Sunday, 18 September 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Pinkie Brown and Nim Chimpsky.

So The Boyfriend and I went to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy tonight. It has had really good reviews so I was looking forward to seeing it and pleased that it lived up to the billing.  Gary Oldman plays George Smiley, an MI6 agent who has been prematurely retired as part of an internal coup. Out of sight, he's tasked by ministers, who are twitchy about their relationship with the Americans, to find a mole at the top of the organisation who is leaking state secrets to the Russians.  

It works as a psychological thriller with Smiley working in the shadows to unpick the loyalties, allegiances and rivalries of the four suspected elite agents. It also works as  a 1970's period piece, from the cars, to the styling, to the office Christmas party.  This also comes through the muted and understated tension through-out the film. There is no sense of contentment or pleasure in the lives the spies lead;  there was a collective laugh in the cinema when one of the younger spies says "I want out. I don't want to end up like you guys".  I missed a couple of bits in the middle - but get the feeling you're supposed to -but by the end the drama wraps together nicely. One of the best films of the year?

Films of the Year

Now the Boyfriend and I often have long discussions on tube and bus journeys about how to rank the films we watch over the course of the year. There is a pretty reasonable chance that my list will change as it very often does.  There are also some films that I'm really looking forward to seeing later in the year like Deep Blue Sea,  We need to talk about Kevin, and Wuthering Heights.  But I thought I'd share my favourites with you now anyway.

Brighton Rock An intelligent, complex film with many emotional layers. Beautifully shot with a score and aesthetic that mimic the screen play. Andrea Riesborough is amazing and luminous.  The film got a panning from the critics and cineastes, principally because it isn't the 1947 version with Richard Attenborough. The Boyfriend and I saw this at a screening with the director, Rowan Joffe, and he looked like he might cry. I have not seen the original and I think this film is sublime.

Project Nim is an incredibly moving documentary about a chimp that was taken from its mother as a baby and raised within a family as part of an experiment into language.  The film is structured like a biography and it includes original footage and interviews.  Although fact based there is a really strong narrative and the unexpected turns in the later parts of the film are dramatic and engaging. 

The cliche with films about animals is that they hold up a mirror to human nature. So in the knowledge that it is cliched I'll say that a lot of the emotion of the film comes from the people responsible for Nim. There is self interest, vanity and cruelty and an identifiable villain.  There are also some unlikely and charming heroes.  Oh and I'm not sure how to say this- the little chimp is unbelievably sweet!

The Kings Speech What can I say? Like everybody else I loved this!

Animal Kingdom I really enjoyed this film.  After his mother dies of a drugs overdose, the lead character, Joshua, moves in with her estranged family of low level gangsters in Melbourne who are involved in armed robberies and drugs running. But rather than a slick glamorous portrayal, the family are grotesque dysfunctionals including a psychotic uncle who has gone underground and a matriarch with an unhealthy relationship with all her sons. The family are fraying at the edges and fraught as the police bear down on them kicking off nervy irrational behaviour.  

The drama comes from Joshua's growing awareness that he's in over his head and his attempts to extricate himself from the family.  James Frecheville who plays Joshua (I had to look that up!) is very natural and gives the character a real naivety.  Guy Pearce is also in it as the chief of police.  It doesn't feel like an obvious role and I like that. 


Rise of the Planet of the Apes I watched this not that long after watching Project Nim.  There are quite a lot of parallels which I think may have influenced why I liked it so much.  I love the scene on the bridge. The CGI is terrific.  I'm definitely cheering for the primates.

A Separation is a great Iranian film. It starts with a married couple who are stubbornly splitting up. She wants to move to give her daughter a better life while he wants to stay to care for his elderly father.  Unable to get a divorce or custody of her daughter through the religious courts the wife moves out, hoping that her husband will change his mind.  He employs a housekeeper to take care of his father while he's at work.

However after finding that the housekeeper left his father alone and believing she has stolen from him they have an altercation following which she loses her unborn baby. The film then teases out the differing perspectives on the same event. The separation is literal between the estranged couple but there multiple divides between the experience of rich and poor, men and women, devout and religious liberals. 

I'm not counting any classic films in the list. The Boyfriend and I have previously agreed that this is against the rules of making-lists-of-the-best-films-of-the-year. However if this were not the rule then I'd have included Jaws which we saw at the Roof Top Cinema on a night that it poured down with rain. And we also watched The Big Sleep at the BFI on New Years Day.

Now that I've pinned my colours to the mast I can sense a heated bus journey with The Boyfriend tomorrow.  What do you think is missing from the list?

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