I’ve got to admit that the best film I saw this year was the new Bond film, Casino Royale. I’m not saying that it was the best executed, acted, written or produced… probably it wasn’t. But it was by far the most enjoyable and quite frankly, I’ve kind of given up on watching films which are supposed to trigger some sort of emotional or intellectual response.
This process began with Donnie Darko, a movie which was made for people like me (drop-out, pot-smoking philosophy students who listen to independent record labels). Anyway, lots of people I knew loved it and eagerly recommended it to me so I watched it and thought it was completely abysmal. It just seemed so pointless that I didn’t care enough to ‘unravel’ the ‘secrets’ of the film. Ooh the old lady and the tunnels and the rabbit… it’s all so cryptic and yet full of imagery!
I felt sorry for George Clooney when the press started going on about Syriana and saying it was an indictment of US petro-policy and so on. Well, I didn’t exactly feel sorry for him: he’s an incredibly wealthy movie star who can do whatever he likes. But I did think ‘Oh no, poor old George is going to have a lot to live up to after all this attention’. And I was right: Syriana, whatever it was intended to do or say, did and said nothing to me. It was a jumbled, waffly, trite, emotive work in mental masturbation. It said “See, we’ve made the world shit” in the way that only a $50 million movie can.
I’m afraid that I was also singularly underwhelmed by this year’s smash hit, Pan’s Labyrinth (El Labarinto del Fauno). This film was made half to appeal to me and half to appeal to mental people like Gemma’s cousin in C.R. who believe in pixies and fairies (which they insist on spelling ‘faeries’) and other such nonsense. The half that was supposed to appeal to me was the fact that it was set in post Civil War Spain and there were nasty Franquistas running about everywhere.
The thing is: this is one of the least talked about periods of recent history here. After the Civil War which you can argue about for decades and never agree, Franco formed a dictatorship and set about rebuilding a heavily traumatised Spain in his own image. I’ve never seen a film which dealt with this subject matter and was interested to see Pan’s Labyrinth and how it treated this delicate, fascinating subject matter. Thing is, the film is set then but doesn’t really say anything about it. The setting is pretty much irrelevant to the plot – and as such doesn’t interfere with the delicate, magical story surrounding the little girl who’s the main character. The problem is that I can’t abide mythical beasts or any of that stuff and so even though I got what was going on, I couldn’t stand it.
Bond, on the other hand, was great. Simple, manly action; beautiful, exotic women in low-cut dresses; a dab of betrayal and lost love. It’s not a film which will change the world but by heck, it was thrilling and that’s what it set out to be.
I used to love the more avant-garde, emotional, witty and moving films made by directors like Godard. Actually, I still do… thing is that no one’s making films like that these days and the closest alternative is the pseudo-art-movie. I’d rather eat fresh bangers and home made mash than a pre-cooked fancy ready-meal from Sainsbury.