Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Pt1


I saw this tonight. OF the movies, I feel like it was the best Harry Potter so far. This despite the fact that it doesn’t have an ending.

Voldermort’s power is growing. He takes control of the ministry of magic and Hogwarts. Harry, Ron and Hermione must go on the run and find a load of Horcruxes ( or was it Crackwhores?) the magical Macguffins they must destroy in order to kill Voldermort.

Mainly I think it’s better because of the structure. Unlike the other movies it doesn’t take place at Hogwarts and so can dispense with a lot of that Enid-Blyton-Jolly-hockey-sticks style plot and just go with a classic hero’s journey structure instead.

Also it focuses in on Ron, Hermione and Harry who are really what it’s all about and although there are still lots of extraneous characters, they are not allowed to hog(wart) the screen time from the leads. Who have all got much better as the movies have gone along and turn in really good performances.  Helped by a script that really focuses on the relationships between them. There’s also some great action set pieces and David Yates keeps it all moving with a sense of impending dread.

Some things don’t work so well. A few scenes came across like Lord of The Rings or King Arthur and I didn’t really give a shit about the death at the end. But overall it was really enjoyable.

Accused – Frankie’s story

Episode two of accused by Jimmy Mcgovern was called Frankie’s story. It was about two  friends both soldiers in Afghanistan. Frankie’s best mate is being bullied by his platoon commander (Mckenzie Crook). Frankie must decide whether to stand by or report the abuse and take action.

I missed the first eight minutes but thought it was a great piece of fictional drama. The army have complained loads about it in recent days because it was thematically controversial. But I think that kind of bullying has definitely gone on in the past. Deepcut springs to mind.

It did feel unrealistic in the context of a front line camp in Afghanistan. Maybe because the story isolated the bullying element and didn’t weave it into any kind of broader war story. ( Maybe this was for time and budget reasons.) At the same time it made bullying totally endemic in the army rather than just a trait of his platoon and I wondered if this was really the case?

These things made it seem a bit of an outsiders view of what the war must be like. But hey what do I know! From memory – The Mark of Cain dealt with similar subjects better.

I liked the ending. The idea that the father of the dead soldier had the same mentality as Mckenzine Crook’s sergeant. That the ideal of his son as a hero was more important than the truth and he was prepared to sacrifice Frankie’s ‘life’ to that ideal. Frankie too goes along with it for the sake of his and everyone else’s reputation. Which I guess was the polemic. 

I think a longer drama could have covered the subject with more shade, depth and subtlety, but still very tense and enjoyable.

Uncle Boonmee who can recall his past lives

I saw this yesterday also, after Robinson in ruins. A double bill of experimental art movies!

Uncle Boonmee is dying. He is visited by his sster in law and a nephew. They are staying at his home to help look after him. He shows them round his farm. Then one night at dinner his dead wife arrives as a ghost and his dead son arrives as a monkey-monster. They are benevolent and seem to be there to help ease him into the spirit world.

The film had some great moments. I particularly liked the visual representation of the visiting ghost-wife (double exposure floating in and out) and the monsters-son (black chewbaccas with red eyes). Also the beautiful sequence of stars inside the cave.

I fell asleep at some point during the middle and woke up about ten minutes later. In my semi-dream the dialogue was all in English and my brain began to interpret it to the nearest equivalent words. When I woke up and started reading the subtitles again it still made no more sense.

The main story had disappeared and there was a long unconnected vignette about a princess who meets a magical catfish by a waterfall and has sex with him in exchange for him making her young again ?!? Eventually it returned to the main story.

I haven’t clue what it was all about. On Imdb it say’s it’s about Boonmee recalling all his past lives, which I didn’t get at all! But it was an enjoyable film with a dream feel to it, full of beautiful images. It also had a slow meditative feel, reflective of this Buddhist strand of Thai culture.

Robinson in Ruins

I saw this film yesterday. It’s a strange experimental travelogue round the south of England featuring beautiful images of nature and industrial settings. It is also quietly hypnotic and the pace is slow and relaxing, rather like a meditation. 

Vanessa Redgrave is the unnamed narrator of the film. She tells us that her research institute came across this ‘found footage’ and a diary belonging to a mysterious character called Robinson. From these they have pieced together the documentary.

Robinson, she tells us, slept rough and filmed these images around the time of the economic crash in 2008. He  noted the history and provenance of the things he filmed each day in his diary along with the daily news. These  stories and entries, Redgrave delivers over the related images in a calm factual manner.

They  relate to the erosion of the countryside and common land. From the middle ages up to the present day. How it was sold – first to the landed gentry for farming, then to the American Military for missile bases and then to private energy companies to transport gas and oil.

These stories are interspersed with information about the stock market crash  and with scientific reports on global warming. So that I think what you’re supposed to take from it is that Capitalism has sold nature for a quick buck and for political ends.

I didn’t even attempt to absorb this mass of historical and philosophical information. The detail seemed totally irrelevant. In fact the silent moments where the camera lingered on shots of nature were the strongest moments of the film.

My favourite line of narration was something along the lines of: ‘Though people find it easy to imagine the collapse of ecosystems through global warming. They can in no way imagine the collapse of capitalism, which is in itself just another system. – The suggestion is that not only is nature fragile but also humanity and it’s systems that it thinks are infallible.

To me the film pointed up the futility of human actions, the way all these multi million dollar military bases had been built and crumbled, much like the castles and ruins that also feature. All these things that had such purpose at the time now just lie forgotten – because history and nature eat everything.


Let me In

I saw Let me In a few days ago. It is an American remake of the Swedish film – Let the Right One In.

I thought it was a good film. Some single scenes feel stronger and some weaker. But over all I think I liked the original film better. I haven’t seen the original for a while but I remember being blown away by it, which I wasn’t by this.

Maybe it was because this time round I knew all the plot beats and so there were no shocks or surprises. But I couldn’t help compare the two films and, though this one has definite improvements, I think Let the Right One In is better.

First, how I think Let Me In is better –

It uses the dramatic midpoint as the opening hook of the story – which I don’t remember from the original and is a great exciting way to start in. It cut out a whole B story from the original film involving the village drunks a few of whom get attacked. This hones the film, but they did kind of provided some comedy and tonal variation in the original.

It uses the old photo trick to  strengthen the back story of the Abby’s ‘father’ showing him as a young boy very similar to Owen. This is a great extra bit of story added with minimum effort.  I also love the creepy addition of a scene with Owen ( Kodi Smit-Mcphee) in the weird Halloween mask.

Now, how I think Let me in is worse –

Often it seems like a shot for shot remake. I prefered the kid actors in the original film, I thought they gave subtler performances. Although the kids are good here, their characters are a bit more extreme.

The film was over scored. It has that Hollywood thing of music over everything. All kinds of grating sound and music fill every mundane moment to ramp up the scariness. Then when Abby and Owen are together the film jumps to this kooky love theme which jars completely with the rest of the score and even distracts from the actors subtle performances.

Stylistically the film does this thing where it follows the lead and everything else is in very shallow focus. This is great for reveals, but feels unnecessary in other places. Like why is the mum’s face not shown at all it seems an unnecessary extra gimmick.

I think it would be interesting to watch both films again one after the other and compare them, they both have stronger and weaker sequences throughout. In the end it goes to show – it is the story and characters that are brilliantly strong and any number of directors could interpret it differently.