Friday, 21 January 2011

A True Story And A True Masterpiece

One of the wonderful things about retirement is the ability to take in a matinee performance at the cinema. You workers might think that it's a bit of a graveyard at Vue at 1pm on a wet Wednesday afternoon but you would be surprised at the number of silver haired, silver screen aficionados you'll find there. The only negative is, in the company of such an aged audience, the cashier asks "two adults?" and I don't know if this is a kind reflection on Marion's youthful looks or the possibility that we might have scraped into the Senior Citizen category. Anyway we took up the opportunity given by our new found freedom to watch two films this week.

Being something of an obsessive personality myself (looks briefly away from live Twitter feed), I know what it's like to have something that becomes all consuming to the extent that everything else is an unwanted distraction. But, unlike Hilary Swank's character in Conviction, at least my own obsessions tend to be short lived. She plays Betty Ann Walters, a woman whose conviction that her brother's murder conviction (a nice play on words for the title) was wrong, resulted in her devoting the best part of the next twenty years to proving his innocence.

Whilst I found her dedication to her brother's cause admirable, her portrayal of the resultant neglect of her husband and, more importantly, her sons, didn't win my sympathy. Although we see the Walters' difficult childhood through a series of scenes of shoplifting, fighting, house breaking and separation through being fostered I couldn't warm to (or empathise with) either her or her brother and the only character with warmth in the film  was her best friend (played by Minnie Driver) who added a touch of humanity to the otherwise intense scenario of Walters' non-stop search for justice. The enormity of Betty Ann's achievements in going to law school and becoming an attorney in order to try and win her brother's release can't be understated and the film is certainly watchable but I feel that if you have a choice this weekend you might prefer to wait until this one is available on TV.

Brotherly love of an altogether different type is displayed in the wonderful Of Gods And Men which we saw at the brilliant FACT in Liverpool yesterday. Set in a monastery above an Algerian village, the film tells the true story of a group of French monks whose idyllic life of bee keeping, praying and cultivating enough food to live on is threatened by the growth of an Islamist terror cell in the area. As the mujaheddin presence in the neighbourhood grows and some of the terrified villagers and a group of Balkan workers are killed, the brothers enjoying the good life in the monastery become consumed by their own mortality, what lies ahead of them and the dilemma of what they should do. They reach their moment of truth in a magical scene redolent of the last supper where they share a few bottles of wine against the background of Swan Lake played on an ancient cassette player. No words are spoken while the music plays and the camera dwells in close up on each of the small band of brothers whose individual emotions are beautifully reflected in their faces. A wonderful cinematic moment - the film is worth the admission price for this scene alone - and one that will last in the memory of everyone who sees it. So, if you get the opportunity,  do try and get to this one. Being subtitled, you probably won't find it in most of the multiplexes but it's one that is worth a journey to see.

I'll close today with a warning for my fellow twitter obsessives.