My Friends and I – 3

Here we are once again with another round up of the films I have been watching as part of the Cinefriends group I run at Derby QUAD.

As far as lists go you probably couldn’t find 3 films more distinct from one another (go on, I dare you) so I’ll jump straight in with my first review;

Meeting 7: The Illusionist

It’s a bit of a shame that I am left to review this film on my own because this is one that Chris M saw too and we talked for ages about trying to put a review together and never got round to it- how unlike us!

I cannot recommend highly enough that people check out The Illusionist when it appears on TV and DVD soon. It is absolutely beautiful both visually and emotionally and is proof if ever if it were needed that animated films are not just for kids. In fact, if you’re the sort of person who usually shuns animated films for the aforementioned reason, then you should make doubly sure you see this film to be put firmly in your place (you know who you are)!

The thing about The Illusionist is that at first I wasn’t that impressed with it. It was decent enough in the opening 20 minutes or so; stuff happens, the Illusionist travels from Paris to Scotland, a few tricks here and there, a few relationships built, and some great sight gags. But then suddenly everything slows down as our protagonist finds himself stuck in Edinburgh and selling out to make a quick buck. At the time I was starting to get a bit bored- I’d go as far as to say I was bored-erline disliking the experience (HA!).

But then as the film closed and I realised how completely depressed and affected I had been by the film, particularly its final scenes, it hit me that the impact the film had on me  was in line with that of the characters and the theme of the picture. The Illusionist is a story about the death of vaudeville, about Rock and Roll storming on stage and stealing the limelight. It is about this great tradition of magic and performance that once had high energy and sell out crowds suddenly having the wind taken out of its sails and drifting to a halt as performers struggle to acclimatise with a fast paced, ever-changing society.

To find myself feeling as lost and alone as the main character is at the end of the picture, yet so full of hope that there is still something out there for him, is a testament to the quality of filmmaking on show here. The Illusionist makes every moment of the 7 year wait for Sylvain Chomet’s follow up to The Triplets of Belleville worth it.

There’s so much more to say about this film, particularly about its visuals. In fact, I’ll leave it here and let Chris M talk about them in the comments section. Whatever he says, he’s 100% right.

Meeting 8: Inception

What more is there to say? Done and done in our episode review which can be found HERE (about 22 minutes in) Inception is a film that just gets better every time I see it. Fourth time around, and a couple of months since its initial release, the impact of the adventures of Leo and the gang were just as breathtaking and enticing.

The joy of Inception lies in its simplicity. It really is just your typical heist flick come crime thriller (in fact were the story more complicated I think the effect of the visuals would lessen as audiences would spend too much time getting caught up in plot points as opposed to lapping up the scale and ambition) yet the beauty of the film comes in every inch of frame that Christopher Nolan puts on screen. Top performances, top effects, top music, top writing, top banana. Can’t wait for it to come out on DVD- and I never buy DVDs!

Meeting 9: Singing in the Rain

Meeting 9 and our first out and out classic, a golden oldie that we’ll have all seen a dozen times before is finally back up on the big screen.

Singing in the Rain is the sort of film that I used to hate as a kid. It was black and white, it was full of songs and everyone was looking happy and cheesy in it. I would turn it off when it came on TV. Now with hindsight and the loss of any shame I am free to watch films like this and appreciate them for what they really are; feel good movies that kill some time and put a smile on your face.

My only problem with Singing in the Rain is that every dance sequence or song feels about 2 minutes too long. I don’t know if it’s egotism on the part of the filmmakers, or just that fact that they wanted to make sure audiences got their money’s worth, but if every musical sequence was trimmed by about 2 minutes I think the whole film would benefit.

It always interests me too that “Make ‘em laugh” is regarded as one of THE classic dance numbers (its certainly an unforgettable performance by Donald O’Connor as Cosmo Brown) but it’s probably the most uncomfortable sequence of the movie- it feels shoehorned in and despite its titular resonance it isn’t really that funny.

These are all minor quibbles though because hand on heart Singing in the Rain gave me a smile from ear to ear. Gene Kelly’s smile is just intoxicating, the jokes still work nearly 60 years on, Debbie Reynolds is gorgeous and the satire is still as biting as ever.

And for all of that I think we can forgive it the liberal helping of sexism that underscores the whole picture!

So there you are folks. Bang up to date with my entire goings on at Cinefriends. We’ve got a great roster of films coming up in the next few months including Made in Dagenham, Peeping Tom, Another Year and The Arbor, so if you live in the Derby area and fancy coming along just click HERE and get in touch. We meet every other Sunday and occasionally see stuff in the week too. I’ll post any thoughts on those films in a month or so and in the meantime let us know if you’ve seen any of the above and tell us what you thought of them.

Thanks as always to QUAD for the tickets and thanks to you for reading.



One Response to My Friends and I – 3

  1. misschraddon says:

    Well who’s a naughty boy then? Me obviously. Whilst looking through my to do list in a forgotten dusty corner I find a note that reads “write up illusionist thoughts” and it strikes me that I probably should have done this ages ago. How very remiss of me. Sorry.

    First up, Chris is obviously correct and this is a brilliant film. In order to avoid this becoming a whole wide review on its own and to save you all from my ramblings, I will summarise my thoughts on the film by highlighting three things about it that are amazing.

    1. The Dialogue. There isn’t any. At first I thought this was one of those things that opens a movie that vague and laboured attempts are made to keep it going as long as possible only for the writers to give up at fifteen minutes, realise they’re not able to convey proper character emotions without speech and revert to the cast not being able to shut their mouths. Not so in this case – sure it’ll take you a little while to get used to but once you’re on board you’ll realise that you can relate so much without speech anyway that maybe more stories should be told this way.

    2. The Emotion. It’s so real; there’s so much packed into the Illusionist’s tight ninety minute frame that if you’re not emotionally exhausted by the end of it, you probably need a pulse check to ensure you’re still alive. This isn’t a happily ever after story; it’s a story about life and the changes that circumstance and society bring to it. You will in equal parts love, hate, rue and applaud the characters and it’s nice that for once these things aren’t all mutually exclusive. There are no good people or bad people, there are just people.

    3. Edinburgh. It’s well documented that I love the city I live in and it’s evident from this movie that Sylvain Chomet is similarly infatuated with it. The city is painstakingly recreated and beautiful in all its aspects (particularly a 3D overpass of the city towards the films finale). Edinburgh makes a beautiful backdrop for a story and seeing it take place in and around familiar Edinburgh landmarks like the Grassmarket and Jenner’s really allowed me to connect to this movie in a way unlike most others. Don’t fear if you’ve never been to Edinburgh before though as the backdrops are purely that (albeit very very pretty ones) and it won’t hurt you not to know where exactly you’re looking at – just bear in mind two things:
    1) That it’s all just as quaint and lovely now as it was fifty years ago when the story is set
    2) I’ve probably been drunk and fallen over everywhere that is visited throughout the film

    Top notch stuff for me then and heartily endorsed by all the team at Casta La Vista. Definitely one to seek out when it’s released on DVD.

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