Archive for April 10th, 2012

April 10, 2012

Play Time (1967 – Blu-Ray)

“A film that comes from another planet, where they make films differently”

Jacques Tati is often declared a genius, with his blend of French mime and Chaplin-esque silent comedy. However when I tried watching 1953’s ‘Mr. Hulot’s Holiday’ I found it tedious in the extreme with only one gag involving his car towards the end eliciting anything beyond the merest smile. So after a few months I decided to give him another go with his celebrated 1967 colour film ‘Play Time’, but sadly I only found this slightly funnier. Maybe you just have to be French to find an extended sequence about sitting on chairs funny.

 

Thankfully this Blu-Ray of ‘Play Time’ has much more to recommend it. The fascinating commentary track tells the story of the long and troubled production and makes watching the film rather enjoyable. Clearly Tati went a little mad in his pursuit of perfection as he ended up shooting for three years, bankrupting himself, his family and his studio resulting in the French President becoming involved.

The idea was to have his Mr. Magoo like character Mr. Hulot stubble through a machine-like modernist city disrupting it’s ordered inhumane flow. Most directors would have got a location scout to find a suitable office complex to shoot in. But not Tati, he decided to build his own city with its own tarmaced roads, office buildings, working traffic lights, real escalators and even its own power plant along with a population of hundreds of office workers, tourists and pedestrians. The resulting effect is a grey minimalist fantasy world of glass walls, shiny metal design and infuriating electronics. It’s the kind of maniacal vision that is usually only the preserve of perhaps my favourite director Francis Ford Coppola. Tati further ramped up costs by shooting on expensive 70mm stock, which half a century later on Blu-ray translates into a glorious level of detail. Watch ‘Play Time’ to marvel at the sheer ambition… if not for the laughs.

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April 10, 2012

Harry Brown (2009 – Blu-Ray)

“It’s not Northern Ireland Harry… No it’s not, those people were fighting for something, for a cause. To them out there, this is just entertainment”

Having watched one London bound Michael Caine film this week I thought I’d try another with the 2009 release ‘Harry Brown’. The story follows seemingly mild-mannered pensioner Harry’s nightmare existence among the violent denizens of a south London estate.  The simmering unchecked violence has prescient shades of the recent London Riots.  After his wife dies and the estate’s youths brutally murder his only friend it’s revealed that Harry was as a young man a highly trained marine who it’s suggested took a less than blameless part in the bloody past of Northern Island. At this point he acquires a hold-all full of guns and turns vigilanty.

The thing that nearly ruined the film for me was the use of ‘Digital Blood’. When are filmmakers gonna learn that you can always tell it’s been added in post and that just squeezing a bit of Heinz everywhere would probably look more realistic! Violence is used thoughout ‘Harry Brown’ and when it is physical like punching and kicking it is shocking to the point where you may be forced to look away. Then as soon as someone gets shot you’re not turning away in disgust but throwing your hands in the air saying “That looks so fake!”.

Caine is of course mercurial as the star of this depressing show and the supporting cast of young actors is excellent to. However the usually reliable Sean Harris turns in a performance so outlandishly crazed, depraved and rotten as a drug dealer that it clashes with the gritty realism on display elsewhere. The film’s thought-provoking grimness is diminished by a final “Revelation” that I found largely meaningless.