A bit of a step up from last week, but other matters continue to restrict me to one film a week, unfortunately. As I said before, I doubt that will change much in the next one or two months, at least. Still, these Weekly Updates—for what they’re worth—will keep rolling in week after week, regardless of their sometimes minimal content.
Bronson (2009) - 6/10
Ever since I saw Drive back in 2011—a film which ended up being my personal favourite of that year—I have been meaning to get more acquainted with Nicolas Winding Refn’s previous directorial efforts. Bronson, of course, was among those films and stood out in particular due to Tom Hardy’s famous breakthrough performance featured within it. And so Bronson has been on my watchlist for a good three years now, and I finally got to see it recently. My initial reaction: perplexed; though I should have expected as much considering who was in the director’s chair. I thought Bronson was a very well put together piece of filmmaking, full of little quirks and oddities perfectly characteristic of Refn’s style and modus operandi. Oh, and the music was excellent—I could easily see how Refn’s choice of songs eventually evolved to deliver an absolute game-changer of a soundtrack with Drive. Still, Bronson left me somewhat unsatisfied. I wish the film wasn’t such a jumbled offering of disjointed scenes and anachronistic plotting. The individual pieces I quite liked, don’t get me wrong, but the bigger picture left something to be desired, in my opinion. Furthermore, the third act was a tad anticlimactic and failed to provide proper closure to this extraordinary tale. Still, there’s a determined Tom Hardy at the centre of it all, and that certainly bumped the film up considerably. His physicality is astonishing here and you can tell he acted his heart out for this role. Bronson was also produced on something of a micro budget, so that’s another impressive feat right there. Overall, I wish I liked the film more than I ultimately did, but I just couldn’t get to grips with its problematic narrative.
While some of the other recent weeks have been as equally barren as the present one, they did at least revolve around good films worthy of discussion, something which I’m afraid cannot be said about the film featured this week. Keep reading if you want to find out why that is, exactly.
Tabu (2012) - 4/10
I got to see a little Portuguese ‘gem’ by the name of Tabu this week. While having received little attention from general audiences upon and since its release, the movie made its rounds of film festivals back in 2012 and critics responded favourably to it. Things looked promising, and so I was very curious to see what the film would amount to as I went into it. Unfortunately, I regret to report that while Tabu was certainly an interesting film from a stylistic point of view, it is nowhere near a cinematic gem of any sort. Let me get the good stuff out of the way first. Tabu’s standout characteristics lie in its visual and sound department. It is a black-and-white film presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio and whose second half of its running time is entirely devoid of diegetic dialogue. It is a bold piece of filmmaking, no doubt, and its ‘gimmick’—and it is exactly that, no two ways about it—works well for the most part. The cinematography is impressive and makes for some beautiful black-and-white imagery while the lack of dialogue in the second half puts an interesting spin on the concepts of flashbacks and memory in film. I should also mention the soundtrack, which features an assortment of memorable tunes (some more well-known than others, but all equally effective). So as you can see, there is a fair bit to like about Tabu—which makes it all the more painful to witness its potential squandered on such a lacklustre and muddied narrative as the one which lies at its heart. For one, the two ‘halves’ or chapters that the film is divided in feel far too disconnected from each other. Furthermore, the first half introduces some significant plot threads which are never returned to and resolved in any way once the second half is set in motion. Then there’s the love story about a forbidden affair which is meant to arouse emotion and be moving thanks to some prominent build-up during the first half of the film, but which never amounts to anything more than a run-of-the-mill tale of romance set in an exotic location and a colonial setting. It’s almost as if Tabu thinks that it is special, and it almost tricks you into believing the same, but it ultimately doesn’t amount to more than the sum of its parts—most which are not that great to begin with.
Another slow week, as was to be expected. However, I did get to watch a very special film which I was long overdue (certainly longer than most people, I’d say) on seeing. Read more about it below.
Singin' in the Rain (1952) - 9/10
Yes, it took me this long to finally see Singin’ in the Rain for the first time. As someone who isn’t particularly fond of musicals, I was a bit hesitant going into this classic and had somewhat diminished expectations for how it would play out. Little did I know that despite the genre, Singin’ in the Rain would turn out to be one of the best films I had ever seen. I did feel really stupid afterwards for my initial reluctance, I must say. Not only does this movie provide remarkable insight into the world of filmmaking during the classical Hollywood era, but the song and dance numbers are a marvel to behold. Gene Kelly must have been something of a genius, and his performance in the film is absolutely without fault. His fellow cast members Donald O’Connor, Jean Hagen, and Debbie Reynolds hold their own as well, with O’Connor in particular delivering a brilliantly comedic supporting performance. Whenever Kelly is on screen, though, everything else seems to fade into the background, and quite often this also includes the rest of the cast. On a different note, while Singin’ in the Rain is a tremendous cinematic achievement and a must-see for all ages, it does fall short of perfection due to the extended Broadway musical sequence in the middle—not only does the scene feel out of place, but it’s also far too long for something bearing little to no narrative relevance. Still, it was remarkably choreographed and visually impressive—much like every other number in the film. Other than that, Singin’ in the Rain is a true cinematic wonder and a delight to watch. I intend on revisiting it time and time again.
It’s all slow weeks from now, if I had to guess. Other work is looming on the horizon, so I’m afraid my time will need to be devoted elsewhere for the most part. I am doubtful that I’ll be able to continue my trek through whatever 2011 films I have left to see. However, I will try and squeeze in a visit to the cinema here and there, so contemporary releases like the one below are not entirely out of the picture.
The Guest (2014) - 7/10
Ever since You’re Next, I have been closely monitoring Adam Wingard’s every move, eagerly anticipating his feature length follow-up. His recent segments for the anthologies The ABCs of Death and V/H/S (as well as its sequel) also made an impression on me, though I still need to catch up with some of his earlier work (A Horrible Way to Die comes to mind). In any case, The Guest was a logical next step as it had opened in theatres not too long ago. I was initially concerned about Wingard’s departure from horror to something veering more towards a thriller, but early reviews won me over and I purchased a ticket to the cinema shortly thereafter. Having now seen the film, I realise that I needn’t have worried, as Wingard knew exactly what he was doing with this latest directorial effort. Part The Terminator, part Halloween, and part Drive, The Guest is a sort of genre-bender—and a rather unique one at that. I’m not quite sure I’d even heard of an action thriller which transitions into slasher horror before, and so The Guest certainly sets a precedent in that regard. Moreover, the film is surprisingly funny thanks to some well-placed black humour, and features a lovely assortment of retro synth tunes on its soundtrack. Dan Stevens is something of a force of nature in the leading role, and I found Maika Monroe to be a bright young talent who I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing perform previous to this. Adam Wingard deserves another round of thumbs up for what he was able to accomplish with The Guest. The film is undoubtedly very good and I had an absolute blast watching it. I don’t necessarily consider it a truly excellent piece of filmmaking, but that’s all right, because the end result is more than enough, and for me The Guest already counts among my favourites of the year.