MIFF reviews – The Princes of Nebraska, In Bruges, Katyn

Reviews of film screening during the 2008 Melbourne International Film Festival.

The Princess of Nebraska
In Bruges
Katyn

The Princess of Nebraska

It’s a bit sad when a promising director makes one really good film that they never come close to equalling again. That is the case with Wayne Wang who hasn’t made anything particularly worth watching since Smoke in 1995. The Princess of Nebraska, about a Chinese girl who comes to San Francisco for an abortion, is another disappointment. Filmed on digital in the handheld, pseudo-cinéma vérité style that is currently fashionable to use to supposedly convey realism, The Princes of Nebraska alternates between being dull and being pretentious. However, there are occasional moments of interest to indicate Wang is a director worth staying with and the incredibly indulgent ending is somehow quite moving.

In Bruges

The most unusual thing about In Bruges is that it is a violent black comedy and yet very little of the violence is played for laughs. This feature film directorial debut by Martin McDonagh is very funny, but when violence occurs it is ugly, regretful and impacts heavily on the characters. Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell play two hit men who are ordered to lie low in the medieval Belgium town of Bruges after their last assignment goes wrong. Glesson’s character is relishing the opportunity to be a tourist for a few days while Farrell’s character can’t think of anything worse than to be stuck in Bruges. The humour is offbeat and frequently very un-PC, the entire cast play off each other beautifully and this is all round a refreshingly original film.

Katyn

Acclaimed Polish director Andrzej Wajda’s latest film is a difficult one to review because there is an overwhelming feeling that it should be praised more than it perhaps deserves to be. Firstly, it is a very important film in that it is finally telling the world about the horrific massacre, and subsequent cover-up, of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet forces in 1940. Secondly, every scene in the film is beautifully crafted and the final sequence where the massacre is finally depicted is a powerful and blunt statement about the cold hearted administration of mass murder. But overall Katyn does not hang together. Narrative threads and characters come and go through the film to only then disappear again. It does all come together by the end but much of the film is confusing. This is probably a film that requires multiple viewings before being truly appreciated. Nevertheless, there is no denying its power.

Originally appeared here on the Australian Film Critics Association website

© Thomas Caldwell, 2008
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