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Review of the month: September

I am generally very pleased with the films I’ve seen so far –three at the Deauville American Film Festival, one premiere in Paris. Here are the reviews:

* District 9, directed by Neill Blomkamp. A surprisingly successful hit in America, this is the film no one saw coming and yet, that everyone will remember, for it brings something audiences are craving for: originality. An impressive action film/science fiction dystopia/social commentary, District 9 is very much a product of our times. Fear of the unknown and the stranger permeates the entire plot, and yet, the film also brings hope and emotion through the journey of an unlikely hero, Wikus Van De Merwe. Aliens have set foot on Earth but are found to be weak, lowly-intelligent, midly-obedient creatures; which in itself is a somewhat revolutionary twist to the alien film genre. They are treated as nothing less than dirt and are enclosed in a gloomy refugee camp, hence the title of the film. There is something highly disturbing in seeing these images –indeed, they look real. First-time director Blomkamp has gone for a bold and rewarding visual approach -the documentary style, Greengrass-like. That is why the film is so ingenious: very successful in its form, and both intelligent and emotional in its contents. The main character’s journey is a painful and sometimes horrid affair, and the film is doing its best to remind us that this is, after all, a flawed and selfish man trying to survive. And the aliens, far from looking like ridiculous plastic creatures, are given real importance and profundity. The special effects are incredibly well-done and praise must be bestowed on every make-up artist and animator who has worked on this film. The action pieces, which are getting louder and bigger as more suspense is added, are nothing short of the most impressive you’ll see this year. Which is somehow strange considering that the ‘message’ of the film (I hate that expression) is conveyed in quite a versatile manner, through the characters and the plot, a slightly veiled allegory of our troubled and terrifying society. Truly, District 9 makes up for an exhilarating and intense experience, a hybrid and unique film indeed.

* (500) Days of Summer, directed by Marc Webb. Another outstanding film that gladly twists established conventions, except in a totally different genre: the romantic comedy. It’s a fresh take on a genre filled with clichés –and gently pokes them. The premise is simple: a boy, Tom, meets a girl, Summer, and he falls in love with her, but she doesn’t. Obvious quirkiness aside (music and graphic design included), the film is aimed at everyone who’s ever fallen in love, or out of it, and that’s the key to its success. The characters are so accessible, likeable in their trials and loathable in others, that the film comes to touch upon something very personal indeed, something that’s touched each and everyone of us: liking someone, and being liked or not in return. There is a palpable sense of fantasy to the film too, as dreams and expectations are being tested; but that familiar feeling of disappointement that often follow them is not forgotten either. The directing is very nicely handled -elegant even in the little details; and as I’ve said before, writing is impeccable in terms of character development and comical timing. Props to Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, the brillant lead actors (she has a harder job than him, though), and to the supporting players, which despite their somewhat ‘catalogue roles’, have some brillant moments of their own. Overall, an incredibly pleasant and affective film, filled with genuine emotion.

* The September Issue, directed by R.J. Cutler. A documentary focusing on Anna Wintour‘s career as editor-in-chief of the American Vogue, as well as her tremendous influence on the fashion world. One might expect this documentary to be quite limited in its subject matter -lack of interest for some, contempt from others; but it’s actually an informative, entertaining and more importantly, well-made film. The viewer is completely immersed in a world he may not be familiar with, or even interested in, but he is drawn into it all. Of course, this film will sell to fashionistas which seem to be its target audience, but it’s about more than that -it’s about lives, people, careers, even if they are peculiar ones indeed (each appearance of editor André Leon Talley in the film was greeted with laughter, he is outrageously funny). The film offers insight into one of the most exclusive of worlds –fashion– and yet, does it with sincerity and tact. Fashion may be deemed superficial, but people live according to it. That’s what really comes across in the end: the humanity behind it all. Anna Wintour, of course, lives in a world of her own –but she’s also human, even though she may seem unreachable in her ivory tower. Interestingly enough, Grace Coddington, another editor at Vogue, is almost portrayed as Wintour’s alter ego, a nicer, more human version at any rate; and much of the film revolves around the tension and disagreements between them, which is a rather clever way of adding depth and dimension to the story. A highly recommended documentary then, if only for its gorgeous cinematography, which won a deserved award at the Sundance Festival.

* The Time Traveler’s Wife, directed by Robert Schwentke. Adapted from the book of the same name, The Time Traveler’s Wife is a rather disappointing and very much failed attempt to bring Audrey Niffenegger’s characters to the screen. Of course, my opinion is strongly influenced by my devotion to the book, which I read several years ago and still cherish very much… It’s pointless to try and look at it any other way; anyone who’s read the book will fall flat on their faces watching the film. Trying to judge it from a ‘neutral’ point of view is therefore really difficult for me… On the whole, I’d say good performances, beautiful art design and somewhat conventional directing. On the other hand, the adaptation is a mess. Time-travel is such a delicate subject matter, and suspension of disbelief fits reading so much more than viewing. The film consequently feels awkward and strained –Claire’s feelings for Henry, for exemple, are taken for granted; and many questions are left unanswered, too many. In trying to make the experience less confusing to the viewer, the filmmakers have also lost quite a lot of the original richness of the characters and subject. I suspect that most people who would want a traditional romantic comedy, or ‘romcom’, will be satisfied by what this film has to offer. But because the book was so much more than that, a grand tale of love and suffering through the years, I feel that it hasn’t really done justice to it. And (SPOILERS!) something which pissed me off to no end: the ending is different than the one in the book! Typical…

Well, that’s it for now! I feel as if I’m getting rusty at writing these reviews but heh! I missed it. Happy viewings everyone!

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Coming soon!

Sorry for the lack of updates! Had to take down the blog for a while because people are stealing my bandwidth. Bad people! May I remind you all that this blog is written for free, therefore I am using Photobucket as an image host; so please host the image on your own server if you’d like to use it. There, I’ve said it.

It’s been a busy time as usual. Fall’s always very exciting in terms of movies; and I’ve had the pleasure to attend the Deauville American Film Festival so I will report soon with all my thoughts about the films I’ve seen there and other films I’ve seen lately.
Stay tuned! Will be back with an actual update soon 🙂

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