Archive for Paddy Considine

Additional dialogue by…

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2015 by dcairns

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I was lucky enough to be invited to the UK premier of MACBETH, which made me feel quite the dude, until I looked at my wardrobe and realized I was going to have to take a whimsical approach to the dress code “smart”. I also met lots of people I know there, which made me feel well-connected. There was a splendid after-party and I utilised it in moderation as I had work the following day, so all in all it was a very good afternoon/evening, apart from the film.

The film isn’t too bad, though — that was a dirty trick I pulled at the end of  that paragraph. The crowd responded with enthusiasm, en masse, though I caught some mutterings later.

All of the acting is decent, though I didn’t love any of the actors. I love Martin Shaw in the Polanski version. I love Mifune and Mrs. Mifune in THRONE OF BLOOD, more for their pyrotechnic displays of theatrical technique than as characters, but they are close to my heart all the same.

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The accents are good, though Marion Cotillard’s is pretty different from everyone else’s. It’s a shock whenever Malcolm (Jack Reynor) speaks, because he doesn’t sound like he’s doing Shakespeare — he sounds like he’s saying something he just thought of. By this reckoning he’s probably the best actor in the film, but he creates a problem for everyone else, because if that’s what a person talking is like, what are these?

The film looks pretty stunning. The locations on the Isle of Skye are brooding and dramatic and spectacular, and it’s nice seeing my native country used in a cinematic manner. Some of the Northumberland scenes look exactly like Polanski’s version, though. The designers have perversely chosen quite a Russian Orthodox look for the architecture and costumes, but this mostly works quite well, apart from the kingly robes which seem a bit samurai to me. Stuff can be the wrong period or the wrong setting as long as it isn’t jarring.

What people said:

Alex: “Paddy Considine has the world’s most disapproving beard.”

Jonny Murray: “Who’d have thought the old man would have so much mud on him?”

Emma: “It’s a shame these things can only happen with big movie stars doing big acting. Ken Loach could do Macbeth.”

Me: “But look at Fassbender in FISH TANK. Why couldn’t he be as natural in this?”

Yes, this is another muddy MAC, calling to mind the classic MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL exchange (“Must be a king.” “Why?” “He hasn’t got shit all over him.”) — only in this version, even the king gets covered in shit. Michael Fassbender turns up plastered in peat in one scene with no explanation of how it got there, and you hardly notice, because everybody’s always filthy. And all the rooms are draughty. The Macbeth’s bungalow creaks in the wind like a ship in a gale. The scenery is splendid but I wouldn’t want to live here. Oh, wait,

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I didn’t feel like anybody in the film had a relationship with anyone else. Lady Macbeth seemed basically mad from the start, Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) was a savage barbarian who then goes totally psycho. Usually you get the sense that Banquo and Macbeth are mates. I have to say — the continuing problem of the Festival Theatre’s accoustics and sound system meant that I may have missed stuff that would have helped forge this connection.

The adaptation is an odd one — lots of interesting ideas. I just didn’t think they worked. The film is at pains to answer that academic’s question, “How many children did Lady Macbeth have?” According to this film, two. We open on a dead baby, so we surmise that this tragedy isn’t going to be a comedy, and then there’s a teenage Macbeth Junior who dies in the opening battle. At the risk of coming over like Tom Stoppard, who has protested the tendency of directors to treat Shakespeare’s text as a sounding-board for their own ideas, I think a productive question for academics may not be so useful for filmmakers. The Macbeths have no children that we meet in the play. To create one for the film presents a challenge — he can’t say anything, and nobody can say anything about him. So the kid dies, and Macbeth writes a letter to his wife — about some women he met on the heath. No mention of son. When Duncan  congratulates Mac on winning the battle for him, he doesn’t add, “And by the way, sorry about Junior.” We need to talk about Macbeth Jnr!

The filmmakers bring this doleful kid on as a ghost, and have him holding the dagger which Macbeth sees before him. So the line, “Come, let me clutch thee,” is addressed to his son. Who then leaves — things were getting oddly homoerotic — and Macbeth continues talking to thin air, delivering lines written to be addressed to a dagger, as if to a dead son. Who isn’t there anymore.

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The most egregrious abuse of Shakespeare is right at the start, actually, when the witches say, “Where the place?” “Upon the battlefield.”

That’s right. I seem to recall that line once reading, “Upon the heath.” Which fits the rhythm, and has an assonant connection with the following line, “There to meet with Macbeth.” This feels like a Weinstein Bros idea. Macbeth has a vision of the witches while he’s in battle. Couldn’t the battlefield be on a heath? A kind of battleheath, if you will? Apparently somebody thought this would be confusing, so it was better to rewrite Shakespeare. “Additional dialogue by…” The Weinsteins have a long history of explanatory overdubs, with exposition blasting from the back of actors’ heads the moment they turn away, just to make sure we understand what Harvey wants us to understand. This fiddling has actually occurred at script stage, though, so we can have bad exposition with good lip sync. The filmmakers can’t hear will rotate in his grave because they’re simply not on his frequency.

There are other mismatches of word and action. When we are told that Macbeth “unseamed” the traitor “from the nave to th’ chops,” clearly stating, albeit in flowery language, that he splin him open from stomach to throat, we are shown Macbeth simply lopping the guy’s head off. It’s genuinely like the director didn’t read the play, or even the script. I wouldn’t like to suggest that this was a particularly Australian tendency (George Miller, for one, always matches word to deed with striking accuracy), but the last time I felt this weird disconnect was at Baz Luhrmann’s MOULIN ROUGE! in which E. MacGregor sings “You see, I’ve forgotten if they’re green or they’re blue,” while looking straight into N. Kidman’s eyes. They’re blue, Ewan. She’s right in front of you. I’d be worried about that kind of memory loss.

When Macbeth talks to one of his murderers after Banquo’s assassination, he does it at the banquet, with everyone else standing around silently, listening to the secret murder plot echoing around the hall. You can play it that way, and it doesn’t necessarily contradict anything later, but that scene always seemed to work really well when nobody knew Macbeth had Banquo offed, and so his embarrassing flake-out when he sees his former chum’s corpse at table exposes a dirty secret and causes Lady M. to fly into hostess mode, trying to put an acceptable spin on things.

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One thing the movie works hard to fix is Shakespeare’s missing scene — Edith Evans always complained that it was impossible to play Lady Macbeth’s plunge into guilty madness right after the banquet. “She was perfectly fine at supper.” Using visual scenes, our Aussie director Justin Kurzel is able to suggest a credible, gradual descent — but then blows it spectacularly by killing her offscreen with no explanation of how she died. I do think we need to know. Wouldn’t her grieving husband ask?

It goes on… Macbeth and Macduff smash each other to pieces and disembowel each other, and only get around to the “untimely ripped” bit at the very end of the fight. Untimely indeed. I can’t even be bothered going over why that’s a goofy choice.

I said to a colleague, bright and un-hungover at work the next day, that the film was dramatically kind of dull.

“More of a Michael Slowbender?” he asked.

“Michael Grimbender,” I clarified.

Which doesn’t even mean anything. That’s me, full of soundbites, signifying nothing.

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Deep Down

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on March 25, 2011 by dcairns

Richard Ayoade’s SUBMARINE, adapted from Joe Dunthorne’s novel, could serve as an object lesson in many things — how to make an effective transition from TV and music promos (the director is a star of the sitcom The IT Crowd), how to make a British coming-of-age story, how to make a recent period movie and avoid time-capsule pastiche and nostalgia, how to handle a character who isn’t conventionally sympathetic — i.e. who isn’t RIGHT about a lot of things — and still preserve audience sympathy… but the angle I’d like to lavish most praise on is the absorption of influence.

SUBMARINE (it’s not a 1930 Jack Holt adventure film, the title is merely allusive to the submerged feeling that comes with depression) wears its influences on its sleeve, with a boldness alibi’d by the conceit of protag Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts, with his Bud Cort gimlet eyes) continually imagining himself as the star of a movie. Ayoade throws in Scorsese flashbulb freeze-frames, HAROLD AND MAUDE sidelong glances, a DON’T LOOK NOW red hood mistaken identity, Godardian typography… importantly, the pleasure of the film is enhanced by recognition of the sources — somebody who’d never seen a pre-1980 movie could still enjoy this unhindered, but getting where the ideas are borrowed from is an additional pleasure rather than a source of irritation. At least for me.

Crucial to this is that the devices all perform narrative / dramatic / emotional / poetic functions, rather than just being nods in the direction of classics to whose status the film aspires (as in the cargo cult filmmaking of the Tarantino clone). When Ayoade performs a slow zoom into a bowl of lumpy school custard, he evokes the misery of a British comprehensive school education with Proustian immediacy — but if you recognize it as a riff on Scorsese’s alka-seltzer zoom in TAXI DRIVER, there’s an additional laugh.

(Although, my own school’s custard erred on the side of fluidity, being essentially a yellow milk sealed beneath a viscous, rubbery skin thick enough to support the weight of a 2nd year pupil.)

This movie really gets school — the inescapable universal bullying and homophobia. I mean, I love GREGORY’S GIRL, but neither Fiona or I recognize it as in any major way an accurate depiction of the school system. Everybody’s so nice. As with a good period movie set anytime before the twentieth century, a school movie has to start from the premise, surely, that even the finest people are going to be absolutely ghastly at times by any civilized standard.

Yasmin Paige is both beautiful and real as the protag’s far-from-perfect “love interest” (a weak expression for teenage passion, that) and succeeds in a role at first sight even less overtly sympathetic than the hero’s. The young actors are supported by adults with intense and original comedy chops — Sally Hawkins (sporting a disfiguring hairdo apparently modeled on Wendy Craig’s look in the 70s/80s sitcom Butterflies), Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine (astonishing low-key physical comedy here). Very wisely, the film avoids stuffing the cast with the filmmaker’s famous chums (that actually works in SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, but is generally something to be avoided at all costs). Exec producer Ben Stiller does pop up in heavy disguise on a TV set.

By the way, speaking as one whose response to the trailer for Mike Leigh’s HAPPY GO LUCKY was to wish for access to a red button that would bring human life to a swift and merciful end, the time may have come for me to admit that Sally Hawkins is a welcome and useful addition to the bestiary of British acting talent.

How will the young stars do in future? In particular, how will Craig Roberts cope with the fact that he has already, at aged 19, uttered the line he was born to say?

“My mum gave a hand-job to a mystic.”

Fiona’s favourite shot — “staring at him balefully over a fantastically baroque prawn cocktail. I was the only one laughing at that.”