Friday, November 10, 2006

I’m a cinematic ingrate

This week I’ve seen two films for free because Cath’s a whiz at getting preview tickets (although, alas, no free Rolos this time), but I have to admit if they hadn’t been free I don’t know whether I would have gone to see them. And even now I’m not sure whether they were worth it even for free.

Which isn’t to say they weren’t good films. Tuesday’s offering, Starter for Ten fairly accurately recreated the politicised world of student politics in the 80s, contrasted with the mundane-ness of ordinary life, the disaffectation of young people during that period, and the naffness of television programming. It does make you wonder where the mass-radicalism of the left disappeared by the 90s, and why anyone reminisces nostalgically about 80s TV shows. Yes, I remember University Challenge actually being this crap – perhaps the most accurate thing in the whole film.

The romantic plot involving members of the Bristol Uni team who are up for the Challenge is predictable – yet again the shallow, blonde stunner loses out to the passionate, grounded brunette. The stand out performance comes from Catherine Tate who leaves her hit-and-miss sketch show behind to prove that she can really act, and, with hardly any dialogue, uses just her eyes to leave the rest of the cast standing. Mark Gatiss also gives a credible portrayal as real-life TV ‘personality’ (cough, cough, splutter) Bamber Gascoigne. But overall, it’s a bit bland and twee enough to include the obligatory ‘it’s Christmas so it must be snowing’ scene.

In contrast, Breaking and Entering, is a bit more realistic about love, but as anyone who’s sat through director Anthony Minghella’s purgatorial The English Patient would expect, this is a film that is brilliant cinematically, yet drags. The story centres around Jude Law, partner to a depressed Swede, ‘father’ to a semi-autistic gymnast, and architect, who tracks down a teenager who keeps breaking into his office, then falls in love with said teen’s mother (Juliette Binoche) who is a Bosnian refugee. Only the amiable Martin Freeman lightens the mood, providing both comic relief and a sense of normalcy in an otherwise impossibly introspective tale.

Minghella obviously has a thing for Jude Law, teaming up with him for a third time after The Talented Mr Ripley and Cold Mountain, and also a thing for lovers having a tiff in a bathtub. This time it’s Jude and Juliette (who was also in The English Patient) instead of Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas, but it’s still far too similar a scene.

Perhaps a clue to Minghella’s impressionist directing can be found in having a half-Swedish character, because this slow-burning film with its loose ends (what is Binoche’s story from Sarajevo? What happened to Miro’s father? What is wrong exactly with Bea?) is very Scandinavian. Even when the characters do the right thing, the mood is depressing. But the biggest problem is that it is recognizably a great film, but I was incredibly glad when it eventually ended.

Jongudmund’s ratings
Starter for Ten: 5/10
Breaking and Entering: 5/10

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