I’ve seen so many bad films recently I was in danger of actually self-combusting, so I thought it was about time I watched something decent:
The Vanishing, directed by Georges Sluizer, written by Tim Krabbé (the original Dutch film silly, not the godawful re-make with Kiefer Sutherland) (and thanks to Tom for pointing out that Belgium and Holland are NOT the same country. All I can say in my defence is that it's about time my medication was changed).
What a marvellous film this is. The first thing that strikes you is the fact that visually, it’s uncluttered, which is a perfect fit for the unpretentious way the film unfolds. The non-linear structure is beautifully handled, and in Sluizer’s hands is massively unshowy (imagine what would have happened had Tarantino got his hands on it – the thing would have announced itself with a deafening orchestra of bells and whistles). The two central performances – from Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu and Gene Bervoets – are great, although Bervoets does tend to chew up the scenery when it’s not really needed (Johanna ter Steege is certainly worth a mention as well). The Vanishing is also a superb example of what can be done with two protagonists (The Prestige is another, albeit more complex, example of this), which makes it formally interesting as well. And what an ending - brrr....
Ring, directed by Gore Verbinski, written by Ehren Kruger – avert your eyes purists, as this film is better than the Japanese original -and that's official! Perhaps it’s more culturally specific and therefore easier for my hopelessly westernised mind to tune into, but it’s genuinely frightening and more than a little more disturbing.
Eastern Promises, directed by David Cronenberg, written by Steve Knight – whilst it’s certainly not as good as A History of Violence, this is still a serious, sinuous piece of cinema. However, there was something about the screenplay that seemed a little overwritten, a little convoluted. One of the best things about A History of Violence for me was the elegantly simplistic way the narrative unfolded: coupled with Cronenberg’s unhurried direction, this made for absolutely riveting viewing. With Eastern Promises (what a terrible title, by the way), things are a little different. Without Cronenberg’s direction, the film would indeed resemble a feature length episode of The Bill, as Peter Bradshaw wrote in The Guardian – I think this is entirely due to the screenplay. Not that you’d immediately notice that it was overwritten or contrived, as Cronenberg’s expertise behind the camera keeps the whole thing firmly on the road without any danger of the wheels falling off.
Back to the movie landfill territory soon, as I have to sit through Vacancy. Zoiks!