Thursday, 29 March 2007

"What I did in the holidays"


Easy task for your Easter break. Go and see (or rent) a contemporary British film. Find out a bit more about it (synoptic research). Post a comment here on what you thought about it (any aspect). Comment on your peers' comments. Comment on comments of comments. You get the idea; it's an issues and debates paper, so get some debate going!

Current 'British' films on at the cinema or soon to be released include: Mr. Bean's Holiday, Outlaw, Becoming Jane, Sunshine, Catch a Fire, I Want Candy, Notes on a Scandal, Gone, Goal 2: Living the Dream.

36 comments:

alexa said...

Well I am very Sad, and have seen Mr Bean's Holiday, which i wouldn't class as very British... even though Bean himself is a well loved (?) British television character, the film is all set in France, and features mostly French characters.... and Beans distinct lack of dialogue means most of the film is actually in French!

But this is a good film for what it is, gives quite a few laughs, and shows some really nice scenic bits of France.

Mr. M said...

Very British thing to do though, go on holiday to France...does he do any embarrasing 'Brits abroad' stuff? I suppose talking s l o w e r and LOUDER in English to make yourself understood is out of the question.
Part of the reason the TV show was such a huge worldwide hit is that there is no language barrier. Cheap for foreign TV channels as they don't need to dub it.
Lots of Marcel Marceau inspired stuff I hear.
Blackadder is still his crowning glory though surely...'I have a plan so cunning, you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel'

LeTelecabine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LeTelecabine said...

My last comment had a few type errors and stuff, so I deleted it, however...

I’ve decided to see how the film, ‘Love Actually’ represents Britain and Britishness.

‘Love Actually’ reunites the team behind ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. Both these blockbuster films were written by Director Richard Curtis, and have gone on to be the two most successful productions in ‘Working Titles’ history, highlighting the fact it did remarkably well in its box office takings. It won 11 awards including a BAFTA, and was nominated for 13 others. ‘Love Actually’ is stereotypically British, as represented throughout the film. The cast are predominantly British, (Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Rowan Atkinson, Bill Nighy, Keira Knightly), and the main bulk of the film is shot/set in London – (“set almost entirely in London, England during five frantic weeks before Christmas” – IMDB), making use of the famous landmarks (Downing Street, Gherkin, Parliament), as they are a great filmic export from this country, and it is what other countries like to see. Hugh Grant and Colin Firth play the typical, handsome, charming, polite Englishmen. The film contains many British values, such as patriotism, as highlighted by a quote from the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) in the film, “We may only be a small country, but we are a great one too. A country of Shakespeare, Churchill, The Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter… David Beckham's left foot…David Beckham’s right foot come to that…” Obviously a fantastic chance to mention everything wicked about Britain… The main institution behind the film are ‘Working Title’, who have a history with British Romantic Comedies and Richard Curtis, but also involved are British company ‘DNA Films’, American company ‘Universal’, and French company, ‘Studio Canal’. Personally, I feel this film could not be more British? British Cast, Director, Locations, Companies, Values…

What do people think?

Charlie N.

Mr. M said...

Good post le ski/chairlift,
Love Actually is certainly a British film for all the reasons you list. Although representative of a ceratin type of Britishness it has to be said. Polite, white middle-class Britain where the prime minister knocks on your door and asks you out. A Britain that is immediately marketable overseas, like you say. London is always bathed in sunshine (or perfect snow in this case), beautiful people sip lattes on streetcorners and every suburb is leafy and genteel and no one has ever heard of hoodies, asbo's, the big issue or operation trident. Innit?
In short, the sort of postcard urban Britain with the kind of saccharine ending that the US, and UK, market love. Is it truly representative of modern urban Britain? No. Is it realistic? Gimme a break. Is it supposed to be? Of course not. Is it successful British cinema? You bet. No one but Working Title and Richard Curtis are making films of this type so successfully in Britain and they have a huge following, particularly among the chattering classes. It also boosts tourism, strengthens the industry, creates jobs and ploughs millions of pounds back into the economy.

LeTelecabine said...

i agree, romantic comedies are never realistic, but that's probably why they do so well? as you say, there are a number of ways britain can be represented, most distinctly urban/countryside? i think there's a clear link between the genre of a british film, and the representations of britishness in them?

Mr. M said...

Absolutely skilift, the masses want to be transported away from the grim realities of life. Cinema as escapism - and why not? There is enough heavy duty life stuff in reality and on the news to deal with with without having to go to the cinema and get it all re-presented to you....Who cares if we live in a fariyland for a few hours?.....discuss.
Absolutely there is a link between genre and representation.
Genre defines representation or does representation define the genre? Hmmm....
Romcoms' chief target audience are generally the young out on dates (look at all that product placement of aspirational goods for those future earners)....discuss.

LeTelecabine said...

yeah, i'm saying there isn't one typical representation of britishness in british films? 'love actually' and say.....'sexy beast', are both british, but have totally different outlooks on life in britain? in reply to your question, i think the genre defines representation - pretty much every british romcom i've seen, paints a happy picture of britain, but in contrast, every british crime film i've seen represents britain in the total opoosite way - dark, gloomy and depressing. i suppose the representation in the film, reflects how the audience want to see britain? fans of crime films WANT to see gangsters, living in rundown east london, and fans of romcom WANT to see hugh grant in his penthouse overlooking the thames sipping tea?

Mr. M said...

Too true ski-lift, audience expectations (wants?) are very important to filmmakers working with 'genre' films, if they want to turn a profit. There are examples of romantic and funny films that don't go for the US formula and represent Britain in a different light but they don't make it to the multiplex.
Remember that representation is a two way process. We, as the audience, bring a huge amount of 'baggage' (politics, upbringing, beliefs, 'class', age, education) to the cinema and this influences the way we percieve those representations.

It is also one of the ways we define/recognise genre.


By the way, where are the rest of you on this, or anything else?

Don't just read - COMMENT!! :)

LeTelecabine said...

i'm going to have a small holiday from the blog now, and post again when someone else posts on here!

alexa said...

I think that RomComs show the settings which will attract the audience the most... and nearly everyting in a RomCom is attractive, the cast and the setting, for example I watched 'The Holiday' the other day. Half is set here in the UK and half in LA. The UK setting is the ideal of how americans picture Britain.... Picturesque houses (postcard) with long winding driveways, rustic beams and floral decorated bedrooms with a perfect splattering of christmas sonw. And in LA they have Cameron Diaz' house which is huuuge, minimalistic, designer, spacious and architectually fantastic... the ideal of how us Brits picture a LA mansion. Also the casting of the British characters are Kate Winslet and Jude Law - Kate Winslet is the quintiscential English Rose an icon of what a lot of people imagine english women to be like. Then there's Jude Law - the english gentleman (in this film) who happens to be very clever and funnily enough dashingly handsome.

Would RomComs be as successful if the characters and settings used were not attractive/pretty. There have been the Ugly Duckling romantic comedies.... however the actresses used as the 'ugly' character are lets face it never actually bad looking... and in the end they always have a make over and look gosh darnit beautiful and then everyone's amazed at their radient beauty which was there the whole time!!

Alex F

Paul Cook said...

I went to see, like Alexandra, Mr Bean's Holiday last night. All I can say is Majorly Disappointed...Awfully written and apart from Bean himself the acting is completely false,Especially Willem Dafoe, Oh Dear, after the awesome Inside Man, Dafoe has slid right downhill with this one.

In terms of a British Film, Bean, in my opinion isn't. It's Set almost entirely in France, with a dominantly French or American cast and mostly French dialogue. The writer, director and lead actor are all english but unfortunately these are the roots of the film's faults...writing and acting is rubbish...

IS ENGLISH COMEDY STARTING TO SLIDE SERIOUSLY DOWNHILL? Music and Lyrics and Bean suggest yes!

LeTelecabine said...

i haven't yet seen 'bean', but it doesn't sound to be getting any good feedback?! i guess the idea it's set in france would not usually be an issue of britishness? i mean, bond films are usually set abroad for the majority of the film? saying that, the first bean movie, even though he is a british icon, was extremely americanised? completely different to the original television series.

Paul Cook said...

Charlie - Don't bother with Bean! It's really naff...The whole foreigner abroad theme is really clear in Bean, and in some cases is really representative of Brit's abroad...For instance when Bean thanks any french person in the film, he says 'Gracias' which really mirror the stereotyped British tourist...

Mr. M said...

Alex, US romcoms (and by extension the Working Title ones) have always been very much about "beautiful" people, things and places. Aspirational stuff; giving the plebs something to look up to and things to buy. The ugly duckling ones are often the most poisonous of the lot, ideologically speaking. Telling us how we should (but not why) join the pack, "improve" and conform to a disturbingly uniform and set version of what is 'right'.


Paul/Alex, does Bean ask for chips with everything, whinge a lot and wear rolled up trousers on the beach?

Essentially the Bean movies are made for the international market whereas the vastly superior TV series (Richard Curtis and Ben Elton were co-writers) was made for the domestic market. It's now little more than a money making machine and the franchise is extremely profitable for Studio Canal, Working Title and Universal. Currently top of the GLOBAL box office rankings with $33.3 million so far from 26 territories; say no more, sadly. At least it provides loads of cash for WT to green light more interesting and challenging UK films.

alexa said...

well i think Bean's holiday shall be keeping plenty of kids under 10 happy these holidays! when i went to see it, they all loved it.

And yes Mr M, romcoms (americans) shall be like that until the end of time.

alexa said...

*I meant american romcoms, not generalising americans overall. Btw.

LeTelecabine said...

i went and saw 'mr bean's holiday' last night, and it appears general opinion is right. dreadful, dreadful film. a)the storyline was far too frustrating (losing his ticket, then his bag, then his passport, getting wrong train, losing the boy.. etc), b)there was hardly any dialogue, c)they used gags from the last bean film, AND other films/programmes, d)the ending was cringeworthy, e)it didn't make much sense...the list goes on. AND, on top of all that, we had a row of idiots behind us, and someone decided to SMOKE in the cinema too. not a good night!

with regards to britishness, it IS a british film, as the main star rowan atkinson is british, and most of the people behind it were british, but obviously there was a lot of french input too. part of me wants to deny it being british however, as it is a complete and utter embarrassment?

Mr. M said...

Yet Bean makes shedloads of cash, tops the global box office (for a week) and lets Working Title get on with the business of making 'proper' British films. Rowan Atkinson has become a goofy cash cow in tweed.

Anyone looking to restore their faith in British filmmaking should see Danny Boyle's new film Sunshine. Shot entirely in East London, cost a miniscule $40m to make but looks like a $200m movie. A genre film sure, but a damned good one.
Anyone else seen it?
What did you think?

Hayley B said...

I saw Sunshine last week after hearing all the hype about it through documentaries on filmfour about the director etc.

But yes i was really surprised with the whole look of the film, if i hadn't of known previously that it was a British film i would have assumed it was Hollywood almost straight away.
After doing some research into how British the film was, i found out that the producer is also born in England, as Mr M said it was entirely filmed in London, you cant really fault it on that aspect.

The actors are mainly N.Z born and American, apart from Irish born Cillian Murphey who takes a lead role. Overall though i would catorgrise the cast as 'Hollywood'.

Despite being an overall British film though, Boyle has really given Hollywood a run for its money with this film! I mean it looks so American, the special effects, the idea of going into space and saving the world (NASA) etcc, even the names of the characters sounds American, i.e Mace, Capa haha.

I really think that from a media point of view Sunshine is a major break through for Boyle and British films, and perhaps now we might see future British films trying to convey a total sense of Hollywood in their film? But for this sci fi genre it really fitted and worked.

However my personal opinion of the story, i can't say it had me hooked! :)

Mr. M said...

Welcome to the blogosphere Hayley - some interesting points made in your post...You're absolutely right about it looking like a Hollywood production.

What I like is that it has has those extremely high production values that we traditionally associate with big budget US studios but all done with local talent. Eg. the beautiful CGI all created here and for a fraction of the £'s that it would cost normally. Not going with a big US studio also gives Boyle much more creative freedom.

I also like that Boyle is a populist; not afraid to do genre films and take on Hollywood at the Multiplex. Shows that there can be a successful diversity in British filmmaking.

Or do people think we should 'stick to what we know'? and keep making period drama's, rom-coms, gangster flicks and gritty social realist stuff?
Your thoughts...

Neo said...

I also went to see Mr Beans holiday and was actually presently suprised as it wasn't too bad.

I think the British aspects clash heavily with French ones, such as comedy conventions that Mr. Bean uses to take the mick out of himself while the French people try to take themselves quite seriously.

I also think that it seems to be based on a more French audience as although we are all familiar with Mr Bean's stupidity it seems to further the stereotype that English people find it hard to embrace the culture of different countries and this is shown through the clumsiness and unluckiness of Bean himself. I also thought the idea of him filming the most mundane activities on holiday also played up to this idea.

I think overall it didn't convey to very many english virtues and although it gave a few cheap laughs, in my opinion the target audience for this film would ideally be an 11 year old French kid.

shell said...

i know this is about britsih films but mr m have you seen shooter? it has your favourite markie mark wahlberg in it, i thought it was quite good. havent seen a british film yet but i WILL be watching the queen before tuesday!

Luke said...

I saw Sunshine last night and was really disappointed by it. The character development in it was utterly pathetic, while the narrative was very predictable. Yes, the special effects were fantastic and it was a fresh sci-fi story that didn't revolve around aliens, but it just didn't have that spark in it that makes it gripping. Seeing as it was directed by Danny Boyle I was looking forward to it, after seeing the reasonable job he did on 28 days later. It was as if the director had been blinded by the glorious rays of the sun and fallen in love with the idea of it,forgetting that he needed to include some decent dialogue - as there were no real periods of calm there was no intense suspense in it. From its appearance you would never know that it was a British film, as although the budget was not immense, the whole look of it was very glossy and upmarket, but obviously this was not enough to save it. It reminded me of the film, The Core, which had a similar theme (except they were restarting the earth's magnetic field). This also had nothing notable to merit it, although it must be said, it was even worse than Sunshine. As for it being a British film, I don't think it rates that highly, for the only British actor was Mark Strong, with the rest being American, Australian, Japanese or Irish. While you can argue it was totally produced by UK production companies and shot entirely in the UK, it was distributed by different nations and the overall feel hardly exudes Britishness - then again, does a British film have to feature someone having tea and scones and saying "golly, gosh, these are spiffing Marjorie"?

Luke said...

Sorry, I wrote my rant before reading the previous discussion about Sunshine!!! doh. Anyway, I think it would be best if Britain continued making what it is good at - it will never be able to compete properly with Hollywood, as it does not have the budget. Although budget is not everything, we clearly do not have the facilities to make other action-adventure or sci-fi films out of the studio. To me Sunshine was a poor imitation of what Hollywood is generally good at when it comes to sci-fi e.g. the film, Aliens. I don't see Britain even remotely being able to follow in Hollywood's footsteps because our expertise lies elsewhere. The only way I think it could really work is if Britain teams up with Hollywood or another country with expertise, e.g. Sergio Leone's American funded spaghetti westerns filmed in Spain.

alexa said...

I thought the effects were good in Sunshine, but i thought the emphasise on getting in as many effects as possible took over the importance of a good script and building characters which the audience are actually going to warm to and actually care if they get blown up in the sun or not.

I think it was just one of those films at the end and feel a bit "meh" cos it didn't really blow you away and your expectations were a lot higher.

Overall - Didn't hate it, Didn't love it.

LeTelecabine said...

have you already seen 'the queen' yet shell? i haven't - is it any good?

Mr. X said...

Mr. Bean was atrocious. The majority of the humour demanded fake laughing. Meanwhile, those endless jumpy shots from the point of view of Bean's video camera became unbelievably annoying.

On another unrelated point, Working Title do not solely work with British films. I also saw the Coen Brother's 'O Brother Where Art Thou?' which was a Working Title production. I don't know why these American film makers turned to our grey, insignificant little island. However I'm sure there is a perfectly good reason.

Sarah said...

i saw Scenes of a sexual nature and really enjoyed it. there isnt much of a plot and no real story line just following a load of couples for a day on hampstead heath. i found it really interesting and easy viewing. pretty much the whole cast and crew and british and it's set in the capital making it in my opinion a british film. i've also seen notes on a scandle which was very dark but really good.

Mr. M said...

Indeed there are a number of reasons Mr. X. Believe it or not, many American filmmakers enjoy working away from the constraits placed on them by the Hollywood system. The Coen brothers as independent and pretty unique auteurs (with some recent exceptions) struck up a strong (and lucrative) relationship with Working Title and have used them since 1991 with Barton Fink. More greats like Fargo, The Big Leboswki and The Man Who Wasn't There followed. Brilliant filmmakers who need to get back to their best after the patchy Intolerable Cruelty and Ladykillers remake. Are you a fan of their stuff?

Sarah, how was Catherine Tate's big screen debut in 'Scenes of a Sexual Nature'? How about Ewan McGregor? Different sort of role for him?

Sarah said...

i'm not sure i liked Ewan as a homosexual but he played it quite convincingly. and Catherine Tate was really good, i liked her character and enjoyed seeing her in a more serious role.

Mr. M said...

McGregor is certainly a pretty versatile actor; from Jedi Knight, Glaswegian junkie, gay cruiser on Hampstead Heath; the list goes on.

One of the finest British actors of his generation? What do people think?

Anyone seen his first big feature debut in 'Shallow Grave'? - great little low budget black comedy by Danny Boyle. A must see for the 'interviewing for a flatmate' montage alone - brilliant.

Tom said...

Two things. Firstly, after seeing Scenes of a Sexual nature i have to say that it is undeniably British. I saw this movie as lots of different Romantic Comedies all combined and taking place within one movie. The only thing linking them together being the setting (Hampstead Heath, incidently this is also the only setting) and the Guy who tries to hit on the character Anna. It has all the aspects of a traditional British rom-com, in a series of mini stories. A rental date, a chance meeting between an old couple in love, a cheeky 20-ish year old trying to chat up every female he meets and a perverted married man who cant help but look elsewhere even when his wife is sitting with him. In a sense i saw it as a 90 minute round up of British romantic comedies over the past 10 years. It wasn't really my sort of movie, but i could appreciate the work of the director on such a low budget, and the actors must've clearly had faith in the idea as they werent paid upfront, but had a share in profits. Part of the budget was even gained from him mortgaging his house!

Secondly, i agree that Ewan Mcgregor is a great actor. One of my favotite performances by him was in The Island. But for me the best British actor of the moment is Clive Owen! I think recently, with Children of Men and Inside Man in particular, he has really come into his own as a serious actor.

Mayes

LĂ©onie said...

i too agree Ewan is a great actor. He is extremely versatile. You only have to compare his performance in train spotting and moulin rouge to see that.

As for British cinema competing with American, i think its good in some respects but why should we try and copy them with big budget films, CGI and action? why cant we compete with them with our own style rather than attempting to copy theirs. Maybe if the public became more accustomed to British work it would become more popular and a worthy rival to Hollywood.

alexp said...

Well i chose to watch a Guy Ritchie classic, 'Snatch'. In this film, the audience is given the chance to view the darker side of Britain, which is very popular within foreign audiences. The environment is very distinctive as it is comprised of dingy, grey skied suburbs and stereotypical British skin head gangsters. A majority of the cast is British, as is director Guy Ritchie. Actors such as Jason Statham, Alan Ford and Stephen Graham are all British but others such as Brad Pitt and Dennis Farina are American which does little to aid the British connotations. British slang is also included such as 'blagged' as it is again distinctive and recognisable to all audiences.

The British wit is also employed as it adds a little comic relief to the reality of being a gangster in London. One such example, "I thought you said he was a getaway driver, what the f*ck can he get away from!". Fantastic British film which is almost completely British in my view.

Mr. M said...

I agree Tom, Inside Man was a great film and Owen was excellent. Certainly helped his US profile. Children of Men was also a compelling film. One outstanding extended tracking shot during the urban firefight near the end; masterful. Did you see him in Closer?

Leonie - I have to agree with you on the whole although I don't think we should discount certain genres because they might be seen as 'american'. So long as we put our own distinctive twist on things. Stay away from the saccharine endings and I'd be happy.

There are serious problems showing the British public the worth of British films when they can't physically see them though. Case in point is the release today of 'This is England'; Not showing in Ipswich or Bury big chains as far as I can see. Scandalous. The multiplexes should be ashamed of themselves. Once again the masses stay stupefied by the relentless juggernaut and cultural imperialism of the Hollywood machine. Rant over.

Alex, no doubt Snatch is a British film but what about some of the visual style? Ritchies' flair is certainly distinctive but definitely influenced by MTV style edits and slick violence(surely a US import; the brits have always been grittier in this respect). It also has the A list Brad Pitt element. That said, I thought he was pretty good as the indecipherable bare-knuckle boxer. Could they have not cast a local though?? Why would they cast him??

ps. Where are the rest of you slackers?