Friday, January 11, 2008

The Politician's Wife

As if the whole Sarkozy and Carla Bruni affair wasn't enough, now it seems Hugo Chavez and Naomi Campbell have a thing going. Hugo Chavez! The clear suggestion is that political power wants glamour in the bedroom and on the presidential arm.

This is not actually new: many wives of political figures had once been coveted beauties, the difference is that fame has entered the equation. On googlefight, you can see that Naomi Campbell gets 20 times as many mentions in the search engine as Hugo Chavez. And Carla Bruni gets two and a half times as many as Nicolas Sarkozy.

Which means the public eye is going to peeled even more while watching these relationships take off. Aznar had Berlusconi and Blair as the witnesses at his daughter's wedding. Maybe the next step will be for world leaders to not just sell their exclusives to Hello! or the like, but also to make sure that the front row has been demographically tested to make sure enough outlets in enough markets take up the story.

And how many is enough?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Copying Beethoven? Copying Amadeus

Oh dear. Settling in to watch good old dependable Ed Harris playing Beethoven at the orders of Agnieszka Holland (of Europa, Europa fame) was a terrible mistake.

A tin-eared script full of out-and-out plagiarism from Amadeus (the mooning, and fart noises; the deathbed transcription scene) and Dearly Beloved (the deaf man has to turn to hear applause scene). An invented lead character so anachronistic (Diane Kruger as, um, a feisty young woman who might as well be contemporary) as to never for a second be believable. A mother superior (Phyllida Law) borrowed from a million other movies, with the same hoary old lines. A stolen quote from Samuel Johnson without reference (about the dog walking on its hind legs). A suitor who climbs the convent walls.

It's like a time travel movie without the time machine. Salieri reinvented as a pretty female student, rather than an embittered middle-aged court composer. What were they thinking?

Plus points? Some nice photography and the moment when the choir blasts out the main theme from the 9th Symphony, conducted by the deaf Ludwig but...

Minus points? ...then we get a ridiculous close-up of his useless nephew being all tearful. And plenty of other moments of appalling dialogue. Also some telegraphing in dialogue of scenes we were then shown as if we hadn't got it the first time (like showing the deaf conductor leading the orchestra astray).

Again. Oh, dear.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Bourne again (three times)

The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum

Probably the least informative book/film titles ever, and they remind me of a classic tennis commentary where there was talk of the Edberg forehand succeeding in getting the ball "over the Lendl head". However it must be said that the series (or 'franchise' as its techies would have it) has received a new lease of life. Paul Greengrass has cooked up the last two and there's plenty of sedition going around, and rightly so.

Greengrass... The name was not just familiar from Blood Sunday and Flight 93... There was something else...

Of course! The second name, the co-author, on Spycatcher. He's been immersed in this stuff. And now he has the opportunity to play around with technology and the ended Cold War in making the updated adaptations of Robert Ludlum's fairly indigestible airport thrillers.

Actually, the whole rogue spy shtick is perfect for these lawless anti-terrorist times and Greengrass lays it on thick in ...Ultimatum (2007), from the CIA staking out a Guardian journalist and chasing him to Waterloo Station with murderous intent, to the use of Maghrebi assassins (one of whom uses capoeira moves, maybe a subtle comment on the Brazilianness of Jean Charles de Menezes?), to the idea that waterboarding your own man makes him into an indispensible 'asset' and killing machine.

The action sequences are quite brilliant (particularly the Waterloo scene and the Tangiers medina scene) and Matt Damon has the breathless deadpan killing machine down pat. His counterpart in the earlier version of this story was Richard Chamberlain. Chalk and cheese. Damon drives (some of) his own stunt cars. And pretty well too. Check that out on the DVD extras.

Otherwise I liked the sense of technology being a wild beast that the dark forces of spydom had in no way tamed. They're civil servants after all: some couldn't be bothered reading up on the latest applications of Bluetooth, others are just waiting for their retirement payoff. And technology can be used to bamboozle as well as to chase. A necessary evil, and this film did a great job of showing some real-time usage, like Jason Bourne buying a prepaid phone at Waterloo Station and dropping it into the journalist's pocket, then calling him on it while the CIA bodies yell "how the hell did he get another phone!"

Damn, why do I never think of things like that when I'm at a station with so many kiosks full of cutting edge apps?

In all, a rollercoaster ride that wows with humanity rather than CGI. That's a good thing. That it gets all subversive on asses is another plus. That the Guardian gets such a plug - well, it's nice to see a real newspaper rather than The Daily Planet or such like. It also makes you consider the reality of rendition flights and security services monitoring the media.

Hmm, perhaps I'd better stop discussing this...