Saturday, August 23, 2008

Two movies

I mentioned the movie, Serenity, in my previous post. Some guys from our church get together about once a month to watch a DVD together, and this was the choice for last night’s event. Not my choice, but that of the young fellow in the group who’s a keen sci-fi fan.
Apart from the fact that it borrowed from every other sci-fi movie under the sun, particularly the first Star Wars, it wasn’t too bad, with a few twists in the tail, (including allowing the baddie to live!), and some semblance of a plot. (Some of which had to be explained by the sci-fi buff, as the rest of us had no idea of the background to the thing – it pays to have watched Firefly, the series it was based on.)
There were some crazy moments in it: the cannibalistic nasties and the Alliance (yup, one of those, and megalomaniac with it) had a space battle at one point, while the heroes escaped between them. All this was done in spaceships so cluttered together in space that the collision level should have been extraordinarily high. Somehow they managed to battle it out without everything in sight blowing up.
The girl, River, was far superior at taekwondo than the two girls in the Olympics: she could take on fifty men at the drop of a hat and defeat them all. Yeah, right. Even being the mean war machine she was supposed to be, the sheer improbability was just a bit much.
And then the heroes only strapped themselves into seats in their space ship when they thought they were going to crash. Prior to that they’d been walking happily about the thing in spite of the fact that it was doing frequent somersaults in space and corkscrews and you name it.
Still, the spaceship designs were cool throughout: the baddies had nasty kinds of designs, like sharks, and the goodies had something like a bird, or a large insect.
For some reason, after this, I came home and watched The Red Shoes, while my wife slept in the lazy boy chair. The acting is old school – clear enunciation and rather mannered movements (but only at times) – and the story is a bit dragged out, and the ballet people are all a bit over the top, but there are some great things in it still. The photography is superb, moving seamlessly from atmospheric studio stuff to location work, much of it in a brilliantly sunny Monte Carlo. And the colour throughout is imaginatively used: Moira Shearer’s ginger hair shines, the red shoes glisten menacingly, the arty ballet sets contrast wonderfully with the clean location colours, the warm interiors and much more. Even the men’s dark suits and tuxedos shine.
And while the ‘real’ story of two men in love with the same woman is a bit clumsily handled, it parallels nicely with the Red Shoes ballet itself, which is based round a similar idea. The ballet is superbly done, not just from a dancing point of view, where the choreography is imaginative and detailed, but from a cinematic point of view. Like the best Hollywood musical ballets, it doesn’t stint on using cinematic tricks (the usual shift from a real stage and audience to vast sets is handled with ease). Shearer leaps into the red shoes almost in one take; a newspaper gets up and dances with her and then transforms within the same shot into Robert Helpmann, and back again; a huge, rolling ocean behind the conductor (who appears randomly throughout the ballet – he’s one of the lovers) turns into the audience; and other seamless moments show the marvellous control that the directors, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and DOP Jack Cardiff have over their material.
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