Back on after a busy, unsettled couple of months. I moved flat, it didn’t work out (damp is damp, any way you dress it up), I moved back to my old place, and now I’m moving again. And I cancelled my broadband at the outset. And my head’s been in the wrong space for photographing, blogging etc. And I’ve run out of excuses. But Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art is starting this weekend, so that should get the gears turning. Then I go to Berlin early May, which is one of those things that always leaves me feeling very grateful for the fact of being alive. And my host always comes up with the goods (no pressure now). Excellent.
Someone had said to me that Tyrannosaur wasn’t all they expected it to be. I had high hopes regardless, possibly because of the incredible performance Paddy Considine pulls out for Dead Man’s Shoes. I wondered if he could turn that edge to directing and make something fresh and harrowing.
In my opinion, on this evidence, he didn’t. There are reasons aplenty to shift in your seat, cover your mouth with your hand, or turn away depending on your stamina for raw violence. But it felt like brit-grit by numbers to me.
[SPOILER ALERT] The first 10/15 minutes try to cover so much ground so quickly it’s almost a parody of the subject matter. Here he is, alcoholic wreck, raging, boiling with anger, screaming at the world. Time to kick his dog to death. Done. Next to the post office to collect dole and give out major abuse to the post office staff. Oh hang on, he’s apologised, there’s a heart of gold in there somewhere. Buried very deep. Since he’s just bricked their windows. And look, here he is getting his head kicked in. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Mullan’s performance has plenty of subtlety when the tone of things settles down, but not when he’s going full pelt. And the not-iconic sight of him sitting in his garden with the decapitated head of the neighbour’s dog in his lap (a dog who has savaged the face of the neighbour’s child) added nothing to my understanding of the brutality of his world or the moral compass of his character. It was just ridiculous. Saying all that, Olivia Colman, who many would recognise from Peep Show, anchors things ably, and I can’t help feeling that there was a great movie here in different hands.
Andrea Arnold’s version of Wuthering Heights was another movie I was looking forward to. I think her first feature, Red Road, is one of the finest movies ever made in the UK (and her second Fish Tank is no slouch either). During the early acts here, her reputation is intact. The elemental atmosphere is beautifully done, a masterclass of cinematography, direction and sound editing. The actors playing the young versions of Cathy and Heathcliff are superb. With minimal dialogue, Arnold builds palpable tensions. But momentum is lost in the transition to the adult characters and the story never finds the next gear. I was left not fully believing the history of Cathy and Heathcliff as portrayed through their adult selves, and as a result it was hard to care about their fates. I’m not sure if the performances weren’t up to the expectations of the subject matter and the trajectory of the first half of the movie, or if the screenplay slowly shows up as the weak link. Either way, I felt that another classic was hiding just round the corner, this time in the right hands.
And to round off the mini-disappointments, The American, directed by Anton Corbjin and starring George Clooney, is a diverting enough 2 hours spent watching Clooney looking haunted, doing press-ups, shagging/hanging around some ridiculously beautiful and sometimes dangerous women, but that probably tells you all you need to know. But hey, if it’s your thing to spend 2 hours watching Clooney looking haunted, doing press-ups, shagging/hanging around some ridiculously beautiful and sometimes dangerous women, you’ll enjoy this.