How often does a movie appear at your local (mainstream) cinema where you can watch a couple having actual sex? How often does the same film contain dead bodies, again not simulated? This one has both, and what's more children can go and watch it, unaccompanied by their parents!
March of the Penguins 2006-01-31
Okay, so the couple really do have sex, and there's lots of close-ups of neck-nuzzling and romantic orchestral music while they're doing it too. The real review begins here, btw. I've sometimes thought - while watching nature documentaries - that the magnificent vistas, whether of the plains of the Serengeti or the depths of the Pacific, deserve something better than a fuzzy television showing. That these landscapes should be up there on the big screen, shot on proper film. With this release I get my wish come true. We get to see some fantastic photography, amazing scenes of the intense desolation of the Antartic. And all of this is fitted around a year in the life of a community of Emperor Penguins. There are problems with this film though, and this may have something to do with it's genesis...
The penguins (in the original French language version) were originally dubbed - that is three voice actors provided voices for the mother, father and son - think Johnny Morris here. Sounds tacky. When it was prepared for other international markets it had a voiceover put on instead (the English one gets Morgan Freeman), making it more like a traditional nature documentary. I found some of it unclear, and the scientific basis of the film is on pretty dodgy ground sometimes, at least by omission of certain relevant information. Generally the narration (I assume) is accurate, but sentamentalism and anthropomorphism does creep in regularly, clouding the facts. A few examples that come to mind: is that the entire population of Emperor Penguins - the narration seemed to suggest it was (in fact it wasn't, there are at least 150,000 breeding pairs in the world - far more than were featured in the film); don't the unwitting orphans and parents who have lost children hook up with each other somehow (still don't know this one, but contrary to how it was presented, kidnapping do occur, and they aren't reunited with their actual parents) and was the aurora shown at actual speed, or was time-lapse photography involved?
Some people left as the credits started to creep up the screen. I can only assume that they've conditioned to do so as in most films there is nothing interesting to watch during the credits, but in this film the footage continues (and this is obvious from the off). Mostly we get to see the camera crew (which interested me particularly - I was always wondering how close the crew got to their subjects - pretty close, as it turned out), but even the most misanthropic cinema-goer would forgive views of humans for the shots of penguins looking into camera lenses and interacting with the crew, right?
Pretty in Pink 2006-01-31
Two films (that I've seen) released in 1986 featured the term
Duckie - one was Pretty in Pink and the other was Howard the Duck. The latter doesn't ever seem to have had a release on video, and certainly not DVD, the former I just saw at the cinema a few hours ago. I thought I'd seen it before, but apparently not. Yet another high school movie from John Hughes, though this one takes a much more realistic tack, apart from a solitary breaking of the fourth wall at the end. End-wise there are going to be a few spoilers below, but you've probably seen it before, so who cares?
At the time it came out most cinemas would show short films before the main feature (in at least some countries this was regulated by law, to encourage independent film-makers and the like). Sometimes you'd have a mini-documentary about cycle races (I think it was called the Potteries Milk Race, but may be wrong), and on one occassion there was an extended trailer cum music video. The song was Pretty in Pink, though I don't remember the Psychedelic Furs getting much airtime.
Anyway, so I didn't see it when it came out, though I had thought I'd seen it before tonight (well, yesterday night now). Of the three Hughes films I've seen at the cinema in the last three weeks this is definately the best, and not just because of Andie's punky, new-wavey friend Iona. There's a host of people who have appeared in other films in this, which kept nagging at me while I was watching it (
What film was he in? Who is she? etcetera, so as I go along I'll be putting other films I recognise the actors from in parentheses.
Andie (Molly Ringwald, Breakfast Club - wot I saw last week) lives in a run-down house in wrong part of town with her emotionally broken father, Jack (Harry Dean Stanton, Alien and Paris, Texas), who is
tryfailing to recover from his wife's departure three years previous. This is beside the point though - it's just there to enforce how lowly Andie's background is. What the film is really about is luuurrrve. Andie's best friend is Duckie, also known as Phil (Jon Cryer, Hot Shots! (this one was really bugging me)), who not-so-secretly loves her, but Andie fancies Blane (Andrew McCarthy, Mannequin) while giving Steff (James Spader, The Rachel Papers, Stargate and Secretary) the brush-off. Andie works in a record shop, where she receives advice from Iona (Janine the secretary from the Ghostbusters films), but what they don't know is that Steff and Blane are friends. What the film is also really about is classism and cliques, with both the rich kids and the poor kids being antagonistic to the idea of mixing.
While watching this film I thought the ending looked a bit rushed, and upon lookin' it up on t'Internet I found out why - Andie wasn't supposed to go off with Blane, she was supposed to end up with Duckie. This didn't go down well with test screenings though, so they reshot the final scenes, which is why she takes him back without his even having to explain himself. It also accounts for the extremely forced happy-ever-after ending for Duckie. So, we're left with a few potential messages here, whichever way the film ended. One is that rich and poor should not mix, and that we should keep to our little class lines, the alternative is that weird people don't get to realise their dreams and that the rich kid gets their way no matter how appalingly they've acted in the past. I guess I was mostly disappointed that she took him back without a word - did he even apologise?
Trivia time - the film was named after the song, though you have to dig quite a way down the
amazon list these days to get to the original album. , lead singer of the Psychedelic Furs thought the main character in the film should have been changed to Caroline, to match the song. Speaking of the music, it looks like the soundtrack got a makeover a few years back. I fear to enquire...