Saturday, March 23, 2013

I'm No Siskel or Ebert, But I Have My Opinions

While we were in London, we managed to see four films.  The movies covered a range of genres - Hollywood, indie, documentary, and film fest offering - and for the most part, they all had their strengths.  We saw Hitchcock (with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren) and enjoyed it.  I always like a good period piece, and I love Helen Mirren.  This film takes place during the time when Hitchcock was making Psycho, and I'd say that one of the things I enjoyed most was the way the film illustrated his wife Alma's (played by Mirren) instrumental role in his career.  I'd call it stylish and smart even if was light on the way Hitchcock could be overbearing.

The second movie we saw was Vinyl, an indie film that has garnered some attention through the film festival circuit.  This is the film for aging punk rockers, who also happen to be the main characters of the film.  In short, bandmates from 'the day' get back together, record a song (while drunk) that turns out to be very good but face the ageism of the contemporary music industry when they try to get someone to listen to it.  So they make a fake band featuring high school students who, for the most part, can't play any instruments.  This is based on the true story of Alarm frontman Mike Peters'  rock and roll hoax of 2004 (yes, I know you remember it well).  Definitely a good time.

The London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival happened to be going on while we were there, and tickets sold out quickly for many of the programs.  We got tickets to a discussion of Chantal Ackerman (and her place in queer film festivals) that included a screening of the documentary, Chantal Ackerman, From Here.  I have to admit that I had really only known Ackerman by name; the ladyfriend had suggested that this would be a good program, and it was.  The documentary was shot in what I've now learned is similar to Ackerman's style, and I really enjoyed listening to her talk about her work.  The discussion that followed it, which included a paper on Ackerman, was also quite interesting, and the ladyfriend made a very good point about films in queer festivals (a point probably worthy of a post of its own).  I'm glad I went, and we'll be buying Ackerman's films to watch when we return home.

On our last day in London, we went to see the Australian feature film Submerge, (also part of the gay/lesbian film festival).  The shortest synopsis of it that I can provide is this - university student training to be a world-class swimmer falls for her TA, gets her TA, but then loses her, gets into S/M, spirals out of control, and then... well, at the end, she's back in the pool (alive, not dead).  I have to say, this film was totally disappointing.  In fact, there was very little to redeem it.  I wrote the following in response to a review online:

"I saw the film at the London Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, and while I agree with some of your assessment, I think it could go further. There really weren't any characters in the film; they were almost all stock characters (Lukas being perhaps the most fully formed of the "free spirit" archetype). We don't even get to understand what Jordan does or doesn't want. There's no reflection upon her actions and almost no meaningful dialogue (romance was communicated by scenes of the women laughing together). What bothered me, and those with whom I saw the film, most were the overly conservative politics - everyone was white (the only person of colour was in the "bad" S/M house) and upper middle-class. As soon as Jordan started exploring S/M, she spiraled into drugs as though that were the only possibility. Also, no recently-tenured young faculty member (Cameron) would be able to afford that kind of house and life, especially when his partner is a TA (Teaching Assistant). Quite honestly this film was very hetero-normative and not even in an interesting way."

I read another write-up of the film that praised the music, and while the pop songs weren't bad, the "plinky-plinky" piano music that was meant to indicate significant moments was tedious.   Finally, I didn't even mention in the above comment that to top it off, the sex scenes weren't even sexy!  I mean, c'mon, there was a lot of potential for some hot action in a film that had the protagonist boffing everyone from her TA to her roommate to some hot chicks at the S/M club and more.

I could go on, but I won't.  I guess three out of four ain't bad...

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