02 November, 2006

Word of Mouth

Red Road

Andrea Arnold builds up a great atmosphere that may be too slow-burning for some but is the kind of thing I love. By the time we find out what’s going on so much goodwill has been generated that the sheer implausibility of the plot’s conclusion isn’t as much of a disappointment as it could have been. Perhaps her writing skills will catch up with her considerable directorial skills by her next movie.

What I liked about it most was how much was left to subtext rather than explicitly stated. The audience didn’t need to know every single detail immediately, we could read between the lines as we gradually fit the jigsaw pieces together ourselves.

Red Road is the first of three films that make up The Advance Party. It’s Lars von Trier’s project where he has challenged three directors to create films with the same group of characters.

Box Office #17


I loved the first one but during the second I was so bored I had time to work out the directorial tricks used to make it seem scarier than it actually was. So I had no intention of seeing number three but I heard it might be the last part of a trilogy and then finding out in the news that public health warnings have been issued because people were fainting and running out screaming during it was the absolute clincher.

It was a good decision as I think Leigh Whannell has done a good job this time round, which may even have surpassed his debut in terms of quality. For a while it seemed to be just the same type of thing, Jigsaw giving people a chance to redeem themselves and then them achieving it or not but then the focus moves to Jigsaw himself and the main players in his ultimate game. Sure, you still get the fiendish potential killing devices but the non-linear approach meant it was kept relatively surprising and fresh.

There was one particular logic flaw in Saw I which I couldn't let go regarding Jigsaw's whereabouts, Whannell uses III to explain that flaw away beautifully in a flashback. I don’t know if one of my fellow logic fascists mentioned it to him or it just bugged him and he decided to fix it himself. But it goes to show that you can have your cool moments but if you take your time you can find a convincing explanation for them as well.

Box Office #1

A Good Year

Based on the review ratings, I was expecting a cheap house plonk and while it is certainly no 1787 vintage Sauternes from Château Yquem, it’s quaffable and affable enough.

Although, saying that, it does have major problems, namely the tone and genre. It’s as if they didn’t find the script funny enough and so improvised stuff on set and, bizarrely, in the editing. The comedy sometimes has a desperate feel to it and there is a lack of actual gags.

They wanted to show Max as being an arsehole. When asked why he hasn’t contacted his vineyard owning relative for so long, he says "because I'm an arsehole". Slightly on-the-nose, and just how many arseholes actually know they are arseholes and glory in it? It could be a valid characterisation choice, I suppose, but it wasn’t followed through so I believe it wasn’t deliberate.

Fair enough, Max has to start off as an arsehole before going on his journey of potential change but he has to be made sympathetic in some way so we care whether he changes or not. For instance, if he was an arsehole for a reason - something to do with his high pressure job and the expectations that go with it - then that would have been better I think.

I really like the structure of this and it could have been a nice gentle romantic comedy like Marc Klein’s excellent and under-rated previous movie Serendipity but Ridley Scott’s directorial approach to comedy uses a sledgehammer when a stiletto was required.

Box Office #9

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