Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

It’s Harry Potter Day. Boo! Boo!

Well, actually, round these parts, we tend to think of it as Uncle Boonmee Day. On the same date that the 124th Harry Potter film is unveiled in every cinema across the country (and every screen therein), Uncle Boonmee who …

Fri, Nov 19, 2010, 01:06

   

Well, actually, round these parts, we tend to think of it as Uncle Boonmee Day. On the same date that the 124th Harry Potter film is unveiled in every cinema across the country (and every screen therein), Uncle Boonmee who can Recall His Past Lives, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cannes winner,  sneaks into a few lucky picture palaces. Being a snooty, highbrow paper, we have no compunction in pointing you towards the more difficult Thai film. Read my interview with the director on Saturday. Go and see the film if you’re able. If you’ve perused Ms Brady’s chat with the chap behind the lovely Chico & Rita then you may well view that as another acceptable option.

“Hello? Hello? Sorry, I’d like to ask why this image is being used. Oh I see. Very droll.”

Now, I call Uncle Boonmee “more difficult”, but — speaking almost entirely without facetiousness — I would have to say I find the attractions of the supposed family film harder to disentangle than those of the surreal, meditative art picture. To my mind, the Harry Potter films, though beautifully made, are constructed for the exclusive pleasure of those who have read the books. Go to any Potter discussion board on IMDb and, despite the fact that the pictures are extremely faithful, you will find endless complaints about supposed divergences from the sacred text. One gets the sense that, like those classical music enthusiasts who bring the score to concerts, extreme Potterologists run their fingers along Ms Rowling’s prose while watching the deliciously expensive images.  I’m with Hitchcock. If, to make a good movie, you have to ditch everything from the source material bar one juicy image, then that is what you should do. Behave otherwise and, when adapting a 32,000 page children’s book, you may end up having to split the blasted film into two not very small units. Heck, they managed to adapt War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov, David Copperfield and Gone With the Wind into one film. (Not the same film, you understand. Four different films. Oh, you know what I mean.)

Anyway, as I mentioned a few months ago, I have, to this point, grudgingly awarded three huffy stars to each Potter film I reviewed. (Michael Dwyer, my late colleague, a genuine fan, was more generous.) My view was that, while narratively leaden, the blasted things did satisfy their core audience. The latest one, however, totally did me in. Martin Amis once said something to the effect that the critic’s job is to decide how something rubs him or her up and then go away and decide why it rubs him or her up that way. Having fought sleep all the way through Deathly Hallows, I duly awarded it two stars and vented spleen upon newsprint.

Considering the abuse I received for granting a lukewarm, three-star review to the last film, I can only speculate on the fury about to emanate from the Pottersphere. Oh well…

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