Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Film review

I confess to being a worried man when I entered the
cinema to see Tom Scott’s film Separation City. Having
known Tom for years I wanted to like the film and to be
able to tell him so; yet I also knew that Tom is a man of
the sternest moral character who would expect nothing
less than unflinching honesty from his friends, even in
the matter of a project he had personally nursed for 20
years. Would I have the nerve to tell him to his face that,
just as early reviews had suggested, the film was…wasn’t
…could have been…should have…well, that I’d had more
laughs the last time I saw The Battleship Potemkin?

Such little faith. It just shows that one should never rely
on reviews. The film is a great watch, funny and moving
by turns, and slickly directed by Paul Middleditch, who
never lets either scenery, sentimentality or soppy music
get in the way of the action (always a risk in films about
middle-class middle-aged angst). By no means as
simplistic about sexual relationships as I’d been led to
believe, it raises a number of thorny issues about men,
women and relationships that had the staff here at
at Thumbcorp talking for days afterwards.

The first half seemed disjointed and jumpy, as if the film
couldn’t make up its mind what it was going to be.
Perhaps, in retrospect, not enough time was devoted to
building character and plot. One or two of the later
developments didn’t quite ring true because of that. A
few gags also seemed to be working too hard to earn their
place. But as the action narrowed down, and minor
characters and subplots fell back, the film found its level
and became an absorbing human drama, to the point
where expectations of the predictable were overturned,
and something resembling actual messy reality—always a
hard ask in films—shouldered its way off the screen and
into one’s consciousness. For a moment, a tear even
glistened in the usually grim Thumb eye, causing some
consternation in row Q.

So it’s mainly about how men feel about sex—no, I mean,
really—and you don’t see that at the movies very often. I
don’t recall anything about it in The Battleship Potemkin,
for a start. The trick was to do it without being self-
indulgent or self-pitying, or blowing up several buildings,
and though Scott’s script skates on thin ice once or twice,
Separation City
comes through in the end as a gutsy
exploration of the dark side of Planet Bloke. In fact, I want
to see a spinoff starring Errol the fireman, who deserves a
movie of his own.


maggie@at-the-bay.com said...

I agree with you Denis. It started off just a wee bit too embarrassingly Kiwi with the jokes too predictable, and then it settled into itself, and was very, poignantly funny. I too loved Errol the fireman in the men's group - what a hoot. I think the best part of the movie, was men laughing at themselves, which has to be laudable and lovely.

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