Tir (Ita/Cro) (imdb)
lonely life of a long distance lorry driver doesn't have a lot of
leeway to grow into something larger, and one way to make sure of that
is to confine the majority of the film to inside the cab. Despite this,
Tir does well with it's confinements. Branco has been with his firm
for a few months, earning a substantially larger wage packet than he did
as a teacher. Though this provides for his far-away family (which he
keeps in touch with via the cab radio), it means a lot of time away from
them on the road. Shot much like a documentary, we join Branco and his
cab partner Maki as they take turns sleeping and driving across
Europe. Moving slowly, the film captures the increasing realisation
that Branco needs to reassess his career once more, as Maki moves on
without a replacement, his bosses want more and more from him, and the
increasingly strained conversations with his wife suggest he might want
to be at home more, lest she start some shenanigans with a family
Tir will probably be too slow for some, but
what eventually emerges is the not so glamorous life on the road for
thousands of truck drivers the world over, the film highlighting the
early starts, claustrophobic conditions and the colourful characters
encountered along the way. I certainly have a better appreciation of
such careers, and would be quite happy not switching mine, thank you
very much. 7/10
The Kidnapping of Michel Houellbecq (Fra) (review)
you notice that 'Fra' bit in the title up there? Did that set off any
alarm bells for you? If you wondered maybe this might be an annoying
French film, you would be right!
I didn't know who Michel Houellbecq was prior to this film, and maybe it would have been a good idea to find out who he was
before watching the film. He is apparently a prolific and
controversial author and filmmaker, who during a book tour in 2011, fell
off the radar for a while. Some people thought maybe he had been
kidnapped, and thus the premise of the film was born.
decided to lend himself to the title role, and plays what the blurb
assures me is a caricature of himself, although not one as entertaining
as Bruce Campbell did in My Name is Bruce.
Instead, he is a shambling, withered and thoroughly annoying man,
forever trudging the streets of France being philosophically French
(yes, again) at the most mundane of subjects with anyone who will engage
him in conversation. His flappy, gummy mouth bibbles out guff and
spittle, and do please cover your ears when he is eating, as it is not a
sound you want your head to be invaded by.
like to think that this thoroughly dislikeable character is indeed a
caricature of the man, but I will have to blame that on my optimistic
outlook on life.
The film, never intended as a
serious character study, fulfils the intention of the title - eventually
- as a trio of brothers, all meat-headed bodybuilders, follow him,
bundle him in a box, and take them to their parent's house, who seem
completely okay with holding him to ransom. Everyone is
uncharacteristically polite, and very little goes on outside the house -
either to hurry along the ransom demands (they just seem to wait for
someone to notice he is missing), or for any alarm bells to be raised.
Instead, the whole experience focuses on a variant of Stockholm
Syndrome; after some polite introductions and more than a little
chainsmoking, the captors relax their already limp grip on him, and
begin to debate with him at the dinner table.
kidnapping film, Houellbecq falls flat on it's face. Too busy having
fun with itself, any believability is thrown from the window and it's
mildly entertaining silliness is all it can fall back on - something it
loses somewhat with the introduction of a local prostitute part way
through, which I felt ran contrary to the lightheartedness of the rest
of the film. I find it difficult to recommend to anyone, which is a
shame as the mechanic of a bunch of bodybuilders and a frail
intellectual introducing each other to their experiences could have been
used so much more effectively. 5.5/10
Ningen (Jap/Tur/Fra) (synopsis)
stories of the Fox and the Tanuki (Raccoon-type creatures native to
Japan) are prevalent in Japanese folklore, and most Japanese children,
and the adults they grow into will know at least a few of them. In
them, the animals are mischievous shape-shifters who often assume the
form of human beings, in order to trick us out of our belongings. The
Studio Ghibli film Pom Poko
plays on elements of several of the stories, although mostly from the
point of view of the Tanuki. Mostly, though these stories are
relatively unknown outside of Japan.
So it was with
some surprise to learn that the directors of this film were Turkish and
French, who went to great lengths to tell a Japanese story as it would
be told by a Japanese director. I think they managed it pretty well.
Ningen, a fox and a tanuki collude with each other, betting that they
can swipe the gold from a human through trickery. As a proviso to make
things more interesting, they agree to maintain human form until one of
them wins the bet. But many years later they still haven't succeeded,
and in the meantime, they have forgotten what it was like not to be in
the human world.
This doesn't immediately fit into
the world we are introduced to; a middle-aged and tired looking
businessman and his secretary wife struggle to come to terms of their
departments' dire-looking sales forecasts. He spends his evenings
downing Saki with his friend at the red light district bar, while she
broods at home over her decreasing health. Eventually, the pressure of
the job and the disgrace of failure gets to him, and an attempt to throw
himself from the window of the high-rise building lands him in a mental
home for a spell.
Ningen uses a traditional eastern
way of storytelling that relies more on the viewer working things out
for themselves rather than being obvious about it; it doesn't make clear
until some way in who are the fox and tanuki, and who is their human
target, to the point where you are wondering whether the story was
merely a metaphoric introduction to the film. However, this is a
strength, rather than a frustration of the film, which weaves the
initially separate tales loosely together at first, tightening them
together until they merge as the story matures.
The result is an initially quite ordinary film that develops into something much more rewarding, and well worth a look. 7.5/10
Magic in the Moonlight (US) (wiki)
Allen, despite being well over 200 years old now, is still pumping out
those films. They seem to coincide nicely with the festival circuit.
One seems to be doing the rounds every year.
the Moonlight is a jaunty tale set in 1920's France, populated by
affable Brits larking about instead of doing proper work. Colin Firth
is your natural affable Brit, and he does a pretty good job of playing
Stanley, a magician turned professional skeptic who, when not exciting
the crowds with his magic tricks, uncovers the palmreaders and spirit
realm soothsayers for the charlatans they are before any more grieving
widows hand over their moneys for a last chat with their departed other
Something of a celebrity in the circle, he is confounded by Sophie, a young woman who claims to have psychic powers,
who appears to be the real thing - and after several demonstrations of
her abilities comes to a crashing realisation that there is more to life
than he has allowed himself to believe.
Now don't worry, I haven't gone all new age here. Sophie is indeed
unmasked as a fake, and Allen is not trying to tell us we should all
believe in the unknown wooery peddled by these people, or even in some
general higher order. Firth's skeptic is an arrogant, narrow minded
boor, whose likability is down to the fact that it's Colin Firth
underneath it all; a caricature of the sort of person some would lazily
term as having 'militant' views.
My take on the message
here is in response to the rise of a more skeptical way of thinking in
recent times, which is - sure, question and be critical of limp-minded
explanations of the way the world works, but don't be a dick about it,
and don't close your mind so much that the beauty of the world is also
lost, a message that I can get behind given some recent events in the
atheist community. My only real problem with the film is with Stanleys'
portrayal of a skeptical mind, which some will take away as being
synonymous with unlikability, and perhaps even some mild mental
disorder. But if you can put that aside for a second, it is actually a
pretty good film, and one of the stronger Woody Allen films I've seen
in some time. 7.5/10