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Tag Archives: Paris

Amour

Amour probably won’t rate too highly on many people’s radars. It’s a little slow, the plot is a little controversial, but only if you have some knowledge of it, and it has no real pizazz to draw attention to itself. It doesn’t even draw you in terribly well, but nonetheless, I admire it deeply, and think it deserves more attention than it is likely to get.

As a film, it is strongest in what I think is one of the most important aspects of all films; it takes the transcendent, the metaphysical, the magic of life, and plonks it down into the stuff of life, the grit and grime of reality where it rubs up against a higher meaning, a sense of purpose.

We meet the protagonists as they attend a recital at a theatre on the Champs Elysée. The elderly couple speak to the pianist afterwards, and they are clearly on familiar terms. From here, they return home to what seems a humble but comfortable existence. The following day, the wife suffers a stroke, which paralyses her on her right side, and their world is slowly changed. In fact, the gradual decline of her condition sometimes lulls the audience into a false sense of security as the couple adapt and change to accommodate alterations. The change, however, doesn’t cease.

If ever there was a good reason to make a slow film, this is it. The gradation of the woman’s deteriorating condition is carefully crafted to draw your attention away from the inevitable. The couple simply carry on with life and take control of whatever they can take control of.

I really wish more films were like this. There is no reason to divorce the transcendent from the prosaic, and here where they coexist they say something that few other mediums could put so eloquently. If the opportunity arises, see this film.

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 6 November 2012 in Film, French Film, Les Film Les Losange, Wega, X-Filme Creative Poole

 

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Hugo

Hugois a great film, although it is about half an hour longer than it needs to be and (coincidentally?) half an hour too sappy.

Set in Paris, it’s the story of an orphan in the care of his drunkard uncle, who undertakes his uncle’s work to remain in his home in Gare Montparnasse, to avoid ending up in an orphanage. His home puts him in the perfect position to pilfer the bits he needs to continue his dead father’s work restoring an old automaton, but it also puts him at risk from the station’s other denizens.
The story is excellent, and the visual effects stunning. The characters are beautifully composed, and the whole film sings… as long as you’re patient. This film would have been so much better if it had been written by a Frenchman; its American screenwright, however, has seen fit to weigh it down with as much schmaltz as he could muster. It’s a shame, because it would be just about perfect without it.
 
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Posted by on Sunday, 11 March 2012 in Film

 

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The Phantom of the Opera

I’m just home from Las Vegas where I had the opportunity to see The Phantom of the Opera at The Venetian. What I have found fascinating since first hearing about the production is the idea that a theatre could be constructed specifically for one show; it seems at once wasteful and devout. The ancient Greeks invented the notion of an architectural entity devoted to theatre, and three thousand years seems rather a long time to wait for a theatre devoted to one show. Las Vegas, apparently, boasts two, but I only managed to see the Venetian’s Phantom Theatre. It is a spectacular representation of Paris’s Opera Populaire, complete with wax vestiges of Parisian high society in the nineteenth century in the balconies.

The custom build has allowed for some spectacular use of the fly tower to quickly present a myriad of different scenes and aid some very clever blocking. Effects including fireworks and flame throwers as well as a dancing chandelier and a rather clever gondola, not to mention the thickest smoke I’ve ever seen, cover a multitude of sins as the performers omit all pathos to avoid making a technical error. Not that it would matter if their performances were better; the audience simply wouldn’t notice with all the smoke and mirrors around (and, I might add, not all of the smoke is intentional special effect; Nevada’s lax smoking laws mean that cigarette smoke from the neighbouring casino fills the auditorium constantly).

I’ve said in the past that I like museum pieces; and apart from some impressive special effects, there’s little more of value in this show. Any student of theatre should see it, purely to flesh out their understanding of nineteenth century theatrical culture and gain a sense of the theatre’s layout. Of course, if you’re going to Paris you could go see the real thing, and probably get a better show into the bargain. The Venetian’s production, though, is also a fine example of theatrical precision, and execution, but little more. Dead flat characterisation and mechanical and unfeeling theatrical precision from the performers sucks what little life Andrew Lloyd Webber deigned to sprinkle into his book, and leaves you with nothing more than special effects to keep you entertained.

The big theatrical surprise of my trip to the United States is that the express version of Aladdin being performed twice daily (and often more) at Disney’s California Adventure Park shows the same technical precision and impressive technical effects while also portraying the story and characters with reasonable passion. It really puts the Venetian’s production of Phantom to shame. Still, that’s Las Vegas; the bright and shiny things are a very thin veil designed to distract the observer from the soulless decrepitude of the human condition. Andrew Lloyd Webber fits in perfectly.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 9 April 2011 in Musical Theatre, Theatre

 

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