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Non-Review Review: The Two Popes

Very few movie disintegrate so completely and thoroughly across their runtime as The Two Popes.

The Two Popes feels like two different movies, both tonally opposed to one another and both bleeding relentlessly into one another. The first is a delightfully surreal Odd Couple riff (The Odd Pope-le? Vicious in the Vatican?) that finds two men who would be pope forced to interact with one another, their mutual unease inevitably transforming to a gentle understanding and even compassion. The second is a more earnest historical biography, a film that aims to properly contextualise the life and times of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the man who would be Pope Francis.

The robe less travelled.

Both of these premises are workable on their own. Of course, the first premise has a bit of an advantage in that “throw two great British actors into scenes together” tends to result in highly watchable material, and “… also, they’re both popes” is a pretty impressive chaser to that. In contrast, the historical biography section of the film is a bit more generic and familiar, even if there’s potential here. After all, this ground has been explored in films as compelling as The Secrets in Their Eyes.

The problem is that the two films don’t mix, at all. Every attempt to combine them hurts the film as a whole, both stopping the narrative dead and representing a jarring transition from one type of film into another and back again. It isn’t that The Two Popes allows these stories to collide, it instead tries to run them in parallel. The result is a narrative traffic jam, and a film in which each half hour is appreciably weaker than the one leading into it.

Good faith arguments.

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The Vatican and Cinema…

A whole host of on-line news sources have jumped upon the review of Avatar which appeared in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official daily paper – though it’s been somewhat distorted as it filters through the the huge game of Chinese whispers that is the internet. The paper wasn’t exactly thrilled with the movie’s political undertones, but it acknowledged, as we all must, that it was incredibly beautiful. It’s just interesting how the Vatican’s opinions on popular culture – such as the reversal of their position on the paganism of the Harry Potter series, for example – have become an interesting point of discussion and on-line debate over the last year or so.

Look, kids! Priests can be hip, like... Ewan McGregor, right? The kids still like Ewan McGregor, don't they?

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