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The King’s Speech, The American, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Monday 22 November 2010
Words Spindle

A stammering King, a quiet hit man, and a pissed off Santa Clause…!

This years Cine City festival has opened with three standout films. Opening the festival (and generously sponsored by Jameson!) was The King’s Speech, the true story about the man who would become King George VI. The film follows the Duke of York, or ‘Bertie’ to his friends and family (Colin Firth), as he struggles of overcome his stammer as he increasingly has to engage in public speaking, culminating with him having to step up to becoming King at the outbreak of the Second World War after his brother King Edward VIII abdicates.

The King’s Speech succeeds on many levels, the tight and concise screenplay oscillates between a historical drama, a tale of personal achievement, but perhaps most overwhelmingly it’s story of friendship, notably between The Duke and his unconventional speech therapist Lional Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Through Logue’s techniques The Duke attempts to overcome his handicap whilst also piecing together from aspects of his childhood where his condition came from, and how this has affected him and the privileges and duties bestowed on him. The film balances all these plot elements well, but never fully excels at either. However combined with powerful performances from both the leads, wonderful sets and costume design and directed with simplicity and restraint (by Tom Hooper who’s career started directing episodes of ‘Byker Grove’!) that lets the acting, story and mise-en-scene display the story perfectly.

Expect big award hype for this film and for Firth and Rush, The King’s Speech and justifiably so. It even has a ‘Rocky’ style montage…but with annunciation techniques not punching raw meat.

Anton Corbijn’s first feature was the beautifully shot and conceived Ian Curtis biopic ‘Control’. His latest feature takes on a different subject and setting but is just as stylishly shot. The American stars George Clooney as a hit man winding up in a small village the hills of Pescara, Italy for one last job. The American an interesting film that flirts with many ideas and themes of redemption and love, but in many ways fails to hammer home any specific point. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to. There are qualities in this film that truly standout. Most noticeably is Corbijn’s direction. His years as a visual artists for bands and has lead to a plethora of remarkable music videos and album covers. This understanding of look and image in frame is never wasted in the film. Every shot and set up and is beautifully executed (this must be part owed to the natural beauty of the area) and gives the film a stylistic look that many mainstream thrillers can only aspire too. Clooney’s performance is the other highlight. He (as always) is playing ‘George Clooney’ but there is an underlying depth to his performance in this film, the sense of the weight and burden life has bestowed on his character is there in his performance. This performance combined with Corbijn’s masterful direction truly save The American from being a clichéd hit man thriller and make it a film that deserves more attention than others in a worn out genre.

A black comedy from Finland about Santa Clause is a seemingly bizarre concept. And the result is really bizarre movie. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is this, and it is awesome! Set the cold, cold Korvatunturi mountains in northern Finland scientists are setting off explosions on a mountain. Soon enough the local inhabitants starts noticing weird stuff going down, livestock is massacred, children go missing….ears get bitten off!. This reminds one small boy of the real legend of Santa Claus, not the ‘Coca-Cola’ version. When the boy’s father accidentally captures the real Santa in a baited trap, the real version of Christmas reveals its real darkness.

Rare Exports is by far one of the weirdest mainstream films of recent times. A wonderfully original idea, that fuses a unique sense of comedy with action and family drama in way that is largely unparalleled. There are nods to 80s adventure films like ‘The Goonies’ and ‘Poltergiest’, there is an air of young Spielberg at work making kids action films with a dark twist, but Rare Exports might take a little from these types of films and makes its own out of them. It can’t be easy to make a film that is laugh out loud funny and genuinely creepy and keep that balance without one eventually rendering the other void, but this film achieved it consistently. On leaving the cinema a woman from Finland (many native Fins attended and were very enthusiastically vocal throughout) asked me if I ‘got’ the Finnish humor. I think I did, but what I think I ‘got’ most was discovering that this movie was not pandering to any Hollywood type of Christmas, or more to the point what a comedy, action, horror movie should be. Rare Exports will hopefully usher in more unique mainstream movies from other cultures that will as equally and as boldly and as entertainingly showcase themselves.

There’s loads more happening at the Cine City festival so go check something out!