Something Wild (1961 dir. Jack Garfen)

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Sandra’s Verdict

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I attended a small screening of Something Wild with the director, Jack Garfen, at the Renoir in Bloomsbury last week and was fortunate enough to listen to him introduce the film and be able to question him about the film’s themes and depictions after the feature.

Carroll Baker, Garfen’s wife at the time of filming, plays the 17-year-old protagonist Mary Anne in this formerly banned film with delicacy and agression. Although her character is raped early on in the film she remains immaculate and sophisticated (not a hair out-of-place) as she then goes through poverty, self-destruction and captivity. Having kept ‘what has happened’ a secret she leaves her parental home and prematurely moves into the adult world of Manhattan’s rougher quarter. During the course of the film she seems to tumble-down a rabbit hole, marching, floating and stumbling, she passes through various locations without finding peace and leads herself to the edge of Manhattan Bridge where she is pulled, ‘saved’ and captured by Mike (Ralph Meeker).

We are then taken through a series of scenes where Mike having failed to win her over with milk, bread and steak keeps her locked in his one-roomed basement flat. After a series of fracases, during which Mary Ann kicks out at her strangle holds and Mike attempts to show his admiration, though flawed and dependent, she is finally to reach an equilibrium again via Broadway and Central Park. It is unfortunate then that she returns to Mike’s needy embrace.

The craftsmanship of Something Wild is excellent from the script to set design to lighting. Nevertheless I could not understand why after being freed Mary Ann would return to wed her captor and I posed this question to Garfen at the end of the screening. Garfen of course defended his ending and talked of the praise that the film had got from some feminists because of the strong female protagonist. His interviewer pointed out that feminists, who argued that she was not truly liberated because she returned to her captor and thus suffered Stockholm syndrome, were missing the point.

The film according to Garfen dealt with a lot of issues that were in his subconscious at the time of making it, such as his having survived a Dachau concentration camp in Nazi Germany whilst his Jewish family were killed, his relationships and his emigration to New York. Garfen identied with Mary Ann having also been in captivity and consequentially unable to accept love from the women he had been involved with. This is an interesting comparison but I think it is important to accept that although Garfen attempts to give the film a romantic ending with Mary Ann being married and reunited with her mother, this seems hurried and unconvincing as she seems to have resolved everything over the course of a few months.

I enjoyed this film and accept that in its context it was a challenging film for audiences to watch; however I cannot help but feel disappointed by the backtracking at the end. I would have preferred it if May Ann had liberated herself and moved forward toward an alternative future rather than meet the expectations of marriage, children, and bondage.

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Ted (2012 dir. Seth MacFarlane)

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Andrew’s Verdict

I was expecting something a little more dynamic and genuinely humorous in either a more stupid way or perhaps with the comical jokes. Instead the plot is typical and formulaic and my description of the movie could describe a number of movies.

The teddy bear is just a vehicle for Seth Macfarlane to peddle his obnoxious brand of humour. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate a little bit of obnoxious humour and have been rather partial to watching Family Guy, which he created. None of the more intelligent and satirical humour from Seth Macfarlane’s Family Guy transfers to the film.

The movie follows the relationship between a boy (Mark Wahlberg) and his teddy bear Ted (voiced by Seth McFarlane) and the moment where the boy grows up and has a choice to make between his relationship between his teddy bear and the girl of his dreams. We’ve seen this type of thing played out in many films: the bad influence of a friend coming between a couple and the general ultimatum that follows and how everything is reconciled at the end. This time that bad influence comes from Ted. What we get, that makes the comedy, is a bad bear who smokes weed, and tells obnoxious sexual, racial and homophobic jokes. This to me is just Seth McFarlene.

We get our customary cameo, which again is so so, in the form of Flash Gordon. We could go through a list of 80s stars and build something around them that’s not really that interesting. Watching this film is like having one of those friends (in this case Seth McFarlane) who finds something amusing and because you’ve been unfortunate to laugh at the joke you are then subjected to every possible reference to the same joke in a slightly different context. And to make it worse the contexts get even more extreme in your
friends belief that, that is what makes the joke funnier. Its enduring and painful and by association you are somehow complicit in the joke and I refer here to the Brandon Roth joke that becomes extremely tasteless at the end of the film.

There a some moments of laugh-out-loud cringe worthy humour but as an overall film, TED is unremarkable. Finally, Patrick Stewart why are you doing a voice over for this film?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012 dir. Timur Bekmambetov)

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Andrew’s Verdict

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter! Where do I start except to firstly state what a highly entertaining film with lots of action, a good twist on historic events and a talented cast. The writer Seth Grahame-Smiths and director Timur Bekmambetov’s have done well to make sure the film isn’t what you’d describe as another vampire film and more importantly isn’t some tongue ‘n’ cheek comedy with clichéd vampire bashing. The historical context helps to create the key points in the movie, allowing a story to be told of how the young Abraham Lincoln became not only a vampire hunter but a great politician.

Frankly the film is cool. Benjamin Walker who plays Abraham Lincoln has the measure of the role and plays the resolute, strong, leader so adeptly that images of Abraham Lincoln are likely to remind me of his portrayal. We see Abe grow from a vengeful youth seeking to kill the vampire who killed his parents into a man who displays the refrain and forethought required to inspire and lead a people during the civil war. The gravity of the civil war is by no means lessened by the theme of the film and the way the vampire story is woven into the events creates a level of tension that keeps us wanting to see Abe wield his vampire killing axe.

The Samurai That Night (2012 dir. Masaaki Akahori)

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Sandra’s Verdict

The Samurai That Night is an excellent film. I must say however, for the benefit of those expecting swords and kimonos, that it is not a film about an actual samurai, so do not expect to be entertained with fast motion takes, rapid editing or jaw dropping CGI. The film, which has already won a Golden Zenith at the Montreal World Film Festival, does deal with a common belief  present in samurai films, the idea that the murder of innocent women or children should be avenged and our main protagonist, awkward Kenichi Nakamura- portrayed by Masato Sakai, must deal with this grave dilemma.

We join Kenichi, or Ken as is preferred by his wife, two days before the five-year anniversary of her death. She (Maki Sakai) was killed in a hit and run by Kijima (Takayuki Yamada) who has recently been freed from prison after being convicted for her death. Both men are still coming to terms with the event. Ken is mild-mannered, whilst keeping up with the running of his small ironworks business, he remains reclusive, not speaking much until the film’s climatic scenes at the end. By contrast Kijima is aggro and in initial conflict with all he interacts with.

I enjoyed the film’s mundane realism which firmly places the plot into a modern urban context and allows the audience to relate to the Japanese characters. The film also depicts the formalities and reserved nuances of Japanese culture, most of the characters, apart from roguish Kijima, are apologetic and overly polite by British standards.

I was only disappointed by a couple of lines worth of dialogue between Ken and Kijima, where Ken suggests that they talk about television, I felt this to be cheesy and belittling of the journey the characters had made toward their final confrontation. Other than this I found The Samurai That Night to be a very good choice and definitely worth watching particularly on a rainy autumn afternoon. I am very pleased at its selection for the BFI’s London Film Festival.