January Variety Pack (1)

I know, it’s been a while. My apologies; my excuse is that I was lazy. Not a very good one, is it? In any case, I thought that rather than write one long update on a film I’d recently watched, I’d do some shorter ones. So without much further ado, here’s the first of my variety packs – the second is to follow very soon…

Four Lions

I have to say, when I heard about the film I was both intrigued and worried. It’s not that I think there are topics that can’t be treated by satire – but I also find the equal-opportunity-offender satire of, say, Trey Parker and Matt Stone neither particularly funny nor all that perceptive; in aiming at all targets, it rarely achieves more to my mind than a general, “Well, all positions can be a bit silly, can’t they?” Also, being offensive for its own sake is such a lazy way of satirising a subject. Which, let me hasten to say, Four Lions doesn’t do. In fact, for satire it is far from offensive in one important sense: as it opens its subjects to ridicule, it also evokes sympathy for them. It humanises its protagonists, the Muslim suicide bombers, as it shows them to be deeply flawed and silly in their motivations and reasoning. And it’s exactly this element that makes the film so funny and chilling in its strongest moments – rather than saying, “Those guys are our enemies and need to be destroyed” it asks us to see them as fellow human beings, albeit misguided ones… which may be much more subversive: love thy enemy.

But, apart from that, Four Lions is one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a while, asking the very important question: “Is a wookiee a bear, Control?”

P.S.: In terms of its darky humorous yet sympathetic tone, Four Lions reminded me of the Danish black comedy Adam’s Apples. Also highly recommended!

Never Let Me Go

Since I liked Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel a lot, I was curious about the film version by Mark Romanek of One Hour Photo semi-fame. I was also worried; would the novel’s delicate, moody tone survive the transition to the big screen, and more importantly, would it survive La Knightley? I’m not her biggest fan – I do think she’s talented, but more often than not film makers make the assumption on the part of the audience that we fancy her like mad, and they then become lazy when it comes to letting her act. Instead she ends up doing her portruding-chin shtik that signifies, “My character is feisty, passionate and won’t take crap from anyone!” All too often she doesn’t portray characters on screen so much as do a slight variation of what she’s done in other successful films. Since I don’t find her particularly sexy (I was definitely Team Parminder in Bend It Like Beckham) Keira being Keira just isn’t enough.

I wasn’t particularly fair in this fear, at least when it comes to Never Let Me Go. The adaptation isn’t perfect: it would need some more time for the implications of what’s going on to sink in and be as quietly devastating as in Ishiguro’s novel, and the writing (the script is by Alex Garland, whose work I tend to find compelling and frustrating in equal measure) is a little too on-the-nose at times, assuming that the audience is too thick to get it. But the casting, including Keira Knightley, works perfectly. Yes, both Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan aren’t miles from the parts they usually play, and it’s not as if Knightley is miles away from other parts she’s done, but the actors fit their parts to a T, with Garfield especially delivering a performance as poignant as that he gave in Boy A. I could imagine that my first criticism is less of an issue for those who haven’t read the novel – the film isn’t rushed by any means, it just doesn’t give its audience quite as much breathing space, which is what I missed a bit.

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