Tuesday 28 November 2006

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) - ickleReview (cinema)

Borat Sagdiyev is another character creation by Sacha Baron Cohen, who gave us Ali G. Borat is a TV presenter from Kazakhstan who is sent by the Ministry of Information to make a documentary about America ("US and A [...] the greatest country in the world").

Along the way Baron Cohen in the character of Borat tries to be as offensive as possible to as many people as possible, including random New Yorkers walking the streets of Manhattan, veteran feminists, gays, blacks, Jews, women, college frat boys, polite dinner parties, a rodeo audience and, eventually, Pamela Anderson.

It's much like his short sketches from Da Ali G Show strung together with a flaky plot. It's a road trip movie with Pamela Anderson as the spur to cross coast to coast in a second-hand ice-cream van with his producer Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian) in tow.

There are many laughs in (or maybe at) this film, as well as a quite deflating poignant moment, but it needn't have tried to force a narrative out of it. Borat is much funnier when he's just causing havoc with people you're never really sure are in on the joke.

Nugget: the film suffers a little from over-exposure. I'd heard too many of the jokes and encounters in reviews on radio, TV, and in the press, weakening their impact on screen. (They're still funny, but they were funnier first time round.)

The official movie website, though, is a masterpiece.

Sunday 19 November 2006

Wednesday 15 November 2006

Bloom (2003) - ickleReview (DVD)

Film adaptation of James Joyce's Ulysses (1922), one of the greatest novels ever written in any language. Having read the book twice and studied it over the past five years, it's difficult to give an objective view of Bloom as a stand-alone film. I'm not sure if it would work for someone who knows nothing about the novel. Director Sean Walsh has certainly done a lot of creative cutting: entire chapters are omitted or condensed into a scene or two. From what I could make out, the most cinematic chapter of the novel, "Wandering Rocks" (chapter 10), which features an interpolative narrative technique similar to parallel editing, and the "Sirens" episode of the sing-song in the Ormond Hotel bar (chapter 11), were missing.

The film begins at the end of the novel with Molly's monologue in bed with Bloom at the end of the day, and then comes full circle, like Joyce's final work, Finnegans Wake, returning back to where it started with Molly, and ending with her famous last words "yes I said yes I will Yes."

The film is about a day in Dublin, 16 June 1904. Leopold Bloom makes breakfast for his adulterous wife, Molly (Angeline Ball), who fucks Blazes Boylan while Bloom is out of the house later in the day. Stephen Rea's Bloom is more melancholy than I imagined him. Rea and Walsh emphasize his sadness at the death of his son, Rudi, and foreground the anti-semitism he faces in Dublin. Meanwhile, Stephen Dedalus (Hugh O'Conor) has breakfast with his friend Buck Mulligan (Alvaro Lucchesi) and their English companion, Haines, at their Martello tower home outside the city. He then teaches a lesson at school and walks along the strand into Dublin. (Small factual error: he should be walking north, with the sea on his right, not south with it on his left, as he does in the film. Many other artistic liberties are taken: Bloom's home at 7 Eccles Street, for example, does not have a front garden or a path, and backs straight on to the pavement.) The rest of the film follows them about the city until they meet up later at night, drunken, in a brothel.

Walsh achieves, on the whole, the right tone and casts some characters such as Molly, Mr Deasy (Des Braiden) and Buck Mulligan particularly well. The central characters are weaker. Rea does not convince me his is Bloom; O'Conor is too cheerful as Stephen.

Nugget: don't neglect to read the book!

I've also written a different review of this DVD for FilmExposed.

[Update: Friday 17 June 2011: looks like FilmExposed is no more, so that link is broken.]