Monday, 28 February 2011

Never Let Me Go / Splice / Legion

I have seen a couple of newish films recently so I'll quickly share my views on them.

First up is Never Let Me Go, the adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's 2005 novel of the same name. The novel is pretty much perfect - allowing the reader a glimpse of an other (but not very other) world through the eyes of a character immersed in a small part of it. She gets only small clues, the significance of which she rarely understand, and it's left to the reader to infer the science behind the fiction. Unfortunately the film is a little more explicit about that than the novel - some things that should be left to the viewer to infer are presented directly instead - though not to the extent that it spoils what is an excellent adaptation. Like the book, the movie is all about its three main characters and their love triangle. And I was relieved to find that the song after which the book is named is up to the job it has in the film.

Splice, which I missed at the cinema and caught recently on bluray, is altogether different. Science in this is a case of throwing lots of exciting data and cells and swirling nucleotides around, mixing them all up, and seeing what happens. It's as close to the reality of genetic engineering as Hackers was to the reality of bypassing network security. It's really nicely shot - lots of great low angle shots of labs and shacks - and it has a good monster (secretly created by the rockstar science bods in an act of rebellion when their boss asks them instead to make boring proteins all day). Fun, but very silly.

Not as silly as Legion, mind you, which I just watched on bluray. This is The Terminator meets From Dusk til Dawn meets the nativity story. Except even more portentous and absurd than that sounds. Still, again, it's pretty good fun.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky, 2010.
BBFC rating: 15.

There's a book by called The Black Swan about 'the impact of the highly improbable'. It may be full of interesting facts and astute analysis, but I will never know because the first few pages, which are all I managed, are such an absurdly over-written, insufferably smug, self-congratulatory wankfest that I threw the book into the bin lest some other unfortunate soul should find it and suffer the same blood-boiling rage that I did. This has nothing to do with Black Swan, a far superior piece of work; I am simply providing a public service by warning you off its awful titular twin.

Black Swan tells the story of Natalie Portman's obsessive, uptight ballet dancer and her struggle to embody the dark side of her Swan Lake character. It has a fairly straightforward horror movie narrative: we are introduced to the characters and follow them around for half an hour or so before the occasional strange happenings multiply and intensify, accelerating us towards the inevitable conclusion. Though clearly belonging in the psychological horror category, Black Swan was featured on the cover of high-end coffee table film mag Little White Lies as well as grindhouse periodical Fangoria: it has transcended the genre, such that several unsuspecting souls have found themselves traumatised at the end of a film they anticipated would be a nice family ballet movie. It's not. But, while its sticking to horror convention makes its plot predictable - as with many such movies (including Heartless, of which it rather reminded me) - that is no bad thing. It is, of course, all about the journey - which is well worth making.