The Big Issue : Edition 463
FILM 38 THE BIG ISSUE 18 – 31 JULY 2014 It’s the height of World War II and in a French alpine village there are two enemies: the German occupiers trying to stop refugees being smuggled into Switzerland, and ‘ the Beast’ – a giant wild dog killing the farmers’ sheep. But when six- year-old Sebastian (Félix Bossuet) discovers the dog isn’t the culprit, he must protect his new friend (now named Belle) from hunters, German soldiers and his own grandfather. Loosely based on the much-loved French children’s novel and television series, this is a fun romp that takes full advantage of some stunning scenery to tell a warm-hearted shaggy dog story. Adults might find Belle’s transformation (from grey- furred monster to a snow-white hound straight out of a shampoo commercial) hilarious, and the Nazis reverse usual stereotypes by having decent officers trying to restrain their over-eager troops. But as the story of a boy and his dog having mountain adventures, this has an unmistakable, irresistible charm. ANTHONY MORRIS WORDS AND PICTURES * 1/2 Roman Polanski’s stage-to-screen adaptation Carnage (2011) was lauded for its character work, but lacked vitality. With Venus in Fur, Polanski pares back the production, filming his own staged version of the play. The result is triumphant. Working with American play wright David Ives (whose Tony Award-winning play was itself inspired by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 19th-century novel), Polanski doesn’t so much adapt as capture. The camera work is intimate, with close-ups and tracking shots following bombshell Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) as she storms the theatre space. Arriving late, rain- drenched and demanding an audition, Seigner’s Vanda is so entrancing it’s almost as if Polanski let her direct the film. Trying on every role from ingénue to femme fatale, she lures unwitting theatre director Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) into an ingenious game of cat-and-mouse. Occasionally crossing a strange line from power play into soft-core S&M, this is theatricality at its best. TARA JUDAH VENUS IN FUR *** 1/2 BELLE AND SEBASTIAN **** I’D ALWAYS THOUGHT it was my secret shame, but after conducting some watertight peer-reviewed research (on Facebook), I can now categorically confirm it: crying during terrible movies on planes is a shared phenomenon. Friends offered stories of meltdowns during the likes of The Banger Sisters (2002) and Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012) – even Miley Cyrus vehicles. Most recently I found myself engrossed, mid-air, in the Zac Efron rom-com Are We Officially Dating? Of course the leading man is terrified of commitment (go figure!), which he expresses by failing to show at his definitely-not- a-girlfriend’s father’s funeral. To win her back, he interrupts the renowned writer she has organised to speak at her literary salon with the declaration, “I’ve got a story to read” – and proceeds to relay how he always knew she was The One. And here I was, hating every second and cursing Efron’s existence and sobbing into my microwave dinner. If you need further evidence: I once watched He’s Just Not That into You (2009) at high altitudes and was momentarily convinced that it was Very Profound. An article in the The Atlantic revealed that there may be a quasi-scientific explanation, too. A plane actually has all the components likely to make an adult cry: feelings of exhaustion and helplessness, while sitting alone without everyday distractions. Basically, a plane is a giant metal torture chamber designed to make Are We Officially Dating? look like Romeo and Juliet. So next time Zac Efron makes you weep, try to remember that you are not alone, and it’s just the altitude talking. REBECCA HARKINS-CROSS > Film Editor In Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys, schoolteacher Douglas Hector decries people who proclaim their love of ‘words’, reducing literature to a banal triviality. It was a pointed rebuke of plays and films about writers, faking depth and intelligence with superficial references. In Words and Pictures, Clive Owen plays Jack Marcus, an author and English teacher who cannot hear a word without telling people its Latin root. His idea of a good time is to see who can say the word with the most number of syllables. He immediately engages in sexually tense sparring with new colleague Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche). Just as Jack is a once-successful author now slumming it in a high school, so is Dina a once-successful painter reluctantly teaching art to teenagers. The two begin a ‘war’ between words and pictures, as their romance blossoms. This Dead Poet’s Society (1989) clone suffers from a painfully weak and derivative script, and is best avoided (from the Old French evuider, to ‘clear out’). LEE ZACHARIAH ARE WE OFFICIALLY DATING?