robin hood (with royal philharmonic orchestra), cadogan hall

Douglas Fairbanks as Robin Hood

On 12th July, I went with a few friends to the gorgeous Cadogan Hall, just off Sloane Square to see the 1922 silent classic Robin Hood starring Douglas Fairbanks (senior, that is!).

The film was accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by the composer of the live score, John Scott.

One of my friends had asked me if I had seen the film before, and I said that I vaguely remembered seeing it, and the only lasting impression I remembered was that it was very ‘fast’ – speeded up, like the end of the Benny Hill show.

This certainly wasn’t like that, and so I was confused as to what I had seen, until I read the blurb in the programme.

Composer John Scott (he seemed a lovely man, and after the performance, he asked Douglas Fairbanks’ granddaughter who was in the audience, whether she thought he would have approved!) originally turned down the idea of creating a new score for the film when approached in 2006 by the City of Nottingham.

One of the reasons he gave was “I found the film unbearable, all the characters moved in a stilted way, far too fast and the whole effect was quaint and unreal.”  So perhaps my memory of the film hadn’t been wrong after all. they then slowed the film down to ‘real time’ action and John Scott realised that the film was now a very different subject, and that he would be able to compose the new score.

The film was actually far more lavish than I had been expecting – it apparently cost a rumoured $1million…in 1922…and at the time was the most expensive film made.

The sets were absolutely amazing for the time, including a full-scale castle built especially for the film.  The jousting scenes at the start included a huge number of extras, animals and grand costumes and sets.

The film was often suprisingly dark, often laugh-out-loud funny (sometimes even intentionally!) and literally had Robin and his merry men skipping around the forest in their tights.  Yes, literally.  Grown men skipping.

The athleticism of Douglas Fairbanks was also a wonder to behold.  Whenever they rushed off to their horses, he literally leaped over rocks, bushes, etc and jumped straight into the saddle, while the rest of the men put on a brave show of trying to heave themselves up via their stirrups while he got a head start on them.

And the score – it was faultless.  Sometimes I glanced down from the screen and was almost shocked to see a full orchestra there playing, as I had momentarily forgotten that it was live, so seamless were the action and the music.

It was a fabulous evening in gorgeous surroundings, and a film that I am glad I now have a better memory of, with a faultless live score – I loved every second!

I wonder what will be my next silent film with live score experience…

I will levae you with a non-slowed down clip…pretty gruesome, aye?

love me if you dare – france (2003)

Love Me If You Dare

This is an absolute gem of a film – not like anything I have ever watched before.

In typical French style, it’s all about l’amour – but really it’s a dark comedy.

Julien and Sophie have been friends since they were about 8 years old, when Sophie was being bullied, and Julien stepped in and tried to cheer her up, offering her a musical box that his dying mother had given him.  however, he suddenly realised how important the box was to him and said she could ‘borrow’ it and had to give it back.  She points out this is hardly fair as he had originally given it as a gift, and so forces him ‘earn’ it back by making him complete dares.

This is how their lives continue – they get kicks out of daring each other and over the years that follow, the dares get more and more extravagant, and more and more dangerous.

This is a brilliant film – it’s completely unreal, total escapism, but beautifully shot, beautifully acted (if a wonderfully. slightly unhinged performance from Marion Cotillard in places) and just totally unique!  Loved it 🙂

My rating – 8.5/10

let me in (and other films)

Let Me In

Yesterday, I went and saw a horror film at the cinema – at 1pm…which felt slightly odd, but in a guilty pleasure kind of way.

After my review of Let The Right One In, I thought I’d go and see the Hollywood remake to see what they’d done to it.

It actually wasn’t too bad.

Oskar and Eli had been replaced by Owen and Abby.  I wasn’t sure whether Abby was the best name for the vampire, as it is very definitely a girl’s name, whereas I think Eli as a name was a bit more androgynous – as was the girl in the orginal film.  There were parts where Abby could have passed as a boy, but she didn’t have the presence of the girl who played Eli.  in the original, Eli appeared very frail – thin, pale and seemingly in need of protection  whereas Abby, although often pale, didn’t look frail at all.  And there seemed no menace in her.

Owen on the other hand, was pretty good.  Obviously very geeky and an obvious outcast at school.

It was odd how they seemed to have recreated the climbing frame outside the apartments almost exactly – it was uncannily similar (from my memory).

The scene that I never liked in the original (the cats) isn’t used in the remake, which could only be a good thing – but I think that meant that the remake didn’t fully explore the secondary characters and their input to the story, so the whole thing felt a little less real.

The remake also seemed to CGI Abby’s killings which I really really didn’t like.  There was no need for it.

However, it was pretty well acted, and pretty true to the original, and the swimming-pool scene was still brilliantly done.  I’d probably give it 7/10, but I can admit that if I hadn’t seen the original, I’d probably be more likely to give it an 8!

When I came home, we decided to have a flim night, and watch all three that we had from Blockbuster in one go.  That included The Losers, which was good comic fun, although each main character seemed like a cheap version of a bigger star (eg, Jeffery Dean Morgan = Robert Downey Jr, Óscar Jaenada = Johnny Depp).  It was definitely entertaining though!

We then watched The Man’s choice – The Good German, which even he admitted was an absolute pile of shite.  i have no idea why that film needed to be made.  it was awful and I nearly died of boredom.  I would have rather gone to see the second half of Follies!

So, then we watched Perrier’s Bounty, which was brilliant, and made us forget the awfulness of The Good German.  Cillian Murphy plays a bit of a loser who gets entangled through circumstance into escalating danger and violence.  Jim Broadbent is fantastic as his off-the-wall dad who believes he is going to die the next time he goes to sleep.

There are some brilliant comic moments, and the ever wonderful Brendan Gleeson is a joy to behold!

It’s not for the faint-hearted – there is a lot of blood and violence…but, well, I like that kind of thing 🙂

let the right one in – sweden (2008)

Let The Right One In

After reviewing The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I thought I should review that other recent Swedish offering of fantasticness that was Let The Right One In.

This is a vampire story with a difference – the whole ‘sexiness’ of vampires is taken away as this story centres around a 12 year old boy (Oskar) who lives with his mother and is an outcast at school, frequently bullied by some of the other boys.  He often fantasizes about getting his own back.

Local people start being murdered at about the same time as a new girl moves in next door to Oskar with her father.  Eli is also 12…at least on the outside.  Eli is mysterious, she doesn’t go to school, she doesn’t wear any shoes in the snow, she never seems to get cold – and she seems wise beyond her years.

Little does Oskar know that Eli has been 12 for 200 years!

This is a brilliant film, and not your usual vampire story at all.  It’s all about emotions, growing up, love, loyalty and revenge.

There was only one scene in it that jarred with me, and that was the one with the cats.  But having read the book since, yes – the scene IS in the book, so I guess it was staying true, even though it would have been near enough impossible to recreate that scene without it looking absolutely hilariously awful.

The book explains a lot more, and actually has Eli a lot more androgynous, which makes a lot more sense in the overall story – but I can see why it may not have worked so well in the film.

I know that the Hollywood version has come out this weekend – and I must admit, I am curious as to why they felt they needed to remake it, and whether they have brought anything new to the story.  I am very dubious.

My rating 9.5/10 (would’ve been prefect without the cat scene!)

why can’t people read?

Ok, these weren't the actual subtitles for Let The Right One In 😉

A few days ago, I heard that they are making a Hollywood version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Apparently starring Daniel Craig.


What’s wrong with the Swedish version?  It’s had rave reviews.  It was a Swedish book, written by a Swedish author.  what is making it ‘Hollywood’ going to add.  Oh, apart from not having to read subtitles.

I am a firm advocate of ‘World Cinema’, which is such a strange term.  After all, surely the US is part of the world, so Hollywood blockbusters should still be included in the term.  In fact, wriing that reminds me of an article I wrote which I shall now C+P, lol

I love films. I love a huge range of films. I love films that sometimes I don’t even understand because the journey is so entertaining and/or beautifully crafted.

(I say ‘films’ because I am over 25 and British, but of course others across the world may replace that word with ‘movies’ – can you please do that for yourself for the remainder of this article as I can’t change my reference to them after all these years!)

I have seen some fantastic films over the years, which unfortunately I have been unable to discuss with many friends as they have never even heard of the majority of them, let alone seen them.

Why would this be? For the simple fact that the majority of my favourite films are in a foreign language, or given the grandiose title of ‘World Cinema’. It often makes me wonder where all the English speaking countries are if they don’t belong to the World!

There are some amazing films out there that the majority of people I know would not even consider watching. The beautifully crafted Studio Ghibli films have managed to straddle the two sides by using known Western actors to dub the voices of their gorgeously surreal animated offerings – but of course cartoons are more acceptable for this treatment, and have been for years. (Dogtanian & The Three Muskehounds, Ullyses 31 or The Mysterious Cities of Gold anyone?). In fact Spirited Away has been my daughter’s favourite film since she was six.

Those into their horror are never going to find anything as intensely thrilling as Japanese or Korean horror films (known as J-Horror or K-Horror). Again, the west seem to try to get round that by remaking the most successful near enough exactly frame-by-frame in English – eg, Ringu becomes The Ring. But people who only watch the American remakes are missing something. Somehow the Asian originals have a beauty and depth to them…and an inherent sadness that never seems to come across in the remakes.

The best J&K-Horror films I have seen have always felt like they have a different relationship to the dead. Generally, the ghosts/entities/beings who are dead are the ones that have had wrong done to them and they are just resetting the balance between good and bad. You start the film fearing the ‘monster’ and end the film feeling sorry for them. Included within this are some truly jumpy moments and tremendous tension.

I also have a small girl with long straight dark hair that often hangs down over her face, so I have added fear thrown at me on dark nights!

‘World Cinema’ is also good for thrillers, gore and revenge. There is usually a far better (or more unique) back story to account for a killing spree and (if that is what you are in the mood for) they are willing to push you right to the limits of grossness. If anyone can watch Audition (S. Korean), Old Boy (S. Korean) or Martyrs (French) without feeling a little sick, then I take my hat off to you.

But it’s not all about blood and tension, there are some truly beautiful and moving films out there too. Everyone is familiar with Amelie that also seems to have straddled audiences, possibly because of its limited dialogue that gives it more universal appeal.

The Wave (German) is a very insightful commentary on the human psyche; 3 Iron (S. Korean) is a beautiful, touching, magical love story – again with barely any dialogue; Persepolis (Iranian) is a simple animated thought-provoking story of exile; City of God (Brazilian) and Tsotsi (S. African) are gritty, realistic stories of young lives in violent poverty; The Girl On The Bridge (French) is a beautifully shot, touching story of luck and love (and stars the gorgeous Vanessa Paradis as an added bonus!)

I’ll admit that I haven’t seen too many foreign comedies that I enjoy, because I think humour is one of those things that doesn’t translate so well, country to country — but the ones that I have enjoyed have tended to be French (and seem to star Jean Reno!)

I could go on forever, listing foreign-language films that I believe everyone should watch. By refusing to read subtitles, I think people are being very short-sighted and cutting out a whole swathe of unique, original and surprising stories that they wont otherwise get a chance to see.

The words are well worth the effort – you may get to experience a whole new culture. And it’s always harder to tell bad acting when you can’t understand the dialogue!

There is actually a part of me that is wondering whether to add a ‘Foreign film reviews’ tab to my blog, as I seem to get through quite a few.  I watched some at the weekend.  I especially liked the French ‘Tell No One’ and the brilliant Spanish ‘Timecrimes’.  I wonder if it’s something that readers might be interested in (after all, there are just as many rubbish foreign language films out there as there are english-speaking!

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