As an inveterate film goer, (when I have the opportunity), I’ll mostly go and see an average movie rather than none at all. I’ll read reviews but mostly prefer to make my own mind up. To this end I legged it with one of the Crumble Kids on Saturday and went to see George Clooney’s “Monuments Men.” After ten minutes, I began to wish I’d listened to the reviews but dug in nonetheless with the view that it had to pick up. It didn’t. There aren’t many movies I watch where I suffer from the magnetic pull of the foyer and fresh air but this one tested me to the limit of forbearance. Frankly, the movie’s only redemption was in the concept especially as it should have been so, so much better given the provenance of the cast.
The cinema was quite full with an obvious demographic range tilted to the older which is unsurprising given there remains a ready and receptive audience in Britain for any Second World War cinema. When we eventually trudged to the film’s end though, there was just silence; no chatter, no emotion, no..... well nothing actually. I wasn’t alone in my disappointment.
The disjointed timelines, and "Janet & John," explanations of the historical backdrop, did nothing to bring the viewer into the story. It felt actually as if the director and editors had a blazing row in the cutting room; inadvertently destroyed about 2000ft of reel and then had to glue together what was left as best they could and hope no one noticed. Oh and please, Hugh Bonneville as the least convincing Army officer ever regardless of what he's acting in? He gives cardboard a bad name and peaked in Notting Hill as the clueless stockbroker, (more accurate than anyone could ever believe). I thought he'd bottomed out in Downton Abbey but no, that was very much catching a falling knife.
How odd that the last movie I watched, Gravity, was a film that lifted, tested and enriched on every single cinematic level and was indeed, all the better for Mr Clooney’s on-screen presence.
Perhaps George, you should spend a bit of time doing your apprenticeship behind the camera and spend a year or two working with cinematographers, editors and the like before going straight to the first division. Some actors transition to being unbelievably good directors, Clint Eastwood being the obvious but this movie, well...... it’s a bit like an embarrassing episode in the family, “let’s just move on and say no more about it.”
On the way home then I felt I needed something to lift the spirit and soul so popped into the supermarket and bought a DVD of “The Great Beauty,” for £8. No one else in the family was in the least interested so I watched it alone. I was entranced. Every shot was a photograph and every one, every single one was good enough to cover the Sunday Times Supplement or be viewed in a gallery. They came thick and fast; the lighting, the contrasts, the framing; beauty and elegance indeed. I won’t bore you with the plot; in fact, the plot such as it is was pretty superfluous. The joy is in simply watching, feeding the eyes and looking on in wonderment that so much magic can be captured in such a short time. This film will live forever and sets a pretty high bar for those who aspire to purveying grace and beauty on the screen.
All of which sounds somewhat pretentious coming from an average film goes like me; I am after all, the least arty metrosexual person I know. If though, a three pints of Guinness and a hotdog in the West Stand at Twickenham individual like me feels like that then perhaps there might be something in it.
Where does that leave us? Well, anyone who loves art, photography and the art of films must see “The Great Beauty,” and if you don’t like art, photography and the art of films you should definitely see “The Great Beauty,” and do so with open eyes; it might just open your mind. Oh and George, in the words of Robert Capa, "if your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough." Try it and then try again.