the audience out is to concentrate not on event but reaction, all adding up to oddly, one of the most satisfying film experiences of 2010.

The Millenium Trilogy

Sadly for her, Noomi Rapace may never be as good in her future Hollywood career as she is as Lisbeth Salander and these “films” would not hold together as well without her. She has the relatively unique ability to underplay everything whilst still retaining incredible charisma, not unlike Clint Eastwood in his cowboy days – well at least until Paint Your Wagon. I’m still reserving proper judgement on these adaptations until I’ve seen the full television versions; the first was choppy and structurally suspect and though the second had a clearer through line (I’m yet to see the third) both seemed to contain lesions, bits of exposition left hanging here and there. The extended versions will apparently be released onto the home market on 14 July 2010. Can’t wait.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:17 pm

    I saw Agora when it first came out in NYC and loved Weisz' performance as Hypatia. The film was beautifully shot and a bit uneven. Amenabar distorted some history in service to his art (the Library didn't end that way and Synesius wasn't a jerk), but that's what artists do. I go to the movies for entertainment, not history. For people who want to know more about the historical Hypatia, I highly recommend a very readable biography Hypatia of Alexandria by Maria Dzielska (Harvard University Press, 1995). I also have a series of posts on the historical events and characters in the film at my blog - not a movie review, just a "reel vs. real" discussion.

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  2. Thank you for the book recommendation.

    Which of the destructions of the library do you believe to be true?

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