[preamble warning: skip forward for actual posting]
What you’re reading is, ostensibly, a ‘music blog’, even if it was never my intention to limit it to any one subject. I suppose I have three main areas of interest: music, new media (internet + journalism, basically) and film. When I started writing with a view to publication, I set out to be a film writer, but for reasons of chance, contacts and geography I ended up being a music writer.
I still think it’s easier to write a film review than it is to write an album review. When you leave the cinema your head is stuffed full of plotlines, characters, settings, camera angles, set design, dialogue and soundtrack. With music there is less to go on. Sound and words.
Okay, that’s maybe a bit simplistic, but you get the idea. All this preamble is basically to to say that I plan to have more film writing on the blog from now on.
[actual posting begins]
What made me go to see Slumdog Millionaire on the first night of its release? Well it certainly wasn’t the poster on the side of the bus that branded it a ‘feel-good film’. I don’t usually like anything you could describe as ‘feel-good’. It wasn’t that it was directed by Danny Boyle either, although he is a visionary director with the balls to try something completely different with every project he undertakes.
No, it was the fact that I couldn’t get my head around what it was supposed to be. Gritty realism a la City of God? Light-hearted Bollywood musical? Heartwarming rom-com? The problem with Slumdog Millionaire is that it is all these things and none completely. The adrenalin-fuelled sequences in the Mumbai slums are exhilerating, the child actors truly convincing. But throughout the film there’s an uneasy juxtaposition between laugh-out loud visual gags, brazen wit and Boyle’s evident desire to show India in all its social injustice. As for the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? storyline, it’s a crude, unrealistic means of telling what would otherwise be a life-affirming tale, and it will quickly date the film in cinematic history.
Despite all this, I left the cinema in little doubt that, for all its flaws, Slumdog Millionaire is a brave, full-blooded couple of hours of entertainment, and I’d still recommend it.
The following weekend there was only one film to see. Mickey Rourke’s big comeback. The Wrestler arrives amid feverish speculation of this being Rourke’s finest moment; his shot at a Best Actor Oscar; his DeNiro-in-Raging Bull performance.
And it did not disappoint. From the opening shots, when we’re following Rourke as past-it wrestler Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson around his drab, penniless existence, itching to get a look at that gnarled-as-oak face, to the final, perfect moment of the last fight sequence, The Wrestler is an unsentimental, touching portrait of a character whose life has caught up with and overtaken him; who has fought and lost one too many battles.
Rourke appears ridiculous: long, blonde, 80s hair, popping steroids like sweets in a futile effort to chalk off the years and revive his career in the ring. But it’s his loneliness and search for companionship – whether with estranged daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood) or jaded stripper Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) – that exposes the vulnerability below the muscle and machismo.
I heard someone say that The Wrestler‘s only drawback is that it is nothing more than a character study. But when the character is so believably human, and the actor playing him so mesmerising, the criticism means nothing. Go and see it. Now.