Wednesday, 12 May 2004

I've watched two films on DVD the past couple of nights.

On Monday night it was Lawrence of Arabia, by David Lean. This is, above all, a long, epic motion picture - its 3 and a half hours, with an interval between the halves (only the second film I've seen that does that, the other being Branagh's Hamlet). By about 15 minutes in, I was already wishing that I'd seen it in a really big cinema, because the sweeping desert scenes would look awesome on a 70mm screening. The story itself is interesting because it represents a combination of the older Kipling-style British patriotic story, and the later American cynical war stories from directors like Coppola and Stone. The central character, as played by Peter O'Toole, is genuinely conflicted, and the second half does a great job of sowing doubt about his nobility and even sanity. Also, I'm a sucker for tragic endings, and this one has it in spades.

The same could not be said for Tuesday night's fare, Minority Report. Don't get me wrong, this is a pretty good film, but it would probably have been 10% better if the dénouement had been halved, or removed. The sappy, typically Hollywood trend of wrapping every single plot thread is cloying and insulting to our intelligence as viewers, in my opinion. Moreover, being the last thing one sees, it really taints one's opinion of the film more than other flaws. The reason this is such a shame here is that the rest of the film is well-made. Drawing from the bountiful well of science-fiction short stories, here by Phillip K. Dick, the plot is strong and the essential dilemma compelling, the cinematography, by Spielberg's customary sidekick Janusz Kaminski, is interesting and distinctive, the music only a little overbearing, and the acting, well, adequate. Spielberg spoiled AI in a similar way, only moreso, and one would have hoped that he might have learnt something from it. He is undoubtedly a talented director, and should really know that, as such, he no longer has to pander to the whims of American teenage cinema-goers. If that is his reason...


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