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Review: Flags of Our Fathers and more ...

By November 8, 2006No Comments

Flags of Our Fathers posterMy grand­fath­er, Doug Laurenson, served in the Pacific dur­ing WWII. He nev­er spoke about that peri­od of his life, pre­ferred the bowl­ing club to the RSA and his only souven­ir was a tin cup that he found on the beach at Guadalcanal and which came to me when he died. I thought about him a lot while I was watch­ing Flags of Our Fathers, Clint Eastwood’s superb film about the cru­cial vic­tory at Iwo Jima in February 1945 and the equally cru­cial pro­pa­ganda impact of the fam­ous pho­to­graph of the Marines rais­ing the Stars and Stripes there.

Iwo Jima itself resembles Mt Maunganui towed out to sea, a tiny, bar­ren, vol­can­ic noth­ing but with huge stra­tegic and sym­bol­ic import­ance. Through eleg­ant par­al­lel storytelling the film focuses on the three sur­viv­ors of the flag rais­ing: through the ter­ri­fy­ing battle itself, the ghastly fund-raising and cheer-leading that fol­lowed and the liv­ing (or in Ira Hayes’ case not liv­ing) with the exper­i­ence into old age. Is there a bet­ter main­stream film­maker than Eastwood? On this evid­ence I don’t think so. One of the films of the year.

Jackass Number 2 posterI feel cer­tain that if the brave men who sac­ri­ficed their lives on Iwo Jima had known they were sav­ing civil­isa­tion so that their grand­chil­dren could pro­duce naus­eat­ing garbage like Jackass Number Two they would have told Uncle Sam where to stick his flag. Unfortunately, they didn’t and I have to review it and own up to the fact that I laughed my ar$e off – it’s a damn funny film with no redeem­ing cul­tur­al mer­it whatsoever.

The White Masai posterIn The White Masai, the two lead act­ors (Nina Hoss and Jacky Ido) are almost as beau­ti­ful as the amaz­ing Kenyan coun­tryside. Hoss plays Carola, a Swiss tour­ist, who dumps her boy­friend at the air­port after becom­ing cap­tiv­ated by the extraordin­ary fig­ure of Lemalian (Ido), a Masai war­ri­or. She heads into the bush to be with him, even­tu­ally pro­du­cing a bonny child and a book that has sold over 4 mil­lion copies.

Unfortunately, the film is pat­ron­ising towards the loc­als and self-serving in favour of the author who tries harder to get the Masai (and Lemalian) to change than she does her­self. Describing it as ‘one of the great love stor­ies’ is a stretch as she barely lasts four years in the bush and bolts, tak­ing the child with her, nev­er to return.

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days posterThe story of intern­al German res­ist­ance to the Nazis has not been well told in cinema and, des­pite the hon­est efforts of Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, we are still wait­ing. The film stars Julia Jentsch (The Edukators and Downfall) as a young stu­dent in 1943 Munich who is caught dis­trib­ut­ing anti-Hitler leaf­lets at the University. She is part of a group called “The White Rose” who are try­ing to use peace­ful means to stim­u­late res­ist­ance to the Nazis and end the cata­strophe of World War II.

The film, as you might gath­er from the title, con­cen­trates on Sophie’s arrest, inter­rog­a­tion and tri­al and as a res­ult is talky and un-dynamic. The act­ing from Jentsch and Alexander Held as Mohr, her inter­rog­at­or, is fine but there is no escap­ing the feel­ing that we are watch­ing a stage play or (worse) television.

For Pop.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 8 November, 2006.

Screening Conditions: Flags of Our Fathers looked and soun­ded mighty fine at Readings 3; Jackass Number Two was accept­able in Readings 1 though cine­ma­to­graphy isn’t really the point in this case; the Penthouse barista let me down again on Sunday morn­ing at The White Masai and the film looked a little shaky; like Beowulf & Grendel, Sophie Scholl is being screened from DVD which is only just acceptable.