Monday, 31 October 2011

Marnie: Dull or genius?

Nobody has ever doubted Hitchcock's brilliance or mastery, usually regarding every film of his as innovative and a masterpiece. However there have been a few movies made by Hitchcock where critics and filmgoers have not been so impressed. One of those films is Marnie (1964) starring Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery.

I was incredibly sceptical when I saw those two leading actors. I never could understand why Tippi Hedren was a star, I think she is plain in looks and rather boring as an actress. Sean Connery was great as James Bond (not as good as Roger Moore in my opinion), but in his other roles I have found him extremely irritating. But Marnie changed my opinion on both, and I see that they are both very good actors who gave solid performances in this thriller.

The film all in all, is very different to Hitchcock's usual style, in that there is a lot more talking rather than action, and there is very little suspense. However, the Hitchcock stamp is definitely there, igniting not as brightly as it has in his other work, but still aflame.

One of the most fascinating things I find with a Hitchcock film, is the representation of the mother figure. Whether it be in North By Northwest where the mother simply laughs at her son and gives him no support whatsoever, or here in Marnie, the mother characters in Hitchcock's films are always mocking, damaging or somewhat jeopardizing their childs chance of survival or happiness. It's interesting how this character is as consistently portrayed in the Hitchcock filmography as the cool, mysterious blonde, and if anyone knows more information on this please let me know.

One of the most shocking scenes in the film is the "rape" scene. This was brilliantly filmed because it was so horrible. Nothing is shown of the act, but leading up to it we have Connery ripping Hedren's clothes off, where she is laid bare. We only see her from the shoulder up, but she looks cold, empty, literally stripped of her dignity, and she stands there motionless- not even blinking- as he kisses her. All we then see is her blank eyes staring into the camera, followed by a cut to a close-up of Connery moving into the camera. This shot is overbearing and extremely intimidating- we feel her fear, and her helplessness of this tall, strong, dark, imposing man.

The power of the male over the female is very prominent in this movie- from the moment Marnie robs Connery's workplace, he plays games with her- asking questions that he knows the answers to, but knows she will answer with lie. He knows everything about her, and therefore has her in his power, forcing her to marry him. However, Connery, although forcing Hedren into marriage and into performing the duties of a wife, does actually want to help her clear her psychological hatred of men and fear of the colour red.

This is one of the flaws of the movie. The effects to show Marnie's panic at the colour red, is shown merely by a red filter filling the screen, nothing more. I found this incredibly disappointing, and regarding the effects Hitchcock has pulled off in his other works regardless of the effects available at the time, Marnie's effects were a let down.
Aside from it's flaws and it's less adventurous plotline, this film is engaging, shocking, and even compelling, because it is a real mystery as to why Marnie is so traumatised, and Hitchcock truly takes us on that psychological journey with Hedren and Connery.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Lion King 3D: Was it worth it?

Many people have criticized studios for re-releasing their films in 3D, usually because the 3D is never properly done therefore making it unnecessary, and it just seems like another moneymaking scam. Unless I know a film has been specifically made for 3D like Avatar, or in future months Tintin (I think it's made for 3D anyway), I will not be paying to watch it in 3D because when I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the 3D was nothing special; a waste of money (it's double the price) and the effect is barely noticeable.

But Disney's re-release of The Lion King is not a gimic. It doesn't have the best 3D effects but that is to be expected because it is an animation that is over a decade old and if I am thinking correctly, I don't think as much could have been done to enhance it with 3D effects. However what they have done is really beautiful and marvelously done, because you actually felt like you were in the savannah, you felt like you were in Africa. Whether it was the animals assembling at Pride Rock coming out of the screen, or the eerie storms with rain so enhanced you could almost touch it, or more impressively, feeling like we were Simba running for our lives from the stampeding wildebeest- were just a few of the treasures to behold in this remastering of the film.

It looks as glorious as ever and the first scene with that man singing along to that bright yellow sunset against a firey red sky, or the scenes where the African plains are under a curtain of terrential rain, create a most fantastic and exotic atmosphere.

As far as characters go, watching the film as an adult made me laugh even more, because I think as we all find with children's films, we only really get the jokes when we're older, and they are always hilarious in Disney's case. Zazu voiced by Rowan Atkinson is just this stuffy British lovable feathery thing, whilst Rafiki the wise baboon provides much humour when he teases Simba and hits him with his stick. Jeremy Irons is the perfect villain with his matured-wine voice, and devilish wit, along with the hyenas who are just as funny. Just when you think there are enough laughs in the film, along come Timon and Pumbaa charging onto the screen with more jokes and great lines than any other character duo in Disney.

Probably the greatest element of The Lion King is it's soundtrack. Elton John did such an incredible job on the songs like Circle of Life, Hakuna Mattata and Can You Feel The Love Tonight, that even some of the audience couldn't stop themselves from singing along (charming for a couples of seconds, but annoying when they sing for the rest of the song). But the songs are timeless classics and still today have that big, celebratory, joyous, and romantic mix that makes it one of the most popular soundtracks to date. Hans Zimmer's score is as haunting as ever, particularly the scene of the rain on the plains with the track 'This Land'. The score sounds like the land is singing- like Africa herself is singing her heart and soul out to the highest heavens. The score definitely gives the film it's emotional edge, no one can forget the music accompaniments, particularly in the Mufasa death scene, which I think will make everyone cry til their dying day. Watching this infamous scene as an adult was quite extraordinary. It hit me just how traumatic the scene was, for anyone, and for a child to watch this scene would be, for them, watching their worst nightmare. But Disney handled the scene with great tenderness and beauty, much like their predecessors did with Bambi.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is where Simba sees his father in his reflection and is then visited by his father's ghost from on high in a mass on clouds and beaming light. Even though kids might be too young to understand the message in this scene, I think as an adult it is hugely meaningful in saying how you cannot run away from your past, and that in doing so you are actually betraying yourself. You have to face it and not run away. What also made me cry was how Simba could his father in himself, 'He lives in you' as Rafiki says. Another point I recognised whilst watching this was that Mufasa's character is such a rich one, he is the epitome of the father figure and a great moral figure too. The wise advice he gives his son is something that children will listen to, because we can all relate to Simba when he disappoints his father and learns a lesson, giving the film an important educational message that youngsters will understand.

I don't think that anyone of my generation, and indeed any other generation, that has watched and loved this animation throughout their childhood; who can recite it word for word, act it out action for action- can not have tears in their eyes or have some heartwarming childhood memory called to mind when watching this. I can honestly say that watching it, I still felt like the twenty year old girl I am, but I also felt like I was watching it with my toddler self. It was just as magical as it ever was.

The Lion King is one of the most entertaining, eye-catching, tearjerking films to have ever been made, and with the addition of 3D effects, to watch this beloved classic again with a new technology was a wonderful, and moving experience that I won't forget. Thank you Disney for giving me a chance to see it on the big screen in magnificent 3D.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Departed: Scorsese finally does it

After watching Martin Scorsese's films of the early noughties like The Aviator, I did wonder that he may have lost his magical ability with directing. Although his films remained to look exquisitely sumptuous and always had glimpses of genius, they never quite captured the magic of his classics like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and his best film (in my opinion), Goodfellas.

Then a few months back I watched one of his most recent triumphs, Shutter Island. Although I was disturbed by some parts of the movie, I could not fault that it was another outstanding contribution to the remarkable Scorsese filmography. Shutter Island contained all the richness of a Scorsese picture, but with a new, more modern edge that made even the newest directors of the industry couldn't quite cut.

This week I watched The Departed for the first time, which was made before Shutter Island, and I realised three things.
1.) Scorsese deserved his Oscar, and thank god he finally won it.
2.) I can see why he chose to use DiCaprio again- they make a great team.
3.) This is the film where he found his flare and mastery of the camera and storytelling again.

The Departed is a fast-paced, edgy gangster picture, with many heart-racing and shocking moments. It felt different to a Scorsese picture, in the way the colours and the cinematography wasn't so rich and warm- for me this picture felt colder, but I think that is reflected in the outcome of the movie. DiCaprio, for me, gives his finest performance in film, just when I thought he would never top his role in Catch Me If You Can. Matt Damon, as always, produced a solid performance. My only two problems with this movie were Ray Winstone's accent which was about as consistent the weather, and Jack Nicholson.

Now I love Jack Nicholson, for me he can do no wrong, but in this film it did feel like he was playing a caricature of a crime lord. I never felt scared of him, which I usually do, I never felt the sternness in his voice like he had in A Few Good Men, or the mad and calculating tone of him as the Joker or in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Another great performance was from Mark Wahlberg, who was- quite frankly- exceptional.

Regardless, The Departed had me gripped throughout, and kept shocking me whenever I least expected it. As far as I am concerned, Scorsese should have won three of four Oscars by the time this film was released, but I can also see, why the Academy had to give it to him. Very few films I have seen, have had the sharpness and class that I saw in The Departed. This is a must-see, the only thing people may not like is the language- but what can you expect from Scorsese picture?

For me, The Departed proved once again, that Martin Scorsese, is the undisputed master of the gangster picture.