Thursday, February 22, 2007

Mile-high film club

Marie Antoinette is a colossal exercise in missing the whole ruddy point.

It looks nice and is stylishly played, but the emphasis of the script is all in the wrong place. We watch Marie leave one sumptuous court for another. She learns posh gossip and how to excite her husband. She dances about in the gardens and goes to some very good parties. And then some yokels turn up and she’s very brave and won't run away.

Since she’s a bit of a free spirit (no, she will go to the party!), there’s a lot of punk music and typeface. This juxtaposition of the contemporary and historical would be pretty revolutionary, if we’d not seen the same thing before. It’s Casanova, it’s A Knight’s Tale, it’s Britney in the End of the World.

But it’s also pretty dim. You have to fundamentally misconstrue history to see Marie Antoinette as a punk. Rather it’s the mob who tear down her glam lifestyle – and we hardly see them at all in the film.

The film entirely fails to deal with why the mob might have grievances. The nearest it gets is to have Marie protest that she never said, “Let them eat cake!” But this is an age of public flayings and the guillotine. The general violence offended both Casanova and de Sade.

By not dealing with that – by consciously not showing it – the film is more perverse than anything those two got up to. The French court was not merely a fatuous bubble of champagne parties: in context it was clearly offensive.

Flushed Away was fun (though not helped by DWM pointing out how the lead rat looks like David Tennant). It lacks the charm of Wallace and Gromit, and that’s not merely for being set down the toilet.

It’s fast-moving and full-of-gags enough to hide a pretty ropey plot about a posh boy falling for a working class girl. Like the singing mice in “Babe”, there are singing slugs to raise a smile whenever things get a bit unfunny. And, as S. said, it’s telling how often the slugs feature. I laughed a lot, but it’s not one to watch again.

The Prestige was probably the best of the lot, about the rivalry between two Victorian stage magicians. Leads Batman and Wolverine were as manly-tough as you’d expect. Bowie had a nice turn as Tesla, and Michael Caine was as effortless as always.

Unfortunately I sussed the various elements of the ending before we were mid-way through. This may have been due to discussing The Time Travellers all weekend, which turns a few of the same tricks. (Well, it does if you can make the cognitive leap that Hugh Jackman is playing Scott Andrews).

It’s clever and deft from the start, with all kinds of nice palming of plot device. But the real trick of magic is not merely the mechanics of the con, but of managing to disguise them. The audience has to be left mystified.

1 comment:

Tara O'Shea said...

I still haven't seen Marie Antoinette, mainly cos when I saw the trailer I thought "Oh! It's Alex Cox's The Revenger's Tragedy! Oh wait... okay, does it at least have Eddie Izzard? Bugger that."

I got the novel The Prestige Monday morning after cricket was stoped by rain, when we went on walkabout looking for the bookshop (fyi, we discovered the giant super Borders at Howard Hughes Centre is 15 minutes from the con by bus). But haven't read it yet, because I've been reading Tom de Haven's It's Superman! all week because it's GENIUS and MADE OF WIN. Sort of like Carnivàle meets Smallville.