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Non-Review Review: Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace (3D)

In 1999, after decades of anticipation, George Lucas unleashed Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The response was… less than enthusiastic. After years of heightened anticipation, during which the original trilogy had been built up to near mythical status, anything less than the second coming was going to disappoint viewers. I think it is reasonable to say that The Phantom Menace fell well short of that particular target. That said, I’ve always felt a bit of sympathy for the first of the prequel trilogy. Not enough to label it as a good film (it really isn’t), but enough to argue that the fairly fundamental and central flaws do mask a number of virtues. Those virtues don’t quite redeem the film, but they do make the end result a lot more fascinating than most would concede it to be.

Schindler’s miffed…

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Non-Review Review: Surviving Life (Theory and Practice)

Surviving Life, from director Jan Svankmajer, is a strange beast. It opens with an introduction from the director, in which – using an animation style that looks like a bizarre and strangely compelling blend of Terry Gilliam’s work on Monty Python and South Park – he apologises to the audience for the presentation. I can’t tell if he’s being serious or not, and if his somewhat bitter complaints about his inability to find proper financing are a post-modern twist on the cliché of the misunderstood arthouse director, or a straight example of it. “Sadly, our civilisation has no time for dreams,” he claims with dour seriousness, and an uncomfortable confidence. “There’s no money in them.” Stating that he intended to produce the film as a live-action piece of cinema, he repeatedly states that this is not how he imagined the film. “So this is not a formal experiment,” he tells us, “just a poor imperfect substitute for a live action film.”It’s a shame, because the animation is the best thing about the film.

The direct approach...

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