Looking for a trip to the cinema this week that doesn’t involve a dystopian future filled with ritualistic child murder? The University Times film team offers up a few alternatives to anyone who isn’t hungry for a second round of death games with Jennifer Lawrence.
One to Watch : “Blue is the Warmest Colour”
Blue is the Warmest Colour is an evocative, romantic drama from French writer and director Abdellatif Kechiche. The film is a painstakingly paced meditation on relationships, sexuality, and the beauty and pain of all-consuming love, uniquely displayed through Kechice’s voyeuristic directorial eye.
The film follows Adèle through over a decade of her life, and her relationship with the rebellious, irreverent, blue-haired Emma. Through her sexual awakening and subsequent relationship, Adèle comes into conflict with her friends, her relatives and their more traditional expectations of love and sexuality. Much has been made of the numerous graphic and lengthy sex scenes. These sequences, widely criticised for their apparent excess and pseudo-pornographic qualities, are in fact some of the most beautiful of the entire film, serving as thematic anchors for the relationship that develops around them. If romantic films generally emphasise emotion over sex, and pornography tends towards sex minus the emotion, then Blue is the Warmest Colour can be seen as an attempt to resolve both significant halves of real, human relationships.
These sequences, widely criticised for their apparent excess and pseudo-pornographic qualities, are in fact some of the most beautiful of the entire film, serving as thematic anchors for the relationship that develops around them
The camera is effectively wielded throughout, whether its watching scenes of unfolding attraction and intimacy or awkward family dinners and sleepy classrooms. Numerous long shots of nothing in particular contribute to the demanding running time, but crucially the film is never a slog. Rather, it allows the viewer to spend more time in the two lovers’ world and watch them grow.
If there is any place in which the film deserves criticism, it is its relatively uninspired and clichéd plot. Take away the stylistic flourishes and all that remains is a predictable and at times melodramatic story. However, it’s Kechiche’s artful embellishments that elevate the film’s tired narrative, and justify its flair for the dramatic. The film’s deliberately claustrophobic close-shots give the viewer the impression that the love between the two characters is very real and right in front of them. In doing so, Kechiche imbues his epic love story with an unforgiving reality.
One to Seek Out : “Computer Chess”
Sometime in 1984, rival teams of computer scientists come together in a hotel to pit their latest chess-playing computers against each other. There can only be one winner and the stage is set for an epic tussle. Despite the meagre 92 minute running time, director Andrew Bujalski manages to flesh out the world of Computer Chess, filling it with interesting characters. There’s little by way of forward momentum, just a series of amusing vignettes about the tournament. A team struggles when their computer makes nonsensical moves, one individual inadvertently stumbles across a couples therapy session and another hapless programmer, devoid of a room, spends his nights wandering a hotel that seems to be succumbing to a cat infestation.
It’s a simple movie and there’s nothing too revelatory about it, it’s just a funny, well-made comedy
The comedy is 100% deadpan with most of the laughs coming from the socially inept programmers – they talk awkwardly, they trip over their words (and their surroundings) and they are seemingly flummoxed when a female scientist joins one of the teams. If humour derived from scenarios that would make Michael Scott cringe doesn’t appeal to you, then there’s not much else to recommend here. Filmed in black-and-white in the uncommon 4:3 aspect ratio – think The Artist – Computer Chess has somewhat of a documentary feel to it. Were it not fictional, it could easily be mistaken for an episode of Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends.
It’s a simple movie and there’s nothing too revelatory about it, it’s just a funny, well-made comedy. To overlook this gem because of its unusual subject matter or monochrome palette would be to miss out on one of the most amusing movies of the year.
One to Catch Up On : “Don Jon”
Don Jon, the directing and screenwriting debut of lead actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, tells the story of the titular Jon, a party-loving, hot-headed, Italian-American porn-addict and his pursuit of Scarlett Johansson’s Barbara, a woman addicted to the similarly pornographic rom-com genre. Over the course of the film he is led to question whether his obsession with the fantasy of porn is perfectly natural or a sign of an inherent flaw in his lifestyle. All the while the film makes broader statements about the unrealistic expectations the media sells us and just how deeply we personally indulge in them.
the film makes broader statements about the unrealistic expectations the media sells us and just how deeply we personally indulge in them.
Seeing the two A-list actors giving their best Jersey Shore impressions is initially jarring but both of them manage to pull it off. Gordon-Levitt in particular is unrecognisable as the misogynistic, idiotic, and absolutely ripped Jon, a far cry from the sensitive pretty boy we remember from 500 Days of Summer. The solid work done by the leads and memorable array of supporting characters is complemented by Levitt’s at times hilarious script and solid, experimental direction.
The film manages to balance well its light, comedic tone and its larger message about expectations clashing with reality. However, it’s strange that a film that is so blatantly critical of rom-coms ends up adhering to so many of the genre’s tropes. Although it’s never really as thought-provoking as it wants to be, this is still a consistently entertaining comedy with a bit more depth than one might expect.