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.

Sign up right or below for a sub­scrip­tion, and I shall keep you post­ed every month, on All the very best and worst in film, tele­vi­sion and music!

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.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you post­ed Every Week on All the very Best and Worst in Film, Tele­vi­sion and Music!