In February I didn’t see as many new-to-me films as I would have liked as I rewatched a lot of films I’d already seen. However, I did watch a great deal of British films I hadn’t seen before, and you can see the full list of new-to-me movies I watched during February here. This is only the second month of my challenge, but I feel that over the past two months, my knowledge of actors and directors has really grown. In March however I am going to attempt to watch a lot more movies, and watch more silent movies during that month too.
Like last month, here are my top five films of February and my brief commentary on why I liked them and how they contributed to my appreciation of film.
5) To The Wonder (Terrence Mallick, 2013)
It is not possible to criticise the beauty of a Terrence Malick film, and To The Wonder is no exception. There is little dialogue throughout the film, and instead the story is explored through a feast of stunning visuals. There are lingering shots of the couple (at first Neil and Marina, and then after Marina leaves Neil, the story focuses on the relationship between Neil and old flame Jane), as they stroll through tall, wispy wheat, paddle through the pearly ocean foam, and take daughter Tatiana on a tour through the luscious Parisian Mont Saint-Michel. One of the most notable and beautiful visual shots is the recurring glimpses of the sun as it emerges from behind the trees, lingering majestically on the horizon. According to Nick Pinkerton who reviewed the film in the March 2013 Sight and Sound, the sun acts as the “manifestation of Malick’s deeply personal conviction… that the sun is God”. For Malick, like his other films such as The Tree of Life (2011), To The Wonder is very personal, and that comes across in the beautiful cinematography of dp Emmanuel Lubezki (who also worked on The Tree of Life). The storyline isn’t always easy to follow, and there will be moments where you have to think carefully about what you’re watching, but the film is beautifully charming. Although previously I wasn’t much of a Malick fan, after seeing To The Wonder I would love to see more of his films (although unfortunately, to date there aren’t many of them).
4) Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996)
Admittedly it has taken me a long time to watch Trainspotting. I had only ever seen the scene where Ewan McGregor slips down the toilet into the fantasy scene, and I’d seen that scene numerous times. I watched it in my film class however and loved it so much I went straight out and bought the definitive edition dvd. The movie is a brilliant landmark of Scottish cinema, exploring the working class side of Britain, with an urban-reflecting soundtrack and some of the best Scottish stars to date, most notably Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle. Danny Boyle likewise is a brilliant Oscar-winning British director and I think Trainspotting without a doubt is his best film. The movie breaks the traditional portrayal of Scotland with great highlands, tartan kilts and bagpipes, and instead replaces it with drugs, crime, poverty and violence. If you want to find out what Britain is really like, watch Trainspotting, because there is a lot more truth in the opening scene than in any American representation of Scotland or indeed Britain.
3) Anna Karenina (Joe Wright, 2012)
I had wanted to see Anna Karenina for a very long time and was finally given the chance to watch it when the dvd was released this month. It’s no surprise that the film was nominated for (and won) a best costume award at the Oscars. If you are fond of heritage cinema and period dramas, then Anna Karenina is one to watch for its classy period costumes, first-rate acting (most notably Keira Knightley), the sweeping cinematography through the ballroom scene, and the elegantly harmonic score. There were a few scenes where there was a straight yellow tint to the character’s faces that appeared to be the result of bad lighting, but nevertheless, the film was visually gorgeous.
2) Song For Marion (Paul Andrew Williams, 2013)
Song For Marion is a delightful British tale about a choir of elderly people called ‘the OAPz’ led by singing tutor Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton) as she attempts to encourage grumpy Arthur (Terence Stamp) into supporting his wife Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) as she enters the choir, despite being struck down with cancer. Despite the tender issues the film explores, the film is told in a light-hearted way, reinforcing the positive side of ageing in focusing on the community aspects of this group of elderly friends and the ways in which they grow to support one another. The film features some brilliant songs as the OAPz dress up in ghetto gear to perform Let’s Talk About Sex and in their punk fashion as they sing a rendition of Ace of Spades and features charming comedic moments to lighten the tone of the otherwise sensitive moments. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and thought Terence Stamp, Gemma Arterton and Vanessa Redgrave were all fantastic in it. It is, without a doubt, one of my favourite movies of 2013 so far, and I highly recommend it if you enjoyed films such as Quartet (2012) and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012).
1) An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)
An Education was a fantastic film following protagonist Jenny (Carey Mulligan) as she verges on the boundary between childhood innocence and the adult world, being lured into a world of high class culture by paedophile David (Peter Sarsgaard) in the process. Carey Mulligan appeared to be very young in this film compared to how much older she looked in Never Let Me Go (2010) which was released only a year later. She’s an absolutely mesmerising actress and has really developed a strong acting career over the past few years suggesting she is a very promising actress. I absolutely loved An Education; the storyline was engaging, surprising and intelligent, the acting was superb (starring some of the best British actors), and I think more people should give this film a go if you want to see one of the best in contemporary British cinema.