Drunk film reviews #1 Okja is very good. Is Tilda Swinton hot? Not sure. It’s like she is, but tries really hard to hide it by playing grotesque caricatures. Wait, is that the guy from the film where Daniel Day Lewis has a moustache and shouts a lot? Had a beard. Think he was in a music a video I liked. If film makes me going back to being vegetarian after about 20 years, am I shallow, or is the film good? Is that the grandfather from The Host? Is this what it would look like if Disney realised that 90% of the world were self serving and not swayed by some misty eyed nonsense that love can change the world? Is there anything in the fridge that doesn’t need cooking and doesn’t have meat? Have I got another episode of Glow in me before I go to sleep? Do you have to cook lentils?
There’s certain directors whose name you have to append to the film when you mention it. It’s not because the film needs to be differentiated from films with the same name – this one is spelt differently from other films called Nostalgia, of which I’m sure there are a few. You don’t say Bay’s Transformers to make sure nobody confuses it with Lou Reed’s marvellous album (which is singular rather than plural anyway). Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Drunken film reviews and naming convention. I’m only tipsy, so, back in a moment.
Yes. Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia. With Tarkovsky (other than Solaris, his most famous, but worst film), you know what you’re getting, about 180k works of art. Each shot is chosen and framed beautifully. Case in point. There’s a bit where the depressed Russian poet is in the depressed Italian nutter’s house. It pans past the poet and across a shelf that looks like it’s been laid out for a Renaissance artist to paint a still life. Then there’s the Russian poet’s hotel room. There’s almost perfect symmetry of light and dark (where something happens where it looks like the Russian poet dreams about his female translator maybe having an affair with his wife before starting at him and then possibly being a werewolf).
When you’re watching a film, do you ever get the feeling that the director is trying to tell you something via props? In this, there’s a lot of bottles in the Italian nutter’s house catching water from a leaky roof, as well as a piece of plastic sheeting doing the same, but looking like it’s about to break. Maybe it’s something about pointlessness, inability to hold back life and impending threat, but it’s never directly addressed. Maybe Tarkovsky overestimates people like me. Maybe I did understand and underestimate myself. I only found out about impostor syndrome this week.
Like all Tarkovsky films, there’s long tracking and panning shots and footage of ground water (what is it with that). There’s black and white and changes in film stock (about three different kinds in this – again, there has to be some meaning to this, but I can’t quite place it). There’s also isolated houses. Maybe he lived in one. Maybe it’s the beauty of isolation. Maybe it’s the fear of isolation. They both exist – fear and comfort from the same thing. Maybe it’s purely aesthetic. I mean the end of the film… Well false perspective and isolation and stuff. You get the feeling that, visually, nothing is left to chance. Back to the poet’s hotel room. The chair in the bathroom. I bet he spent an hour placing it and replacing it.
It’s a beautiful film and proof that even where there’s no obvious narrative, Tarkovsky can hold the viewer’s attention. He trusts his actors implicitly. They can deliver monologues and soliloquys in contrived fashions without interrupting the flow of the film.
A Monster Calls. No edits, just rambling. Good luck.
Amusingly (?), as I clicked to start this, Facebook showed me a link that said ‘Your Story’, which ties very closely to the film’s plot. I won’t go over the film’s plot here. If anyone actually reads my ramblings, they are either here because they’re wondering if I make less sense when drunk, or are interested in what I think of a film. If they want an informed opinion about film, or a spoiler free synopsis, there’s Mark Kermode (sadly there’s no longer Norman, Siskel or Ebert), they’d best look elsewhere.
OK, so… when I read the book, I was going through the same as the main character, that is, the impending loss of a family member. There were emotions I experienced that the book helped me to understand. It was so prescient that my brother lent me the book when he did (The Writer at War also helped me understand things at the same time, but, until they make a film about that, you’ll only get that from me over a beer).
The film deals with loss. It’s about loss. It discusses it in a fantastical manner, but essentially, a mature one that really cuts. I don’t know if I’ve experienced more loss than I should at my age, less or just the right amount, but from a personal viewpoint, I feel I’ve had more than I should for my age and don’t especially want any more. There will be though. No escaping that. Should I spend time getting ready? Should I be prepared? Or is that wasting time?
Erm, so, I’m not sure where I got to, but, when I though about typing this up, I wanted to discuss how, when I read the book, I was experiencing loss from one end, bit now, watching the film, I’m thinking about it from another. As a father, one of my feats is having to explain it to my son. I’m scared to buy him a pet because it will die and I’ll have to expose him to that truth – that loss is part of life. I keep thinking of the album title The Letting Go (Bonnie Prince Billie. Fantastic album. Buy it), because isn’t that the biggest part of life? Personally, I am fortunate in the fact that I am surrounded by awesome people I care for (and I might not tell you, but if I buy you a Christmas card, a pint, share DNA with you or take the piss out of you, you’re in this group), but this means there’s people I will have to let go of. OK, I was digressing. That’s what these reviews are about, and if you’re still here, you rock. My major fear, my keeping me awake at night fear, is that idea of exposing my son to death. He already asks what dead people look like. I mean what the fuck? How do you answer that? Why do you answer that? Should you answer that? I was playing the last Batman game and there was the Joker about to be cremated. I didn’t expect this and my son saw it and the dead Joker fascinated him.
So, the film. The cast is spot on. The young lad is brilliant. He looks like he’s from a film that they’d wheel in the TV and video in a lock box in to the classroom to show, but his emotional performance is fantastic. Liam Neeson was right. I didn’t see it when reading the book, but he is absolutely right. Sigourney Weaver, even, makes sense when you look back at the book. There’s a moment in the film where the monster fills the screen (he looks like he does in the book, too, kudos to the animators) and it is perfect. He fills the world of the boy and he is a giant protector.