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 his and hers, 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 one 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. But every one in a mil­lion fail to do so. And they con­tin­ue parad­ing their new dress and telling those 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 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.



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 who 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.

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

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Is Seven Psychopaths the Greatest Irish Film of the Century?

SevenPsychopaths2012MovieTitleBannerMar­tin McDon­agh has done a brave thing here. He’s made a film that looks for all the world like a real­ly lazy, sub-Taran­ti­no Hol­ly­wood B movie, peo­pled by ris­i­bly sub-one-dimen­sion­al card­board cut-outs in a mes­mer­i­cal­ly unfun­ny so say pastiche.

But what he’s actu­al­ly pro­duced is a bril­liant­ly can­did por­trait of a writer par­a­lyzed by fear, who spends his days in an alco­holic haze pet­ri­fied that he has noth­ing to say.

Instead of fol­low­ing the writer in a con­ven­tion­al way though, what he’s done is to show us the kind of film that a writer like that would pro­duce if he real­ly was as untal­ent­ed as he secret­ly fears. And he were to insist on writ­ing a screen­play any­way, despite being per­ma­nent­ly inebriated.

Hence those tedious­ly clichéd char­ac­ters wan­der­ing around LA, spout­ing all that pseu­do-Taran­ti­no, wannabe Mamet dia­logue that the writer clear­ly thinks will sud­den­ly gain weight sim­ply by being con­stant­ly repeated.

Occa­sion­al­ly, the writer will com­ment on his fail­ings as a writer, as if by talk­ing about them he might be able to fix them. Which, need­less to say, is grat­ing­ly Cal­i­forn­ian, and is exact­ly the kind of thing a writer like that would think.

seven-psychopaths-walkenSome­how, despite being asked to wade through all this swill, Christo­pher Walken man­ages the remark­able feat of con­jur­ing up a per­for­mance of gen­uine charm. And Col­in Far­rell sim­i­lar­ly suc­ceeds in occa­sion­al­ly mak­ing you actu­al­ly feel for the writer. But then he’s forced to emit more of that drea­ry dia­logue. Which he then has to repeat. Again.

Of course there’ll be the less cineas­t­i­cal­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed who’ll no doubt claim that McDon­agh has gone from writ­ing plays that read like real­ly long episodes of Father Ted but with­out any of the jokes, to a sub-Taran­ti­no (did you get the ref­er­ence yet?) Hol­ly­wood pas­tiche with­out any of its jokes. And any­one who’s seen all six hours of Kill Bill will know what that feels like.

No way — I’m look­ing for a wit­ty, po-mo meta-rhyme, there it is — José. Sev­en Psy­chopaths is so much more than that.

Despite what it looks like, this is in fact a bril­liant dis­til­la­tion of the kind of unspeak­able script a writer might pro­duce, if he spent his every wak­ing hour doused in a ster­ile sea of cheap alco­hol that ren­dered his imag­i­na­tion com­plete­ly impo­tent. And as such, it’s a dev­as­tat­ing indict­ment of the demon drink. Oh the hor­ror. The hor­ror.

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