Friday, 20 October 2017

Friday Five: Double Bills

Scene from Dunkirk
Often films mirror each other in unintended ways. Sometimes it is due to the ubiquity of an actor or the anniversary of an event; sometimes it is mere coincidence that certain themes resonate more strongly. Having taken a few long-haul flights recently, I've seen several films which remind me of others, so I shall compare them here.

5 Cinematic Double Bills:
  1. Dunkirk and Their Finest - both films deal with reporting WWI and the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk in 1940. While the former is a triptych war film (deliberately sectioning the action into land, sea and air), the latter is a more light-hearted comedy drama. This much is clear from the choice of actors: Kenneth Brannagh and Mark Rylance v Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy and the reliance of set piece action shots as opposed to witty dialogue. They are both of a high calibre and present well-known facts in a fresh and involving way; stirring and memorable but without being mawkish.
  2. The Beguiled and Get Out - Having watched both of these films on the same day, I am persuaded that the states in southern America are decidedly dodgy, and grandiose-seeming houses occupied by close companions are to be avoided at all costs. Whether one is an injured Yankee soldier hiding from the Confederates or a black boyfriend at an all-white family gathering, it is very dangerous to be 'the other'. Murky motives assume nightmarish proportions through drugs, pain and hallucinations. 
  3. Captain Underpants and Wonder Woman - One of these films is about a super-hero invented by a society which feels a need to be saved from tyranny and oppression, by foisting all its anguish and suffering onto the broad shoulders of a crusading scapegoat with supernatural powers. The other is a shambles of tedious backstory, uninspiring action sequences and sketchy motives, although it does have one galvanising moment on a battlefield.
  4. Lady Macbeth and My Cousin Rachel - Featuring atmospheric tension and knowing the value of silence, these films work a good pause. Both hint at trauma and temptation without committing to a definitive version of events, with gothic overtones and mysterious motives. The leading ladies (Florence Pugh and Rachel Weisz) are mesmerising and calculating, teaching audiences never to underestimate the passion of the mid-nineteenth century wife. 
  5. The Lost City of Z and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword - What could have been interesting films (solid plot; establishment of reputation; appeal to the imagination) are let down by flabby story-telling and monochromatic acting. The beginning of both films is turgid and ridiculous (whether it's an adventurer trying to obtain military promotion, or giant elephant monsters in some identikit fantasy battle) and once the narratives do get going they are plagued with frequent pointless interruptions. The Lost City of Z is pedestrian in pace, which suits the upriver journey, while King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is directed by Guy Ritchie so therefore aimed at the ADHD generation on caffeine, but the acting by Charlie Humdrum, sorry Hunnam, hits the same one-dimensional note in both.
'Tra la la!' - Captain Underpants

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