Film Reviews for: Shame, Soldier of God, Anna Karenina and First Men in the Moon
I am a big Michael Fassbender fan. His performance in Inglorious Basterds was up there with the Brandos and Pacino’s of this world. He holds this movie together with a taught, up-tight performance but the movie doesn’t quite deliver. It stops one base short of a home run. Which is a shame because it’s beautifully filmed, paced and has all the ingredients for a good movie. The locations are very evocative of emotional breakdown which is what you basically see happening. An emotionally repressed young exec – Fassbender is seeking release through sexual-obsession. He is willing to try anything with anyone and has retreated into this world. His workplace provides a sort of second family for him and is the only place he actually connects with people. Into his life, against his will, comes his emotionally fraught little sister – sissy, played by Carey Mulligan. Their parents are no longer around and she seems on the edge of a breakdown. He resents bitterly her pull on his emotions and the clash pushes her even closer to the edge. She is a semi-professional singer and the scene of her performance in a club made my teeth grind. Carey Mulligan has a good, but untrained voice and the over-egged delivery of New York, New York – in New York, acapella, was a little painful. If Fassbender’s character hadn’t stayed silent, when asked if he though it was good, I would have really disliked this film. The main protagonist’s essential taste is one of things that holds this together. This movie had the potential to be a 4/5 or 5/5 but it doesn’t quite get there. I think the writer just didn’t want to take the risk that would have been necessary to actually say something of value. I am all for movies that start from nowhere and end nowhere – existential movies in the 60s and early 70s excelled at this – even in Hollywood (I am thinking of a James Caan film where he is a hitman wanting to retire). Those movies start with an unusual premise but this movie just builds around a disfunctional family – nothing unusual these days – 3/5.
Soldier of God
This is an interesting premise: Crusader meets Moslem assassin and Jewish merchant in the desert at the tent of a widowed young mother. The actor playing the Crusader is no great shakes with a sword and this was a weakness early on in the film. However once the assassin saves his life by giving him water, we are off on an interesting philosophical romp. The vitriol both later spit at each other when they discuss religion was really convincing and the easy urbanity of the Jewish merchant left me wondering where this was going to go. Of course I won’t reveal the end but it’s well worth a watch if you like history and religion as subjects. The period costume, gore and scenery are spot on. Luckily one doesn’t need to ask too many questions – like how on earth does a single woman survive with her baby in the middle of the desert, because this movie is about ideas and the surreal landscape and events only act to reinforce this. It is almost a parable and special mention must be made of Mapi Galán – the young woman, whose beautifully poised portrayal of a level head in troubled times certainly impressed me. 4/5
I saw this at the Odeon, Leicester Square, and the big screen is certainly where you should see this movie. The sets are superb and the sound effects stunning. Its quite an emotional roller-coaster as anybody familiar with this story will know: love, deceit, envy, jealousy, revenge and tragedy. As with many many Russian novels turned into movies, it portrays Russia as a paradise for romantics and this jars a bit for somebody who has experienced the real thing. However I cannot fault the perfomances of Keira Knightly and Jude Law. If you love romance, you will love this movie. 4/5
First Men in the Moon
I love this movie and I hadn’t seen it since childhood until last week. Since it is one of Lional Jeffries’ best movies, and he died recently, it may have been a tribute. I remember him fondly in many movies and particularly Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and this movies. For 1964 it has a suprising sense of authenticity about it. I remember it as pure fantasy and slapstick and it starts out that way. The charm of Kate (Martha Hayer) being dragged into the space-sphere at the last moment is an enduring image of childhood. But when we meet the aliens – the Selenites, you are struck by how much like the modern concept of ‘grays’ they are. I was actually impressed by how authentic it felt. Altogether a very entertaining movie and fondly remembered. 4/5