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

You take away all a man has, and all he's gonna have

I blame Trial of a Timelord. The epic 14 part adventure, one of the most unpopular Doctor Who episodes of all time, and one that's got me so tense about what's going to happen next that almost anything seems preferable.

For the last few days, I've been avoiding it - all in aid of my extended family, three of which are coming to stay. I need to be in a fit state to answer questions about my school work, to smile graciously, to not spend whole days on tenterhooks and have whatever I watched last on TV knawing away at my brain.

With Trial as an alternative, an alternative I know will put my brain in an alarmed spin, almost anything seems like a good idea. Like Don't Look Now, the famously terrifying movie, which I never would have even sat down to otherwise.

To watch Don't Look Now, you have to get over the basic idiocy at the root of the plot. Venice, with its canals and waterways, is the worst damn place in the world to get over a drowning. And with its claustrophobic alleys, bridges, sharp corners and shadows, its a bad place if you feel like a nervous breakdown too. I've been there, and it's beautiful - but water is everywhere you look.

The main thing I couldn't get over with this movie was quite how 60's it was. Even though it was made in 1973, it was still in that flush period of cinema. Crosscutting like they'd only just been shown how, exposing flesh as if they'd only just been allowed, suggesting connections and art.

Ignoring how desperatley 60s it is, the whole thing is beautifully shot. Julie Christie is wonderful to look at (she reminds me very much of Friend 7), and Donald Sutherland has a wonderfully twitchy look - he already looks unhinged.

I love the title, and I love the sublties of the plot - it doesn't hold your hand, and there's a lot going on which could only be caught on a second or third watch. The only downside was that overfamilarity with the plot that classic movies have. Yes, I knew what was going on almost blow by blow. But I still enjoyed it.

I'm also amused to see its being remade. Hahahahahaha! Nicholas Roeg has cautiously said he is interested in how it could be reimagined.

That was last night. This afternoon, the same rules applied - not Trial, almost anything but. I first saw Unforgiven on a long haul plane journey, on the recommendation of my dad - logic dictates this must have been about five or six years ago, making me 12 or 13. I remembered it being awesome, and I've meant to rewatch it ever since.

Memory does funny things. I remembered the plot in some detail - who gets killed where, mainly. But I was sure Richard Harris played a larger role - I remember him being soulessly sadistic, completely unsympathisable and getting shot at the end. I'm now wondering if I had him mixed up with Michael Gambon's nasty piece of work from Open Range - not a very good movie, a sort of post-Unforgiven elegaic and ponderous Western, with an awesome gunfight at the end. I've only seen it once, though I have stuck the last 15 minutes on more than that.

I was also suprised by Gene Hackman's character - I remember him being a villain. Now he was unpleasant, but he doesn't do anything wrong. He smashes English Bob to pieces, but they go back a long way, and to be honest who wouldn't want to? Bob was maybe my favourite character, but he's still very smug, enjoys annoying others, and (apparently) makes a habit of badmouthing the President on Independance Day.

Even though Little Bill is mean, I don't feel he steps out of what his job and the age in which he lives demands of him. He does the best he can about the opening scenario - it wouldn't have been fair to hang the pair, whipping was the best "eye for an eye" solution, and the final price of horses was a pretty financially crippling one. Ned didn't deserve to die, but Bill didn't know that - he's just trying to keep violence out of his town. The gun ban is his best idea of how to prevent treasure-seekers coming for their reward - Bob and Munny earn their beatings by ignoring that law. By the end, with the poor dear only trying to build a house, I feel he earns more sympathy than anyone.

What I did remember correctly was the punishing violence, the cruelty in which characters are dispatched, and the bleak meaness that suffuses the whole thing. But only vaguely, like an idea. Maybe this movie is responsible for a lot of my own fiction - I write, only for myself, stories and movies. I 've always refused to be sentimental about the matter - I like death to be cynical and unfair. I haven't yet started rolling dice to see which of my characters gets hit first, but its only a matter of time. I always enjoy movies where bystanders get shot, killers get the shakes, and death is not instantaneous. For one thing, more might do something towards combating the urban violence problem. It also makes for more interesting drama.

I'd remembered all that, but I had forgotten quite how vivid and upsetting the whole thing is. Violent, but not quite that neatly backs up my theory that violence is about tone and treatment, not about what you see. Some of the most violent moments I've ever seen have been in Doctor Who - they are rendered far more nasty by their unlikely nature. You assume the pacifistic kids program can't be too baDOHJEEZYUCK!...because you're not expecting it. When I'm watching horror movies, or things I know to be unpleasant, I expect far more and am affected far less. I'm not for a moment suggesting Trial is more scary than Don't Look Now; but taken in context - one, a horror classic; the other, an overlit campy sci-fi from British television, your standards are different. Even with my standards raised pretty high, Unforgiven was still shocking. And it's only a 15...

So you see, my resolution to avoid Trial of a Timelord, and thereby stay in a stable state of mind, somewhat backfired. Don't Look Now had me sleep very badly indeed; Unforgiven has depressed me, and put me in the mood to see Reservoir Dogs (another thing which might prove tricky with an 9-yr-old in the house). And as if that weren't enough, apparently the guy hired to write the new Brideshead script is vehemently anti-Catholic...

Just shoot me now...


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