Sunday, August 19, 2007

Day Six - "You know, they say even Hitler had friends..."

Stardust

British fantasy adventure based on the novel by Neil Gaiman, about a young man (Charlie Cox) who sets out to capture a fallen star to impress the town beauty and discovers that the star is, in fact, a beautiful woman (Claire Danes).

For some reason the other galas have received much more of a trumpeting than "Stardust" (perhaps because the distributors are rumoured to have banned the cast from attending the festival), but this turned out to be an absolute delight from start to finish. Charlie Cox (who could have a big, Hugh Grant-style career ahead of him if his performance here is any guide) plays Tristan Thorn, who ventures through the Forbidden Wall in search of a fallen star, with which to win the hand of the town beauty (Sienna Miller). However, Tristan is unprepared for what he finds: the star is in fact a beautiful woman (Claire Danes) and, what's more, she's none too pleased with being handed over as a present. That's the least of her problems, however - she's also being pursued by an evil witch (Michelle Pfeiffer, enjoying herself enormously) who wants to eat her heart in order to stay young and beautiful, plus two rival princes (Mark Strong and Jason Flemyng) are on her trail because of a necklace that brought her down to earth. On top of all that, there's the small mystery of Tristan's mother to contend with. Considering the huge number of characters and sub-plots, director Matthew Vaughn (aka Mr Claudia Schiffer, who reputedly persuaded Vaughn to do the film after reading Neil Gaiman's novel while pregnant) and screenwriter Jane Goldman (aka Mrs Jonathan Ross) do a remarkable job of keeping each plot strand moving. The action / fantasy sequences are enjoyable (the spells fight is better than anything in the Harry Potter movies) and the cast are terrific, especially Robert DeNiro, who has a fabulous part as the Dreaded Pirate (by reputation, at least), Captain Shakespeare. Danes and Cox make a great screen couple - they have real chemistry together which, literally, lights up the screen. The film is also extremely funny - there are several hilarious lines and many wonderful sight gags (e.g. Michelle's witch aging a little more every time she uses magic; the various killed-off princes -including Julian Rhind-Tutt and Adam Buxton- tagging along as ghosts). Also, this is a film that finally understands that audiences want only two things from a Ricky Gervais cameo: 1) to see him shut up, and 2) to see him get killed. Happily, this delivers both. Four stars.

Crazy Love

Documentary about the relationship between Burt Pugach and Linda Riss, who eventually married, despite the fact that Pugach had served 14 years for hiring thugs to throw acid in Linda's face, after she rejected him.

There is only one possible reaction to a viewing of "Crazy Love", and that's: "Man, that is Fucked. Up." It's a remarkable documentary that tells an even more remarkable story. Linda Riss was a stunningly beautiful girl in the late 1950s, until her jilted ex-boyfriend Burt Pugach (pronounced "Poo-gash", pronunciation-fans) hired some thugs to throw lye in her face, permanently disfiguring her and leaving her with almost total blindness. (To add further colour to the story, Linda only split with Burth because she found out about his wife and child!) At any rate, that's just the beginning of the story. While in jail, Burt bombards Linda with love-letters. Then, after serving 14 years (during which he studied law and even got convictions overturned for his fellow inmates), Burt gets out of jail and goes on TV, proposing to Linda and asking her to forgive him. And she accepts. And they're still married. The documentary basically allows Burt and Linda to tell the stories in their own words, via interviews conducted both separately and together. There are also interviews with Burt's friends (one of whom seems like a particularly unsavoury piece of work), Linda's friends, Burt and Linda's biographer and Burt's ex-secretary, with whom he also had an affair. Like the tabloid sensation that the story was in its time (both in the 50s and then in the 70s when they got married), the story is lurid, compelling and utterly fascinating. It's also heart-breakingly sad - Linda looked like a cross between Gloria Grahame, Susan Hayward and Anne Bancroft in her youth and Burt robbed her of her sense of self. The director (Dan Klores) spices things up with a terrific soundtrack and several photographs, home movie extacts and period news reports etc. The really interesting thing is when you finally get to watch Burt and Linda as they are now: she seems extremely controlling (basically, she's a terrible nag) and as the footage we're watching hammers that home, Linda's voice on the soundtrack says, "Basically, I figured that was the best punishment..." Klores was there for a Q&A afterwards, at which he revealed that he thought both Burt and Linda were narcissists who thrived on publicity (something the film doesn't really make clear) and that the only question that Burt wouldn't answer was whether or not he'd had homosexual experiences in prison. Oh, and the photo is of the wildly inappropriate strawberry lollies given away at the screening. You've got to love Tartan. Four stars.

Teeth

American indie horror flick, about a girl who discovers that she has sharp teeth in her vagina...with predictably gory results.

This was a lot of fun, although the recording levels made the film difficult to hear at times. Jess Weixler plays clean-cut teenager Dawn, a leading light in her school's Promise-Keepers movement, regularly urging her fellow students not to have sex until they're married. However, when her new crush attempts to date rape her, Dawn discovers that she has sharp teeth in her vagina and she's driven to a spot of self-exploration and self-discovery. (No prizes for guessing what happens when she goes to the gynaecologist). Meanwhile, her ne'er-do-well half-brother Brad (John Hensley from "Nip/Tuck", playing an equally fucked-up character) is dealing with his own issues, following a traumatic 'I'll show you mine if you show me yours' incident with Dawn when they were young. "Teeth" reminded me a lot of "Ginger Snaps", because both are teen horror pics that use physical anomalies (werewolves / vaginal teeth) as metaphors for emerging womanhood / puberty etc, plus the leads in both films get gradually, almost imperceptibly hotter on a scene-by-scene basis until they're drop-dead gorgeous by the end. It's also very, very funny in places and much credit is due to the production's special effects team, particularly in regard to the...um...prosthetics. There are also nods to Cronenberg and various high school movies and if the audience reaction was anything to go by (alternate and sometimes simultaneous bouts of cheers -the girls-, winces -the boys-, laughs, shrieks and "Ewwww!"s), this should be a big word-of-mouth hit. Four stars.

1 comment:

Sinead said...

Sounds like a good day! I'm really looking forward to Stardust. I might even check out Teeth too, based on your review, but I think Crazy Love may be a step too far for me...