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Non-Review Review: A Hidden Life

A Hidden Life is both surprisingly moving and about an hour too long.

Writer and director Terrence Malick bases A Hidden Life around the true story of Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter. During the Second World War, Jägerstätter was called up to serve in the armed forces. He refused to swear an oath of loyalty to Hitler, and so was punished for his pacifism. It’s a weighty and important story, and Malick ensures that any contemporary relevance will not be lost on viewers. A Hidden Life grapples with that most fundamental of questions, what it means to be a good person in a fallen world and how the measure of such morality might be taken.

Going to grass…

As one might expect from Malick, A Hidden Life is shot and edited in a rather disjointed and impressionist fashion. The film often feels like a waking dream. Scenes are not always clearly delineated, often beginning in the middle of abstract conversations that then play over atmospheric establishing shots like some sort of historical stream of consciousness. It’s an approach that has defined a lot of Malick’s later work, but is perhaps best seen as an outgrowth from Tree of Life. That sort of emotive and drifting storytelling style works oddly well when applied what is both a linear story and a familiar historical milieu.

The big problem with A Hidden Life is that it feels highly repetitive and redundant, particularly in its final ninety minutes. Rather than advancing or developing his thesis, Malick spends the final ninety minutes of the film just bluntly restating it over and over. It is exhausting, and not necessarily in the way that a film about the virtues of peaceful protest in an unjust world should be.

Peak Malick?

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The Top 30 Under-Reported News Stories of 2012…

Today is a very special day. We’re officially a third of the way through 2012. It’s been a pretty solid year for movies, and it’s been an interesting year for movie news. However, some news stories haven’t had quite the traction that I would have expected, and might have passed readers by. So, to celebrate getting through the first third of 2012, here’s the 30 most underreported movie-related news stories of 2012.

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Non-Review Review: Casa De Mi Padre

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012. It was the first “surprise” film.

Will Ferrell’s Casa De Mi Padre is perhaps the most esoterical comedy ever produced. The comedian has his legion of loyal fans, but it’s difficult to imagine that there’s a large crossover between those who enjoy Ferrell’s work and those with an affection for Mexican telenovelas. Filmed in “Mexico Vision”, with pretty much all of the dialogue in Spanish (rather than, as one DEA agent puts it, “American”), the movie displays an astonishing commitment to its basic premise, which is effectively one joke sustained over its runtime. I can sense already that Ferrell’s latest project will be his most divisive to date, dividing film fans into “love it” or “hate it” camps. I fall strongly into the former.

A que no me alcanzas!

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The Art of Compromise: Picking the Family Christmas Movie…

Christmas is a fun time in my household. We pack in the entire extended family for a day of fun and celebration, a nice dinner, some drinks. They stay over for a night or two and we do all the usual family activities. Christmas night, we watch a movie. St. Stephen’s night, we play a game of Texas Hold ‘Em Poker. As you can imagine, finding a movie that thirteen-odd people will sit down and enjoy in a crowded sitting room by the fire, glasses of wine and popcorn handy, is no mean feat. And, I admit with some measure of pride, the task is assigned to me: I’m the one asked to come up with a suitable movie for the Christmas evening. And, as much as it’s a fun task, it’s also a daunting one.

Ghosts of Christmas past...

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Non-Review Review: Tree of Life

Terence Malick’s Tree of Life stems from the beginning of the universe to “the end of time.”It’s hard to imagine any film with a similar scope, let alone one focused on the troublesome relationship between a nuclear family in the mid-to-late-twentieth century. The easiest way to summarise Malick’s epic yet intimate drama is describe it as a profound meditation on the history of the cosmos, reflected through a child’s coming-of-age tale. Confused? I don’t blame you. I’m slightly confused and I just watched the damn thing.

A beautiful sequence of images...

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Can a Good Film Be Too Long?

Man, I watched Apocalypse Now Redux last weekend, and my butt is still a little bit numb. Clocking in at well over three hours, I couldn’t help but find my attention wandering, despite the fact that I was deeply interested in the story unfolding in front of me. Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, which I am very much looking forward to, hasn’t opened over here yet, but there are already rumours circulating at a cut of the movie over six hours long. As much as I want to see the film, and as much of the director’s vision as I might want to take in, I can’t help but feel that 360+ minutes might just be too long for a single sitting.

You could nearly grow a tree during the length of Malick's proposed six-hour cut...

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