What I Watched Last Week – 19/05/2014 – Only three reviews this time

University deadlines/exams, coupled with the arrival of a package containing a horror-fiction novel called The Shining, have meant a distinct lack of film watching and reviewing this past week. There was also the Fuse Film Festival for which I was ‘festival editor’; there were some surprisingly high quality films and there’ll be a full report in the next couple days. OK then.

Lost in Translation (2003) – 4/5
Director: Sofia Coppola
Cast: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson

LostInTranslation

Sofia Coppola’s outstanding Japan-set dramedy, Lost in Translation, is all about that odd sense of companionship that forms when two people, strangers, recognise that not only are they both utterly out of their depth but also sharing the same sinking boat. Scarlett Johansson plays a depressed post-grad stuck in the physical limbo of her hotel room, while Bill Murray is on ‘famous guy having mid-life crisis’ duty, a job he conducts with marked panache. The sly script and the easy bond between the leads make Lost in Translation extremely likeable, but what will really pique most people’s interest is the Japanese culture that Sofia Coppola forcibly submerges you in; it is challenging, fascinating, intimidating even, with the hotel bars full of ignorant white businessmen – bloated by their egos and too much booze – being the only respite (though not much of one) from the terrifying all day arcades and karaoke-strip bars of Tokyo town.

Much of the comedy relies on the confusions of language and culture that occur between the American visitors and their enthusiastic oriental hosts and, while it’s an easy to do (and even easier to overdo) territory, Coppola gets it just right. Murray’s weary but hilarious wit provides the perfect antidote to the madness of his surroundings; he’s a very grounding source of warmth in an alien land full of flashy lights and pointy hands. Now watch some bizarre whiskey commercials, which Coppola lampoons with tender amusement in her ‘Suntory time!’ spoof, Lost in Translation’s most gleeful moment.

This one has Sofia Coppola’s very own pa involved, and it’s surely what gave rise to the idea for her pastiche in the first place.

Being a secret agent is whiskey business – here’s Sean Connery’s effort. God knows what they paid him. Shuntory… acshept no schubsctitute.

Bill Murray’s priceless contribution to the Suntory legacy.

Manhattan (1979) – 5/5
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway, Meryl Streep

Manhattan

Manhattan: This is a well written and directed drama/romance in which the characters t- no, no, no, too complacent; start over. It’s often said that neurosis can turn a simply talented artiste into a creative god, and Woody Allen’s multi-layered love letter letter to New York unequivocally prov- nooope, too magnanimous; begin again. Woody Allen is the great director of our time, a man to whom all directors and screenwriters should pay homage every day and with their every waking breath and creative thought on set, kissing well laminated photos of his face before they get to work to remind themselves that they are only human, knowing but happily accepting that their work can never be as – superfluous garbage. Shit. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton were, are, indeed always will be, the greatest on screen pairing in human hi- DAMMIT. Manhattan is a really good film. (Watch vid to understand)

But goodness gracious, Manhattan is truly sublime filmmaking – Annie Hall blows in comparison – and utterly charming from the opening sequence to the closing shot. Said intro, overlaid with the voice of Allen’s erring and formerly successful writer hammering out the first sentence to his new, great book, perfectly captures the essence of his character, the film and New York as an entity – it is magnificent, and its use of ‘Artsy Black and White Establishing Shots of a City At Work’ has never been bettered.

A Dangerous Method (2011) – 3/5
Director: David Cronenburg
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Gadon

ADangerousMethod

Following on from A History of Violence (misleading title that remains irritating even now) and Eastern Promises (false advertising, again), this film marks the third collaboration between Sir Stubble (aka Viggo Mortensen) and his discerning director chum, David Cronenburg. Beginning in 1904, A Dangerous Method is a cinematic account of the intense friendship between psychoanalysis primogenitor Sigmund Freud (Mortensen) and his younger, less esteemed (yet ultimately more influential and widely regarded) colleague, Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender). Being the cream of the behavioural theorist crop, Jung and Freud had much to discuses, purportedly speaking for thirteen hours straight upon their first encounter, yet the paternally minded Freud drove the pair apart with his aversion to the research, or even mere contemplation, of the ‘self-aggrandising’, atavistic schools of telepathy and ‘catalytic exterioriation phenomenon’ that Jung so energetically entertained. Another antagonistic force was of, course, Freud’s smothering of any psycho-somatic theory with his priapic preoccupations: ‘I think, perhaps, you should entertain the possibility that it represents the penis’.

Playing disturbed patient and future psychologist Sabina Spielrein is Keria Knightley, who for the first half an hour behaves like she’s auditioning for Gollum before transforming into an empowered seductress that further facilitates the breakdown of Freud and Jung’s partnership by encouraging the latter to break the sacred vow of doctor-patient celibacy. Her S + M treatment, the dangerous method of the (accurate, for once) title, pretty much comes down to two scenes of her character being spanked and enjoying it. Between Fassbender and Mortensen there is a great deal of philosophical drawing room discussion, which is the perfect platform for these two serious actors to get serious and do some serious acting. If you can keep track of how many times a pipe is filled (and identify the underlying oedipal/homoerotic desires that drive the learned men to puff away so compulsively) then you win a prize.

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