This blog began in 1997 as a single news page called Nucelus. In 2005, during a long wait to move into a new house, I decided to learn some php and MySQL and write my own blogging system, which became inkyBlog and which now powers this, my own Webbledegook blog.
Thank you to my brother, Murray Ewing, for help with some of the more challenging aspects!
A recent Guardian article takes the position that long-time Tintin fans hate the film, think it is an atrocity, even, while those who know little or nothing of the character have loved it. Being a long-time Tintin fan myself ("and not just one who wears some wearisome t-shirt", as I was once described in a mid-nineties comics fanzine!) I have to say that I greatly enjoyed the film, and I know other serious Tintin fans who also confound the Guardian's view (the newspaper has been singular in publishing a barrage of negative Tintin film reviews - it's practically an editorial stance!).
So, is the film a slap in the face of Hergé, Tintin's creator? I can't see that it is. The film oozes love for this Belgian phenomenon and is very far from being some kind of cash-in. It has an atmosphere of authenticity that carries the story confidently through the changes that must inevitably come with any book-to-film adaptation.
First and foremost there is the question of the animation - Hergé's trademark ligne claire style has not been re-rendered and projected on to the screen. Instead we have CGI motion capture, where actors play out the action in a green-screened room wearing fetching skin-tight lycra suits. I think CGI has worked great for films such as Toy Story and Monsters Inc., where human beings play a minor role and the threat of the 'uncanny valley' is less intrusive, but it is often too distracting to be successful where actual people need to be depicted - why not just use people?
I have to say I was impressed with the CGI on Tintin - it's the best I've yet seen and it created a world in which I felt comfortably immersed. It isn't perfect by any means - there is still that odd weightlessness to the characters (though not so often) and sometimes I found myself marvelling at the detail on a character's close-up when I should have been listening to what they were saying, but that's a minor criticism. The characters felt familiar right away, whereas with live actors we'd have had to get over the shock of strangers, maybe even impostors, in the roles. Only Castafiore unbalanced me slightly; she looked like the plastic surgeons had been stretching away any wrinkles for a few years, though, actually, that may fit with her character. For me, it worked well enough - I even found the technical wizardry an enjoyable element on top of everything else.
What about the story? Spielberg and his writers have departed from a frame-by-frame adaptation and have instead conflated two war books, The Crab With The Golden Claws (1941) and The Secret of the Unicorn (1943), plus a chunk of original material. Is this heresy? No, in fact I think it's probably necessary. A comic is not a film and a film is not a comic (despite what some people may think) and a film could never reproduce the intimacy that exists between the reader and a page of bande dessinée. A film director does almost everything for the viewer, who becomes a largely uninvolved witness to events on the screen; voices, unknown or too well-known, are prescribed; music tells you what and when to feel, and you are taken through the story at twenty-four frames per second with no steering wheel of your own. This is not at all a bad thing, indeed, it can be highly enjoyable, but it is a different experience from reading Hergé, where the voices of Tintin and Haddock are called from within, from a reality that is all your own, where your emotions are left to react quite naturally to events and, though the author will guide and nudge, you are given the reigns to traverse the story as you please.
Because the mediums are so different it would be foolish, I think, to expect the experience of the albums to be replicated through the camera. We have the books, they are brilliant and will not be interfered with, and there can be little doubt that more people will be led to them after seeing the film. The film is good but it is not as good as Hergé's originals - his plots have time to breathe and develop and, more specifically, The Secret of the Unicorn and its sequel, Red Rackham's Treasure, benefit from a careful logic that is ultimately far more satisfying.
As a thing apart, the film works very nicely. The opening is a joy and you feel as though you have entered a world that honestly mirrors the books. It really picks up once Tintin is aboard the Karaboudjan and doesn't let up for a good while. One new scene, where Sakharine (elevated to the role of major antagonist) employs an unwitting Castafiore and a hawk to obtain the third model Unicorn, I really enjoyed, and the ensuing chase scene is fun, if rather ridiculous.
On the less-positive side, I did feel as though things fell slightly flat once everyone was back at port, with the police awaiting Sakharine and the strangely unexciting crane-fight that followed. And if you know the books, you can't help but feel the loss of the scenes with Tintin exploring the wreck of the Unicorn in the shark submarine and the island where the Haddock idol is discovered - wonderful stuff (from Red Rackham's Treasure, a book that supplies only its ending for the film). I also didn't quite feel the Thom(p)sons lived up to themselves, though they were amusing enough (edit: Gremkoska on Twitter reminded me of Snowy - I'd like to add that I thought Snowy looked a little weird, and didn't really work for me either). To balance that out, however, Allan is really well portrayed (well-rendered, you might say!).
All in all, the Tintin film is a very good thing, highly enjoyable, made with heart, and it's positive for both the Tintin books and, hopefully, comics in general. The one aspect I do dislike is the cheaper end of the merchandising, especially with things like the McDonalds tie-in. There's a lot of speculation as to whether Hergé would approve of Spielberg's adaptation (no one can know, my feeling is that he'd love it) but where Happy Meals are concerned I suspect his reaction may well be similar to the wild disapproval he exhibited when told that Tintin's face had been licensed to grace the inside of a child's potty - though that time, luckily, it turned out to be a joke played by studio colleagues!
Do go and see the film if you can. Enjoy it for what it is and come back, perhaps, with a deeper appreciation for those wonderful books.
The first, King Kong (1933), has just been edited and posted over at the Adventure Films Podcast blog. Yesterday we recorded our discussion of The Man Who Would Be King, and that will be up in about a week or so. Be sure to leave a comment and let us know what you think!
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) : Hidden Fortress (1958)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) : Time Bandits (1981)
Lost Horizon (1937) : Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
She (1935) : The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)
I have a very specific definition for what I term an 'adventure film', though I must say it's a definition that is rather fuzzy round the edges, and I find it difficult to pin down in words. It's got something to do with having to go on a journey, maybe a quest of some kind, and it's got something to do with starting out in the ordinary and being led off into the extraordinary. It may also have something to do with genre to some degree - The Lord of the Rings trilogy are definitely adventure films, but I don't quite categorise them as such due to the fact they take place in a fantasy world. Likewise, The Guns of Navarone or A Bridge Too Far are adventure films but, for me, the category of 'war film' trumps the category of 'adventure film'.
If you have any suggestions for good adventure films, please do let me know!
Edit: My brother and I have turned this idea into a series of podcast discussions on each of the the ten films. Click here for the archive.
The story tells of an elderly couple from a countryside town who make a rare journey into the capital to visit their children, all seemingly successful in the big city, but in fact a rung or two below the glamour that may have been hoped for. Another reality is that their children are too busy (or rather, use that as an excuse) to give their parents much attention, resulting in them, at one point, being packed off to a health spa for a few days. The only one who shows the couple any real amity is Noriko, the young widow of their son, killed in the war (beautifully played by Setsuko Hara).
The pace of the film is wonderfully slow and steady, giving you time to eat up the details of residential post-war Tokyo (almost all low-shot interiors), as well as to reflect on the scenes as you're watching them. Another technique that pulls you into the lives of the characters is the unusual view of people talking directly to you, as if you were the other person in the conversation. This is an Ozu trademark and can, at first, be a little jarring with the dialogue sounding somewhat staccato (because of the cuts), but you quickly become used to it and I find it engaging.
One of the things I love about Japanese cinema from this era is the restrained emotion under dramatic circumstances. I find it also in many classic black and white-era British films, and masterfully done in some of the later silent-era pictures, A Woman of Paris being an excellent example. There is so much over-acting these days and, to me, most television acting is rendered almost unwatchable as yet another character sighs heavily, stutters their words or rolls their eyes in order to hammer their emotions into the viewer. In films such as Tokyo Story, when real emotion does eventually spill over the barrier, it has veritable impact. The same goes for the camera, it just observes, it doesn't need to fly around all over the place, but when it does deviate, it has greater effect (a philosophy I adhere to in my own comic storytelling).
The NFT are currently showing a season of Ozu's films which runs until 27 February 2010.
To quote from the Edna's Place blog:
"This book is about her lost 1926 film, directed by Josef von Sternberg, who would later create "The Blue Angel" starring Marlene Dietrich. This would be the only film produced by Charlie Chaplin that did not feature Chaplin as director or actor. The film would never be seen by the public, and the story behind its creation and demise is fascinating. The book features over 50 recently discovered, and never-before-published production still photos from the film."
Linda has dedicated years to the study of the wonderful Edna Purviance and has discovered so much about Edna that was not previously known. Some of it appears in this book, but there is so much more that will one day appear in the Edna biography she is also working on. If you have any interest in film, film-making or silent film and the people that made them, go and check out this book.
Less enjoyable was Serenity, watched on DVD. I'd heard only good things about this so was disappointed to find the characters fairly clichéd action types, and a storyline where every next move was expected. I need less teeth-gritting, gun-toting characters with a dark past please. Unless done as well as Bond in Casino Royale.
|"The Press of England seems literally to have gone mad over the cinema star, Charlie Chaplin, and so have other people. Thus the Mayor of Southampton received him publicly on his arrival from America. Hideous pictures are published too of this very undistinguished-looking person, surrounded by crowds with folly stamped on every face. It really is extraordinary and as the Morning Post points out a great testimony of the power of the Publicity Agent who is working up all this excitement underneath."
I hoped to see some mention of Rider Haggard in Chaplin's autobiography, but the only thread-thin connection I'm aware of is a photo of Charlie seated next to actress Alice Delysia, who played Ayesha in a 1916 version of Haggard's 'She'. Haggard was not beyond enjoying filmed versions of his own work, but was plagued by those who sought to adapt them illegally. Of the 1916 version Haggard wrote (5 Jun 1916) "The She film is going very well, nearly two million people having paid to see it already."
Here's a link
Here's a linkto a related entry.
'Batman Begins' was okay, but generally rather dull. It hit a low-point early on when Liam Neeson (I think it was him, I mix them all up, those actors) said something in the monastery about being able to hide in the shadows, then I think he clicked his fingers and twenty ninjas dropped to the floor from the ceiling-beams where they'd been hiding, possibly since lunchtime. I did actually quite enjoy it, but it had many tiresome moments.
'A Life Aquatic' always looked intriguing, though I'd heard mixed reviews. But I have to say I thought it was really very good indeed. It had a nice upbeat feeling to it, was very quirky and I couldn't get over Willem Defoe being a German nerd. It even had a kind of hidden pirate base on an abandoned island. A lovely film.
And last night we saw 'Churchill (The Hollywood Years)'. I hadn't read any good reviews of this, I don't think, and mainly wanted to see it after reading about Antony Sher playing Hitler (see this funny little story from his book 'Primo Time'). But the film totally surprised me by being very funny indeed and full of some wonderful performances, particularly from Leslie Phillips, Harry Enfield and Antony Sher. It was a very traditional British comedy in a way, sort of the Comic Strip meets Ealing Studios, perhaps even a little Carry On, but with more swearing and explosions. It must have been inspired in particular by that whole Enigma machine thing in 'U-571', and perhaps just a few other films as well.