Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

~The Squirrels make it feel less lonely~

"Daddy's going deep sea diving. Going to the place where dreams are made. [...] Daddy's gonna stroll down that far subterranean shore all littered with flotsam of hopes and dreams. Oh, I see them. Relics of ancient times, Ionely cenotaphs, standing along that melancholy tideland."

Tideland leaves you with the question why we watch films. Is if for the cinematography, the acting, the music, the atmosphere, the joy of seeing things we don't get in real life? Answer yes and I recommend Tideland very strongly. How many of you believe there should be good clean moral subtext in your films? You might want to give this one a miss...

The less I say about the plot, the better - it's best to go in with as few expectations as possible. Save the fact it centres on a little girl in the midst of a golden wilderness, and Terry Gilliam directed it. "The squirrels make it less lonely" will give you some idea to its tone if not its content. It's going to be weird, and it's going to be disturbing. What I didn't expect was quite how disturbing it'd be.

One of the things I love about TG is the way his films are...grubby...there's always the feeling that something very nasty is going on, even when it isn't. Tideland doesn't confine this to the subtext - placing a young girl in the midst of drug abuse, embalment and I don't know what is always going to prickle some people.

One of those people was my mother. I'm sure Terry Gilliam is far past worrying what she thinks about his films (mum on Brazil: "worst film I've ever seen"), but it is something of a pity. She was quite enjoying it until it touched the line between disturbing and plain distasteful.

So why do you watch films? How far should you apply morality when watching? Because obviously, there is something just plain wrong about the second half of Tideland; I'm not denying that for a minute (well...we'll get onto that...). Does that make it a bad film? For my mother, this was a resounding yes and the comment "just because it happens in real life, it doesn't mean we want to watch it." Fair enough - believe me, Tideland isn't a comfortable watch - but I have to disagree. Immoral behavior gives cinema its umph, its dilemmas and escapism. Can you think of a film where no one misbehaves at all? Even Snow White has an attempted poisoning.

One of the problems is that Tideland doesn't judge. When it goes a bit too Leon in the second half, it doesn't wear its charity placard for an instant. There is a difference between presenting and promoting. TG claims the whole thing was to be seen through a child's eyes, and in my opinion he hit very close to his aim. Little touches, such as the way she claims to
have found a different "best friend" at least four times throughout the film, unerringly show understanding of the seven-year-old mind. To answer critics, Jeliza sees nothing wrong in what happens, and I don't think Dickens does either. They've both got child's minds, and were both characters actualy children no one would have been unduly alarmed. That's the genius of it, because to a child everything that happens is merely innocent fun - adults find it insanely wrong. It's your adult minds poisoning something beautiful and childlike. TG's way past the stage where he's trying to make a profit off his films, and you can almost sense him giggle at the uproar this one's going to cause...

The "child's eye view" also makes you wonder how much of the film is "real" - TG always exaggerates his character types and situations, but where does reality end (if at all...) and fantasy begin? The line, if it's there, is very muddy, and it'd be equally easy to argue it as a constant dream sequence, or all entirely real, or somewhere in between. For example *SPOILERS*...Dell, dressed in black and growing pumpkins, is variously presented as a ghost, witch, vampire and pirate throughout the film. Is she really as evil and strange as she seems? The final image of her searching in the train wreck, which is presumably real, suggests she's a decent woman who takes care of her handicapped brother - we see her then without her bee-proof wear, which she'd surely always wear outside. This suggests that the scary impression of Dell in the film is mostly fabricated by J-R, just as she boasts to her doll friends about how much fun they had. And why does Adele's embalmed mother look so much like the bog body Jeliza's father showed her earlier? *LOS ENDOS*

If we forget about the (possibly) unecessarily dubious nature of some bits for just a moment...this film is incredible. You have never seen such cinematography. The camera is always off kilter, swirling about the marvellous locations - especially the massive, empty golden oceans of long grass, or the tumbledown house she and her father live in. Our heroine is Jeliza
Rose, and my my is that kid Jodelle Ferland is an incredible actress. Why do I know this? Because the film would have been torture had she been anything but.

She's wonderfully naturalistic, entirely cinching the movements and mindset of her character. Yet at times, she also seems strangely old, especially when taking care of her father's *ahem* medicine. No wide eyed hamming here - it's genuinely heartbreaking at times when you see a little flicker of subtle acting in her eyes. And most glaring of all - she actually acts against herself for most of the film. Yes, Adele, Dickens and her father flicker in and out of the story; but most of the time, it's just her, her dolls and the squirrel. Yet she keeps us convinced, even when swimming through her flooded house or tumbling down rabbit holes. What a legend that girl is.

The music's lovely too. Even the fact it keeps trying to turn into the Swan Lake music seems suggestive of something...

There is a film I am waiting to see. Perhaps it hasn't been made yet. Perhaps it has. If I don't see it, then I'm going to have to make it. Tideland came very close to this Ideal Film I've been hanging around for. This is the film I wanted Pan's Labyrinth to be. Pan was very violent, but it still didn't cinch the nastiness of fairytales. What you don't see is always worse, and Tideland proves it. You're in an unstable reality. Anything could happen at any time. You're off the map - with no certainty about what could happen next, and no cinematic reference to cue you in (i.e. the blonde has walked into an abandoned house in her underwear. Ergo, she's about to die)

You might not like this film. In fact, I'd offer good odds that most people will dislike it. C'est la Gilliam. 'Tis a pity, because it's beautiful and I really want to recommend it to someone, and I really want you to all love it but shy from actually recommending it because if you hate it, you might burn my house here's some pointers. Jeliza never judges the situations she's in; neither does the film, and neither should you. It is important to realise that the entire film is in child's eye view, not impose an "adult" morality on it all and not look for answers. Just go with it. To paraphrase TG's introduction, “Some of you will love this film. Some of you will hate it. Others won’t know what to think- and that’s okay, as long as you are thinking.”

I can't defend his film, or guess whether or not you lot will like it; this is what he thinks. And I thought it was wonderful...


Rob said...

I quite liked Tideland. I saw it around this time last year and it made a strong impression on me. However, I felt the film was nearly ruined by the ending.


I found the handling of the aftermath, with that lady and the oranges, far too sentimental and overblown.


There were some brilliant moments, though - the part where she pretends she is underwater was amazing and is one of my favourite scenes, from any film. Also, some of the shots of Ferland walking through the fields were wonderful.

I love Gilliam's style but I find that he often has trouble ending his movies. Like this one, I didn't like the ending of 12 Monkeys or Jabberwocky. To be fair, with the latter, I didn't like any of it.

Ninquelosse said...

I see your point about the end, but I have to disagree.


After two hours of *waves hands*...Gilliamyness...weird, anti-Hollywood stuff my mother hated...I think he's entitled to a little sentimentality. By that point, I was kinda relieved she was OK.

The scene suddenly brought into contrast just how much of a mental tangle the rest of the film was in. It's really atmospheric, and drags you in so well. The end is more like "reality" - Jeliza suddenly looks really out of place drifting about there, and you realise how far gone she and the film were.

I also like the fact it didn't really answer anything. The implication is that the woman adopts her and takes her to a nice, clean sane world, and if the rest of the film alarmed you, you can take comfort from the fact it's all OK. But just possibly, she doesn't - Jeliza runs off into the grass again. And even if she did get taken back into the real world, is that really a happy ending for her? I'm not sure how she'd cope surrounded by stability.

Oh, and the bit with the eye turning into the fireflies...wowie. That smile at the end was perfect.

I haven't seen Jabberwocky, but as much as I love 12 Monkeys, the end twist is a little lame. "I work in insurance" is a fairly cool last line though. Have you seen Brazil? You can't argue the end of that one isn't perfect.

Rob said...

I can see your point about Tideland. Though what really got me was the execution of it, mainly the orange (if I remember correctly, it's been awhile). I don't know what about it but it just seemed like it belonged in a lesser movie.

But yes, you're quite right about Brazil. It was brilliant. My favourite Gilliam, followed by a toss-up between Fear and Loathing and Tideland

Ninquelosse said...

I haven't seen Fear and Loathing, I do want to though. After all, seeing Terry "what was he on when he made this?!" Gilliam actually tackle drugs must be worth a watch.

Traditionally, 12 Monkeys was my favourite, but that's more of a habit than a critical decision. I love Brazil as much, and when recently asked if I liked Tideland more, I didn't come up with a decent answer. It didn't seem quite fair to say yes when I'd loved one for years, and the other for a few hours. We'll see...I like Monty Python and the Holy Grail too, but it doesn't quite count.

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