The Month In Movies: March

Like every other year The Award season ended with the Oscars, and the films for the new season shyly began to arrive. The first productions hitting our screens are sharing a common characteristic: they belong to the group of those films conceived to earn awards and honours, but their result wasn’t promising enough as to finance the costly promotional campaign needed for that purpose; some others had been shelved for a while, waiting for low season to surface. A few new blockbusters in 3D and the odd documentary surprise were also part of the menu on offer to cinemagoers during March.

Our movie of the month belongs to the last category. ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’, the documentary in theory dedicated to the work of the popular British street artist Banksy, turned into an intelligent criticism to the ways art is sold and promoted in our time. It tells the history of a video recording obsessive character who starts filming several street artists, leading to contact Banksy for the project. The cameraman becomes so impressed that sets himself to become one of them, adopting the nickname ‘Mr. Brainstorm’.

What follows is a detailed account of the preparations for his first macro-exhibition; showing little regard for the works exhibited and much more for matching the media-fuelled, high expectations surrounded him. The exhibition establishes Mr. Brainstorm as an overnight success with even Madonna calling him to design the cover of her latest compilation. By the end of the documentary we are none the wiser about Banksy, who manages to keep the mystery of his jealously preserved identity intact; but we have formed a rather cynical opinion about contemporary art worth arguing for.

Nothing else we’ve seen this month could get even close to Banksy’s combative points of view. From the international arthouse world and backed by Almodovar’s Production Company, the Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel presented her third opus ‘The Headless Woman’. Martel always shows distinctive signs of a very personal style; among them an excessive tendency to using silence which sadly often verges on the sleep-inducing. ‘The Headless Woman’ begins as an interesting everyday mystery when the lead character notices she’s ran over something with her car, but shaken by the shock she doesn’t stop. The latter disappearance of a local boy triggers her sense of guilt, thinking that the kid could have been her victim. Her nebulous mood ups and downs facing the uncertainty of what it really happened are shown in such minimal descriptive economy that it can only offer a sketch of what it could have become an excellent psychological study, albeit the film’s achievements are bigger than its shortcomings.

Two industry heavyweights launched their latest works after their respective release dates were postponed up to the new year, stealing any chance for Oscar recognition with it – The final results showed they wouldn’t have had many possibilities. Martin Scorsese adapted ‘Shutter Island’, a novel by Hollywood’s new favourite writer Dennis Lehane. It was a total register change for the acclaimed director; a minor work in which his meticulous trademark couldn’t hide the limitations of the story. An excellent cast and his habitual attention to detail, however, turned it into a very entertaining, if rather predictable thriller.

Somehow more disappointing, Paul Greengrass went back to the path of political denounce in ‘Green Zone’; based on the rather irregular way in which the Iraq war’s was declared and maintained through the falsification of evidence about the existence of weapons of mass distraction. The director’s urgent and vibrant camerawork was still there adding a touch of realism, but resorting to a Hollywood star like Matt Damon in typical american heroe role, with unshakeable morals and aiming to find the truth at all cost, took its toll on the plot’s credibility; resulting in an avalanche of unfavourable comparisons with the Bourne movies, in some of which director and actor had already worked together.

Among the unexpected surprises, the latest comic adaptation of ‘Kick-Ass’ is already causing controversy for its hugely violent, and foul-mouthed characters. The film is directed by Brit Matthew Vaughn – former producer of ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ – and tells the story of a few superhero wannabes. On paper, it didn’t look very promising, but it totally succeeds as fun-packed entertainment thanks to a hilarious screenplay full of Tarantino-like gimmicks.

In Europe, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the acclaimed mastermind behind ‘Amelie’ or ‘Delicatessen’ returned after a long hiatus to produce once more the same film he ever does; with the same troupe of losers; circus artists; contortionists and the rest of his usual suspects forming a history of witty machinations and comic-like narration, in which the baddies to beat are the corrupt presidents of a weapons corporation. ‘Micmacs’ divided the opinion of critics and audiences alike, and rest assured it doesn’t get close to Jeunet’s former classics; but maybe because it’s been a while since we’ve seen one of his movies or due to the lack of competitors in the screens, we couldn’t really dislike it.

And in the dark side of the cinematographic spectrum, Tim Burton’s truly disastrous version of ‘Alice In Wonderland’. Huge international box-office success thanks to the curiosity of the public for the 3D novelty; but also a huge artistic misstep in which we couldn’t save neither the script –based on the second visit of Alice to the fantasy world, trying to avoid revisiting the most popular part of the story in everybody’s mind-; nor the awfully baroque and disjointed artistic direction, in which every character, scene and set seem to go their own way without ever finding any sense of harmony; nor even the cast in which is particularly disappointing a Johnny Depp abusing once again of his predilection for a British accent that he doesn’t seem quite able to master.

This post is also available in: Spanish

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