Saturday, February 2, 2019

Three Films Make A Post: They faced death......and found life.

The ABC Murders (2018): Or as I like to call it “Poirot: The Grimdark Years”, seeing as this BBC mini-series directed by Alex Gabassi and written by Sarah Phelps goes down the road of all bad grimdark stuff of presenting a worldview and view of people so bleak it becomes more than just faintly ridiculous. In this film’s world, everyone is horrible 24/7, then murdered by a horrid person who in turn is hunted by a past his prime Poirot (John Malkovich doing his best with a crap script) haunted by the shadows of an of course sordid past. Thing is, once your portrayal of humankind becomes as one-note negative as the one presented here, an actual complex and complicated human being watching it does tend to lose the emotional connection to the oh so dark caricatures grimly making their way through one’s field of view. There is, needless to say, quite a bit of scowling involved, as well as the expected scenes of the killer (Eamon Farren) throwing “creepy” poses for the camera.

Need I mention that the main colours in the production are poison green and piss yellow as if this were exactly the low rent copy of a David Fincher production it indeed is?

The Dead Room (2018): As a matter of fact, this half-an-hour ghost story for Christmas written and directed by Mark Gatiss, is just as dark as that Poirot thing. Here, though, it’s a darkness that comes from an actual exploration of character and guilt of the piece’s lead character, radio horror narrator Aubrey Judd (wonderfully performed by Simon Callow). Where The ABC Murders only knows how to strike poses, this one derives its strength and its darkness from an understanding of human complexity rather than from turning humans into caricatures that only know how to be shitty.

Because Gatiss must have been in a hell of a form when he did this, the short film also deftly creates a sense of place and of time having passed, all the while demonstrating – as expected – the writer/director’s love for the classic British ghost story. Quite an achievement for half an hour of television.

Christopher Robin (2018): Despite today’s complaints against a particular style of grimdarkness, I am still a bit too cynical to enjoy the particular style of all ages personal improvement feelgood cinema of most films like Marc Forster’s Christopher Robin. However, in this particular case, I found myself rather spell-bound by the whole affair. In part, it’s certainly an effect of the nostalgia towards Winnie the Pooh et al, but there’s also the fact that the film is quite serious about its portrayal of a very specific post-war malaise that sees Christopher Robin (a fine turn by Ewan McGregor) losing himself in the surrounding greyness of 50s England (despite being married to the most certainly not grey Hayley Atwell). Also bound to win my heart is the portrayal of Christopher’s former friends around Pooh as childlike and gently, yet utterly weird living plush toys. Well, expect for Tigger, who is hilariously deranged and not at all gentle. Really, the only thing that isn’t enjoyable about this one is that it doesn’t solve the problem of alienation in a capitalist society it posits and instead has McGregor inventing paid leave, but I may be asking just a tiny bit much.

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