World of Film

An Exploration of Cinematic Encounters…

A Prophet (Dir/ Jaques Audiard), 2009) February 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jakethejourneyer @ 5:32 pm

 A Prophet has been impressing audiences since it first hit the festival circuit last year; the awards have followed and it’s a near certainty for best foreign language film at the Oscars. Just cause. It is rare for a film to arrive on the screen loaded with as many layers, acted with such perfection, which fizzes along at such a ferocious pace as this film. I could go on with the superlatives.

 Set in a French prison the narrative revolves around Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) and his rise through the ranks of the prison hierarchy. What makes this simple story so unique is the multiple layers applied to the complex characters that dominate the screen. Siding at first with the Corsican mob, led by an understated Cesar (Niels Arestrup), Malik uses his willingness to learn their language to communicate with all parties in the prison and goes about playing the inmates off against each other.

 Director, Jaques Audiard has created an intelligent gangster thriller that has (rightly so) drawn comparisons with The Godfather (1972) for it’s epic story of an expected leader rising through the criminal ranks. This film deserves all the praise lauded on it; a must see.


Where the Wild Things Are (Dir/Spike Jonze, 2009) February 20, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — jakethejourneyer @ 1:19 am

Here is a film that had passed me by. Christmas and the New Year had put a dent in my cinema going and with that I had almost missed a film I had been awaiting with baited breath ever since the teaser trailers. My expectations when I finally caught the film on it’s last cinematic legs at the Odeon on Panton Street, where to be whisked away to a land of nostalgia, a celebration of what it’s like to be a young boy again; much like I feel when watching Labyrinth or The Never Ending Story. Perhaps it was the obviously similar Jim Henson-esque creatures that inhabit all these fantasy worlds, perhaps it’s the age of the protagonists, whatever invited those similarities I was never whisked away, rather left bemused and disappointed by Jonze’s efforts.

The narrative is quite simple; Max (Max Records), is a rather unhappy young boy, although for no obvious reasons, who in the midst of a tantrum, travels inwards to his imagination. Max’s imaginative world is a rather superficially beautiful place, a place of rustic comfort, inhabited by the Wild Things of the title. Rather than celebrate the youthful imagination of a child, Where the Wild Things Are stomps on life with it’s big-hairy-puppet-foot. The Wild Things are as unhappy as Max and come loaded with enough baggage to sink the Titanic. They moan and groan their way through life, fighting each other and engaging in asks of mindless violence, however one of them is introverted, one of them is never listened to, one of them is sensible. Perhaps the Wild Things represent Max’s many characteristics and are as confused as any boy approaching puberty. Their behaviour is irrational and tedious, but they are also vulnerable and curious about life. Anyhow the message is loud and clear and rammed down our throats until we are choking: life is tough and the world is a serious place – playtime is over.

The cinematography is accomplished however, and there are some truly memorable images in the film, which the soundtrack admirably supports. The pace of the film is often slow and younger viewers will be lost in the soul-searching dialogue and want to see more fun.

Where the Wild Things Are succeeds as a visually arresting doctrine into the traumas of adolescence and an exploration into the recesses of our darker thoughts; it however fails to be a family film and should carry a government advisory warning to younger viewers – WARNING – LIFE WILL NOT ALWAYS BE FUN, YOU WILL HAVE TO GROW-UP SOON.


Burn After Reading (Dir/Coen Brothers, 2009)

Filed under: Uncategorized — jakethejourneyer @ 1:15 am

Hit and miss. The Coen brothers’ career has followed a trajectory of hit and miss; the hits have been memorable: Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski. The misses forgettable: Millers Crossing, O’ Brother Where Art Thou. The pattern is quantitative so after 2008’s quite brilliant No Country for Old Men we were due a turkey…

Burn After Reading, duly delivers. Perhaps a little harsh, as the film isn’t without some qualities, however it is frustrating to see such a talented directing duo make such a disappointing and completely forgettable film. A ‘Spy Comedy’ the narrative revolves around a disc of explosive memoirs, written by Osbourne (John Malkovich) that land in the hands of gym workers Linda (Frances McDormand) and Chad (Brad Pitt). Here ensues a ‘hilarious’ serious of events that ‘spiral out of control’. The film tries too hard for laughs, Pitt’s performance is cringing and nothing much happens. The Coens can do comedy, and do it very, very well. Burn After Reading neither has the subtleties and intelligence of a Big Lebowski nor the over-the-top slapstick quality of a Raising Arizona. Unfortunately I feel the Coens have wasted their time making this film and likewise, I’ve wasted 92 minutes watching it.


A Matter of Life and Death (Dir/Powell and Pressburger, 1946)

Filed under: Uncategorized — jakethejourneyer @ 1:09 am

It’s 1945 and Britain is at war. Squadron Leader Peter Carter has cheated death; his life hangs in the balance. The premise of the film is simple although the narrative stunningly complex and compelling.

Filmed in beautiful Technicolor, which is even noted in the narrative, the film playfully toys with the notion of reality.  A slight cliché, but this film really does feel revolutionary and ahead of it’s time in it’s self-referential style rendering the film post-modern. While many look at the French New Wave of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s as the film movement that first truly challenged the conventions of the cinema, A Matter of Life and Death, does it 10 years before. Spatial and temporal relations are challenged and even acknowledged by the characters. This is not a challenging film for the viewer though, on the contrary, it is fun and looks amazing. Seemingly original modern ‘classics’ like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind seem less original after this viewing.

The acting is superb throughout with David Niven taking the lead role and a fine supporting cast. To summarise this is a classic British film that thrives on it’s originality and intelligence which still looks and feels great.


Dancer in the Dark (Dir/Lars von Trier, 2000)

Filed under: Uncategorized — jakethejourneyer @ 12:59 am

Nine years ago I purchased a DVD which has sat on various DVD shelves or boxes, in various homes, in various cities around the country. That film until now has never been watched, that film was Dancer in the Dark. Last year I experienced von Trier’s Antichrist and thought it was spectacular; the criticism levelled against this later film for it’s misogynistic and sacrilegious themes I thought were perhaps warranted, although this added to the quality of the work. Dancer in the Dark faced controversy on a similar scale back on it’s theatrical release, however I can’t phantom why? This is a dark, bleak film that challenges the core of Hollywood conventions, there is no happy ending here, still I feel the controversy is unjust. Perhaps in the past ten years cinema has established new taboos, what was controversial in 2000 is just not seen by society to be so now?

Controversial or otherwise, Dancer in the Dark is a refreshing piece of work. From the opening shot the handheld camera movements, off-kilter framing, jump cuts and 180° rule breaking add to a feeling of disorientation for the viewer. In a dizzying attack on our senses, both physical and emotional, we are experiencing the American Dream. At the centre of the dream is Selma played with a ferocious intensity by artist, Bjork. Selma is going blind, both literally and metaphorically and her dreams of a better life in (we presume) mid-west 1950s America are fast becoming as distorted as her vision. In a series of unfortunate events Selma’s prospects deteriorate leading to a catastrophic finale. Interspersed with the bleak, muted reality of life, come Selma’s imagined musical numbers. Selma’s American vision is the one portrayed in Hollywood, the vision that we are served-up in our own cinematic diet of American cheese. Von Trier does not do things subtly and the film world would be a much duller place without his petulant swipes at the American system.


Some thoughts on this project…

Filed under: Uncategorized — jakethejourneyer @ 12:57 am

As the dust settles around me in a new home and the strains of a new job begin to subside and formulate into a manageable routine, I’ve taken the decision to start to write more frequently.

 For the past six years I’ve kept a personal journal, inspired by the musings of a photographer, adorning the walls of the Hayward Gallery, I found his writing more intimate than his photos. The journal I keep was intended to be philosophical in nature, to offer a critique on the way I saw the world, unfortunately this is not the case. My journals are ramblings about what I have done, records of what I’ve eaten for dinner, where I go at the weekend, hand written in a style that would be challenged by any 4-year-old child; not the stuff of interesting reading I can assure you.

 About a year ago I became aware that an old university friend had set him self an extraordinary challenge; to watch a film every day for an entire year and then to write a review of said film which he would post on his blog Chris vs. Cinema. Chris’s challenge fascinated me and I began to check his site regularly in anticipation of his next review. I told Chris back then that I wanted to steal his idea, however I knew that I did not have the time for such a commitment. As it turns out neither did Chris, however he made an honourable attempt at his challenge and his writing improved, review after review. In homage to Chris I am now attempting to start a film blog too with the same intention of improving my writing.

 I recently became a teacher, however, essentially film is my chosen profession, sure I’m a teacher and I highly value my pastoral responsibilities, but I became a teacher to teach film. I enjoy studying films, reading about film, and sharing my knowledge of film with my students. I truly believe that students can learn so much about the world through the study of film and the media and that they are genuinely cross-curricula subjects worth their weight in gold on any student’s timetable. Having never tried writing professionally I was delighted recently when I submitted an article to Media Magazine which got accepted for publication. Hopefully as my fledgling career develops I’ll have more opportunities to write professionally about things I feel passionately about. Until that time I’ll practice my writing here on my film blog.