Roma

I find it very difficult to comment too much in-depth on films like this, films which are so essentially personal to the film maker. And although many films to a certain extent will be personal, Roma – like Martin Scorsese’s Silenceis so deliberately and deeply rooted in the experiences of the writer/director/cinematographer Alfonso Cuarón that my opinion regarding the storytelling is largely irrelevant.

And so while I would have been interested to know more about the political background at the time, we don’t get that because the children wouldn’t have paid attention to it. And there is a whole other film to be made about the relationships between the people of Mixtec heritage and the white affluent families whom they serve.

Where I do have huge appreciation though is with the technical achievements. Roma looks absolutely beautiful, with the choice to film in black & white creating some gorgeous images, and also having the effect of reinforcing the feeling of memories being revisited. And there are some glorious long scenes which show a true master at work – the scene in the hospital emergency room for example, or the extended take on the beach are genuinely breath-taking.

For those familiar with Cuarón’s previous work, Roma contains visual references to many of his earlier films – Children of Men, Gravity, Y Tu Mama También – almost as if he had been trying out things in the past, in preparation for this, a film which he has been waiting to make for most of his life.

I liked it very much and I admired it a lot on a technical level – I just wasn’t quite as overwhelmed as I was expecting to be.

Трудно быть богом – Hard to Be a God

Er … that is … well, I mean … hmm.

Can someone explain to me how I can both totally understand the awe and wonder that people feel for this film, and yet at the same time struggle to appreciate it myself?

I’m glad I’ve seen this, but I don’t feel the need to revisit. Ever.

8 1/2

I know I have seen this before, a while ago, and I clearly wasn’t giving it my full attention as I remember being vaguely complimentary and vaguely dismissive at the same time.What was I thinking?! Having just seen the restored re-release of this 1963 Oscar-winner on a cinema screen, I formally recant any reservations and hereby declare this to be a masterpiece.You can read in depth about the background to the film elsewhere, but suffice to say that this comic/existential drama totally hit the spot for me, exploring as it does themes of juggling professional stresses and personal crises. Fellini lays it all on the screen for anyone to see, hiding nothing. Life is a circus, his protagonist is the ringmaster, and sometimes difficult choices have to be made.

Marcello Mastroianni is perfect as the flawed on-screen version of Fellini himself, and Claudia Cardinale is just beautiful.

I can’t explain how glad I am that I gave this a second chance. It’s perfect.

Ida

I think Ida would win the award for the most beautiful road movie ever made.

Every shot is so perfectly framed and lit (in black & white) – absolutely breathtaking.

Ida is a young novitiate preparing to take her vows, but is first forced to find out about her family before taking the final step. She sets out on this journey against the backdrop of a Poland unpicking itself from the fingers of Stalinism, with a conflicted history and an eye towards the West for its future.

A film that had been heaped with praise from the festival circuit, and one which did not disappoint at all.

Stunning.

The Artist

I had been extremely irritated that this film had made it to the top of so many critics’ ‘Film of the Year’ lists for 2011, when it wasn’t even relased in the UK until 31st December.  

I was even more irritated when I found out that it wasn’t actually going to get out of London and make its way up to Manchester until the week after!

In other words, The Artist had a lot to live up to.

And I am happy to report that it was definitely worth the wait.

Plot-wise, it’s a simple story which doesn’t tax the brain. But it is a visual treat throughout – the height of Hollywood glamour, just at the point where talking movies were becoming established. There is an inevitable nod to Singing In The Rain, and the lead actor bears more than a passing resemblance to Gene Kelly. And of course there’s the dog!

Most of all though, this is an extraordinary piece of film-making. A black and white, silent movie in 2012?  It probably shouldn’t work. But it absolutely does.

The first film I saw in 2010 was Avatar, in 3D. The Artist was the first film I saw in 2012. And there is no contest for the one which warrants repeat viewing.