Century 2011: Dreams of a Life

Dreams of a Life. Carol Morley. 2011.

Oh, right. This is a documentary by Carol Morley, who did The Alcohol Years, which I saw… a couple of years ago? Hm. I don’t remember what it was about, but I must have liked it if I bought this one? Hm, I think I did?

So it’s about a woman who died and nobody discovered for like three years. In front of her TV which was still on.

Morley’s approach is original. It’s half interviews with people who had known Joyce Carol Vincent before she died (and didn’t think it was odd that they hadn’t heard from her in years), a woman playing her in the stories they tell, and pretty tacky reenactments of the cops examining her bedsit.

OK, from the first few minutes I was all prepared to hate this film, but it’s kinda fascinating. Morley changes the reenactments based on what the friends are saying, and they contradict themselves a lot. It all turns into this fascinating thing where I’m wondering how somebody would piece my life together if I died and nobody noticed for a few years. I know! So narcissistic!

Morley has all of these people saying contradictory things about Joyce, and it’s so fascinating. Very Rashomon. But it’s not perfect. Morley has a tendency to drop a musical “bed” behind the voices to give them greater emotional depth, and it’s cloying and annoying.

I did find the sequence of producers funny:

So much lottery!

It’s got the funniest “behind the scenes” documentary ever. All off the staff is always running off the stage because they’ve just discovered they’re not in Hollywood. Brilliant.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 2010: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

Gah! This is one of those blu-rays that has a ‘forced’ subtitle; i.e., it’s part of the video stream instead of being a separate thing. Whyyyy.

Oh, it’s by Digital Factory. I guess that’s more digital.

I was so confused by the subtitles here. Jardin. Jaguar.

Ooh!

I love those ears. So Tardi.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec. Luc Besson. 2010.

I love Tardi’s comics. He’s a hugely influential person in European arty comics, and Adele is his goofy, commercial series. Still wonderful, of course.

So I never watched this film, because I thought it would totally suck. I mean, it’s Luc Besson. Could he possibly handle the weirdness of Tardi’s way of telling stories?

And the answer is… kinda? I mean, he retains way more of Tardi’s quirks than I would have thought possible. Tardi is pure comics; he’s not one of those people who structures his scenes around how they would look as movie adaptations. But those are the scenes that work, like that random observer guy. Those scenes are awesome, and are a direct steal from the comics.

What doesn’t work as well is when Besson adds love interests and the Indiana Jones scenes.

But it’s amazing how Besson was able to reproduce some characters and pieces exactly as they are in the comics, because Tardi isn’t exactly realist. I found myself going “whooa” and “aaaaah” several times.

But this is, as I assumed, not a good film. I totally understand why Besson turned Adèle into an action hero instead of a very irritable author who spends most of her time at home, but he could have made those adventures, like, better.

So I have no objectivity here. I veer from “why” to “yay” constantly, which makes for a weird experience.

The CGI hasn’t aged well. It’s so weird they didn’t do the pterodactyl with folded wings. It’s always standing there with the wings stretched out uncomfortably.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 2009: Precious

Precious. Lee Daniels. 2009.

Hey, I bought this one twice.

Even if it won a couple of Oscars it’s not that bad! But the American convention of having adult actors playing teenagers is so weird. For the first few minutes I wondered why a woman in her mid-20s was attending junior high, but then (helpfully) she was called into the principal’s office who as-you-know-bob-ed her on her age (which was supposed to be 16) and I went oh.

The performances are fine, but it’s got some structural problems. Is it going to go all Dangerous Minds on us? What’s the timeline here? Has an hour passed or half a year? Why is Precious suddenly so erudite? What’s going on? Why are all these things happening to Precious? Why is the mother suddenly spilling the beans?

I liked the fantasy/reality thing, but I totally thought the last third of the film was entirely fantasy, with other fantasies embedded. Perhaps I was over-thinking it.

It’s a bit much.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 2008: The Smiths: The Queen is Dead

The Smiths: The Queen is Dead. Derek Jarman. 2008.

What’s this then? Oh, it’s an “unauthorised” documentary about The Smiths focusing on The Queen is Dead.

I’ve seen a couple of these before. They’re made on the cheap… But this does actually have The Smith’s songs, so it’s not as no-budget as some of the others.

And, of course, nobody from the band appears (except Craig Gannon), and instead it’s a bunch of journalists, producers and other musicians talking about The Smiths.

The most interesting bits here is where the producer (Stephen Street) talks, I think. And Tony Wilson drops some fact bombs on money matters: If Morrissey hadn’t signed with Rough Trade, the entire 80s indie scene wouldn’t have happened in the UK, because the money just wasn’t there otherwise.

But it’s quite nerdy, and I like that. Especially the guitarist guy who explains what Johnny Marr was doing.

Your mileage may vary. If The Smiths didn’t destroy your teenage years, you may find this painfully boring.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 2007: What Would Jesus Buy?

What Would Jesus Buy?. Rob VanAlkemade. 2007.

Whaaa. It’s a documentary by that Supersize Me guy? Why did I buy this? I hate modern American documentaries: They’re snippet, snippet, snippet with some officious deep male voice telling you how outrageous everything is.

Or… Oh, it isn’t. It’s a mocumentary? Well, that makes more sense. I mean, for me to have bought this DVD.

So it’s a… fake group of evangelicals? That tour around the US trying to convince people to shop less?

It’s tedious. And they often use slightly fish-eyed lenses making everybody look weird.

But there are some entertaining scenes. And the scene with the girls who tried to determine where their clothes were made was quite affecting. And exorcising Walmart was great.

So: the first 45 minutes are unnecessary, but it gets better.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 2006: As You Like It

As You Like It. Kenneth Branagh. 2006.

Oh, Kenneth Branagh. How we adored him in the early 90s. He could do no wrong.

He was that perfect mix of high culture (Shakespeare) and real drama (Peter’s Friends) with a detour into silly genre (Dead Again). And he was married to Emma Thompson and had Phyllida Law in all his films, which are excellent things to be and have.

And then things went seriously tits up just a couple years later, with what I remember as a string of horrible films he either acted in or directed.

So the only thing of his I’ve seen from er the last two decades was Thor, which was awful. (Not to be confused with Thor: Ragnarok which is the best super-hero movie ever.)

But this is Shakespeare… so let’s give it a chance…

Oh, Branagh moved it to Japan… and… it’s an HBO/BBC copro-duction. Well, that can be good! I like TV theatre. I like sets made out of MDF that have that hollow sound when the actors walk around.

… uh-oh. Is this supposed to be a… parody? No. He’s kept the original text, I think; not that I know it by heart. I mean, this is a pretty silly comedy, if I remember it correctly, but it just looks so… cheap. It’s got the aesthetics or As The World Churns, and a constant insipid score that tells you how to feel all of the time and a cinematography that’s best described as “they apparently had cameras”.

I mean, there’s some great performances where, like David Oyelowo as Orlando de Boys (and Janet McTeer as Audrey is hilarous), but it’s incredible how much Branagh undercuts the actors with his scoring and pedestrian shooting choices.

So: This is very funny, but that’s all down to Shakespeare and the actors.

*time passes*

I changed my mind. This shot changed my mind:

If you can get silly enough to adorn the sheep with flowers, it’s not all bad.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 2004: Triple Agent

Triple Agent. Éric Rohmer. 2004.

Oops! I had gotten to 2002 last month, and then I went back to 2001 in the previous post. So now we’re at 2004, because I have nothing from 2003, so that all worked out perfectly!

Right?

And… it’s an Éric Rohmer film! Yay!

And it’s a period drama. I’m only seen him do contemporary films before. This is only my like fifth Rohmer film, and I still his films ineffably fascinating. They’re obviously nouvelle vague films, but in a way less showy way than, say, Robert Bresson or Jean-Luc Godard. There’s something intimate about them…

Rohmer is just so… is there a double-plus-good word for “pedestrian”? He just plonks down the camera in an undistinguished environment, with always-smiling actors that are in-between amateur and professional (I think?), with lines that aren’t really that real… and still it’s absolutely riveting.

This blog post is part of the Century series.