Well, the past Sant Joan holiday certainly sent me away for a nice spell, so this critique here comes a tad late, but I really wanted to talk about some of the finest (albeit older…stay with me a moment) movies that are just opening up in Barcelona cinemas.
The first film screened for festivals and had its home screen run in the UK between late 2010/early 2011. The fact that it is now getting a Spanish screen release date is fantastic, because it’s deserved…and not only for the box office take but because it is truly good cinema.
The film is called West is West (Occidente es Occidente) and is actually the second of a presumed series. The first one called East is East was released in 1999 and tells the story of the Khans, a mixed-race Pakistani family living in England in the 70s…yes, it is a comedy-drama. This time around, the film occurs in 1976 with a plot revolving around Pakistani and Muslim dad George (Om Puri) taking it upon himself to train (read: remind) his son that though he was born and raised in England, he is in fact Pakistani. This truth is key to any immigrant’s understanding of their lives and who they are in this world. As the son of an immigrant, I can tell you that I was nearly 13 bloody years old when it dawned on me that I was a Mexican. This occurred after a verbally violent, racist incident between the director of my private, parochial school and my parents. It was sad and strange and yet all too common and surreal, as well.
The identity of one’s self and where they come from is so lovingly if strongly displayed in this film, mostly highlighted by George’s son, Sajid played by Aqib Khan and the superb scripting by writer Ayub Khan-Din. What he does brilliantly and so fluidly is carefully orchestrate the challenges of a 14-year old being taken from his Western, British life to experience something new in his father’s homeland. Naturally, the director Andy DeEmmony, goes through the montages of the changes the young lad is facing when he arrives in Pakistan, fighting the powers that be whilst being confronted by an incredible change of view, literally and figuratively. Where the film succeeds is in identifying the rebel yell attitude of this age. It also completely and emotionally attaches you to the characters, though at times in a somewhat corny manner. Still, when all is said and done, this plays to great effect. Honestly, this is a summer sleeper not to be missed because it shows a beautiful reality to one of life’s biggest lessons…resilience and rebirth. ####!!!!
And now for something completely not different…and yet so. Even being premiered at Cannes 2013 and nominated for the Palme d’Or, this film managed to slip under the radar for a hot minute and is now making its Spanish cinematic screen debut. The Immigrant (El Sueno de Ellis) by James Gray follows the story of Polish immigrant Ewa Cybulska, played with grace and poise by Marion Cotillard, who has made her way to New York City with her sister only to encounter one drama after another upon arrival on Ellis Island. The graces save Ewa in the form of showman Bruno Weiss, played note-by-note by Joaquin Phoenix. I say note-by-note because I swear to G-d the brother plays only one role with different names in every film (save the Johnny Cash role,) though admittedly, he does it well. When her sister is interned for a lung disease upon NYC arrival, he aids Ewa with work “prospects” in exchange for money to get her sister better and out of the hospital, since her uncle and aunt are slow to help. Enter in an illusionist, played handsomely by Jeremy Renner and what occurs is an intriguing love triangle. The film is not without its flaws however and the painting of NYC as an overly cultured city during the roaring 20s does take on a slightly silly vibe at times, but the cast imbues the essence of what is good acting so well in the story, that it’s difficult not to be entranced by the storyline. Another one not to be missed! ####
Kids..I love them. I hope to have one within the next decade…perhaps I say that as I’m slightly still one of them. It was with that in mind that I gave a gander to The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box, (El secreto del cofre de Midas) fantasy shlock in its most dressed-up manner. Based on the fantasy novel Mariah Mundi by G.P. Taylor (and yes Mariah is a lad, not a lass) and starring Michael Sheen, Sam Niell and Lena Headey as backup to lead Anuerin Barnard (Mariah), one might expect to find a lack of banality in such a fancy film filled with frills and frolic and fine actors. One would be utterly incorrect.
Throw in a nice dose of poof! pizzazz, and I suppose most film producers think everyone will watch with aplomb but this film’s editing lacked any moment of truth and gave us the viewers absolutely no emotional connection to the characters. You could feel the screenwriters desperately clawing onto attempts at an Indiana Jones feel…and again, they failed. Even the music was boisterous and reminiscent of the John Williams score, but that alone canNOT save a film. Sadly, dear ones, this film left me feeling cheated and you shouldn’t waste your time to be honest. Take the kids to a re-watch of Malificent instead. #-1/2
Last week, I took a jab at Nicole Kidman as box office poison, and while I certainly think she’s not the box office draw like many other actresses these days, she does know how to vary her work and master a role like a time-honored thespian.
Together with Colin Firth, the film Railway Man (Un Largo Viaje) takes an unexpected and poignant journey through the true-life story of WWII prisoner of war Eric Lomax (Firth as the older Lomax and Jeremy Irvine as the younger Lomax), who was captured by the Japanese mid-war and brutally forced to build the Burma Railway until his release at war’s end.
Moving in flashbacks, the film narrates the intricacies of post-war stress disorder and its effects on the protagonist for many years after until the time he met his second wife, perfectly portrayed by Nicole Kidman. The film commences in 1980 when the two met ironically whilst onboard a train, as it were. By then, Lomax was about 60 years old and Patricia Wallace (Kidman) was 17 years his junior. It is here, a quarter century after WWII’s end where his ongoing struggles are illuminated and coupled together with historical reference points, the film highlights an almost reverse karmic look at Brits building Asian railway. But when the film takes a turn and Lomax returns years later to the scene of his capture, where so much time was spent in toil and torture, the audience is left with a feeling best reserved for Oscars and BAFTAs. Stellar film! ####
I met David Bowie exactly ten years ago while walking down the street with my fashion maven muse Kelly Mills (http://www.faag.us/) and lo and behold a chance encounter led to a hearty conversation and kisses all around with the Thin White Duke…which brings me to the final piece today.
BCN and its provinces have slowly become a burgeoning mecca for film and cine festivals. From the annual film and horror cinema fests in Sitges to the constant flow of cinema festivals like L’Alternativa, BCN Film Fest and In-Edit, more and more celluloid artists have converted the city into a festival heaven. And now nearing two decades in existence, the FIRE! Film Festival (http://www.cinemalambda.com/) showcases some of the finest in international cinema, revolving around themes affecting those of alternative lifestyles. This year the theme is David Bowie and several of his finest pieces are on-screen, namely Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Hunger as well as, a documentary over Bowie and the Story of Ziggy Stardust. The beauty of taking part in cinema festivals like this is not only supporting a good cause, the BCN cinema market and the artists, but an international audience gets to see first-run premieres at great venues around the city for 2-4 euros cheaper than your average, non-Wednesday spectator price outing to the cinema.
And before I go…it’s CineMontjuic time! Take a look at the programme for this year at http://salamontjuic.org/en/ ...Though it might appear a tad ‘meh’ this time around, the great thing about the summer long affair is how this annual picnic-style, music-filled celebration unites the city on cooler evenings after long, hot days.
I’ll smell you later…just after the weekend when I’ve had more time to digest a bit more. Besitos!