Meewella | Critic

According to P

Tag: Damien Chazelle

QuickView: Grand Piano (2013)

“Do what you do. And try and have some fun. And remember, it’s just music.”


High concept thrillers can be great fun and an effective way to use budgetary constraints to heighten tension through claustrophobically limited settings. Such films rely, however, on selling the audience on that concept sufficiently to allow suspension of disbelief. A virtuoso concert pianist being threatened during a concert with being shot by a sniper if he plays a single wrong note is so preposterous that it struggles out of the gate, not least because heightened stress and conversing via an earpiece are possibly the worst ways to elicit a flawless performance. That Grand Piano works at all is a testament to the commitment of the filmmakers in spite of the content, with a cast that plays it straight throughout. The film makes good use of its space, being set almost entirely within a concert venue, providing the audience with brief interludes of breathing space beyond the auditorium itself. However, the psychological exploration of the mind of a troubled soloist whilst performing is vastly inferior to other representations (such as the the concert scenes in the anime Your Lie in April) and any veneer of cerebral sophistication swiftly falls away. The result is an exercise in old-school filmmaking and a serviceable 90-minute distraction.


QuickView: First Man (2018)

“When you get a different vantage point, it changes your perspective.”

Neil Armstrong

First Man should not be mistaken for a film about the Apollo programme; as its name suggests the biopic is focused solely on the contribution of Neil Armstrong, sidelining everyone else. The claustrophobic nature of spaceflight is realistically presented through tight shots that leave us gazing into Ryan Gosling’s eyes with a regularity that eventually becomes tedious (although some viewers may disagree with this assessment). This is combined with an interesting decision to shoot the moon landing with IMAX cameras. If seen in that format the larger screen is entirely unused outside of that 15 minute sequence. Although impressive, IMAX viewing for this alone is far from essential. Gosling’s portrayal is deliberately understated whilst Claire Foy delivers the film’s strongest emotional performance as Armstrong’s wife. The most surprising aspect is an effective exploration of traditional masculinity and the burden placed on men who are left unable to share their emotional pain, with resulting impact on their families. Ultimately First Man is overlong but satisfying.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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