Wednesday 23 August 2017

Short on budget, long on length

film reviews

HILARY A WHITE, AINE O'CONNOR and PADRAIG McKIERNAN

Carlos

Cert 15A

Venezuelan by birth but an operative for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Carlos the Jackal was one of the world's most wanted men in the 1970s thanks to a string of assassinations and terrorist attacks.

Snipped from a five-and-a-half-hour TV mini-series to a still-hefty 165 minutes, Carlos is an extensive, at times laborious, telling of his life.

There is an air of the "cinematic event" to Carlos. As an international fugitive, he was a household name following his dramatic capture in 1994. The weight of expectation sits upon this ambitious project from French director Olivier Assayas, but bar one or two arty shots of a naked Carlos (Edgar Ramirez), Assayas is workmanlike, eschewing style in favour of getting the job done within budget.

When he does choose to be an auteur, it doesn't work, like when he throws his favourite new-wave pop songs into the forefront of the soundtrack. What he feels this contributes to shots of jeeps driving through deserts or a militia attacking the 1975 OPEC conference is anyone's guess.

The difficulty is that 165 minutes squashes the broad sweep of the story, while also being a rear-numbing length of time to be stuck to an auditorium chair. In the second half, the nipping and tucking process can make things appear disjointed.

The inner workings of the man himself are laid bare, as is the hunter-hunted dynamic. Ramirez has the arrogant self-righteousness of a young left-wing militant, and on-location shoots across three continents mean he is never out of our sights.

Just be sure to stretch and maintain circulation.

HAW

Carlos is showing at the IFA

Let Me In

Cert 16

Even sight unseen, Let Me In evokes mixed feelings. Swedish film Let the Right One In was one of the best surprises in Irish cinemas last year. Atmospheric and original, it worked on many levels and didn't require any tweaking.

However, by its very subtitled nature, it was bound to remain somewhat under the radar and a version in English would at least bring it to a wider audience.

Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a lonely, bullied 12-year-old living with a mother whose interest in religion is bordering on the unhealthy. Left to his own devices, he befriends new neighbour Abby (Chloe Moretz), who is even odder than he, smells funny, is impervious to cold and lives in her boarded-up apartment with her creepy dad (Richard Jenkins), only appearing in the evening.

Strange happenings arouse the interest of local cop (Elias Koteas), but the affection that develops between the children can withstand a little oddness and persecution.

Written and directed by Matt Reeves, who made Cloverfield, Let Me In is well scripted, artfully lit and shot, and really well acted.

Faithful to the original in all but the ending, it only really differs in that the horror elements have been beefed up.

Importantly, though, as a film without any reference to the original, it also works. The issue around whether it should have been remade is a separate one.

AOC

Let Me In is out on Friday

Another Year

Cert 12A

Mike Leigh films are a question of both taste and humour; you can like his work, but not be in the mood for their introspective observation and almost exclusively character-based way of focussing on bigger things through minutiae.

Another Year revolves around Gerri (Ruth Sheen) and Tom (Jim Broadbent), happily married and in their late 50s/early 60s, with a grown-up son. Over a(nother) year, their relationship marks the constant, the axis around which other lives revolve. Around their love and contentment are the ebbs and swells of death, loneliness, hope, delusion, need, despair, repugnance and envy.

Leigh gives the actors a general outline and only what their character would know and from this they ad lib; a lot therefore rests on their performance and interpretation. Sheen and Broadbent play their roles fairly straight up while co-stars Lesley Manville, Peter Wright and Oliver Maltman get to emote a bit more. In places the emotion is a bit blunt, the characters border on caricature, and some actions are not fully explained.

Slow and not exactly action packed, fans of a little light cinematic anthropology will enjoy this. I enjoyed it a lot.

AOC

Another Year opens on Friday

The Kids Are All Right

Cert 16

Who would have thought it possible? A movie set in southern California revolving around a lesbian couple and their sperm-donated off-spring, which somehow doesn't come across like a party polemical broadcast on behalf of the politically correct party.

Such is the decidedly un-PC spectacle that awaits courtesy of director and co-writer Lisa Cholodenko' supremely entertaining comedy drama The Kids Are All Right.

The title may suggest another disposable cringefest targeted at teens, but this couldn't be further from its grown-up reality. Starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, this compelling piece touches on themes both universal and profound, and in a manner that sparkles with understated intelligence and wit.

Bening and Moore take centre stage as Nic and Jules, an affluent middle-class couple whose emotionally watertight world is rocked when their teenage kids decide to contact their biological father.

Enter one-man chaos-catalyst Paul (Mark Ruffalo). A monument to coolness, he rides a motorbike, owns an organic restaurant and, initially, seems to exert a benign influence on the family dynamic. It doesn't last, as lines get crossed and a downward domestic spiral is precipitated.

Top-notch casting, terrific performances and a script that mines mirth out of such diverse topics as "gay man-porn" and "Russian novels" combine to create a spectacle.

Cholodenko has delivered a touching, agenda-free piece. Frequently funny and occasionally hilarious, the winner is anyone who appreciates artful and accomplished filmmaking.

PMcK

The Kids Are All Right is now showing

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