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Review: Young @ Heart, Max Payne, Rise of the Footsoldier, A Journey of Dmitri Shostakovich, Brideshead Revisited and Irina Palm

By October 31, 2008December 31st, 2013No Comments

Young at Heart posterThe most purely emo­tion­al exper­i­ence I have had in a cinema this year was watch­ing the delight­ful doc­u­ment­ary Young @ Heart dur­ing the Film Festival. It’s a life-affirming (and by its very nature death-affirming too) por­trait of a group of Massachusetts seni­or cit­izen chor­is­ters who tour the world with a pro­gramme of (often con­sciously iron­ic) rock and pop clas­sics and it starts out like the quirky British tv pro­gramme it was ori­gin­ally inten­ded to be. But then these remark­able, love­able, buoy­ant char­ac­ters take con­trol and by the time they get to Dylan’s Forever Young, I may as well have been a puddle on the floor of the cinema. Young at Heart is so suc­cess­ful I even fell in love with Coldplay for about five minutes. It’s that good.

Max Payne posterThe least you should expect as a mod­ern cinema-goer these days is fif­teen bucks worth of com­pet­ence and the movie ver­sion of the antique com­puter game Max Payne fails to deliv­er even that. Mark Wahlberg phones it in again as the tit­u­lar hero, search­ing for the street thugs who murdered his wife and child, and dis­cov­er­ing a cor­rupt phar­ma­ceut­ic­al com­pany and some crazy blue street drug that makes one in a mil­lion people invin­cible. Iron Man had Jeff Bridges as the suit wear­ing best friend who turns out to be rogue – Max Payne has to settle for his big broth­er Beau. ‘Nuff said.

Rise of the Footsoldier posterI’ve nev­er reviewed a film before that the cinema man­ager and the dis­trib­ut­or both said they hated, but there’s a first time for everything. Rise of the Footsoldier is indeed a nasty piece of work, an East End gang­ster drama that takes great delight in cho­reo­graphed viol­ence and a lim­ited vocab­u­lary of mostly foul lan­guage. I grew up in that part of the world and I’m saddened that the people of my man­or are con­tinu­ally por­trayed as ignor­ant loud­mouths, fas­cist thugs and drunk­en bully-boys when many of them are genu­ine salt of the earth. And there’s more to West Ham than the ICF and foot­ball hoo­ligan­ism. Ask Keira Knightley and Russell Brand.

Dmitri ShostakovichBring your “A” game to A Journey of Dmitri Shostakovich and you’ll be rewar­ded with a subtle and involving doc­u­ment­ary that makes you work a little to get the most out if it. Shostakovich was one the great com­posers of the 20th cen­tury but he had the mis­for­tune to live in Russia dur­ing the exten­ded Soviet night­mare and suffered greatly while treated as a plaything of the party pro­pa­gand­ists. Drifting in and out of favour depend­ing on cir­cum­stances bey­ond his con­trol, Shostakovich had no real polit­ic­al will of his own and dreamed only of writ­ing great Russian music, of which there is a decent amount in the film.

Brideshead Revisited posterThe new ver­sion of Brideshead Revisited, dir­ec­ted by Julian Jarrold (Becoming Jane), is approx­im­ately 80% short­er than the beloved TV adapt­a­tion from 1981 and still man­ages to feel both con­densed ‘and’ about 20 minutes too long. Middle class aes­thete Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode) meets Lord Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw) on his first day up at Oxford and they become firm friends. Flyte takes Ryder to Brideshead, his fam­ily home. There he meets Julia (Hayley Atwell), with whom he will fall in love, and Lady Marchmain (fiercely intel­li­gent Emma Thompson) who will become his nemes­is. A “qual­ity” pro­duc­tion in every respect, I want to pay spe­cial respect to the cos­tumes (did men ever dress bet­ter than in the 1930s?) and the pho­to­graphy which actu­ally adds some­thing to the story-telling for a change. Of course, if I’m prais­ing the craft it must mean that some­thing has gone miss­ing high­er up the food chain, and I fear that I was not as moved by Brideshead as I could have been.

Irina Palm posterUnlike Brideshead, which for all it’s many qual­it­ies nev­er sur­prises, Irina Palm is agree­ably unusu­al. Marianne Faithfull plays Ange, a dot­ing grand­moth­er liv­ing in a quiet English vil­lage. Grandson Ollie needs life-saving treat­ment in Australia and the fam­ily have no more money to get there. I try and avoid spoil­ers in this column so I’m some­what con­strained in describ­ing how Ange gets the money, suf­fice to say that once that bridge is crossed you can nev­er be sure where it’s going to go next. Faithfull is fab­ulous, let­ting a myri­ad of subtle emo­tions play across that mar­vel­lous face while nev­er actu­ally telling you anything.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 22 October, 2008.

I’m well behind on post­ing so no hyper­links, sorry.

Nature of con­flict: Irina Palm is dis­trib­uted in NZ by Arkles Entertainment who I do some work for now and then.