Monthly Archives: July 2007

MIFF Report, Part I

A good start to MIFF this year, with two enjoyable sessions on the weekend. Before I get to my reports, though, it is worth noting that Paul Martin is keeping what looks to be a very helpful running list of films that are nearly sold out.

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Big and Yellow

The Simpsons Movie (David Silverman, 2007)

One of the first gags in The Simpsons Movie is a joke about the foolishness of going to see a film of a TV show that we get weekly for free, and it’s true that there is something borderline illegitimate about a film of a TV show that’s currently in production. It isn’t just that it risks being seen as a rip-off: it’s also that it is impossible to separate the film from the series to fairly assess it as a stand-alone work. How can you judge character arcs and narrative of a film like this without placing them in the context of our familiarity with the characters and the grand serial narrative that has been The Simpsons since 1989? It’s probably foolish to even ask what sense this film would make to someone who hasn’t seen the show, since the situation will hardly arise. But that ubiquity means that in some ways The Simpsons Movie can never be anything other than a particularly long episode of the TV show, since we can never come to the experience “clean.”

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Kids

Yes, I’m going to give some thoughts on the final Harry Potter book. It’s sort of film related; this is obviously going to be one of the major film releases of 2009 or 2010. But I’ll be the first to admit that’s just an excuse to jump on board the subject of the week.

(Major spoilers for the final Harry Potter book follow).

Most of the way through Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I was thinking the suits at Warner Bros must be cursing: the first three quarters of the book isn’t terribly suited to film, despite the frequent magical / action interludes. The fact that the book eschews the Hogwarts locale for most of its length robs the film of the setting that has united the series thus far, and the long months of travelling that the kids do is going to mean a lot of passage-of-time montages that are going to be tough to keep interesting.

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MIFF Busting

The Melbourne International Film Festival starts next week. I’m hoping I’ll have a better experience than last year, where the films I caught were a fairly mixed bag, and the film I enjoyed the most was a fairly unexceptional kung fu flick. (See here and here for my comments at the time). Things are already looking up this year: the experience of working out what I could see has been made much easier by the festival organisers finally listing session times in the main part of the program, with the description of the films.

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Harry Potter and the Adults Who Read Children’s Books

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (David Yates, 2007)

As a fan of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, the biggest struggle in trying to evaluate the movie series has been in trying to evaluate them as stand-alone films. This is always a problem when looking at adaptations of familiar books, but I think it’s particularly so for the Harry Potter series. Rowling’s plotting is complex, and she fleshes out her world by indulging in numerous subplots and diversions. Her novels have therefore proven difficult to adapt: they don’t easily smooth out into the neat through lines of a typical Hollywood narrative. And while I recognised the virtues of the third and forth Potter adaptations – I didn’t think much at all of the first two, directed by Christopher Columbus – there was something inherently unsatisfying about them. I think the biggest problem is that the fun of the novels is in mulling over Rowling’s puzzles over the time it takes to read a book; Rowling can drop the clues in casually over several hundred pages, so there’s a pleasure in finally getting to a resolution. The films, constrained to two and a bit hours, have to hit every vital plot point with so little room to breathe that there’s no time to think over the main plot, let alone take pleasure in the asides or humorous details Rowling could enjoy. So even more than for most adaptations, I felt the films were simply highlights packages, like watching a trailer. I know there are many who have only seen the films and who have enjoyed them a great deal, so it must be possible to get something from these films in their own right. Yet I always find it a little bewildering, as I felt I had to put the story together in my mind by reading back in elements from the books.

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