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Seen lately (all on DVD)
-Woody Allen’s Sleeper. Superb bit of slapstick that just predates Allen’s more serious relationship-themed films - Annie Hall, Manhattan etc. Given how much he enjoys playing with words, it’s surprising what a good physical comedy this is. It’s full of great sight gags and references to almost all the major silent comedians - Langdon, Lloyd, Chaplin (I didn’t see any really obvious Buster Keaton reference but that could be an oversight on my part). There was also, I thought, an allusion to Groucho Marx’s painted-on cigar in the opening scene where the Allen character is woken from his 200-year-long cryogenic sleep and it turns out he still has his glasses on.
Loved the incompetent robots, including the dog one. (“Woof! I’m Ruff!”) And the pudding that gets out of control (sic).
- Fight Club. The DVD was well worth it; it has four audio commentary tracks, including one with writer Chuck Palahniuk and another by the cast and director David Fincher.
Though I enjoyed the film, I don’t think it’s the masterpiece it has been hailed as in cult circles. The first 45 minutes or so are about as good as anything I’ve seen recently, but the rest of the movie didn’t quite measure up. It was interesting enough all the way, no question about that, but it got too clever for its own good. (SPOILER ALERT!) I was a little put off by the way in which the climactic twist was revealed. I mean, this is supposed to be a film where the twist is incidental to the deeper themes of self-realisation and dealing with a consumerist world. But in the scene where Edward Norton realises that he and Brad Pitt are the same person, the movie goes overboard giving us flashes of earlier scenes that we can now gratefully look at from an enlightened perspective, having learnt the truth. I thought it would have worked much better if the film had understated the surprise element (like in that early scene, Pitt’s first proper appearance in the movie, when he passes Norton on the level escalator and Norton’s voiceover goes “If you wake up at a different time and a different place, could you wake up as a different person?” Now THAT worked).
Am still a big fan of David Fincher though, especially The Game, which was so underappreciated.
- Ghost World. An absolute gem from three or four years ago, and a movie that had me thinking well of Thora Birch - big, big achievement. Based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes about two young girls who consider themselves non-conformists and everyone else in their high school geeks and losers. That wonderful actor Steve Buscemi plays a loner who falls victim to one of their pranks.
The opening credit sequence of the movie, by the way, is the “Jaan Pehchan Ho” song from the 1960s film Gumnaam (which I used to have on videocassette; it’s based on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and has a great cast, including the young, self-conscious Manoj Kumar with curled lip. Excellent.) - the Birch character freaks out on “old Indian rock videos”!