Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Proposition & Tristram Shandy

The Proposition (UK/Australia, Director: John Hillcoat)

"Australia. What fresh hell is this?" so speaks Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) a few minutes after the movie's opening fierce gun battle. Yes, the Australia depicted in this movie is a glimpse into a bloody hell indeed!! The heat burns the land and ignites insanity. It is 1880s Australia. Colonists want to 'civilize' the natives and impose their law, by whatever means possible ('civilize' may also mean taking the locals land by force and maybe killing a few hundred natives in the process).

A few people fight back and are branded outlaws. But like any good old western, the cycle of violence never ends -- an eye for an eye. The only difference with this Western is that the setting is Australia and the outlaws have a name -- The Burns brother. After a horrible slaying, Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) has had enough of his elder brother's (Arthur Burns played by Danny Huston) mad killing ways and takes their younger brother, Mikey, (Richard Wilson)far away from Arthur's clutches. But Charlie and Mikey are captured by Captain Stanley who wants to exchange their freedom for Arthur.

Beautifully shot, this is a powerful and intense tale of morality and violence. Benoît Delhomme's fantastic camera captures the radiant heat, vastness and isolation of the Australian landscape. Also, the camera never flinches from one of the most shocking scenes in the film -- a quick-flash bullet blows away one of the local's head after he has just flung a spear into Charlie.

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (UK, Director: Michael Winterbottom)

I finally got around to watching this hilarious and charming British film. This film's style resembles the wicked genuis of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's BBC comedy series Extras. After the success of The Office Gervais and Merchant turned to Extras and came up with another winning idea by depicting the lives of struggling film extras fighting to get parts or dealing with high-profile egoistic actors and directors. An additional reason for Extras success was the addition of Ashley Jensen who stole most episodes with her perfect expressions and great timing. Ashley has a small part in Tristram Shandy as well but this movie is about Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's bittersweet interactions.

How do you shoot an unfilmable novel? That is the question asked of Steve Coogan in the film by a TV reporter. But is that simply a question within the movie or does the question apply to the movie Tristram Shandy itself? This is not a film adaptation of Laurence Sterne's book The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy but instead is a film about the attempted making of a movie about Laurence Sterne's book. Huh? Even though the idea of turning the making of an unfilmable novel into a movie sounds like Charlie Kaufman & Spike Jonze's film Adaptation, Michael Winterbottom's and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce's work is completely different. This effort is more concerned with depicting fun of the filmaking process and its difficulties -- the issues of budget contraints, producer demands, actor's egos and not-so secret affairs are all tackled. And even actor's agents and celebrity chasing article writers are featured. A completely original film about making a film! The movie also pokes a little fun at serious film buffs who analyze every aspect of a movie to the nth degree. Near the end as the mad chaotic world of a film-set is shown, one can but help think of Fellini's 8 1/2.

Loved it!

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