Skip to main content

Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, Devil, La Danse, Love Crime, The Eclipse and Glorious 39

By December 14, 2010December 31st, 2013No Comments

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest posterThe irony of watch­ing a film in which shad­owy fig­ures from the Swedish gov­ern­ment lie, steal and murder in order to dis­cred­it a journ­al­ist try­ing to reveal embar­rass­ing secrets, in the same week that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was accused of rape by a Swedish pro­sec­utor wasn’t lost on this review­er. Sadly, that was the only pleas­ure to be found watch­ing The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, num­ber three in the Millenium tri­logy that star­ted in 2009 with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

This film picks up almost imme­di­ately after the pre­vi­ous epis­ode fin­ished and you may be sur­prised to dis­cov­er that pretty much every­one you thought was dead turns out to be still alive and mak­ing mis­chief. Feisty Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is stuck in hos­pit­al recov­er­ing from her injur­ies while dour journ­al­ist Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and his mates do their investigatin’.

And there’s your first prob­lem, right there. The most inter­est­ing char­ac­ter doesn’t do any­thing in this film and is barely an agent in her own redemp­tion – unsat­is­fy­ing storytelling plus mech­an­ic­al plot res­ol­u­tions and alto­geth­er too much talk­ing make Hornets’ Nest a big disappointment.

Many Kisses Later posterThe open­ing night film of the recent Italian Film Festival, Many Kisses Later by Fausto Brizzi, has returned for a lim­ited release and big sooks could do a lot worse than shed a soppy tear at this port­manteau of vari­ous inter-connected romances – it’s manip­u­lat­ive but effect­ive if you’re in the right mood. There were a few cheers at the Festival screen­ing when a cent­ral char­ac­ter moved to Wellington (“Middle Earth!”) only for cheers to be replaced by stunned silence when our fair city was por­trayed in unlikely fash­ion by Cape Town. Bizarre.

Love Crimes posterKristin Scott Thomas refines her icy per­sona a little in the French thrill­er Love Crime, writ­ten and dir­ec­ted by Alain Corneau and com­pleted just before his untimely death from lung can­cer. Scott Thomas plays a top exec­ut­ive of a French sub­si­di­ary of an American multi-national. What they make or sell is not import­ant though, because the board­room set­ting is only there to provide the set-up for a murder mys­tery in which sup­posedly mousy 2IC Ludovine Sagnier (Swimming Pool) takes her revenge after years of humiliation.

Not a who­dun­nit then, more like a will­she­get­away­with­it. Preposterous plot­ting, poor work by Sagnier and under­stand­ably dis­trac­ted dir­ec­tion from Corneau mar Love Crime. You can do bet­ter than this if you look hard enough.

Devil posterAnd if hor­ror is your thing you can do a lot worse than Devil, the first of a new series spring­ing “from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan”. It’s a pity that after recent fias­cos like The Happening Shyamalan’s per­son­al brand is in such dis­ar­ray because former fans of his will find a lot to enjoy here. Devil is very cap­ably dir­ec­ted by John Erick Dowdle (who made the US remake of [REC] last year) and a simple idea is executed with wel­come lack of pre­ten­sion. Six strangers are trapped togeth­er in a broken elev­at­or. One by one they each meet a grisly demise and the ques­tion is: why them?

The Eclipse posterIf you look hard enough you can find a super­nat­ur­al story of a dif­fer­ent kind at the Penthouse: Irish ghost story The Eclipse is set dur­ing a loc­al lit­er­ary fest­iv­al. Widower Michael Farr (Ciarán Hinds) is a high school wood­work teach­er, a volun­teer at the Festival and may just be los­ing his mind. When he meets the author of a well-known ghost story (Iben Hjelle) a tent­at­ive romance begins but so does the weird­ness. Good char­ac­ter work from Hinds, most often the second banana in films like There Will Be Blood, plus a con­cen­tra­tion on char­ac­ter from writer-director Conor McPherson raise The Eclipse above the ordinary.

Incidentally, Conor McPherson made one of my favour­ite unsung films – The Actors (2003) which starred Michael Caine and Dylan Moran as hope­less Dublin thespi­ans pre­tend­ing to be organ­ised crim­in­als. Seek it out.

Glorious 39 posterStephen Poliakoff’s Glorious 39 is also very hard to find. I tracked it down at the second attempt, screen­ing in the Lighthouse’s cute little ten seat theatre. If I was ever build­ing a home cinema for myself it might look a lot like Lighthouse Cinema 5, but I digress. Glorious 39 takes a round­about way of look­ing at the British rul­ing classes res­ist­ance to the idea of war with Hitler – either because they had lived through WWI and wanted no repeat of the hor­ror, or for more sin­is­ter reasons.

Imagine if the Mitford sis­ters hadn’t just been slightly delu­sion­al Nazi sym­path­isers but were as power­ful as Bond vil­lains and you get an idea about Poliakoff’s con­spir­acy tale. For an inter­est­ing story, though, it just takes too long to get where it is going and the two hours run­ning time felt an awful lot longer.

La Danse posterLeaving the best until last, I hope you are still read­ing: Frederick Wiseman is a legendary doc­u­ment­ary maker who made his name back in 1967 with Titicut Follies, a lacer­at­ing expos­ure of con­di­tions at the Massachusetts Institution for the Criminally Insane. His per­cept­ive eye and under­stated edit­ing are unmatched in mod­ern doc­u­ment­ary and he has now turned his atten­tion to anoth­er kind of mad­ness, the world of ballet.

La Danse is about a year in the life of the Paris Opera Ballet, reputed to be the finest in the world and I don’t doubt it. Extended scenes of incred­ibly gif­ted people rehears­ing and per­form­ing, inter­cut with vign­ettes of admin­is­tra­tion and com­pany life, are often extraordin­ar­ily beau­ti­ful but at two and a half hours one or two of the sequences might have been saved for the DVD extras. While the primary sub­ject is the cre­ation of the art, Wiseman’s undi­min­ished social aware­ness allows him to quietly (and dev­ast­at­ingly) observe that the only non-white faces you see in the entire com­pany are clean­ing theatres, paint­ing walls or serving food.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 15 December, 2010.