19 December, 2005
Four quick reviews
I've seen numerous films recently, but want to comment briefly on four:
Oldboy (2003): Top film. I could comment on the excellent technical aspects at length, but the main point to stress is the quality and originality of the story. It's just a damn good film, overall. Presuming you're over 18: watch it.
Oh dear. I've just read at the IMDb that a US remake of the Korean original is 'in production'. That's rarely a good idea anyway, but in particular, I don't see how the central sexual and violent themes could be incorporated into a US film in the current moral environment; it'd need to be an entirely different film, not a true remake. 'Oldboy' isn't as graphically violent as its reputation suggests (unless you happen to be an octopus), but it is an essential element, and a puritan minority would also take offence at the climactic explanation of the whole story.
Nightwatch (2004): Wow. That was stunning. I suppose the nearest analogue would have to be 'The Matrix', in terms of pace, grandiose back story and in being a fantasy action-thriller (not sci-fi). The visual style is similarly impressive, too, though rather darker and 'grittier' than 'The Matrix'. It's in Russian with English subtitles, but the subtitles are part of the presentation, rather than merely a subsequent overlay. They interact with on-screen activity, and some are colour-coded. A nice idea.
Okay, beneath the frenetic action, the plot's fairly simple, and there's little time available for character development, but that's hardly an unusual criticism of the genre and, importantly, one doesn't notice these weaknesses until afterwards.
I'll definitely watch the sequel(s). Ordinarily, I'd be pessimistic about the chances of a Russian film reaching Lancaster, but the cinema was reasonably full, and it seems the screening had been eagerly awaited by the local goth/sci-fi fans, so The Dukes would be pretty much guaranteed a good-sized audience.
Elektra (2005): Utterly disposable. Don't bother.
Chetyre (2005): What the ****...? That was... odd, and at least five people walked out of the cinema – considering it was in Russian and shown at The Dukes (Lancaster's arts cinema) on a Sunday evening, that means about a sixth of the audience (predisposed to er, challenging films) left early. It started very well, with three strangers simply talking in a bar, but degenerated into sub-Lynch weirdness. Something like 5-10 minutes were devoted to a woman simply walking across muddy fields. That could have made a good short film in itself, but in a larger feature, I don't think it worked so well. That'd be my wider criticism: most of the individual shots were 'arty', but the combined effect was of the director trying too hard.