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Archive for the ‘Ciaran Hinds: Screen God’ Category

Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy

02 Jan

Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy — directed by Tomas Alfredson. Spy Suspense. There is a Russian spy secreted in British Intelligence, but which of the four suspects is it? 127 minutes Color 2011.

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You gaze as into an aquarium, and past your eyes many strange things pass, among which one of four identical fish may be poisonous. One is riveted by the strange slow movement of things back and forth before one and by the subterranean places one visits. This particular aquarium stretches from London to Paris to Budapest to Istanbul. Among the hunters and protectors of the poisonous fish is the premier English actor Gary Oldman, playing a man of great reserve, watchfulness, and respect. The barest response. The civillest tone. And a pair of glasses that hide everything or nothing, screening a face as closed as a shell. He is supported by a cast, which is as exquisite and apt as he is, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Ciarán Hinds (although his character needs to be given more play), John Hurt, Kathy Burke, David Dencik, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbactch. As we move through this aqueous stillness, we are held by the deliberation of the scenes, places, tones, which float the vessel of suspense entirely, for we too know nothing. We too haven’t a clue. So we surrender to that ignorance of the truth upon which suspense is built, if we participate in what is being done to us visually. We wait for it to be announced, not to be fooled but to be revealed as co-agents of the crime. Clearly the director is master hand. Clearly the editor Dino Johnsâter and the photographer Hoyte Van Hoytema are master hands, as are the set designers and art directors and composer. The medium they deliver us into is the jell of suspense itself, so we are not vexed by red herrings but prompted by them. The piece is drawn from John le Carré’s novel set in the cold war, and the movie strikes into the very center of the dirty heart of war, whose mindset is a bureaucratic tenement. We have here the drab underpinnings of espionage, so dandified up in the James Bond movies of fond memory. The film is a gem, a masterpiece, not to be missed or dismissed. Brilliant on every level of execution and a very high entertainment indeed.

 

 

Life In The Time Of War

19 Sep

Life During War – directed by Todd Solondz. Satirical Drama. The effect of child molesters on their families. 97 minutes Color 2009.

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The title is not only counter-invitational but inaccurate, and if it is not inaccurate it is pretentious, and if it is not pretentious it is SYMBOLIC, like someone’s dirty underwear turned inside out and hung up on the clothesline as though it were washed. The picture is also oddly photographed with color filters which make it all seem to be taking place inside a jukebox. This distances it from us. This is odd because the content of the scenes would be intimate if the written responses were plausible which they often aren’t: A mother telling her ten-year-old boy about her love life, a couple being spit at in a restaurant, a ten-year-old boy taking on because he believes he is being molested. To make any of this work, requires acting skill of a genius which some of the actors do not possess. The final scene of the picture is so badly written it is unactable, and is acted badly, and the scene leading up to it likewise. This leaves us with Allison Janney, the great, playing an inane housewife whose husband is jailed for molestation, and everything she does is on the money, both in terms of physical movement and in terms of tone. Shirley Henderson, the English Jennifer Jason Leigh, plays a forty year old woman dressed like a child, except without a child’s gumption. The character is hard to take but not impossible to take, because her lines ring true. And then there is Charlotte Rampling terrifying as a monster picked up in a bar by Ciarán Hinds and perfectly illustrative of the toilsome nature of sex. Renée Taylor is a welcome sight as the Jewish mother of three daughters, the last of whon is played by Ally Sheedy in a brilliantly set and played scene of consummate Hollywood self-involvement. Ciarán Hinds looms gravely, tragically, throughout the film, finally turning up in the background of the last scene as though he could actually resume relations with the Janney wife whose banality would have helped drive him off to start with. She’s not a woman with ideals but only idealizations. There is no conversation possible with her. She can only lie and not know it. The picture is a sequel, with different actors, to the director’s Happiness. It is well worth watching, but not because of its theme of forgiveness, for people never seem to say, “I’m sorry,” but only “Forgive me,” which is not the same thing at all. But still the hand of the director is unusual in its lifelines and worth regarding in its truths and untruths.

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Miss Pettigrew Lives ForA Day

15 Oct

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day — directed by Bharat Nalluri  Period romantic comedy in which a ditzy 1930s chanteuse is rounded by up an imposter housekeeper who heads them both for romance. 92 minutes color 2008.

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Yes, for the presence of the great Lee Pace. He seems to be unrecognizable from role to role — from the transgender Calpurnia in Soldier’s Girl, to Dick Hickock the Clutter murderer in Infamous, to this forthright male in love with a woman he will sacrifice not one iota of his lyrical being to gain. At 22 as Calpurnia, the arch-archer of feminity, to the male of males now, here at 28, and at the peak of his masculinity. Pettigrew was the first picture I noticed him in, and now I make a rewarding investigation of his contributions to the art. What a great actor! As to the picture itself, I liked it. It’s poorly directed visually and narratively, but there are wonderful actors in it, among whom is the manly Ciaran Hinds and that devious little minx Shirley Henderson, and they are tip top. Our beloved Frances McDormand as the housekeeper whacked-out on ethics, and Amy Adams as the Spring Byington-in-the-making, scatter-brained object of Pace’s perfect love. Pace and Adams play a night club duo, and both sing superbly. I saw it with an older crowd in the theatre, and they applauded, and I can understand why. I applaud here. It’s not for the puerile.

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