Tuesday 16 January 2018

Heroes of Hogwarts come of age

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Pt 1)
Cert 12A

AINE O'CONNOR Padraig McKiernan and Hilary A White

THE Deathly Hallows: Part 1 represents the beginning of the end of an era. The seventh and final Harry Potter novel has been made into the seventh and eighth films in the series (Part 2 is due out next summer), and Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are out of Hogwarts.

Following the death of Dumbledore, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and the Death Eaters plan to take over the world, destroying all Muggles (non-magicians) and killing Harry Potter, their most lethal enemy, who is about to turn 18.

A stellar cast rally in his support, but they are betrayed and an even greater array rallies against him, including Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter and Imelda Staunton. However, this first part of the finale is laying the building blocks and focuses on the magical trio of Harry, Hermione and Ron, their characters and sort of love triangle.

There's not a lot of plot for 150 minutes of film, and there are longueurs in the middle. Overall, however, director David Yates continues the increasingly dark tone of the series. It's more grown-up and character-driven, with Ron developing an extra dimension. Radcliffe is, for me, the weakest link because he just isn't that convincing.

The change is completed in that Hogwarts is barely glimpsed; instead they largely inhabit tents and wildernesses. Britain looks fabulous and the landscapes, sets and impressive special effects combine to make a great-looking film. This film is the means to an end, a little too long and not suitable for younger children. It should, however, keep the diehards happy, until next year's ultimate sadness.


The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is now showing nationwide

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest

Cert 16

IS it too easy to say the film is never as good as the book? Surely Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy was proof that chopping out endless paragraphs of description and superfluous incidents can see a yarn spun more coherently. Stieg Larsson's millions of fans are bound to restart the debate. But as someone who has not got around to reading the three doorstops that make up the reportedly brilliant Millennium Trilogy, all I can say is Daniel Alfredson's film is a sturdy, darkly intriguing saga that keeps you guessing.

After a quick reminder of where we are in the overall tale, TGWKTHN commences by joining feisty bisexual goth hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) in hospital, where she spends the first hour recuperating after the last film's near-death climax. In a nearby room lies Alexander Zalachenko, her attacker and father. Lisbeth faces trial for three murders, and courageous journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Myqvist) looks to defend her in a special edition of Millennium, the magazine he publishes.

But when threats are made towards him and his team by an unknown higher power, it seems some people are intent on keeping Lisbeth silent. All the while she's stalked by the menacing Niedermann (Micke Spreitz).

Lost? Well, if so, it hints at a fundamental flaw of this last instalment, namely that it must be watched with some knowledge of the previous chapters.

Otherwise, it's a smorgasbord of cold Scandinavian efficiency. Rapace is custom-built to portray her singular protagonist, while Myqvist's heavy, pockmarked face says much with little effort. Alfredson cruises the camera around, timing the plot strikes evenly and observing a story so good it tells itself.


The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest opens on Friday

My Afternoons with Marguerite

Cert 15A

HIS recent disparaging comments around her perceived thespian deficiencies have probably confirmed Gerard Depardieu's status as the man least likely to appear on Juliette Binoche's Christmas-card list this year. To add injury to insult, the sheer brilliance of his performance in My Afternoons with Marguerite leaves the slighted Binoche little room for manoeuvre in terms of scorn-reciprocation.

Depardieu stars as Germain Chazes, a likeable lug whose initial persona suggests the local village idiot is never likely to be lonely when Germain is about. Home is where the heartbreak is as he's obliged to care for a difficult mother, while the one chink in the clouds of his dissatisfaction comes from a connection he enjoys with the dreamy Annette (Sophie Guillemin), a local bus driver.

Life takes a turn for the transformative courtesy of a chance encounter with sophisticated ninety-something Marguerite (Gisele Casadesus) at a park bench he frequents. She reads him extracts from Albert Camus and a friendship blossoms. The contact with books is the catalyst for contemplation as flashbacks reveal the extent to which Germain's life was blighted by an unhappy childhood. A moving and eloquent meditation on the power of maternal love and the consequences of its withdrawal ensues.

There may be a disconcerting touch of Driving Madame Daisy but this is much more nuanced and affecting. Depardieu is masterful while Casadesus adds greatly to a spectacle that transcends its melancholic raw material to deliver a poignant end product that bristles with life and authenticity. Writer-director Jean Becker is also worthy of praise for delivering a classic of its kind. A definite must-see.


My Afternoons with Marguerite opens on Friday

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