Thursday, September 08, 2005

Film Days III

I got a much needed break from the onslaught of current/upcoming movies on Wednesday morning, when I watched the Garbo classic Camille (George Cukor, 1936, pro-). It was screened as part of a package of classics which the Institute is promoting this fall (others include , Touch of Evil and 1900). I was perhaps foolishly expecting a new print; turns out it was neither new nor even fresh - instead rather dusty and dirty all the way through. And unfortunately for us viewers, the movie was apparently shot in a format which few if any modern projectors can handle these days, especially not multiplex projectors (don't ask me to get technical, cuz I don't know the details). This resulted in severe top-and-bottom cropping, so either all the heads of the actors would be chopped off, or the subtitles would be out of frame. One would think that's an easy decision (begone subs!) but the projectionist made a fatal compromise: half of the heads were chopped off, and one subtitle line was missing. The occasional brilliance of the movie shone through anyway though. As is so often the case with these old movies featuring people with fancy costumes playing high-risk emotional games with each other, it's an old grouch who gets the best scenes: Henry Daniell as the bitter Baron that Garbo shacks up with and eventually leaves delivers some truly acidic remarks which are both sincere and amusing.

Next was one of the most anticipated movies of the entire four-day line-up: the brand new Aardman feature Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Steve Box, Nick Park, 2005, PRO-). This is the first W&G adventure made into a feature-length film; it is also the first thing that's come out of Aardman since teaming up with Dreamworks. And it's well worth the wait. Some of it has a cutesy feel that the early work didn't have, and some might interpret that as Aardman sugarcoating things in the name of Dreamworks, but all the familiar stuff is there, they are definitely staying true to the originals - retro-futurism and Old England imagery is all over the place. The only problem that I can see is a slight repetition of scenes and settings; maybe it's because we've seen W&G so much in the past, but some bits do feel like rehashes of older routines - but it's still amazingly well done, insanely detailed and for the most part very, very funny. The climactic battle scene/chase sequence is on par with the model train chase in The Wrong Trousers. The voice talent is also good - Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes join Peter Sallit and the others.

(Next: final Film Days entry!)


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