All entries for January 2006

January 29, 2006

The Constant Gardener (2005)

Movie image
The Constant Gardener (2005)
5 out of 5 stars

I initially waited for a while before seeing this film, for a variety of reasons. Well, mostly because the name and the combo of actors didn't quite light the fire. I went to see 'The Exorcism Of Emily Rose' instead. In retrospect it seems a shocking decision.

This film is a masterpiece through and through - combining awe-inspiring photography with jaw dropping African scenery tied together with a thin but sturdy string. Furthermore, it does exactly what it says on the tin – it is a political thriller mixed with a love story. For me the latter is always weak compared to the former as subject matter, but the film just about pulls it off.
I cannot remember the last film I saw which does anything like this anywhere near as well.

The basic story goes like this: an affable, low-key British diplomat (played by the quintessentially English Ralph Fiennes) finds and marries Tessa (a boisterous and rebellious Rachel Weisz). She begs him to take her to Kenya and he does. Unfortunately, she is a passionate human rights advocate wth very little respect for laws and regulations.

She manages to get into a spot of bother with a couple of pharmaceutical companies and the film really kicks off. She is killed and her partner for the trip tortured before being crucified. Our valiant diplomat finally decides to go for it and pursues this dangerous alliance of business, government and contract-killers. It's adapted from a Le Carre novel – what did you expect?

Anyway, sounds awfully complex and heavy, doesn't it? Well, it is a bit.
But don't let that put you off. It is, in my opinion, one of the very finest films to come out of English language cinema in the past 20 years. If you see just one film in the near future, make it this. Ultimately, if I wasn’t hugely impressed with this film, I wouldn’t have bothered to write a review. Too much bother, you see. But this film deserves it. And if you don’t trust me, check out link.

I find it most disgusting that it was not considered for any category at the Golden Globes. Perhaps its modest nature put punters off – due to its documentary-esque nature, the acting is rarely dramatic. Weisz is good in her somewhat limited role, but Fiennes really outdoes himself with a superb portrayal of a modest man undone.

The photography is simply brilliant – it is shot almost as a documentary at times, at times with instrumental music, at times with African (and other) tribal music; all combining to create an unforgettable experience. It may well leave a mark on you because of the way it showcases the fragility of life, or the perceived cheapness of African lives, or the way it is shot. But then I’m being sentimental – see for yourself.

January 28, 2006

The Many Faces of The Ian Blair Debacle

So the Met Chief has apologised for asking why the Soham murders got so much publicity. I could write all day about the wider debate of what we expect from our public figures (if you have a loud voice given to you by your job, you must use it wisely), the insanity of political correctness, and so forth. Ultimately, he should have known how his comments would be construed and that they are insensitive to the families involved.

Besides being unreasonable, it is also unfortunate that Mr. Blair's comments have reared such a backlash – because this has almost completely obscured his point. Let us now hear what he actually said:

_I am pretty furious. We do devote the same level of resources to murders in relation to their difficulty…the difference is, is how these are reported. I actually believe that the media is guilty of institutional racism in the way they report deaths.

That death of the young lawyer was terrible, but an Asian man was dragged to his death, a woman was chopped up in Lewisham, a chap shot in the head in a Trident murder – they got a paragraph on page 97…There are other dreadful crimes which do not become the greatest story in Britain….

With one or two exceptions, clearly Damilola Taylor was one, the reporting of murder in minority communities appears not to interest the mainstream media…"

Ian Blair
Race warrior

The wider point he makes is about why crimes involving non-white people do not receive the same attention as the Soham murders did. There is truth to what he says, but he must not compare anything to Soham. The loss of children always hits us harder than other crimes – to compare Holly & Jessica with the other examples is, then, somewhat erroneous.

Soham had a combination of things: a) they were children, b) the sadistic manner of their deaths. Yes, they were white. I suspect while the first two are above controversy, the final one is riddled with it.

Let me say this – the Damilola Taylor murder received considerably less coverage than the Soham murders. Is it because newspapers and TV saw the outrage created by Soham and followed it? Was the outrage caused by Soham so much greater than Damilola? If you live in the UK, that's a no-brainer.

So why? One was a black boy stabbed in a stairway, the other two girls carefully lured and murdered by a sadistic man and his acquiescent girlfriend. Is it the sadism? Is it the location – Peckham vs Cambridgeshire?
If the media merely follows public reaction, are we saying that stories about your own race resonate with you more than stories about other races?

I don't think so, but Sir Ian must not be damned for questioning this: it is not so open and shut.

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