Thursday, October 25, 2007

surprising wonderful movies of the week number 1 and 2

in advance of leaving new zealand the night before last i watched one more film with mike and rose riddell - 'samsara' is a quite remarkable film about a tibetan buddhist monk journeying between spirit and flesh. we first see him returning to his monastery after spending three years' meditating in a cave; but on his attempt at re-entering community life, he is occupied with sexual fantasy. having never lived a life outside the cloisters, he decides to leave the monastery to pursue the love of a good woman. this, in itself, is an intriguing premise - but the film-makers handle the subject so well that i was utterly beguiled. 'samsara' is a beguiling film, which marries an earthy story with stunning photography, seductive but realistic performances, and music that seems to arise naturally from the images. it's one of those films you feel delighted to have been introduced to.

the same goes for a very different movie that happens to address similar territory: 'it's all gone pete tong' - a glorious dramatic comedy about a mad dj who comes to a crisis point as ibiza's living god of the dancefloor. i missed this on its original release, and assumed from the marketing and the fact that it stars british comedian paul kaye that it would be a zany comedy. couldn't have been more wrong. if i'd seen it in 2005 it would have been one of my favourites of the year; and paul kaye proves that you can teach an old dog new tricks: he's a very fine actor indeed.

both 'samsara' and 'it's all gone pete tong' are films about men who need to grow up. they're also beautiful movies that will make your day.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

la vie en rose

marion cotillard's performance as edith piaf in the biopic 'la vie en rose' is one of the most disturbing and real i've seen. i knew very little about this woman's life before i saw the movie; afterward, if the film is to be believed, i was reminded of the proverbial view of the artist as a person who is aching on the inside, in desperation to produce something that will achieve public recognition. the personal tragedies that seemed to colonise piaf's life, from her beginnings, raised in a brothel, to losing a child, a lover, and her physical well-being, are related in an unconventional and ultimately quite brilliant cinematic style - choppy narrative, alternately sweeping and staccato photography, and of course incomparable music. at the end of the film, cotillard as piaf sings 'je ne regrette rien'. i'll never smile at that song again.