London 1999. In the shadow of the Millennium Dome, men with faces as rough as Bethnal Green tube station laugh and leer at the camera. These monsters in bow ties are grotesque; their mirth rains like rancid nails, their stories are tired and worn like old 78s. Smoke rises, expelled from their black lungs filling the boxing hall with violent nostalgia, sinister nonsense.
We know the images–the screams, that desperate radio chatter on September 11th 2001, those blazing towers might well have been upended battleships from Pearl Harbour. It was a call to war that America answered, a revenge far reaching, never ending. It was a slow decline, a haemorrhaging of money and resources. The violent death of a Super-Power in a decade of war that still rages today in Mali and Algeria. We know the images and that is why Kathryn Bigelow keeps them behind a dark screen.
America 1858. “Gentleman, you had my curiosity. But now you have my attention.” Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie, Francophile, plantation owner and slave trader addresses Django and Dr King Schultz with ridiculous Southern hospitality. To paraphrase David Thomson, a slaver’s good manners are, “About as encouraging as sweet breath in someone preparing to torture you.” A new Tarantino film always arouses curiosity but a Spaghetti Western about slavery demands our attention.
“Is God dead?” For some atheists he never lived, but our film idols did. And when the director you worship dies how do you begin to replace him? Like religion there’s a good deal of choice on offer: Romanek, Audiard, Haneke, Nolan, Ramsay, Tarantino, but one shouldn’t be hurried into making a rash decision. Their talents are undeniable but when your deity is Stanley Kubrick the problem becomes ever more complex; how do you substitute the one true cinematic God for one of his children?
In the third year of the Great Patriotic War a nameless boy and his sick mother make their way back to their home in Ukraine. The train they travel on rumbles like artillery fire, a fellow passenger curses, “We will suffocate in here like a gas chamber.” The boy’s story is just one in a disparate sea of millions as humanity washes back to shore, the Nazi dam ruptured under the weight of Stalingrad, Kursk and the annihilation of Army Group Centre.
Inside the charm and gentle wit of “The Wedding Video” is an Ira Levin satire trying to claw its way out. Set in the WAG safe-haven of Cheshire, Nigel Cole’s movie has all the right credentials to be a British version of “The Stepford Wives” or “Rosemary’s Baby” as it documents the run-up to the wedding of upwardly mobile couple Tim and Saskia.
Faster, higher stronger! The Olympics continue to deliver the most extraordinary tales of endeavour, victory and defeat against the backdrop of a resurgent London. Athletes and pundits litter their media bites with all the standards: dedication, hard work, sacrifice, agony, heartache, despair, elation and desire. We’re used to sporting comebacks; we love the tenacity and the heroism of them but where do world famous film directors retreat to when they have to lick their wounds?
“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.” Hans Gruber may have misquoted Plutarch but his lament seems perfectly suited for Christopher Nolan. If “Inception” was his Battle of Issus grinding the might of the old Hollywood blockbuster beneath his heel then “The Dark Knight Rises” is Nolan’s Hydaspes and the mutiny of his army in its bloody aftermath.
The grin on Eric Packer’s limo is 50,000miles wide. And why wouldn’t it be? His limo is bullet proof, bomb proof and future proof. He’s a billionaire investor rocking the fly honey heiress and hangs with rap stars like Brutha Fez. He can get his prostate checked out daily and snap up priceless art with the flick of his wrist. Eric’s so rich he has two private elevators: one each to suit both of his moods.
Eric is 28.
Male boredom assumes many forms. The simple act of throwing rocks at a tin can. Boy racing a white Toyota Supra up and down the Banks Peninsula. Homophobic abuse. This is the life facing Josh and Dave; awkward angular teens with milk bottle legs. They could be contestants into an Andy Murray look-alike contest.