Review: Byzantium

Two sisters try to lay low in Dublin while being pursued by long-coated inspectors. Having committed a rather kinetic and conspicuous murder in the opening sequence of the film, the Webb sisters are actually a pair of highland blood suckers, a 200 year old mother and daughter pair of vampires. Possibly the last of their kind, moving from town to town and still working out some serious parent-child issues (not the least of which is their approach to handling their prey) Gemma Arterton literally vamps it up, putting on a prostitute pose to seduce lowlives and cops, while her daughter, plays more school girl, a more subtle and melancholic performance by Saoirse Ronan. The opposite disposition of these ladies (and the secrets they keep) are the engine for a plot that takes its sweet time to get going, but eventually, perhaps too late, pulls the narrative strings together.

Neil Jordan is no stranger to either fairy tales or gothic drama having started his career with Red Ridinghood horror picture, In The Company of Wolves, peaked commercially with the romantic vampire studio picture, Interview With The Vampire, and recently brushed up with Irish folklore in Ondine. Even the directors indie dramas, The Crying Game and The Butcher Boy flirt with gothic and melodramatic stylings. If you want to do a more stately and classical take on the modern vampire (read: no sparkling emo treacle) it would appear that Jordan is your man. Which makes it a bit baffling how Byzantium never really soars, even as it pulls all of its narrative strings together in a somewhat satisfying conclusion. The film tries to establish the contrast between its bodice-ripper (Gemma Arterton’s cleavage upstages her somewhat histrionic performance) segments and stylized urban melancholy. Neither Anne Rice nor Mike Leigh, the film offers some compelling images in an attempt to marry the two, but it is an uncomfortable union.

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Cinecast Episode 273 – It’s TIFF 2012!

Thanks once again to Ryan McNeil of The Matinee for dropping back in for our huge TIFF recap (and almost spoiler-free!). Andrew sits in quiet solitude on the sofa, acting mainly as an audience member (admittedly, mostly fiddling with Pinterest and playing Tiger Woods Golf) with much amusement as Ryan and Kurt recap a large chunk of their TIFF experience. Sadly, due to the late hour of recording, there was no time left for The Watch List. We are happy, hoever to kick of the Fall Semester of homework assignments. The discussion gets pretty spirited where there is agreement and disagreement on many of the films screening at this years festival. Drop in again next week for a return to our usual programming: a lengthy discussion on PT Anderson’s The Master and responses to this first volley of homework assignments.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

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Full show notes are under the seats…
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TIFF 09 Review: Ondine

Director: Neil Jordan (The Company of Wolves, We’re No Angels, Michael Collins, Interview with the Vampire, Breakfast on Pluto, The Brave One)
Screenplay: Neil Jordan
Producers: Ben Browning, James Flynn, Neil Jordan
Starring: Colin Farrell, Alicja Bachleda, Alison Barry, Stephen Rea, Dervla Kirwan
MPAA Rating: 14-A (UK)
Running time: 111 min.


A craftsman film maker, Neil Jordan almost always know how to deliver. Not always with plot or characters (though that’s obviously still a part of it), but quite often with tone, mood and set. One could argue that with his latest, Ondine, the gorgeous locale off the coast of his home country of Ireland plays just as big of a role in bringing this film together as any of the principal cast members. To say the film is breathtakingly gorgeous would be quite the understatement. From opening to closing shot, Ireland is showcased profoundly in all of its wonder, glory and mysteries in this adult fairy tale of love found and lost and found.

Syraceuse (Collin Farrell) is a simple man living a simple life as a fisherman off the coast of Ireland. Sharing responsibility with his estranged wife of their special needs daughter, who is undergoing kidney dialysis, Syraceuse has given up the bottle and though still a bit on the irresponsible side, he is a genuinely caring man and only yearns to make an easier life for his struggling daughter. While trolling the waters for fish one day, Syraceuse nets a beautiful young woman who appears dead. With some resuscitation and a little luck, Ondine is revived; though apparently with no memory and no wish to be seen by anyone. With her safely aboard his boat, Ondine inexplicably brings about near impossible good luck for Syraceuse and he allows her to stay at his dead mother’s cottage on the sea side. As the mysterious luck continues and more and more evidence mounts, Syraceuse and his daughter, Anna, concoct a story that maybe Ondine is actually some sort of sea creature or fairy and of course a love begins to blossom (both as a companion and a mother for Anna). Reality and fantasy are soon blurred and all involved in this story begin to realize who and what they are and what they are not.

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More TIFF Titles: Galas, Opener and Special Presentations

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While I was out of town, The Toronto International Film Festival dropped a lot of high profile festival titles into the wild. In the interest of general discussion and anticipation of the locals (and those travelling in), here are some of the films and where they lie in this years TIFF programme: Getting the red carpet Gala treatment is the Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek starring dramedy Get Low about a man who fakes his own death to organize his own funeral, it is directed by cinematographer Aaron Schneider. Also, Precious will be getting the spotlight after its success elsewhere on the festival circuit. Opening the festival is the maybe-controversial-in-a-Kinsey-sort-of-way biopic on Charles Darwin called Creation. This is directed by the director Jon Amiel who has not done much lately, but was the director of one of the best TV minis of all time, The Singing Detective. Creation has a great collection of actors involved including Paul Bettany, Jennifer Connelly and Jeremy Northam (and the other Capote, Toby Jones).

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In the Special Presentations category, there is Steven Soderberg‘s The Informant!, Niki “Whale Rider” Caro‘s The Vintner’s Luck, Johnnie To‘s Vengeance, Nicolas Winding Refn‘s Viking epic, Valhalla Rising, Neil Jordan‘s dark fairy tale, Ondine, Bong “The Host” Joon-ho‘s (much anticipated by me, Mother, Ricky Gervais’ The Invention of Lying, the latest from provocateur director Bruno Dumont Hadewijch, Kiwi Jane Campion finally returns with romantic take on John Keats with Bright Star and of course, very many more.

The full press release, which includes plot descriptions of all the films, is tucked under the seat.

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Cinecast Episode 115 – It’s Only a Movie!

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If you’re having any feed issues for this show, please see THIS POST for the fix. Thank You and sorry for the confusion.

Episode 115:
Miss Serena Whitney from KillerFilm helps the boys out with a semi-drunken discussion of torture-porn and death. Specifically a SPOILER REVIEW of The Last House on the Left and some Jason Voorhees. More flip-flap on the ‘torture-porn vs. exploitation’ labels in horror films and some of this weeks DVD releases.
As always, thanks for listening. And the comments section is available for complaining about our complete lack of professionalism or narrative coherence.

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Below the fold are the Show Notes…
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Interview With a Vampire Goes Blu

Interview With a Vampire Blu RayI wouldn’t usually point out a Blu-Ray release unless it was of some importance, mostly because I don’t have a Blu-Ray player, but I’d like to use this as a jumping off point to moan a bit about Neil Jordan’s Interview With a Vampire and its associated DVD release (or lack there-of).

Jordan’s film will make it’s way to Blu-Ray on October 14th and though there are no news on extras included in this release, I’m going to go out on a ledge and suggest that you’re likely to see very little if anything extra. The film will be celebrating 15 years next year and in those 15 years, WB has only released the one version of the film which has little extra other than a few introductions. Granted, it’s not exactly the sort of film you expect to see a lot of behind the scenes stuff for but as a fan, I’d love to have some reason to upgrade my DVD which I shelled $30 for nearly 10 years ago. Also worth noting that they’re putting so much attention into this release that they haven’t even updated the cover art – it’s the same exact graphic from the first release of the DVD.

At this point, no news on when or if we’ll ever get a shiny, fan friendly release, but until then, you can find that bare bones edition on store shelves ranging anywhere from $10 to $20 and if you’re looking to add that Blu-Ray edition to your collection, it has a sticker price of $28.99.

I’ll stick with my original release DVD in hopes that maybe, just maybe, I’ll get that much anticipated special edition disc. I’m not holding by breath.

The Vampyre Chronicles: Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Unlike Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire, the majority of vampire films (at least those that achieved any level of notoriety) have been presented solely from mankind’s perspective. F.W. Murnau’s 1922 horror classic, Nosferatu, wasn’t so much the story of the evil Count Orlok as it was that of Hutter and his long-suffering wife, Ellen, who found themselves suddenly coping with the threat of having to live across the street from a monster. Tod Browning’s 1931 version of Dracula possessed a dual personality, mixing in equal parts the tale of Mina Seward’s fight for survival with that of Dr. Van Helsing’s quest to defeat the Dark Prince. Despite the fact that the vampires themselves were usually the title characters, their existence in these films was little more than a means by which to challenge the human condition. This is one reason I was so utterly fascinated by Interview with the Vampire, a film in which the bloodthirsty undead finally take center stage. Mankind is barely a supporting player in this film. In fact, we’re little more than the main course.

Louis (Brad Pitt), a 200 year old vampire, longs to tell his story to the world. To this end, he grants an interview to reporter Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater), during which Louis conveys the dramatic details of his plunge into darkness. The year was 1791, and Louis, a New Orleans plantation owner whose wife had just passed away, decided, in despair, to take his own life. Before he has a chance to end it all, however, he meets Lestat (Tom Cruise), a vampire who, with a solitary bite on the neck, grants Louis the gift of eternal life. Shortly after his transformation, Louis begins to question whether such an existence is indeed a gift…or a curse. Plagued by the memories of his life as a mortal, Louis can’t bring himself to kill another human being, and chooses instead to feast on the blood of rats and other small animals. Lestat taunts Louis for his “misguided” morality, yet Louis never forgets what it was like to be human, leaving his ‘life’ as a vampire depressingly unfulfilled.

In Interview with the Vampire, Brad Pitt delivers an extraordinary performance as the monster who can’t escape the memory of his life before the darkness. His Louis despises the fact that he must draw the blood of innocents in order to survive, a direct contrast to Tom Cruise’s treacherous Lestat, who takes pleasure in the kill. When Louis lures a wealthy socialite (Lyla Hay Owen) out into the darkness with the intention of attacking her, he instead winds up murdering the woman’s two poodles, drinking their blood as his intended victim screams for help. While the failure to ignore his own humanity works against Louis at the outset, this very quality will eventually make him the envy of others of his kind, including Armand (Antonio Banderas), the leader of a band of vampires whom Louis encounters one year in Paris. Armand recognizes that Louis, despite his feelings of inadequacy, is, in fact, the perfect vampire; a being who has achieved immortality, yet continues to maintain a very mortal frame of mind.

When it comes to movie monsters (in particular any of the ‘classic’ creatures), it’s usually the pathetic ones, such as Frankenstein’s monster, that gather up most of the audience’s sympathy, while vampires, symbols of the true harbingers of evil, are reviled the world over. In Interview with the Vampire, we get to know these children of the night who were once, and not long ago, mortals just like us. We discover that the craving for blood does not entirely wipe away the guilt for having to spill it, and that, even among the eternally damned, there remains a glimmer of humanity, no matter how many hundreds of years may pass.