Sunday, 14 December 2008

The Transporter

Jason Statham and Qi Shu in The Transporter
Okay, so I convinced my wife to watch this action movie with me, and we were pleasantly surprised. It did everything that vacuous, frothy action pictures should do, and wit a bit of style.

Jason Statham plays Frank Martin, an ex-special forces operative, who lives outside the law delivering contraband in his rather snazzy motor. He has a set of rules that he enforces religiously. Obviously, he breaks the rules, and gets into a spot of bother with a girl.

Forget the plot. Forget the dialogue. Forget physics. Enjoy the ride, literally.

We open with a well realised car chase, full of wit and ingenuity. It is also played out to a bit of hip hop instead of the normal, bland action soundtrack. The location is also used well, Nice, France. This is another of the film's strengths, a European setting. Such a pleasure to see a film that is not immersed in overly familiar American scenes.

Opening Car Chase in The Transporter
The action scenes are why we are here though, carried very well by the impressive on-screen presence of Statham, but truly created by the Hong Kong veteran, Corey Yuen. Fight choreography is excellent, with great imagination, and an understanding that the main draw for this film is Jason's torso. Corey takes full advantage of this, having him lose his shirt in an altercation, and actually use it to defeat three assailants.

Mark Kermode has made a good case for the similarities between the oiled up fight scene, and such other homo-eroticism as seen in Spartacus. But did not mention the fact that our main protagonist actually manages to get a kiss in with one of his opponents! Admittedly it was ostensibly a way for him to steal the oxygen from him while underwater, but there was more passion in that one sequence than in any of his screen time with the female star, Qi Shu.

If your estimations are low and you are looking for a film that will simply entertain, this is a good choice, and streets ahead of big budget action movies like Die Hard 4.0.

Read full post...

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Amelie

Amelie Skimming Stones
Amelie is a film that pours off the screen and washes you with the delicious colours its director and cinematographer saturate each scene. The sound creates a nostalgia in you for memories you do not even possess. This is a fable that paradoxically allows us to look into childhood with at once the knowing eyes of adulthood, and the certainty of our imagination. It is in love with cinema.

The plot is simple, following a small portion of Amelie's (Audrey Tautou) life in Montmartre, Paris, where she attempts to improve the lives of those around her with unorthodox means, in a way of avoiding confronting her own. Each simple action is woven from captivating detail and eccentric delight.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who directed and co-wrote, forged a style that has been emulated time and again since. Each character is introduced with snippets of detail about their life and loves, accompanied by illustrations drawn on our screens. Michael Sowa's art comes to life from paintings and figurines, in a way we would like to suppose a child would anthropomorphise the world about them. Wes Anderson's pictures also add moments of surreal animation that enable you to believe in fairytales.

Nino Quincampoix's Photo Album
The humour is not lost in the subtitles, with more nuances noticed in each viewing. Amelie at one point hands some money to a beggar, who responds "Sorry madam, I don't work on Sundays".

Some have accused the film of being too much of an unreal, picture postcard of Parisian life, but along with the unabashed romanticism lies shots of the seedy side of Montmartre. Anyone who has visited will be aware that turning one corner will lead you into the red light district. This is not glossed over, and yet is somehow imbued with the same glow and wit as the rest of the tale.

Hipolito's Quote
Although the story is unashamedly uplifting, it does not feel the necessity to tie up every lose end and create happy endings for every character. This is definately to the film's credit, letting your mind wander amongst the possibilities. It also manages to avoid displaying iconic landmarks in each shot. The note perfect frame composition instead invites you to see more of the city than most American ventures into foreign capitals, we follow the lives of Parisians, we see where there own memories emerge from, not a view from an open top bus tour.

If I can persuade one person who is normally put off by subtitles, then my mission has been successful. This is essential viewing, and more than once. Do not let it become a film you always mean to watch, it will reward your trust in its storytelling endlessly.

Read full post...