The Thorn in my heart

The thorn in my heart is a feature documentary by Michel Gondry about his Aunt Suzette – who was as a primary school teacher in small village school for all of her working life.

The film documents her return to each of these schools, where she meets up with her grown up students. They have great fondness for her an she is described as an imaginative teacher ahead of her time but also a little strict.

By way of contrast we see her with her family and focus on her difficult relationship with her son Jean Yves. He is a middle aged gay man who still lives at home with her, and is a dreamer and creative detached from the world. He loves super 8 films and model making What Michel might have been in a different incarnation.

We see Jean Yve’s train set in the inter titles, but I was a little disappointed that the film didn’t have more of Ghondy’s own trademark surreal animation in it. There is one great  sequences where  Michel and Suzette give a workshop to  kids about making invisible costumes for film and afterwards we get to see the magical film they created.

Over all a loving crafted exploration of Ghondry’s relatives and the family dramas are revealed with a lightness of touch. (Something I’m sure I wont be saying about his next film – The Green Hornet!)

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.