March 29, 2006 | Category: Uncategorized

Film Fight 2005: January

Though it is ever so slightly delayed, let’s go over this years first month of films anyway. It’s not going to prove useful for anyone looking to find something in the cinema (DVD releases must be imminent at this rate), but then again that has never been what this is all about.

First film of the year was Running Scared. The plot revolves around trying to find a kid who stole a gun, previously used to murder a cop, who shot his father. Yes, it’s that ridiculous. If you can suspend disbelief through the convoluted plot and bizarre b-plot (how that paedophile story got into the script, I do not know), you have a reasonably tense if fairly predictable action-drama. It’s not going to win any awards, but there are worse ways to spend your time.

Next up is the surprisingly warm Steve Martin film, Shopgirl. Written by the comedy legend himself, it’s a story that takes Martin away from the laughs (those are provided by the always excellent Jason Schwartzman) and puts Claire Danes in the middle of a love triangle while she tries to understand the changes in her life. At times tender, uncomfortable and nostalgic, this film portrays relationships in more dimensions than mainstream cinema has in the last decade: no-one is perfect and there are no relationships free from deep problems. Save for the misguided narration framing the piece, Shopgirl is a film worthy of anyone’s time.

A lot of people seem to have left Jarhead with the impression that nothing much happened. While that was overtly the point (the first Gulf War being uninvolving for most soldiers), it misses the fairly blinding subtext that this is a film packed with life: from the brutality of the boot camp to the shipping to the gulf to filling endless days in a desert with paranoia and mindless tricks to fight the boredom. A whole war happens and the marines can only bear witness to it, trapped between their old lives and new lives of combat. Beautifully shot, if occassionally overbearing, Jarhead is an experience- rather than plot-driven film. That’s why it was so good.

The final film of the month is A Cock And Bull Story: the impossible to describe, and devilishly clever retelling of the substance, if not the plot, of Tristram Shandy; a book about how life is too vibrant, detailed and fluid to ever be captured by art. While the film begins as a faithful retelling of the book (the first third focussing on the details of the titular character’s birth), it soon zooms out to incorporate the tales of the lead actors: Coogan’s pety one upmanship and affairs, Brydon’s fight for the limelight and terror when he finds it, parodying both of their public figures perfectly. In forgetting to tell the story of the book and, instead, showing the extraneous details that are needed to fully appreciate the telling, the director has captured the very essence of the book: the map is not the territory. An incredibly clever film.

Winner? Though I pointed at Jarhead as being the winner in a previous post, I think Cock And Bull Story has edged it in retrospect. It is a film with as much depth as one would expect from the classic novel it adapts. Though, it has to be said, three of the four films this month were worth seeing.