Speedy and I have been watching quite a lot of movies lately. And we’re intentionally staying away from anything and everything produced in Hollywood. Too many Hollywood movies and I’ve started feeling getting dumbed down already. So we’re exploring. European and Asian, subtitles and all. We’re going beyond such classics as Cinema Paradiso and Kurosawa’s masterpieces.
It all began after Sam and Alex started recommending movies that I never heard of. European and Asian movies. Non-English audio with English subtitles. Confessions, the story of a young mother who took revenge on the teenagers who killed her daughter, was particularly good. Such vivid imagery, such raw acting, such a deep probing look into the dark recesses of the human mind.
And then there was Battle Royale, the reason why no one in my family was interested in seeing The Hunger Games. If you think The Hunger Games is an original story with an original concept, you should see Battle Royale and know that it was based on a novel published in 1999 — nine years before Suzanne Collins’s novel hit the book stands. I have Alex to thank for that information.
Then, we saw The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo — the Hollywood version with Daniel Craig. I loved the story so much, I read the three books in Stieg Larson’s Millenium series one after the other (I love Kindle for iPad!) and then I wanted to watch the Swedish movie adaptations of all three. I did and I got hooked. And I got Speedy hooked too. So, we’ve been watching European-made movies lately. The last three:
1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I love Le Carré, to start with. I read his most recent novel, A Most Wanted Man, a couple of months ago and I was so disappointed that I thought I’d be better off with his old stories. Like Tinker, Tailor which was published way back in 1974. When the movie came out (a remake, if I’m not mistaken) — with an all-star cast — it was irresistible. But I found it so boring. Maybe, the Cold War plot was just way too much beyond my time.
2. The Lives of Others. Directed by the same person who gave us The Tourist, this is a film set during the final months before the Berlin Wall came down. Despite the very political subject, the story is really about the personal lives of artists and government officials caught in a dirty game of politics. No riveting car chases Hollywood-style, no computer-generated visuals The Avengers-style. The film is all about its characters — their motivations, their dreams and weaknesses, and their humanity. A simple story told magnificently.
3. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. If you’re not into politics and espionage and all that deep stuff, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels starring a young Jason Statham of the Transporter fame is a hilarious film about bumbling petty criminals. Directed by Madonna’s ex, Guy Ritchie, whom more filmgoers know as the director of Sherlock Holmes and its sequel.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a rather old film (it came out in 1998) but if you don’t mind older films, I also recommend three others that I’ve seen some time ago — A Very Long Engagement, Crimson Rivers and Léon (The Professional), the latter starring a very young Natalie Portman. These three get shown on cable TV so there’s need to go to Amazon.