The Beguiled and Dunkirk, a fab new shampoo ad and video game

The Beguiled.

The Beguiled.

Dunkirk and the Beguiled are the latest his and hers films from Christopher Nolan and Sofia Coppola. And if nothing else, they’re a slight improvement on the ones that they last produced.

Back in 2006, they’d offered up another pair of matching his and hers films, with the Prestige and Marie Antoinette. The former has a denouement that’s so mesmerically obvious, that you immediately dismiss it as soon as it occurs to you, oh, about 90 seconds into the film. Only to discover hours later, that yes, that is the explanation – it’s the explanation you always suspect when it comes to magicians.

The Prestige, really?

The Prestige, really?

It’s like listening to one of those jokes that nine year old boys tell. You know what the punchline is hours before they get to it, but you indulge them anyway. While Marie Antoinette is like watching his eight year old sister parading in her brand new dress, which she refuses to take off for days. And each time you encounter her, you’re expected to gasp dutifully in cowed admiration. Marie Antoinette is so vacuous and so vapid, that you’d have had difficulty sitting through the entire three minutes had it been offered up as a sub-Adam Ant pop promo.

What usually happens to everyone at that age is that, almost over night, they grow up. So that one year later, they are each mortified at how juvenile their behaviour was, when they were the tender ages of nine and eight, all that year ago. But every one in a million, the boy and girl fail to grow up. And they continue parading their new dress and telling their endless and remarkably unfunny, shaggy dog stories well into their twenties and beyond.

Marie Antoinette.

Marie Antoinette.

Here we are then ten years on, and the pair have produced another couple of films that, once again, are completely devoid of any real substance.

The Beguiled is a wholly un-necessary remake of a Clint Eastwood film, with Colin Farrell stepping in as the solitary man waylaid in a household lorded over by women. Had it been the latest 60 second Timotei ad, we could all have sat back and luxuriated in its glamorous, glitzy, glossy surface. But ninety minutes of pretty girls in vintage dresses, their immaculate hair back-lit just so, gliding in and out of the house from the garden begins to pall after a while. I love soft porn as much as the next guy, but even I drifted off after a while.

Dunkirk.

Dunkirk.

While Dunkirk prides itself on not giving any of its characters any sort of back story or history, robbing them all of any depth or individuality. What you have instead is a cast of interchangeable dark haired soldiers, let’s call them Players, who need to get from the bottom of the screen (France) to the safety of the top of the screen (England). But in their way, and coming at them from all directions, are a succession of creations designed to prevent them – torpedoes from the sea, Messerschmidts from the air, and orders from above etc.

MV5BMTc1ODcyNjk2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjcyOTYwMTE@._V1._CR50,63,895,1375_UY1200_CR75,0,630,1200_AL_The only individuals who are given any form are the Mark Rylance and Cillian Murphy characters, because they’re isolated from everyone else on a small boat on its way in the opposite direction, from England to France, which after all is what the story is supposed to have been about. So that they literally get given space to stand out from the crowd.

Other than which, it’s just the loudest, most technologically sophisticated version of Space Invaders you’ll ever see. But you won’t be able to play it. This is one of those video games you can only watch, and who the hell wants to watch a video game you can’t play?

A Separation.

A Separation.

If you want a real test for Dunkirk, try watching it on your iPhone. Then try watching, say, A Separation – reviewed earlier here. Of course you should never watch a film on anything other than the largest screen with the finest sound system you can find. But two minutes into A Separation, you’ll be lost in the depths of its mesmerising story. Two minutes into Dunkirk you’ll be wondering if there’s anything happening on your Facebook page. Because if you’re watching a film on your iPhone, you’ll obviously be somebody who regularly checks up on their Facebook page.

You can see the trailer for the Beguiled here, and for Dunkirk here.

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Spike Jonze’s “Her”, a Classic New Hollywood Film.

Spike Jonze's "Her".

Spike Jonze’s “Her”.

Her, the new film from Spike Jonze stars Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams and Olivia Wilde, with music by the Arcade Fire. In other words, it’s indie royalty.

Phoenix plays a creative type in an office job who falls in love with his computer’s Operating System, voiced by Johansson, in a soon to be realised future Los Angeles. Adams is his best friend, and Wilde the skin and bones human that he tries to have a physical fling with.

Scarlett Johansson in Venice.

Scarlett Johansson in Venice.

It’s a charming, slightly offbeat and visibly clever rom com that’s thoroughly enjoyable and, not withstanding a lacklustre ending, wonderfully engaging. It’s genuinely romantic and often funny. And it really is great fun. But it’s wafer thin. You’ll need to give your brain the evening off and bid it engage elsewhere.

Jonze  directed Being John Malkovich (’99) and Adaptation (’02), both of which were scripted by Charlie Kaufman, and this is his first original script after his version of Where The Wild Things Are from 2009.

Watching Her, you get that same sense of gentle disappointment after the initial thrill that you got after watching his previous films, those of Wes Anderson and the better films of Sofia Coppola, to whom Jonze was briefly married.

Joaquin Phoenix an Olivia Wilde in "Her".

Joaquin Phoenix an Olivia Wilde in “Her”.

You leave the cinema with a smile on your face. But the further you walk, the less there was to think about. And it’s hard not to think of Gertrude Stein’s famous comment on California,

There’s no there, there.

It’s like watching a brilliant firework display. You’re dazzled by the flashes of light that illuminate the darkness. But you’re immediately left starring into the blank blackness wondering what it was that you’d seen up there, and feeling slightly ashamed at being so easily impressed by something of so little substance.

Her is great fun. But that’s all it is.

You can see the trailer here.

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