I saw this in Bristol while visiting hollyione and her family - which seemed very appropriate, given that that is the home of Aardman Animations. Ever down with da kids, it was my first ever viewing of a (modern) 3D film - which was much as I expected it to be, really. Fun, novel and perfectly effective, but I wouldn't say it added enormous amounts to the experience of watching the film. I think seeing a live-action film in 3D for the first time will be quite a different experience from seeing an animated one - and in fact maybe it is something that's better-suited to animated films anyway. But I'm glad I've got some idea of what it's all about now, and I'm sure I will get round to a live-action equivalent sooner or later.
The film itself was good stuff, packed with silliness, steampunkery and deliberate anachronisms, and including a particularly enjoyable turn from a plotting, scheming, Samurai sword-wielding Queen Victoria, lots of great jokes in the background (e.g. a dentist's surgery owned by one D.K. Ying), and a super-intelligent chimpanzee owned by Charles Darwin who talks by using flash-cards. It's heavily reliant on tropes and clichés, only some of which it really challenges, but I guess that's about all I was expecting from a light-hearted child-oriented comedy. I assume that a sequel is planned, as there was a running joke throughout about none of the pirates realising that one of their number was very obviously a woman in a bad fake beard which was never resolved. I'll see it if I get the opportunity, but probably won't go out of my way to do so.
11. The Sorcerers (1967), dir. Michael Reeves
I saw this two years ago at the Bradford Fantastic Film Weekend, absolutely loved it, and bought it on DVD soon afterwards. So when ms_siobhan was round at mine recently and we wanted something to watch, it was readily available, and seemed the obvious suggestion, given our shared appreciation of both vintage British horror films and its star, the delectable Ian Ogilvy. I don't think I have too much more to say about it beyond what I wrote last time, but it remains a real classic, boasting a winning combination of charming period detail, a genuinely compelling story, strong character-driven dramatic tensions and a really first-rate cast. 'Twas a pleasure to watch it, too, with ms_siobhan, who appreciated its finer features just as much as I did, and also very impressively worked out exactly how the story would resolve from a few fairly minor clues, long in advance of the actual denouement. This is definitely one I will keep coming back to, I think.
12. Ziegfeld Follies (1946), multiple directors
Finally, I saw this on the May Day bank holiday Monday, again in company with the lovely ms_siobhan. It's kind of at once both the glorious apogee and the dying gasp of the musical variety theatre show genre of vintage films. Wikipedia relates how the original Ziegfeld Follies were a series of real-life Broadway stage shows, inspired of course by the Parisian Folies Bergères, which ran from 1907 to 1931. This film, made after Ziegfeld himself had died, brings that show to the big screen - and in full technicolor. But while there are many films from the 1920s and 1930s which essentially import the theatrical song-and-dance show format into the cinema, most of them make at least some effort to tie the big numbers together with some kind of rudimentary plot. This one? Didn't bother. There was an opening vignette of the great Ziegfeld up in heaven, imagining what it would be like to produce one last show, but after that it was just dance number after song after comedy sketch, without even returning to Ziegfeld saying how marvellous it had all been at the end. It was simply a big-screen presentation of the same sorts of acts which (presumably) featured in the original show.
But what a spectacle, though! The sweeping ball-gowns! The fairy-tale sets! The hair-pieces! The bubble-machines! The underwater synchronised swimming! The horses with their hooves covered in glitter! And an all-start line-up including Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer. In fact, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire do a duet at one point, which includes the two of them waltzing together - surely a thing few other films can offer. On the whole, I could have done without the comedy sketches in between the songs and the dances - although one about what it'll be like when television takes off was certainly very interesting in terms of revealing cinema's anxieties about the competition. It was all based around a spoof of a show sponsored by 'Guzzler's Gin', whose host kept on slugging back the stuff to his obvious displeasure, while getting increasingly pickled and insisting that it is 'a good, smooth drink'. The songs and dances, though - they could not have been any more extravagant and spectacular if they had been staged on a set made of pure diamonds.
But that's what I mean about it being both apogee and dying gasp. This genre really belongs to the 1930s, when it offered a form of escapism from the depression, and it has very obviously been taken to its logical extreme in this film. There is just nowhere else left to go. Plus, it was 1946! There'd just been a war - cities had been ravaged and men were returning broken from the trenches. People in Europe had already started making sombre black-and-white films about their experiences, and a huge musical song-and-dance extravaganza looks embarrassingly out of place next to all that, even at a distance of nearly 70 years. It was definitely time to hang up those dancing shoes by the time this film was made - but nonetheless I'm glad that the final waltz was captured for posterity in all its colourful glory.
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