Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Oscars’

Tangerines or the Children of Death

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 18th February, 2015

TangerinesTangerines 1Abkhazia is, I suspect, a name most Europeans half remember half forget: a breakaway region of Georgia that has been effectively annexed by Russia (despite an internationally spurious declaration of independence) with the consent of a significant proportion of the local populations; it has for years been a favourite holiday destination for Russians from Moscow and St Petersburg who want to enjoy seaside and sun. There was a vicious civil war in the early 1990s, and it is that that provides the context of an extraordinary film which I saw at a screening at the EBRD* this evening — and which is shortlisted for Best Foreign Film in this year’s Oscars. An elderly Estonian, who has stayed behind in his village in Abkhazia when most others have left because of the fighting, is helping a rather timid fellow Estonian bring in his harvest of tangerines (clementines). Suddenly there is an wartime incident, and out of the survivors the old man (beautifully played by one of Estonai’s leading actors, Lembit Ulfsa), finds himself playing host to two wounded fighters: a Georgian, who cannot bear the thought of losing Abkhazia to others, and a Chechen mercenary who is fighting on the side of the Abkhazian separatists. They hate each other, and would happily kill each other, yet as events unfold they recognise their common humanity. I shan’t spoil it by revealing more of the story, but suffice it to say that this is a truly great film, an Estonian-Georgian co-production, with dialogue in (very earthy) Estonian and Russian, with somewhat milder English sub-titles, directed by the Georgian director, Zaza Urushadze, on location in Georgia, with a total budget of just £500,000. I can’t predict whether it will win the Oscar award, though it richly deserves to do so. It is impeccably directed and acted. More importantly, it deserves to go out on general release, all round the world. This is one of those films you will not forget, and there was hardly a dry eye in the EBRD screening room tonight.

*EBRD: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

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The Theory of Everything

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 8th February, 2015

The Theory of EverythingWhen a film is tipped for the Oscars I often go to see it with a sense of dread that it won’t be as good as the critics say. And I confess that theoretical physics is about as far away from my comfort zone of interests as anything could be. So I was braced for disappointment, even boredom, when a friend persuaded me to accompany him to The Theory of Everything yesterday. But how wrong could I be! The true-life story of Stephen Hawking, his ground-breaking academic work, the physical effects of his motor neurone disease and the complex relationship that he had with his wife, make a compelling cocktail that is likely to lift any viewer through the whole gamut of emotions from tearful empathy to belly laughs. The setting of Cambridge University (even if a few liberties are taken by mixing views of different colleges) adds to the romanticism of the film, against which the physical deterioration of Dr Hawking is shockingly stark. James Marsh’s direction is masterful; I can think of few contemporary films that are so carefully measured and executed. The actors are remarkable, and none more so than Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking. His performance is a tour de force. The film should sweep the BAFTAs and the Oscars, but even if it doesn’t, all those in involved in it can pride themselves on knowing they have produced an amazing movie that will linger in people’#s minds for a long time.

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Un Prophete

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 31st January, 2010

When I was a film critic in Belgium in the 1970s, I used to see five films a week in the various distributors’ screening rooms, whereas these days I am lucky if I get to five films a year. Journalism and politics combined leave little time for ‘normal’ activities. But I was lucky in my first 2010 cinematic outing, as I was taken this evening to see Jacques Audiard’s ‘Le Prophete’, a complex and compelling portrayal of a young Arab Frenchman’s graduation as hardman (yet still with a heart) in the violent world of a prison largely controlled by members of a Corsican mafia. Though gory in parts, the violence is never gratuitous and fascinatingly the story and acting are handled in such a way that the viewer remains concerned for and attached to the central character, Malik (Tahar Rahim), even after he starts commiting terrible murders as part of his survival strategy in the jungle into which he has been thrust. Niels Arestrup is brilliant in the supporting role of the Corsican Big Cheese. The film has already deservedly picked up a number of awards at Cannes and elsewhere and is being predicted for several Oscars. A marvellous testament to the ongoing vigour and artistic creativity of French cinema.

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