Sunday, 11 September 2011

Tales From TIFF. . .

I haven't bought one yet, but I do love the TIFF messenger bag and actually all of their merchandise is quite nice and reasonably priced. It's the films though, that have taken a large chunk out of my credit card but so far, so good.

I started yesterday with a real winner - a gorgeously filmed tribute to black and white films and the silent era.  It was The Artist, directed by Michel Hazanavicius who I applaud for having the artistic guts  to create a silent film in this 21st century of 3D movies and state of the art special effects, not that he doesn't imaginatively employ a few of the latter himself.  Jean Dujardin stars as George Valentin,  a charming, successful silent film actor whose career spirals downward when the talkies come to Hollywood. Berenice Bejo is  Peppy Miller, a struggling actress given her first break by Valentin, but as her career soars, her attempts to help George revive his career, come up against his pride and ego.  The plot resembles a lot of movies from the 1920s and 30s, but what makes The Artist such a cinematic treat is - ironically for a silent movie - the director's clever use of sound.  There is almost zero dialogue in the entire movie or sound effects, but when they do make an appearance, they are used so effectively in enhancing both the humour and the style of the whole picture.  There's a dream sequence that is just brilliant.  There are definite homages to Singing in the Rain and the dance partnerships of Fred Astaire with both Ginger Rogers and Eleanor Powell;  Dujardin is also definitely channelling the charm of Gene Kelly.  I loved, loved this film. Great score too - a must for a silent film. 

I then dashed off to see Andrea Arnold's adaptation of Wuthering Heights.  I'm still in two minds about this one.  There were aspects of the film that I liked very much.  She certainly got the weather right;  I was chatting to someone afterwards about the film and he said it could have been renamed "the four seasons of Wuthering Heights".  And I thought it was interesting to have the entire film shot from Heathcliff's point of view.  So no Lockwood, and Nelly plays a very minor role.  However, I really wished she'd filmed the whole book. This is a novel about an intricate plot of revenge and also about the healing of the two houses at the end.  As such, you really need to tell the story of the next generation - the second Cathy, Linton and Hareton.  I don't know why film-makers always shy away from this.  Arnold takes a few tentative steps - she does show Heathcliff wrestling ownership of Wuthering Heights from Hindley, but that's about it, choosing instead to focus on the childhood Cathy and Heathcliff, who is played as a runaway slave, by a black actor, which works very effectively although a lot of his language, especially his cursing, seemed too modern for the period (I could be completely wrong about this).  The younger actors, especially the younger Cathy were terrific, which made the appearance of the older Cathy, played by a different actress, quite a let down. I actually thought it was Isabella when she first came on screen. It's a very visceral film; full of mud and wildlife (maybe too many dead bunnies for my liking) and raw emotions, and it's certainly different from other adaptations.  But I still think the definitive film has yet to be made.

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