Thursday, 26 March 2015

Laughter in Paradise

1951 - Dir.: Mario Zampi - 1 hours 34 minutes - (UK)
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 28th March, 2015

This isn’t an Ealing Studios comedy, though you’d be forgiven for making that assumption. Its cast of stock English eccentrics may well have been moonlighting from one of Mr Balcon’s movies - perhaps they bicycled between Ealing and Elstree or got Sid James to drive them in his Carry On cab. In common with a number of films of the era it does have a slightly serious undercurrent - how far would we go if placed under enough pressure? Do we really know ourselves? Would we be better people if forced to see ourselves as others see us?
There are some superb performances - particularly from Fay Compton and Alastair Sim - and there are others where the actors are having such fun that it’s infectious. A young John Laurie working out his grumpy Scot routine in preparation for Dad’s Army, Joyce Grenfell way over the top but delightful and George Cole in training for his St Trinians Flash Harry role. It’s strange that this film has rather fallen out of the spotlight when comedy classics of the 1950s are discussed because there is more of a plot, more substance and less pratfalls than many more celebrated films.
Rome-born director Mario Zampi (1903-1963) moved to Britain in 1923, starting out as an actor before turning editor in 1930 and producer in 1937, when he founded Two Cities Films with fellow countryman Filippo Del Giudice. As director, he specialised in comedy, Laughter in Paradise being followed by Top Secret (1952), Happy Ever After (1954), The Naked Truth (1957) and Too Many Crooks (1959), all of which display a surprisingly acute grasp of the British sense of humour.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Moonrise Kingdom

2012 - Dir: Wes Anderson  - 1 hour 34 minutes - USA
Shown in FeckenOdeon 2 on 13th March, 2015

Welcome to the world of Wes Anderson - or rather to one of the worlds of Wes Anderson. Like no other director Mr Anderson requires us to totally surrender to his fantasies and immerse ourselves in the strangeness of his dreams. Disbelief is not permitted and the real (and modern) world isn’t allowed to break the spell. In “The Grand Budapest Hotel” it’s a strange ruritanian country in an undefined time period. Here we’re firmly in the 1960s in New England…. but not the 1960s and New England as we, or anyone apart from the director, has ever seen them. Was there even a US Department of Inclement Weather? Or has any child ever voluntarily put on a gramophone record of Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to The Orchestra? So - suspend your disbelief, believe in the unbelievable and just hang on for the ride. Unlike some directors Mr Anderson will make sure that you return to reality happily unharmed.
Anderson always fills his films with colours, never garish but usually definite and active. In "Moonrise Kingdom," the palette tends toward the green of new grass, and the Scout's khaki brown. Also the right amount of red. It is a comfortable canvas to look at, so pretty that it helps establish the feeling of magical realism.
The success of "Moonrise Kingdom" depends on its understated gravity. None of the actors ever play for laughs or put sardonic spins on their material. We don't feel they're kidding. Yes, we know these events are less than likely, and the film's entire world is fantastical. But what happens in a fantasy can be more involving than what happens in life, and thank goodness for that.
●    Commenting on the film's connection to the first time he fell in love, Mr Anderson said, "Well, what I wanted to do was re-create the feeling of that memory. The movie is kind of like a fantasy that I think I would have had at that age. When you're 11 or 12 years old, you can get so swept up in a book that you start to believe that the fantasy is reality. I think when you have a giant crush when you're in fifth grade, it becomes your whole world. It's like being underwater; everything is different."
●    This is an economy production - shot on 16mm film (the sort that used to be used for economy reasons in British television production) so it may appear a little grainy. The success of the film paved the way for big budget extravagance in “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.
●    Neither of the two young stars had ever seen a typewriter before filming. They had to be convinced of its purpose and method of operation.
●    There’s a game of Ludo in the film. In the USA it’s known as “Parcheesi” - and, as the game originated in India, it’s possible that this is the more correct name.