An Ode to the Highly Stylised Movie

While in life I generally enjoy things that have a natural, more organic feel to them, on the big screen I have something of a fondness for the highly stylised movie. It’s theatre meets film in all of its over the top grandeur and opulence. I recently watched the 2012 version of Anna Karenina with Kiera Knightly, more because I was in the mood for extravagant costumes than anything else. I had a vague recollection of the movie not garnering the best of reviews and, let’s face it, Anna Karenina isn’t the lightest, most uplifting of tales, so imagine my surprise to find this a most energetic and colorful retelling of one of literatures most tragic heroines. The opening sequences, in all their choreographed whimsy, immediately set the stage, quite literally as it happens, for a very different telling of a tragic tale. The characters move from a theatre setting to outside locations and back again, weaving in and out of the wings with conversations taking  place amidst the ropes and pulleys of backstage. People move in tandem or become stationary to highlight conversations, one scene will blend seamlessly into the next while a new backdrop slides down as if on stage. Now, one could argue that so much artifice does not do Tolstoy’s book justice and indeed it is far too flashy to be able to underscore doomed romance, the stifling lives of women and hypocrisy in the aristocracy, but, I’m sorry, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. If you are able to let the movie stand on its own outside of the context of Leo Tolstoy’s novel you can thoroughly enjoy the fact that exquisite and beautifully stylised new life has been breathed into what can often be a heavy, mopey period piece.

~ Down with Love   A fabulous send up of the fifties style Rock Hudson and Doris Day classics (think Pillow Talk) in all their brightly coloured, fabulously dressed style. Barbara Novak (Renee Zellweger) is the best selling author of a book which encourages women to be more independent and ditch serious relationships with men in favour of  flirty, casual sex. In short, she encourages women to act more like men, much to the horror of men everywhere. Along comes womanizing journalist Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor) who decides to make her fall in love with him and expose her as a fraud. Things, of course, don’t go quite according to plan which makes for a whole lot of glamourous, tongue-in-cheek, flirty fun.

~Moulin Rouge!  Remember this little gem? Satine (Nicole Kidman) a dancer at the famous French dance hall, falls in love with penniless writer Christian (Ewan MacGregor again). The course of true love never did run smooth however and our young lovers must contend with a dastardly Duke intent on making Satine his own and whose money is desperately needed to keep the club afloat. Jim Broadbent has a grand turn as an overly rouged owner of the  hall and John Leguizamo is pure genius as Toulouse-Lautrec. I can’t think of anything better to epitomize the highly stylized movie. It flirts with cheesiness and wobbles into the silly but it’s also unapologetically bold and brash and every campy little flourish of artifice seduces you and pulls you along for a dazzlingly garish, Bollywood style ride. And oh, the music. Pure magic!

~Eight Women A fifties era Technicolour dream of a movie. This is a spoof on the English Country House Murder, French style. Rich patriarch Marcel is found dead in his bed with a knife in his back by the (rather sexy) maid. Meanwhile, downstairs are Marcel’s ice queen wife, neurotic spinster sister-in-law, feisty mother-in-law, two high-spirited daughters, a housekeeper and his sister, the black sheep of the family. With no tell-tale tracks in the snow outside (the movie is set at Christmas) one of these eight women must have committed the murder. When they discover that the phone line has been cut, the car has been tampered with and the gate to the outside world won’t open due to all the snow, they find themselves stranded. And so the fun begins. Evening gloves are peeled off to reveal some rather sharp claws. Everybody, it turns out, has something to hide. Along the way scandalous secrets are spilled, truths are discovered and lies revealed. Resplendent in cheeky wit, intoxicating glamour and hilariously sung songs, this movie takes campy and cat fights to a whole new level. C’est magnifique!

~Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels This happens to be one of my all time favourite movies. It’s a Tarantinoesque caper film by Guy Ritchie, full of freeze frames, slow motion sequences and voice overs. A group of London friends find themselves in debt to one very unsavory character, Harry Hatchet. With one week to come up with the cash, they embark on a scheme to rob the small-time gang who lives next door. What ensues is comedy of error chaos. Lots of plot twists, shootings and tongue-in -cheek fun. Fair warning, this is chockablock with violence but it’s so flipping hilarious. And there’s a cameo by Sting!

Also fabulous:

~ The Limey

~Grand Budapest Hotel Goofy, eccentric and just downright delightful.

~O, Brother Where Art Thou George Clooney at his funniest. Well, George Clooney. Enough said.

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