Arthur, Jason Winer, 110 mins (12)
TT3D: Closer To The Edge, Richard De Aragues, 103 mins (15)
Pina, Wim Wenders, 103 mins (U)
Russell Brand plays the billionaire hedonist, so what could possibly go wrong?
Sunday 24 April 2011
Now that we're all supposed to be tightening our belts and shutting down our libraries, it might not be the ideal time for a comedy about a billionaire hedonist who doesn't know how to boil a kettle.
The title character of Arthur was problematic enough 30 years ago, when he was played by Dudley Moore, but Russell Brand makes Moore's version look like a model of fiscal restraint. By day, he's blowing his trust fund on historical treasures he then hands to passing strangers. By night, he's crashing his batmobile into New York landmarks. No one ever presses charges.
It took all of cuddly Dudley's little-boy-lost innocence to make his Arthur palatable, so it might not have been such a wise move to cast the most self-aware and debauched comedian of his generation in the part. Perhaps it would have helped if Arthur had had a few obstacles to overcome, but no. His messes are all cleaned up by his faithful Jeeves (Helen Mirren, adequately subbing for John Gielgud), while his kooky working-class dreamgirl (Greta Gerwig) has no problem dating an alcoholic fop. His only concern is that he'll be disinherited unless he marries a social-climbing shrew (Jennifer Garner), but his acquiescence just makes him even less likeable than he was before.
Are we really going to root for someone who's marrying a woman he doesn't love in order to keep a fortune he hasn't earned? Are we meant to be impressed when (spoiler alert!) he finally and humiliatingly jilts her? Peter Baynham has written a polished script, and there's no faulting the postcard views of New York. But all Arthur has to do to live happily ever after is to stop being a spineless sociopath for 30 seconds, and so for the best part of two hours we're just sitting and waiting for that to happen.
There can't be many film titles less informative, yet more off-putting than TT3D: Closer To The Edge, so I'd better translate: "TT" refers to the Isle of Man's TT races; "3D" means that it is indeed in 3D; and "Closer To The Edge" is just there to be confusing. That quibble aside, though, it's an enthralling documentary, whether or not you know a thing about motorbike racing. Speaking as someone who doesn't, I hadn't realised how dangerous the TT's island-spanning course can be. Participants are killed on a regular basis, and the survivors can each spend a minute listing all the bones they've broken. One of the film's highlights, if you can call it that, is an extraordinary monologue from a TT widow who has no bitterness about her husband's recent death.
As depressing as this might seem, TT3D is a persuasive advertisement for the races, with their warm sense of community, breathtaking scenery, and, of course, the heart-in-mouth exhilaration of seeing people hurtle around mountain roads at 130mph. But what really makes the film fly along are the characters, especially Guy Martin, a mutton-chopped maverick with a genius for saying precisely the wrong thing. For the first time ever, I'll be interested to know who wins the TT races this year.
This week's other 3D documentary, Pina, is Wim Wenders' tribute to Pina Bausch, the innovative German choreographer who died just before she and Wenders were due to start on a film together. Rather than producing a conventional potted biography, the director has filmed excerpts from Bausch's dances, sometimes on stage, sometimes in a park or a factory, and spliced them with brief reminiscences from her devoted company.
I know even less about dance than I do about road racing, but Bausch's wit and storytelling come across beautifully, largely due to the superb digital 3D. Wenders keeps everything in crisp focus, from the foreground to the distance, so you can watch numerous dancers ranged all around a wide open space, and choose where you want to look, almost as you would at a live performance. It's one of the only instances in which a film has used 3D for any reason other than to hike up the ticket prices.
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