20th April – The Matrix - I picked this because I wanted something light to watch on Easter Sunday, and because I spent the holidays ripping old DVDs and wanted to actually watch a few of them too. Ok, It’s not that light, but it is at least in English and has a fairly easy to follow narrative. The Matrix is one of the first films I bought when I got my first DVD player, and I still have a soft spot for the whole series. I’m probably alone in thinking that this is the weakest of the three, but then it’s the only one I didn’t see in the cinema, and this is a series that really benefits from a big screen and the ability to totally immerse. I think I probably need to watch the other two films at some point soon.
21st April – The Matrix Reloaded - See above. It was always my favourite of the three, but doesn’t really work as a stand alone film in the way that the first one does. Some would say that it’s just an extended fight scene with some mystic mumbo-jumbo bolted on, but I think it’s easy to forget that at the time there was nothing else like this. I also think it needs to be watched back to back with part 3, which is exactly what I did.
21st April (later) – The Matrix Revolutions - I remember seeing this in the cinema in 2003 when it came out. I was disappointed at the time, as I didn’t think it really added anything to the story, whilst being even more combat-heavy than Reloaded. Watching it now, I think I appreciate it more, although I do sort of wish that the two films had been edited down into one, because it take a very long time for not a great deal to happen. I’m glad I watched these again, but it might take me another few years before I decide I need them in my life again.
22nd April – Dogville - After a sci-fi overload, I decided to dip into the back catalogue of Lars von Trier again. Dogville was very critically acclaimed when it came out, and is quite innovative, in that it is shot on a very sparse chalk-marked set, in a way that reminds me of the theatre of Brecht (or in fact of small intimate theatres in general). The set gives it an otherworldly quality, but the story and dialogue are quite the opposite, and the juxtaposition of the two really works. I’ll not give too much away about the story itself, because there are a few twists and turns, but suffice to say it kept me entertained from beginning to end. John Hurt’s narrative really adds a lot, and ties the whole story together well, and there are some very strong performances, especially from Nicole Kidman as Grace. Lars von Trier writes strong female characters very well, and this is another good example of a film where the actions of a strong woman are the catalyst for change. The character of Grace features again in von Trier’s Mandalay (albeit played by a different actress), and watching Dogville makes me want to hunt down Mandalay soon. Quentin Tarantino said that had the film been written for the stand then von Trier would have won a Pulitzer prize. I think he might have been right.
23rd April – Frances Ha - I figured something lighter was in order after watching Dogville, and so I settled on Frances Ha, which was released last year and featured on several “best of” lists. Despite being made and set in the modern day, it was filmed in black and white, which gives it a really timeless feel (although seeing iPhones and modern Macs in a black and white film was a bit odd). It reminds me a lot of 1960’s French cinema, which I don’t think is an accident, and I think the choice to film it in black and white is a good one. The film itself is fairly light, and centres around the life of the eponymous Frances, who is going through most of the things that the average 20-something encounters when life is going quite as planned. No-one dies, the world doesn’t end, but the performances and dialogue are first class, and I think this is something I would both recommend and watch again. (Also, it amused me that the last two films I’ve watched have a David Bowie song playing over the closing credits. Dogville has Young Americans and Frances Ha has Modern Love. I like it when things like that happen).