Get Low and The American - Films at 30,000 feet - 21st march 2011

Get Low and The American are the two films I watched on the plane back from Blighty to The States.
I thought I'd write them up as one blog because despite being very different stories and with very different tones they are the sorts of films you definitely need to be in the same, mellow, cerebral mood for and, when in the appropriate mood, if you ever want to watch brilliant actors, stunningly shot, working with minimalistic, simple scripts but creating literal moving pieces of art then you could do a lot worse than these two movies.

Get Low is about an old man, the always excellent Robert Duvall, who lives in a cabin in the woods, more or less as a hermit, behind a strongly defended 'Do Not Trespass' sign and about whom thousands of stories have developed over time. When he gets news that a friend of his has passed away it gets him thinking about the end of it all and the one last thing he must get done before his time is up. He devises the first living funeral where he invites everyone to come tell stories about him and he enlists Bill Murray's funeral home to help him when the church turns him down. We eventually find out all sorts of stuff about this complex yet down to earth individual and he has time to face the public, crush any silly rumours and make amends with the people he needs to.

It is simple story telling at its finest, nothing too flashy here as it is the characters that we are drawn in by, that and obviously solving the riddle of the story he has to tell. It is beautifully filmed, some stunning cinematography and some excellent work with light and shadows.
Obviously from the accents to the folky soundtrack all the 1930s, small southern town cliches are in place and there's nothing necessarily new about any of it but much like Duvall's last film, Crazy Heart, it is all in the performance, the mood and the desire to go from A to B with a sturdy tale, a bit of humour and a slight dash of old-timey philosophy that basically all adds up to an engaging, sweet film, the sort that it seems unusual now get made amongst all the pirates, robots, 3D animations and horror remakes.

If you fancy an early Sunday evening film that will make you crack an occasional smirk and put you in a calm, contemplative mood then Get Low is for you.

8 out of 10 squirrels roastin' on a spit outside this 'ere barn of mine

George Clooney continues to pick varied, different, engaging and interesting films to be in and while The American, to a well educated film audience or maybe to an older European audience, is nothing particularly new or special, for the younger more modern audience, like Get Low, it offers an alternative to the garishly coloured, fastly edited and decidedly flabby fare that is flopped out into multi-plexes every week and by having Clooney's name attached, this slower paced, more thoughtful and almost silent, beautiful film has the ability to, at the very least, nudge into maybe screen 8 or 9 at your local "big Pepsi, popcorn combo" theatre.

The plot is simple, the script is almost non-existant and the message of the film, if it has one, is vague at best but, like I said before, if you're in the right mood and through the right eyes this is an engaging, gripping and stunning piece of film making.

Clooney is 'The American" a gunsmith/gun for hire working in Europe and sort of sick of either killing people or working on the guns that eventually kill people, after being hunted down by some Swedes from a previous, possibly botched job, he is sent to a small Italian village where he is told to wait for instructions and to get professional again, as it is his recent lapses into attempting a social/private life have jeopardised his cover. Well he sort of ignores that advice as the lure of being a normal human again is too strong and he befriends a local priest and a prostitute.
He agrees to one last job, the making of a highly specialised automatic gun and goes about possibly making a home for himself here, or at least somewhere away from all the death.

Like most European movies there is nudity and existential conversations but also, along with that, there is quite a bit of action too, some of it reminiscent of recent films like Bourne and The Transporter series while hardly being as adrenaline fueled as either. These show us that even at his age and with the worries his bosses have of him becoming sloppy, he is, actually still a highly effective operative.
There are also lots and lots of montages of George building the gun and these serve to humanise the character that, as an audience, we might not like very much considering what he does and how little repentance he has for it all. We see that first and foremost he is a craftsman, a skilled labourer and, in some ways an artist. It just so happens his art of choice is also capable of violent death.

Like most films of this ilk it is all left open enough and vague enough with all mumbled half sentences and wistful prose that you can read any sort of philosophical message into it that you like but also, it is filmed beautifully and acted just right that you really want to see Georgey boy succeed, get the girl, buy the priest an enormous new hat and ride off into the sunset.
It'll depend on how many 70s films or art-house films you've seen about assassins whether you think that happens or not.

I wasn't expecting to enjoy it and I did, a lot. I thought this and Get Low were just wonderful, calming, interesting and pleasingly different films both with familiar stories that benefit hugely from simple clear direction and superb acting.

8 out of 10 bowls of 'what's it all about?' spaghetti
Points from The Wife 8 out of 10

How Do You Know - 24th March 2011

The Adjustment Bureau - 7th March 2011