Monday, 7 August 2006

Tideland and Election 2 - MIFF06

Where do you start with something like Terry Gilliam’s latest, Tideland ? Gilliam’s CV includes Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and last year’s The Brothers Grimm. Gilliam is clearly fascinated by the interplay between fantasy and reality with plenty of gruesome and grotesque imagery in between.
If you are a fan of Gilliam then you will want to see Tideland for yourself and will not be swayed by anything I say but I don’t recommend this film.
Tideland tells the story of Jeliza-Rose, a precocious 11 year old played by Jodelle Ferland (who has the unwitting honour of actually being 11 when she plays an 11 year old instead of the usual Hollywood conceit of playing older actors in younger roles). In truth, Ferland does an amazing job as she holds her performance as the central character for the whole two hours. She is either on screen or we hear her voice the whole time.
Alice in Wonderland is directly referenced a couple of times and often we are transported between reality (which is often grim and unpleasant) and Jeliza-Rose’s fantasy. She plays with four dismembered Barbie doll heads who each have distinct voices and personalities in Jeliza-Rose’s mind.
Both Jeliza-Rose’s parents die of drug overdoses early on in the film and she is left in the run-down family home in the middle of acres of a barren rural property, surrounded by overgrown, head-high grass on her own. Jeliza-Rose displays maturity beyond her years (she helps her father by preparing his heroin shots for him) and great naivety. Part of the terror of this film is that you are never sure if she is going to be blown up, shot, molested or just waste away from neglect and shock.
Her nearest neighbours are a strange woman dressed all in black (is she a ghost, Miss Haversham or something else entirely?) and this woman’s simpleton brother, played with great effect by Brendan Fletcher.
When all events around Jeliza-Rose are viewed through her skewed, fantasy perspective, “real-life” form part of her games and inner-narrative which only heightened my discomfort.
Tideland is a disturbing film to be sure and the apocalyptic ending helps explain some of it but unless I just don’t “get it,” not all of it.

Good friend Vijay (no, not the world’s most desperate Venture Capitalist but a joke’s a joke) joined me in the Johnnie To sequel, Election 2 on Sunday night. Having watched Election (singular) Friday night courtesy of a courier service best not mentioned here as part of my research for this event, let’s just say that there are still no legal copies available in this country.
The election at the heart of both stories is that of the orderly transition every two years of a new chairman to head Hong Kong’s largest Triad. Similar in scope to the Mafia, the Triad’s services include protection fees and money laundering. Vijay and I had a small laugh to ourselves when the bundles of dollar bills covered in blood were in desperate need of laundering.
Neither films were the martial arts extravaganzas I was expecting such as an Ong Bak. Election was far more political in the manoeuvring between the key candidates and their backers with only two brief flurry’s of violence. Election 2 is far more visceral and brutal where the man with the greatest desire to win the chairmanship was the man prepared to do whatever it took to get there.
To sets a great tone in both films and the performances are refined and circumspect but still fit and strong in their roles as uber-cool, powerful gang leaders. Highly recommended if want an action flick (happy to lend a copy as either not available at Video Ezy !).

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