Tag Archives: Jude Law

Juliette Binoche season 1: war torn worthies

As promised, following Kate Winslet season, we move to another European actress with an interesting career of challenging, deep films.

Juliette came to the notice of the more general cinema public in Chocolat (not simply a sweet tale, as I wrote here http://bookstove.com/drama/chocolat-not-simply-a-sweet-tale/). And she’d also come on the quality mainstream radar for her nurse in The English Patient.

But the arthouse goers had long known Juliette, particularly for her Three Colours: Blue role, but also for the obsessive affair with Jeremy Irons in Damage, in sex and philosophy with The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Perhaps her most recent well known role is in Cache/Hidden. But these are not my favourites – as I will show in other posts on the season.

She’s continued to challenge, to walk the line of the uncomfortable (eg, Elles), probing reality (in Mary and Certified Copy).

Two films I saw this week of hers had a common theme – the alien woman who’s been at the heart of armed conflict, whose tornness is as much about family as it is about military violence. The first was a new release at the cinema – A Thousand Times Good Night. There was more conflict at home, with a family who are sick of emotionally saying a final goodbye everytime their wife/mum takes a new assignment as war photographer. I found her marine biologist husband difficult, not least because I wanted to cut his hair and beard, but because of his reactions. Not the feelings themselves but his sharing of them (or not). I struggled with the very European film ending – ie that there wasn’t one. As the screen turned black, I wondered if there was more film coming or if the credits would start. When the latter happened, I felt cheated, and do not have a sense of closure or final understanding of the film.

I disliked the notion that one has to choose which family needs you more – your own or the one of your calling, and that the first family has to concede Juliette’s Rebecca to the Africans. Can’t they find a way to share, rather than one let go?

The moral point I’d like to debate is about war photography. Do people want cameras in their faces held by aliens, intruders, as the method of telling their story to the world? I feel cameras are intrusive and we’re having them too often – CCTV, unsolicited snappers at public events, who can put on the net for all to see. Have those crying maimed people given their permission, do they understand what the photographer intends to do with that image of them?

Whereas the belief of the photographer seems admirable, I am not sure about it as a method. In this film, Juliette’s character risks her life taking photos of a refugee camp that’s stormed (we do not understand why or by whom). She rushes the photos to New York (why there, when it’s a Scandinavian/Irish film?) and their publication leads to military support for the camp. Job done, says Rebecca and the film’s maker Eric Poppe, who was a war photographer himself. But I see swapping one set of pointing guns for another; these people, already having left their homes, still have the daily fear of soldiers and guns around them. Often guns beget bigger guns in retaliation. It means loss of freedom and fear for these refugees. Is this really the solution?

I was angered that there is an emphasis on the Muslim Middle East and suicide bombers in the film. I was more interested in the African issues – which seem less well known – than perpetuating a link that feeds the war on terror.

War photography does not act in itself – it leaves that to the viewer – but those being photographed at the time are not saved.

But then Diana used that technique to powerful effect; some say it gave her powerful enemies.

I also picked out an older film of Juliette’s: Breaking and Entering, where she is a Bosnian asylum seeker in London, with a son whose catlike agility is soon utilised by criminals. And he preys on a landscape architect with a fractured relationship and a daughter who also has gifts that feel like conditions. Unlike 360 which I also saw this week, Breaking and Entering combines several characters and communities from different countries in a way that didn’t feel overloading or spreading too thin. I cared about the central characters who I felt I knew, unlike the ensemble cast of 360 where only familiar faces gave any sense of resonance. In 360, we lurched from one scenario to another like a third world bus; but Breaking and Entering was well crafted and about deep issues – sometimes overlapping with 360, about marital breakdown and extramarital attraction, about crime and prostitution…. and yet did so in a satisfying, compassionate way.

The place I wasn’t satisfied was the resolution with Juliette’s character Amira in B&E who (PLOT SPOILER COMING) has to endure the sight of her lover holding the hand of his real partner, telling a non-court that their relationship was ‘inappropriate’. Will (Jude Law) brushes Amira off cruelly when she begs his help to not send her son to prison. Will  never apologises, never gives closure to that affair; and Amira, already living in reduced circumstances below her capabilities, already a foreigner here on Home Office’s permission, is further diminished and damaged by this man whose kindness and touch now seem tainted and counterfeit.

Juliette was excellent in both films as ever, but endings in both left me feeling a twitch of disappointment.

More on Ms Binoche anon.

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Contagion

A film with three of my favourite actors in is a treat that I don’t think I’ve ever had before. However it turned out not to be much of a treat. It was just OK, and I agree with the reviews that say that there’s not enough characterisation and that breadth has precedence over depth – which weakens this story.

I didn’t agree with the billings about the disquieting reality of the film. The only chill I got was from an air vent in the cinema,
and the thought of how much control is exerted by authorities, making the crisis worse. I can see the rationale behind quarantine and isolation, but this soon leads to economic problems, and the lack of what creatures most need –  connection.

I can believe that there would be looting – this is the nation that rioted over stocks of Cabbage Patch kids, so the final food and medicine is hardly a surprise.

The film feels like an authorised version where the officials are the good guys. It’s got some grey areas and tries to show a variety of issues (too many) but feels like the end of Source Code where the immorally resuscitated corpse gladly submits to serving America. (Knowing that story is written by an Englishman whose first film was a conspiracy story, I am now suspicious). This was another America speaks for the world movie, although it contains more than one European actor.

It reminded me of the last world war where peers as well as authorities imposed the desired behaviour on citizens, making them feel they let down their nation by not conforming.

I dislike the idea that the outspoken blogger is the villain, when he could have been the saviour. There’s no government cover up or disturbing bio-warfare after all – the movie feels like it has been an advert for wash your hands. The blogger’s critique is shown to finally be as dangerous and corrupt as anything he posts. But it is true that animals are sacrificed in the name of getting us a cure; and that the production of medicines and rare commodities became very lucrative during the times of disease and disaster. The public are controlled and what we know is controlled.

I am also suspicious of the medical world. I am sure many in it are genuine in the quest to make people well and to help, but it crushes anything that challenges it with the support of the legal profession and the government.

Alterative therapies are gaining recognition but have to defer to conventional western medicine to avoid law suits and being closed down.

The film has characters based on the real life Centers for  Disease, who collaborated with the film. Looking on CDC’s website, I’m appalled by the statement under Global Regional Centers for Disease Detection, end of para 1:

“Most importantly, none of these outbreaks became a health threat to the United  States”

The CDC run round the world, intervening (or is that interfering) in other countries, imposing a beast practice (interesting typo, I left that in), and yet saying that their job is well done because no one at home got hurt – as if Americans are more valuable  than Scots or Mexicans.

The CDC site feels very public relations – ‘we work for you 24/7’,’ read our real life stories about why we do what we do….’ it’s all emotive, sensationalist, reading like a party political broadcast. It’s advertising.

Another disturbing quote is:

“The United States had a choice: gamble H1N1 would not kill in high numbers, or work as fast as possible to develop a vaccine and make it available to as many Americans as possible. In fact, there was no choice—the vaccine had to be made and distributed” (italics mine)

But what of the cynical view that vaccines make money?

My thoughts are – why is vaccine the only way to deal with  illness? The film says that it is slow to make vaccines – it took 6 months to control the disease. Methodologically, growing a disease to play with it and see if you can work out how to reverse or nullify it seems a very limited and quite strange way to tackle a problem, yet it is the prevalent if not only method of science.

I am horrified that viruses are created by government paid scientists – how can that ever be justifiable?

Can’t diseases be more than just hygiene related problems – what about a deeper problem?

What would spiritual alternative healers make of this?

What of ancient and native medical wisdom?

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