Friday, 23 March 2012
Intermission - 2011 Catchup: Troll Hunter, Certified Copy, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, Project Nim
More found-footage fun, this time from Norway, as a documentary crew accidentally stumble across a disgruntled troll hunter, in the clandestine employ of the Norwegian government. It's clever and silly at the same time, convincingly produced and well worth a look. I am getting heartily sick of the found-footage device (see this rant), but it's used well here and actually makes sense as part of the story (as opposed to being a tenuous excuse for lame storytelling). The trolls themselves are fantastic and the surrounding mythology is very cleverly adapted into the modern-day setting. Seek this out on DVD, it's a gem.
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec
More Euro-action, but this time somewhat less impressive, comes from Luc Besson - y'know, Leon, The Fifth Element. This, I suppose, is a kind of Gallic response to The Mummy - a kind of Fantomas meets Tomb Raider. Adele Blanc-Sec is a sort of female Indiana Jones, flouncing around exotic climes and putting the wind up natives. Louise Bourgoin does 'feisty' in an engaging fashion as the titular lead, but it's all a bit too mediocre - equal parts daft (I am infinitely resistant to the French sense of humour) and workmanlike - and the plot features too little to grip the viewer (despite the presence of a pterodactyl). Give it a miss.
A disappointment, now: from the general critical acclaim I had been expecting something transcendent from feted director Abbas Kiarostami ; instead I got pretentious European art-wank. OK, maybe it's not that bad but the story, while not so preposterous as to be self-defeating, has nothing like the intrigue of similarly-oblique movies like Hidden or, dare I say, Mulholland Drive. It is beautiful to look at, though the visual themes of mirror images are almost as overworn as the 'is a copy as good as the original' tropes of the writing. Juliette Binoche is fine (though her character is irritating) and opera singer William Shimell is assured in his film debut. But for all that it is pretty, the film was, for me, just the kind portentous, predictable and dull fare that gives the 'arthouse movie' a bad name.
This documentary - fortuitously released at the same time as Rise of the Planet of the Apes, with which it would make an excellent double-bill - charts the life and times of Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee raised among hippie academics in 1970s New York as a human child, in an experiment into linguistic development. The travails of poor Nim - including years of solitary confinement and a spell in an experimental laboratory - are grimly fascinating; the inter-human relationships are similarly compelling, with all manner of bed hopping going on. Intensely-researched, well-paced and structured with intelligence, if perhaps lacking in the kind of creative flourishes we're getting used to in the genre.