Even the bumbling Jacques Clouseau would have had scant difficulty identifying overarching the theme to the long weekend: film. Not merely film, in fact, but rather film experiences.
It kicked off on Friday with a screening of La Haine put on by The Other Cinema, the group behind Secret Cinema (about which naturally I can tell you nothing). La Haine (“Hatred”) is a gritty 1995 French film about three young friends struggling in an impoverished housing project in the outskirts of Paris. About a decade ago, Asian Dub Foundation wrote their own soundtrack to the film and on Friday they performed it as a live accompaniment to the screening. Their diverse, multicultural sound was a perfect match with an unsettling score that represented the seething resentment between the protagonists and the police as it rose and withdrew but rarely fell silent. Ravi rightly commented that returning to the original film will be difficult, as it will undoubtedly lack a certain intensity. The themed screening was held out in East London with BMX bikers and break dances showing off their skills. Also shown, on what became a somewhat political evening with various spoken word performances, were the trailer and music video for Plan B’s “ill Manors” project. Whilst not a fan in the past, this I can certainly get behind.
On Sunday afternoon Nick and I switched gears to blockbuster mode for The Avengers. When Marvel announced its intentions five years ago it sounded impressively ambitious but logistically unrealistic. When last year’s precursor films were announced it became achievable but still seemed destined for mediocrity in attempting to wrangle so many big characters and names into a single film. When the film was given to Joss Whedon to write and direct, I suddenly realised the benefit of Marvel Studios producing films themselves: they actually understand their own properties and the players in their own industry. The result is simply spectacular. Whedon’s fingerprints are all over the dialogue which allows for both character development as the Avengers gradually pull together as a team, as well as hilarious conflict and one-liners. I was surprised by people’s concern over Mark Ruffalo’s casting, calling him “untested” as the character, because Ruffalo always seemed perfect for the role (as well as being a hugely talented actor). Someone else described The Avengers as “the best Hulk movie ever made” and it’s certainly fair to say he steals most scenes in which he appears. The only minor downside is that, given Whedon’s talent for writing strong female characters, the male-dominated cast was already fixed. That he managed to make good use of even Black Widow despite her lack of superpowers is testament to his skill.
It is hard to say much more without veering into spoiler territory but, even without its record-breaking box office takings, The Avengers has certainly set a new benchmark for superhero movies in the vein of my previous two favourites Spider-man 2 and Iron Man (there is limited use in comparison to The Dark Knight which is a very different kind of film). As for Whedon, the telephone is sure to be ringing a lot more, as Hollywood hopefully will finally realise what we’ve been telling them all along. Meanwhile, with The Amazing Spider-man and The Dark Knight Rises also out this summer, it will be interesting to see who ends up at the top of the comicbook pile.
Finally on Sunday night Chandara and I went super old school with a silent film night courtesy of Ciné Illuminé. The film was 1929 classic Piccadilly, about a young Chinese girl given the chance to take centre stage at a London club, leading to an early noir-esque story of betrayal, forbidden love and murder. But the real treat is the atmosphere around the screening with a glamorous but intimate setting, themed cocktails, food-toting usherettes and most notably Luke Meredith’s live piano accompaniment to the film. Seeing (and hearing) the interaction as a musician reacts to what occurs on screen makes a startling difference. Ciné Illuminé looks here to stay with screenings announced for the first Sunday of each month for the foreseeable future.