Monday, January 15, 2018

Screen Log 2: A Quiet Passion; The Crown Season 2; King Charles III; Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle; The Other Side of Hope

"King Charles III."

I was always on the verge of giving up on Terence Davies' A QUIET PASSION, always tempted to tell the movie to drop its stilted nonsense, but then I'd stop myself because of a passage so brilliant and wickedly humorous. Make no mistake: Mostly I was bored and couldn't wait for the movie to end. The writing never really felt organic to me--more a compilation of clever back-and-forths--and the narration of Emily Dickinson's poetry never went beyond feeling like a mere device. But at its best moments, this movie really could send you laughing, especially when Cynthia Nixon was being vicious or when Jennifer Ehle, sublime in her silences, ran away with whatever fraction of the limelight was given her. The following passage should prove my point.

Ehle as Vinnie: Mrs. Todd is about to depart.
Nixon as Emily: This life, or just this house?

The second season of THE CROWN was simply terrific television. Marvelous, acutely observed writing from start to end. Never looked less than royally expensive. The best parts of this season for me were Pip Torrens as Tommy Lascelles, who could deliver a droll monologue and make it sound like the state of the nation address, and Vanessa Kirby as Margaret--smoldering, bruised, feral. Thought the first three episodes, dealing with the Suez Crisis, felt like a world of their own, but then this was followed by the Margaret-centric fourth one, "Beryl," which for me was the season's best. All in all, can't wait for Olivia Colman to take the reins, but also finding it hard to say goodbye to the wonderful Claire Foy.

Which brings me to the TV adaptation of playwright Mike Bartlett's KING CHARLES III, directed to Olivier-winning acclaim and now for the screen by Rupert Goold. My problem with this was the way the conflict was presented. I don't know how they did it onstage, but here, it looked like a whole pile of shite to me. Parliament's trying to pass a law that would regulate the media, and the king doesn't want to sign it unless the prime minister spearheads some changes, which he refuses. So when the king intervenes, the whole country goes into uproar--against the king? Come on, like any self-respecting democracy would recognize the dangers of media regulation. If the show had been clearer on the specifics of the law, which I believe it was onstage, then the crises haunting the new king would have been more gripping. The monarch's always just an assenting voice to the prime minister, but now that he actually stood his ground for the people, the people turned against him, hated for standing by their freedom of speech, the press and information? Huh? I'd like to believe I simply misread--miswatched?--the film, but I didn't, so applause to the script in iambic pentameter, but that's as far as I'd go with my praises.

JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE, a stand-alone sequel to the Robin Williams movie, was a refreshing, unpretentious breath of fun. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole movie, reliant as it was on tropes. Plus, any movie which features a healthy dose of rhinos, hippos, crocs and snakes is a good time for me.

Aki Kaurismäki's THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE reminded me so much of 2011's "Le Havre"--deadpan acting, atmosphere as dry as a European Atacama, actors and scenes moving along like marionettes. It's a movie that initially bored me, gradually grew on me, and finally won me over, shy as it was at the start to reveal its enormous heart. An excellent film which I wouldn't watch again, if this makes sense.
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