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What I saw last night

review
The String
Strapped
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

F
or a film that purports to be about race and class and cultural conflict, Le Fil (The String) fails to deliver on every level - yet it still manages to be a diverting enough cul-de-sac. Or maybe I'm giving it a pass because I've been watching too many dumb Hollywood blockbusters lately, instead of the edgy foreign language stuff that was once my staple diet...

In Le Fil, Spoilt brat Malik, a 30-something Parisian architect, returns to Tunisia and his domineering mother, who has acquired servant in the form of sexy Muslim boy Balil (Salim Kechiouche, of Full Speed, Three Dancing Slaves fame). Can ya see where this is going, kids?

Nowhere. Yes, that's right: it goes nowhere. With minimal fuss Malik and Balil fall into a hot'n'loving relationship, and everyone lives happily ever after. As you do.

If I tell you that EastEnders goes into more depth on the Islam/homosexuality issue than Le Fil does, then I need say no more. But despite its failings (or rather, the hype of heaped on it by TLA), Le Fil is an engaging, pretty film - just don't expect much in the way of drama.

T
he box says Strapped is "stunningly photographed". Now, coldly superficial as it is, A Single Man is stunningly photo-graphed. Tsai Ming-Liang films are stunningly photo-graphed. EastEnders is occasionally surprisingly beautifully shot (come on - Peggy staring at the Queen Victoria bust just before the pub burns; Janine gazing out at Albert Square at dawn as her Gran peacefully slips away.) But "stunningly photographed", Strapped ain't.

As visually exciting as an episode of Melrose Place, Strapped has a few things going for it, but directorial flair ain't one of them.

Look, the idea of a rent boy lost in a labyrinthine apartment block, and having adventures with various tenants, is a pleasing one (for this reviewer, at any rate), but it needs to be a bit deeper, a bit cleverer, than what we get here. Nothing's really good enough: not the script, the cast, nor the direction. Lead Ben Bonenfant is fine but he doesn't set the screen on fire in this role, and the supporting cast is, at best, midling. (The soundtrack is, however, brilliant.)

And I've no idea what the relevance of the title is - was Lost taken, then?

I
love a bit of feel-bad '70s cinema, me. Irwin Allen disaster movies? Check. Soylent Green? Check. Network? Check.

So having been impressed with the clunkily titled yet surprisingly good The Rise of the Planet of The Apes, I just had to check out the real deal. The first movie is brilliant. The second is also good, and goes out on a real downer. (Really, the ending is as feel-bad as you can get.) The third one is a bit dull, but the fourth, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, is a bit of a dog's dinner. (Hari Rhodes, as one of the "good" humans, is kinda pretty, however). On the positive side, I love all the awful '70s concrete architecture, and the general thrust of the story (the 2011 Apes film borrows heavily from it) is fine, but the talky ending sucks. I don't want to be preached at by Roddy McDowell via 1972, thanks very much. The really sucky part is that the original ending, full of carnage and brutality, was softened in favour of the theatrical ending. I guess that's what happens when you're the fourth in the series of successful film franchise and the test audience gets a vote. Overall, Conquest just leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

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