Same disclaimer as last week; very rambly, sorry for any typos. Enjoy.
Bande à Part (1964)
Oh Godard, you scoundrel. Apparently, this is his most accessible film, which I guess I agree with, though I refuse to call any Godard film entirely “accessible”. It’s probably the easiest to enjoy on just a surface level, as a crime caper that’s set in Paris with the ever wonderful Anna Karina and two suitors pining over her while simentaneously planning a robbery. Still, there’s probably a lot of stuff going on under the surface that I didn’t pick up on. While I do love his films, a lot of Godard’s work is so dense that I wonder if I need to see the film three times back to back to fully appreciate the extent of the message that’s he’s trying to get across. And I haven’t even gotten to his later work. Still, like I said, it is fun, even if you can’t quite fully get into whatever point it may be trying to make (I should note this one does seem a little less dense then a lot of his other films). It’s wonderfully shot by Raoul Coutard, unsurprisingly, and Anna Karina is wonderful as ever. The famous dance scene is great, and all the fourth wall breaking is fun as shit. It’s a good 60s Godard movie, one that has been written about more eloquently and with more depth by better writers than myself. Check it out, if you haven’t already.
Richard Ayoade’s coming of age dramedy about the most idiotic, adolescent, disturbingly relatable teenage protagonist you can imagine. It’s… sweet. Often times cringe inducing (intentionally, I should add) but, yes, sweet. Still, there is no getting away from, the fact is that a lot of this film is watching our young Welsh protagonist, Oliver Tate, doing exceptionally stupid things, all the while thinking he is incredibly smart and cool and sophisticated, and if that sounds like your hell, this is probably not your movie. I’ve heard him compared to Adrian Mole, and, I don’t really think I can top that as a descriptor. Same obsession with sex, same pathetic lust, same delusions of being an intellectual, and same disturbing resemblance to the person who is writing this. You could accuse him of being a rip off, but Oliver escapes that by being portrayed with a little more sympathy then Adrian, as well as the comforting implication that Oliver is going to grow up, and that he’s going to get better. This is in sharp contrast to Adrian, where half the joke is that he never really does change. It’s a portrait of an awkward, fumbling teenager trying to get his shit figured out, to put it bluntly, and it’s quite a good one. It’s also really well put together, which is a nice bonus. There’s more than a few compositions that have a Wes Anderson vibe to them, with their obsession with symmetry and complementary colours. It doesn’t hurt that it is shot in an absolutely gorgeous part of Wales either. Overall, it’s pretty good, especially for a first feature, and clearly has had a tonne of effort put into its construction, even if can occasionally get a little precious at times. Worth checking out at least once, if you enjoy screaming at fictional characters to “not do that you stupid f***ing idiot”.
The Help (2011)
2011’s 60s race drama that is one of the more common films to be referred to as “problematic”. Now, ignoring that that is kind a stupid turn of phrase if you stop and think about it for a second or two, The Help is problematic. It can be argued that the film perpetuates a “white saviour” narrative, amongst other issues. However, I am a white dude, who has never been to uni or really studied race relations, and as such, don’t really feel equipped to cover them in any meaningful way. I invite you to google them. So instead, what I’m going to focus on is the one thing that makes it worth sitting through the 140 odd minutes of this film. And that is two people.
Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer.
These two give absolutely wonderful performances that pull this desperately simple, one sided morality tale thing to being heart breaking, funny and at times, genuinely gripping. They’re the most interesting characters in the movie, and they make the whole thing worthwhile. So, on that basis, I recommend the film.
Now everything else: well, it’s a bit… mixed.
Most of the performances are fine, if not terribly great. Emma Stone is upsettingly forgettable, projecting none of the charm or enthusiasm that she’s done so well in other roles, though her material doesn’t really give her a lot to work with. Bryce Dallas Howard is very easy to hate, which is the point, so I guess that counts as a success. Everyone else is alright, like I said. None of it’s really their fault, it’s just that the script that they have is so 1 dimensional. The script never really examines what makes any of these characters tick, why they think the way they do,just kind of a “these are the bad guys, these are the good guys” mentality. The only depth comes from, as I previously stated, Spencer and Davis’s characters, who are in the fortunate position of being both incredibly talented performers and also the most sympathetic characters in the movie.
So, in summary, it’s decent. It has many flaws, but based on those two wonderful performances, it’s worth seeing.