Phew, that was quite a day, I think I’m getting the hang of these matinee Monday’s although I don’t intend to perform another exhausting mission for quite a while. I had a consultant meeting up at Paddington on Monday morning, as I had already booked a ticket to see ‘Eyes Without A Face‘ at the NFT in the evening I decided to make a day of it in ‘town’ since I was already out and about, I could have legged it home for a few hours but sometimes you need to do a bit of exploring don’t you? In order to kill the time I thought it best to conclude this years Oscar efforts and zapped over to Notting Hill to patronise yet another of London’s independent cinemas, namely the ‘Coronet‘ on the main high street. It was a pretty impressive place, steeped in history, one of those old school art-deco cinemas that managed to survive the Blitz and decades of subsequent regeneration and gentrification. Shame the film wasn’t too great but that’s life…..
1964, the Bronx. In a strict seminary school popular priest Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is accused of acting inappropriately with a young altar-boy by Sister James (Amy Adams) following a private meeting between Flynn and the youngster. Sister James detects the scent of alcohol on the child and a noticeable change of behavior which she reports to her superior, the puritanical yet not completely humorless Sister Beauvier (Meryl Streep in full-on gimme an Oscar mode) and the stage is set for a titanic battle of wills between the two leads, explanations and evidence subsequently emerging to challenge allegations of guilt and culpability in the mind of the audience as well as the on-screen characters. Did he do it? Yeah, like I’m gonna tell you….
Well, why it was certainly entertaining the see these screen juggernauts locking horns the film was far too static and ‘stagey’ for my liking, not surprising since it is actually based on the Pulitzer prize winning play by John Patrick Shanley. The film main theme is cunningly hidden in the films title, (yes I am being sarcastic) how can you proceed down damaging paths to ruin peoples reputation purely at the behest of your beliefs and previous experience? How and when does morality trump authority, a pertinent debate considering that Father Flynn is Sister Beauviers religious boss. What are the consequences of blindly following the strengths of our convictions? Pft, I dunno, what are you asking me for? The three core performances are magnetic, the dialogue derived revelations are expertly delivered, overall though the lack of cinematic flair or flourish failed to impress. As the credits rolled it was quite amusing to see that the film was dedicated to a Sister McEntee, I’m not elaborating on that reference on a public website but some of you reading this entry will know what I’m talking about. So, keep an eye out for my amended Oscars nominations for 2009, I’ll try and get it up over the weekend.
Far more successful was part two of my cinematic endeavour, following a rain lashed bus trip down through Hyde Park, across Victoria and onto Westminster I then tubed it over to Waterloo for the usual NFT shennanigans and caught the horror classic ‘Les Yeux Sans Visage‘ aka ‘Eyes Without A Face‘ aka the brilliant US monikered ‘The Horror Chamber Of Dr. Faustus‘, a lurid but inaccurate concoction of a title that doesn’t really do this eerie little movie justice.
Out in the french countryside the archetypal mad scientist/surgeon and his assistant Louise kidnap and kill young women after removing their faces, a gruesome transplant procedure that the physican performs in an effort to heal his daughters hideously deformed appearance. It’s quite interesting to consider that its year of release – 1960 – was also the year that both Michael Powell’s ‘Peeping Tom‘ and Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho‘ were released (or should that be….escaped?), all three films were mauled as perverted and evil by the critics and consequently the public stayed away in droves, whilst Hitchcock survived and went on to make a couple more notable films both Franju and Powell’s careers were essentially destroyed. I’m pretty sure that Cronenberg is a fan of this and its central conceit is perhaps not quite as fantastic and absurd as it was then….
Is it me, or are masks of any sort just intrinsically really, really creepy? Just what is being hidden behind there? I was quite excited about seeing this, mostly because it’s a film I’ve heard about for years (although for some reason my addled brain had mixed it up with elements of this) but have never actually seen. It’s never been on TV and I’m fairly sure its only recently been released on DVD, the chance to see it on the big screen could therefore not be missed. There is a narcotic quality to the film , it’s one of those entries in the horror genre which is more akin to ‘The Haunting‘, ‘The Vanishing‘ or ‘Les Diaboliques” say than any dumb creature or slasher film by virtue of its intentions in building atmosphere and tension before parceling out some unexpected and genuinely squirm inducing horror. The print was a little jumpy and scrappy which all added to the viewing experience, it’s fairly predictable – any mad scientist foolish enough to have a pack of hungry dogs in his boudoir is really asking for trouble – but nevertheless was a terrific piece of work that has garnered some very serious academic discussion since it first haunted the screens fifty years ago. No ‘Doubt’ about it <groan….>