Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The magic and the mystery of the Red Balloon!

I was leading a training day with a group of curates yesterday exploring links between film and theology. It was a good day and the folk engaged well with the subject. In one of the sessions we were looking at the use of metaphor and seeing how films deployed this device. In the session we watched The Red Balloon - a celebrated film from 1956. It's the only short film (34 minutes) to have won an oscar. The film has very little dialogue as the visual images tell the story.

The film is set against the monochromatic dullness of post-war Paris. An eight year old boy finds a bright red balloon tethered to a lamp-post on his way to school one morning and he unties it. It is as though the balloon becomes his best friend and they go everywhere together. This causes difficulties at school and at home but both are eventually overcome. It is clear that the balloon befriends the boy and is very playful in the way in which they interact.

The balloon becomes an object of envy for the other boys in his neighbourhood and eventually they capture it. They attack the balloon with stones and catapults and eventaully it springs a leak and falls limp and shrivelled to the ground where one of the boys stamps on what's left and it pops.

The balloons 'owner' is understandably downcast. Shots from all over Paris then show balloons escaping from thier confinement and travelling for a rendez-vous with the boy. He gathers the strings from all of these balloons and they carry him up and away with the city spread out below him. End of film.

At the end of the film, reactions ranged from tears to complete boredom - although most did appreciate the opportunity to see it asnd for some it enabled them to reconnect to a former life! We discussed the metaphors that the story could be representing with lots of good ideas being offered. When I said that some have seen this a s a 'Christ movie' (the balloon could be seen as Jesus) there was widespread support for this view and the discussion went to some interesting places.

I would recommend this film. You can simply watch it and enjoy the story or you can begin digging deeper. I'll give it 7/10.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

2012 - Schmalzy film about Noah and bed-wetting

Saw 2012 yesterday.

The momentum was maintained well throughout this film and the cgi action sequences were on the whole well done although they did become a little repetitive. How many times can you successfully take off from runways that are being consumed by an abyss opening up beneath them? How many times can nation-defining landmarks crumble into similar abyss'?

If you like apocalypse movies, you'll love this one. In the end, the human spirit and power of love conquer the best-laid governmental plans and protocols. The airborne Chinese zoo is worth a chuckle and without spoiling it, the ending is far too convenient and the story ends just when it would really start to get interesting as new kind of colonial invasion threatens. And, given the outcome, what was the point of the airborne Chinese zoo?

Worth going to see if there is nothing else on you would rather watch! I'll give it 5/10.

Monday, 7 December 2009

What movies, if any, do you find hard to watch?

I don't mind blood and gore quite so much, although acts of utter violence are hard to stomach. I'm a great fan of Tarantino's story-telling - even if that does invlove lakes of blood. With adavances in CGI and green-screen technology, it's easy to say that most action in movies these days is camera trickery.

The real danger in allowing ourselves to be fooled by that stance, is that we find it easier to explain away the violence that happens to the characters in a story - we desensitise ourselves and so violence inexorably becomes okay and part and parcel of everyday life. So whereas films like Star Trek, Kill Bill and even No Country for Old Men are emminently watchable in my eyes, why do some 'straight-forward' dramas casue me real difficulty?

I really struggle with movies such as Notes of a Scandal even though it has stunning performances from Cate Blanchett and Judy Dench. I struggled to make it to the end. One film I couldn't watch to the end was Closer even though it had an all star cast (including Natalie Portman who usually gets my full attention). It is thie kind of violence done in these films that I find I cannot watch. Deceit and the abuse of power within relationships are things I find really hard to deal with. (Before anyone gives me the number of thier shrink - I am married to one!)

I wonder what kinds of films others find difficult to watch and why?