Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

Luc Besson's The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is one of the silliest films I have seen for a long time, it is also one of those films which I enjoyed every second of it, not in spite, but because of its absolute silliness.

A completely absurd story, crafted with Besson's usual panache and visual flair, set in the Paris of 1911, with the background of can-can, Egyptian mummies taking a stroll in the streets of the city at night, a prehistoric pterodactyl chick groomed as a pet befriending the President's dog, and intrepid young woman reporter, the Adèle Blanc-Sec of the title, a kind of female Indiana Jones character.

The film can be read not only as straight entertainment, but also as a parody of Hollywood studio movies, as the above mentioned Indiana Jones; and a satire of the French establishment.

There is no point describing it any more, it is a very visual film, as many of Luc Besson's works are.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

HANNA missed the heart

“I missed the heart.”

A cake that did not come out as promised, when you consider the quality of the ingredients. Its armature, the script, failed to shape all the disparate elements of this film into a coherent whole. Running the risk of retelling the plot of Hanna once more, Focus Features did publicise it ad nauseam at least on Twitter and Facebook, it tells the story of a 15 year old girl, Hanna (Saoirse Ronan), who has been raised by her father, Erik (Eric Bana), as a killing machine in a remote forest in Finland, who is released in the wide world to settle some old scores with the CIA, particularly with one of its agents, Marissa (Cate Blanchett).

An ingénue, she marvels at the gadgets of the modern world that we take as part of “nature” now, such as electricity. There are some bright sparks of humour on seeing her running in fear of an electric kettle, or tackling to the ground a Spanish boy who attempts to kiss her in a date! However, she has not much time to indulge in her explorations of this world as, after having been taken prisoner by the military, she ends escaping from a secret and heavily fortified American military base in, of all places, Morocco! Of course, she is being persecuted by a bunch of heavies under the command of Marissa, in what seems to be a clandestine CIA operation through Morocco, Spain and Germany, where she is supposed to have a rendezvous with Erik. There are some lame action shots as she travels through Europe with a family who has given her a lift. Frankly, I could have stayed at home watching the proverbial paint drying.

Neither its director, Joe Wright, who tries to give Hanna some excitement by visual trickery, nor Saoirse Ronan, are able to lift this film from being a mediocre work with some touches of genius. Saoirse Ronan, a brilliant young actress, is shackled by the meanness of the story. She is supposed to be both a kind of super killing machine, but also a Kaspar Hauser like figure, her character ends by being none of those. Those touches of humour highlighting her encounters with modernity feel tokenistic. Not even her penetrating blue eyes are fully made use of.

Hanna the film fails as it attempts to be an action film, an exploration of the world by a young girl who grew up outside it, a road story, and a political thriller. It does not succeed on none of those genres, in spite of Joe Wright brilliance, the visual trickeries, and the laid back but powerful acting strength that Saoirse Ronan possesses. I learned about her athletic and fighting skills, I saw very little of her acting. When she did, her strength came through. The characterization and portrayal of the family she travels with felt cliched, the hippy like family discovering themselves in Morocco... Baddies were better painted in the James Bond films. Hanna has been compared with Kickass, Leon, Nikita, a very weak comparison indeed, although a brave attempt. I may mention in passing here that I was no fan of Kickass, or Nikita. While there are excellent scenes in it, nevertheless, as a whole it does not work. The script felt like it was written by a committee.

As Hanna the character said, this film “missed the heart”.  Disappointed.

Joe Wright

Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan

I just love her accent and her sharp diction!

Still and trailer © Focus Features.