It is an unusually good week for cinema releases. Munich, The New World and Hidden are three of the best films I’ve seen in the last 12 months although Bee Season is perhaps best left for die-hard Richard Gere fans.
Munich (UIP, 15): Steven Spielberg’s examination of the aftermath of the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics is a riveting piece of cinema. Despite the flak the film has taken from those with axes to grind, it is a tense and thoughtful depiction of the limitations of revenge. Click here for a full review.
The New World (Entertainment Films, 15): Reclusive director Terence Malick doesn’t make a film very often, but when he does they are usually poetic and beautifully crafted masterpieces (e.g. Badlands, Days of Heaven & The Thin Red Line). His latest is no exception, a slow but spellbinding feast for the senses. The plot is a retelling of the Pocahontas tale, set against the backdrop of the founding of the Jamestown Virginia settlement in 1607 when European explorers first encountered Native Americans. Colin Farrell stars as John Smith, the man who forms a strong connection with Pocahontas (a magical performance from newcomer Q’Orianka Kilcher) and Christian Bale plays John Rolfe, the aristocrat she eventually ends up marrying. Like his other films, it contains some truly stunning visuals, the trademark introspective voiceovers and a memorable score from James Horner. Not for everyone perhaps, but a reminder of what a unique director Malick is even if it doesn’t quite scale the heights of his previous works.
Hidden [aka Caché] (Artificial Eye, 15): A chilling drama from Austrian director Michael Haneke about Georges (Daniel Auteuil), a television talk show host, and his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche), a well-to-do Parisian couple who start receiving anonymous videos of their home. Initially perplexed, they gradually start to suspect something sinister. Who is behind the videos? Why are they being filmed? Haneke expertly unfolds the narrative with an icy precision as Georges sees his complacent lifestyle slowly unravel. Weaving history and politics into the mix, Hidden is all the more subversive because the protagonist would appear to be eerily similar to the target audience for this film. It also contains one of the most shocking scenes of recent years. Superb filmmaking on every level.
Bee Season (Fox, 12A): A twee and seemingly derivative take on 2002’s documentary Spellbound, with Richard Gere as a Jewish scholar whose family starts to fall apart after his precocious daughter (Flora Cross) competes in America’s national spelling bee. Juliette Binoche stars as his wife and Max Minghella plays his son. Although the actors do their best, the narrative never really engages the interest and there are more than a few echoes of Little Man Tate (another film about a brainy child). It is hard to think that this was directed by the same pair who made The Deep End in 2001 (Scott McGehee and David Siegel). Whereas that film held the attention like a vice, Bee Season ends up drowning in a sea of spirituality and sentiment.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK THAT I DIDN’T CATCH
Rumor Has It (Warner Bros, 12A): Romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, Mark Ruffalo and Shirley MacLaine.
Frozen (Guerilla Films, 15): According to an IMDb user comment it is “A haunting story of a woman’s search for her missing sister”.