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Monday, 8 November 2004

Troy vs Mona Lisa Smile

This weekend the whole family sat down twice to watch films on the DVD player. On Friday evening we watched 'Troy' starring Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana, Diane Kruger, Peter O'Toole etc. Now, when I watched this film I had read no reviews of it whatsoever, and had been vaguely aware of all the hype surrounding it. So, I began watching with a totally open mind. It's very long - 160 minutes. With some films that would be a good thing - with this one, it was too much. A bit of editing would have been helpful. Some of the dodgy lines, and over-egged scenes could have been cut. The battle scenes looked like remakes of the best bits of 'Lord of the Rings' without the strange creatures. I did enjoy watching the film - sort of! But it was so poorly scripted, and crass in its use of standard dramatic plot-lines. Does Hollywood really have to use the same formulas all the time - even when they are working with one of the oldest and greatest mythical narratives we have in the western world? The presence of a baby (Hector's son) as the dramatic prop designed to make us feel the impending dread of the invasion of Troy, was just too manipulative. All in all it could have been so much better than it was. With such an amazing story it should have been a better film. Mis-casting, and over-acting combined with dodgy direction to make a really clumsy film. If you want to see the worst bit, cut to Brad Pitt as Achilles staggering across the floor as he dies, pulling arrows from his chest. Please! It was just too much like a really awful spaghetti western.

Last night we sat down again and watched 'Mona Lisa Smile'. This time I was impressed. I'd heard this film described as 'Dead Poets Society' with women instead of boys. The comparison is inevitable, but I found the theme of feminism and the status of women in 1950s America really well handled. Julia Roberts was brilliant in the lead role. She underplays beautifully, giving space to the rest of the cast, leaving a clear impression of this character that she plays, someone who is struggling against a system, but with a share of doubts.

The scenes in the classroom are really well put together. The cast of girls (Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer Goodwin) in the class that she teaches 'Art History 100' to, are brilliant. On the DVD there is a short documentary film where the actresses give their reactions to some of the art that is in the film. It's interesting to see them being interviewed - and see the changes from character to actress. And Juliet Stephenson as the school nurse is brilliant - dismissed from the film far too soon. This is a film well worth watching - and I didn't find myself laughing at scenes that weren't meant to be funny, which I did with 'Troy'.

As I type this I am listening to 'Genevieve' by Scott Walker - marvellous! It's amazing to be alive with so much culture around me to absorb.

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