Film on Friday: Pythons, zombies and Hitchcock

8 Feb

A Liar’s Autobiography: too silly?

A Monty Python reunion has got to be the highlight of the week. Even more so when it’s from beyond the grave, pushing up the daisies, singing with the choir invisible etc etc.

However A Liar’s Autobiography, which I saw at a screening way back in July, is a curious beast. It splices together a recording of Graham Chapman reading from his autobiography, with new voice-overs from Messrs Cleese, Jones, Palin and Gilliam (Eric Idle declined, perhaps in retaliation at their initial scepticism over his wildly successful Spamalot musical), in a series of loosely connected sketches by a dozen British animation houses.

The result is as patchy as an AIDS quilt but, at times, nearly as moving. Chapman was one of the first stars to come out as gay (that he was the only Python not to dress as a woman seems in retrospect a reverse clue), and the connective tissue is about his own attempts to come to terms with his sexuality. Alcoholism was one strategy (Keith Moon was a drinking buddy), but doomed to ultimate failure. Just like, sadly, the film itself. Some of the sequences are just longing for John Cleese to stop the proceedings with a “Too silly!”

And now for something completely different: the big Friday release is Hitchcock, and the thought of Anthony Hopkins punctiliously enunciating every drawl and recreating every tic of the great film-maker/ odious human being leaves me cold. Toby Jones nailed it in the BBC’s The Girl, and that’s enough for me. Besides, I’m so over Scarlett Johansson. I just haven’t plucked up the courage to tell her yet.

Give me Warm Bodies instead. At least this is a film that knows it’s stupid. The high-concept premise is the age-old Hollywood paean to the transformative power of true lurve, played out for the Twilight generation: when zombie Nicholas Hoult falls for livin’ doll Teresa Palmer, his heart starts beating again.

It makes you feel sorry for I Give It A Year, which has no “zom” in its “rom”. What it does have is the writing and directing talents of long-time Sasha Baron Cohen collaborator Dan Mazer. Is It enough? Up to a point. It’s being hailed as the best British rom-com in years. Given that of late even the brilliant Richard Curtis could only give us the lamentable Rock The Boat, that’s not saying much.

Instead, it’s left to the rest of the world to show us how it’s done. No, from Chilean director Pablo Larrain, is about life under Pinochet. It stars Gael Garcia Bernal, more than recommendation enough. And I Wish, by Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda, is by all accounts a wonderful coming-of-age story about a 12-year-old, separated from his younger brother by his parents’ divorce, who believes a bullet train will provide a miraculous solution.

Finally, Wreck-It Ralph is a Toy Story for the digital generation, collecting favourite old characters from video-games past (even Sonic!). It comes from Disney, which has gobbled up Marvel and LucasFilm as well as Pixar in its quest for total family entertainment domination; and while it may be no instant classic, it does a good job at entertaining the adults brought along by their children.

 

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