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Category Archives: Film4

Suffragette

suffragetteSuffragette is the story of a fictional woman in early twentieth century London, who becomes involved with the Suffragette movement to enfranchise women in the United Kingdom. Maud Watts is an ordinary mother, working in a laundry to help make ends meet. We see the journey she takes as she goes from merely supporting suffrage, to actively and militantly campaigning for it.

This technique of using someone who becomes involved in a movement to illustrate how people interacted through history is one I appreciate. I think it provides a view of history that is easier to relate to, and is possibly more accurate as it doesn’t present history merely through the eyes of leaders.

In this instance, the ploy is largely successful. It is easy to empathise with Maud, especially as her son is taken away from her. But it is this element of the plot that somehow gets lost along the way. One minute she is a mother, and the next she is just a suffragette, and her son is neither seen nor mentioned again.

From a feminist perspective, perhaps there is nothing wrong with this. But the purpose of creating this fictional character as a lens through which to view history is to humanise the story. The tragedy of losing such a precious relationship could not be understated, and its impact on the protagonist should not have been overlooked. It is at this point that the film goes from being brilliant to being somewhat clinical, and having the feeling of a docudrama, rather than a film.

The dialogue, nonetheless, is brilliant throughout, and demonstrates an impeccable skill. Carey Mulligan’s performance as Maud is professional and engaging.

I just wish the writer, Abi Morgan, had stuck more doggedly to her initial approach.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 21 October 2015 in BFI, British Film, Film, Film4, Pathe

 

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Sightseers

Sometimes a film starts out poorly, but improves out of sight by the end of the exposition. Such a film is Sightseers, which begins with an elderly woman making a miserable groaning sound for several minutes, while her daughter tries to get her attention. None too quickly the horrible old woman is removed from the scenario as her misfit of a daughter and her equally awkward boyfriend pack a caravan and head off.

I must admit one thing that drew me to this film was the idea of Brits taking a caravanning holiday. I have always been curious to know the whys and wherefores of using a caravan to explore such a tiny island, and if there’s anyone out there with the same idea, I can tell you I have gained no insight into the phenomenon from watching this film.

What I did gain was a fantastically funny and gory 95 minutes. It was a little like a Tarantino film without all the corny one liners that really don’t work. And unlike a Tarantino film, it had characters. Real characters, with feelings and depth and backstories that you could only guess at. In some ways it was a bit like Shakespeare without the superfluous repetition, which of course brings us to the blood faster.

No, Sightseers is definitely not for children (not even my children!). It has one of the most hideous scenes of human mutilation I’ve ever seen in a film; and even this one has that wonderful capacity to combine gore and humour in the one image.

Don’t bother with Sightseers if you’re a little squeamish, but if you like a bit of blood with your humour, this is the film you’ve been waiting for.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 3 November 2012 in Big Talk Productions, British Film, Film, Film4, StudioCanal

 

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The Road to Guantanamo

There is a particular atmosphere in films that depict the victims of the Holocaust, and I found it incredibly disturbing to sense that same atmosphere in this excellent documentary recently aired on the SBS.

The Road to Guananamo is the story of several Pakistani Britons from Birmingham who found themselves caught up in the war in Afghanistan immediately following the 9/11 attacks, and who are ultimately imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, accused of being members of Al Qaeda. That this can happen to innocent travellers is hardly surprising, but the stories of their treatment at the hands of mostly American guards is no less shocking and outrageous than the many depictions of Jewish victims of the Nazis during World War II.
Apart from its moral position and emotional impact, which is similar to what I have felt when watching depictions of how the German Jews were treated in the early forties, what I found astonishing was the realisation of how conditioned I am. As these young men were relieved from their Afghani captors and handed over to the Americans, I felt, when I heard the American accent, a sense of relief; I felt their ordeal was finally over. Of course, the worse was yet to come, and the Americans proved themselves incapable of justice.
The film unselfconsciously takes advantage of our conditioning, allowing us to feel some confidence in the American gaolers before showing them to be as evil and conniving as their Nazi predecessors; and putting the story into this context highlights that the problem lies with the fascist element in the perpetrating society. While I cannot vouch for the voracity of the prisoners’ accounts of their gaolers’ actions, I am more inclined to trust their accounts than the rantings of governments beseiged by criticisms. What appalls me more than the behaviour of the American guards is the knowledge that Australians were imprisoned with these Pakistani Britons, and that our government was no more loyal to our people than the British were to theirs.
It is rare to see such a cogent and compelling story about the need to heed the lessons of history. While I know that the American people are every bit as honourable and worthy of respect as the Germans are, this film demonstrates that no people, least of all the Americans, should be complacent in holding their politicians accountable.
 

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Slumdog Millionaire

I’ve always been moderately fond of Danny Boyle’s films. I wouldn’t call myself a fan, I just notice his name on the end of films that I like quite regularly. Slumdog Millionaireis different. I loved it, and was shocked to see his name flash up at the end!

Although the plot is somewhat convoluted with a bit of ambiguity in its chronology, the story is intriguing, and although I went when I was kind of focused on something else (namely a meal at my favourite Lygon Street cafe), I was engaged quickly, and the film held my attention until the end.
There are some great performances from some child actors, and spectacular performances from the adult cast, but the star of this film is definitely the cinematography. From the slums of Mumbai to the Taj Mahal to the beauty of India’s countryside, even the most dire of circumstances is presented beautifully, composed with a delicacy that is not common in films about this subject matter.
There aren’t many films that successfully depict the horrible realities of our world and retain a sense of possibility and optimism, but Slumdog Millionaire does this beautifully. I suppose I will have to reassess my opinion of Danny Boyle. If he makes another film as good as this one!
 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 15 April 2009 in Celador, Film, Film4, Indian Film, Pathe

 

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