Cultural Summary 12 Aug 2018

No big events or travels this week, but I did get to see four films – unheard of record! These are not serious or lengthy reviews, merely my initial reaction to them.

Ocean’s 8

I so much wanted to love this, and it was indeed an entertaining, frothy caper, but it felt rushed. There was too much focus on the heist itself and not enough on the relationship between the women, so it really was a bit of a waste having so many talented women together in the same room (literally and metaphorically).

45 Years

Superlative acting by Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, a film that really takes its time and explores nuances. It’s almost a play – very few characters, mainly composed of the dialogue between the couple. The way the wife puts up with all the grumpiness and eccentricities of her husband (aside from the drama that befalls their marriage). One scene that critics have not commented upon but which really struck a chord with me was that scene with Kate helping out on a tourist tour on the Norfolk broads – and all the visitors are old women. So many people stay in an unsatisfactory marriage for fear of being alone in old age – and yet for most women that will be the case anyway. Made me glad that I only wasted 20 years on a marriage instead of 45…

Mary Shelley

Luminous performance by the two young leads – Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth, but full of historical and biographical inaccuracies which irritated me. I can see the point of some of them, how they were used to heighten dramatic structure. For instance, Mary did not meet Shelley in Scotland and knew from the start that he was married, since he came to dinner with his wife at her father’s house. She had more than one child who died in infancy. Others elements were excluded because they were inconvenient truths – even nowadays. Her relationship with her half-sister, Claire Claremont, was not quite as loving and caring as portrayed and there was a lot of jealousy there (plus, there was another half-sister on her mother’s side who also fell in love with Shelley and committed suicide). Shelley’s first wife had two children with him and fell pregnant at the same time as he was embarking upon his relationship with Mary.

Other film choices are harder to understand. Why use a boring generic manor house instead of the actual Villa Diodata on Lake Geneva? Lord Byron was camp rather than charismatic – Tom Sturridge has the looks and acting chops to make him more subtly menacing and attractive, but the part was not designed that way. Also, the group did actually get to read their stories in the evening in 1816 and also got caught in a storm on the lake which is like a premonition of Shelley’s untimely death.  Most annoying: the interpretation of Frankenstein as being about a woman feeling abandoned is a bit simplistic. There is a lot more depth there: social commentary about how we treat outsiders, science vs. humanism, the dangers of trying to play God etc.

Mamma Mia – Here We Go Again

Question: with so many Skarsgård offspring in the acting profession, why couldn’t any of them have played their father as a young man? A missed opportunity there. Other than that – well, it’s incoherent, milking the franchise, but a jolly bit of musical fun.

No more room to tell you about my book haul this week, so I’ll post about it tomorrow!

13 thoughts on “Cultural Summary 12 Aug 2018”

  1. I really did think about seeing Mary Shelley, Marina Sofia, and it’s good to know the leads did a fine job. But it does make me wonder about the inaccuracies…. Hmm…. And as for Mamma Mia, I have to say I wasn’t fond of the first one, even though I like ABBA’s music. I’m glad you found this one fun, but not sure it’s for me.

    1. Another thought about a tremendous plothole in Mamma Mia – how come the American Donna gets to stay in Europe/Greece with all the visa complications required and no right to work etc.? She’d have had to marry a Greek to be allowed to stay there.

      1. See? That’s exactly the sort of thing that bothers me, Marina Sofia. I have to admit I notice those things even if I accept that a film is just supposed to be escapist fun.

  2. 45 Years is great, isn’t it? Probably one of the best British films in recent years. As you say, the performances are terrific, particularly Charlotte Rampling’s.

    I was lucky enough to see a preview/Q&A for Andrew Haigh’s latest film, Lean on Pete, at the London Film Festival last October – a film I would thoroughly recommend, especially as you enjoyed 45 Years so much. A very different story, but no less heartfelt and nuanced as a result.

    1. I don’t know if it was the acting or simply the fact that they are so young and pretty… No, I’m joking: they did the romantic idealism which struggles when it comes face to face with reality rather well.

  3. From what you’ve said the Shelley film would irritate me, so I’ll give it a miss. 45 Years was great – it’s so good to see Charlotte Rampling in more performances in recent years.

  4. heh-heh, love your ‘Made me glad that I only wasted…’ comment on 45 Years, this looks like my kind of film, I shall try to catch it 🙂

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