Tuesday, 24 November 2009

'I liked it - it was different!'

We all know what a subjective medium film is. The same people who will defend a Sandra Bullock film to the death are hardly the type who will eagerly seek out Michael Haneke’s latest venture. My sister and I recently crossed cinematic paths for the first time in over a decade, the last time being my ill-advised suggestion that her and her friends should drop everything and go and see Boogie Nights immediately - a film I had fallen in love with and wanted everyone else I knew to feel the same. This turned out to be a slight misjudgement on my behalf, as you can imagine.

The film in question this time was Wes Anderson’s exhilarating adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox, which successfully managed to straddle the line between the mainstream and the more specialist, quirky indie-type fare, resulting in two people with diverse tastes coming together to lavish equal praise. It didn’t hurt that it was adapted from a well-loved children’s story, although that wouldn’t have helped quell any negativity if the film had been poor.

I love those rare occasions when films manage to cater for a diverse range of audience, breaking through to a group of cinema-goers who would, under normal circumstances, stay well away from such material, and in some cases, hold it in downright contempt. My friend’s mum and a group of her friends all ventured to see Lost in Translation (a film which was far from their normal cultural radar) when it was first released, with favourable results. Was it the May-December romance which potentially enticed them or perhaps it was the Oscar buzz (and the publicity around that) which was beginning to build which may have been perceived as adding some weight? Maybe she was aware of Bill Murray and was subconsciously intrigued as to how he would perform in a different kind of role. In the end though, I’m guessing the main reason which finally persuaded her to make that rare trip to the ‘pictures’, was her son’s enthusiastic recommendation. He too must have seen something in the material which made him believe that, although this was a departure from his mum’s normal viewing choice - she would be able to make the leap and appreciate the film. Sometimes what films of this nature really need is a supportive nudge from friends or relatives, rather than any well-mounted marketing campaign.

It also helps to infuse your film with universally recognised themes like love and poverty, combined with a large dose of wish-fulfilment underneath all the style, which Danny Boyle managed to successfully do with this year’s Slumdog Millionaire. This was a film which didn’t immediately scream mainstream, and at one point, looked like it may not get a cinema release at all. During the fantastic, rousing Bollywood-style dance sequence at the end, I couldn’t help but marvel at the amount of people who had flocked to the cinema to see this - many encouraged to do so by friends, relatives, work colleagues, etc. At that moment, all my cynicism fell away and I was genuinely moved by the cultural-bridging that I was experiencing right in front of me.

Sometimes the opposite can happen. The self confessed film snob that I am, I was dragged to a screening of the film version of Sex and the City by my girlfriend who had indulged my viewing preferences many, many time previously and now wanted to see something she was interested in. To my surprise, it turned out to be an enjoyable film. I’ve still managed to avoid Mama Mia at all costs however, and intend to do so until the end of my time in this world.

I wish more people would move out of their comfort zone and embrace films which don’t necessarily hold the type of overtly commercial appeal they usually opt for. On this occasion for me, all it took was a talking, cocky fox, traipsing around the countryside to the strains of Heroes and Villains, to bring together two siblings with polarising tastes.