Posts Tagged ‘Tom Prior’

Repression and Desire

Firebird

Director: Peeter Rebane

Cast: Tom Prior, Nicholas Woodeson, Diana Pozharskaya, Oleg Zagorodnii, Jake Henderson

This Film is available on the DIFF Website to be viewed and has not had a cinematic release yet https://www.durbanfilmfest.com/collection/features/

Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

This film is in English with no subtitles.

Young Estonian director Peeter Rebane’s heart-warming 2021 film Firebird is a must see at this year’s Durban International Film Festival to be viewed online.

Firebird focuses on the forbidden and touching love story between Sergey wonderfully played by the gorgeous British actor Tom Prior (The Theory of Everything) and Roman played by Ukrainian actor Oleg Zagorodnii set during the cold war in a Soviet Airforce Base just before the impending Soviet invasion of Afghanistan placing the timeline of the film set in the early 1980’s.

Beautifully filmed, Firebird refers to the Stravinsky ballet of the same name and centres on a young private soldier Sergey in the Soviet military who falls in love with his hopelessly dashing lieutenant and aircraft pilot Roman. 

In the midst of this extremely macho world of the Soviet military is this lyrical and beautiful love story that unfolds unexpectedly which director Peeter Rebane treats with sensitivity and grace, without demeaning desire while highlighting the extreme repression that both men were living under whereby any form of suspected homosexual activity was punishable by 5 years in a Soviet labour camp.

Roman is forced to completely hide his sexuality, while Sergey’s true sexuality blossoms as he leaves the military as he pursues a career in the dramatic arts, while studying lines for Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.

The fact that both actors are so utterly convincing and easy to watch, makes Firebird excellent viewing, a film very similar to the BAFTA nominated South African 2020 film Moffie directed by Oliver Hermanus. Rebane also draws much inspiration from the Oscar winning Ang Lee film Brokeback Mountain which caused quite a stir upon its first release in 2005.

Repression and desire are intermingled as Roman and Sergey attempt to hide their love for each other not only from the spying military but also from an extremely conservative Soviet society in which men must marry women and reproduce to increase the population of the Soviet Union.

Homosexuality is still banned in Russia but the daring bravado of Estonian director Peeter Rebane’s beautiful and fascinating portrayal of forbidden love both before and during a heteronormative relationship is both informative and exquisite. Roman marries Luisa played by Diana Pozharskaya and even has a child with her, while continuing to keep in touch with the flamboyant thespian Sergey who finds unadulterated acceptance within the Soviet theatre and ballet community.

Rebane’s film is melancholic without being morbid, sensual without being contrived, held together by two decent performances by Prior and Zagorodnii.

Firebird gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is highly recommended for those viewers that enjoyed Brokeback Mountain and Moffie. A fascinating tale of a true story adapted to film.

Infinite Probability of Happiness

The Theory of Everything

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Director: James Marsh

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Alice Orr-Ewing

Shadow Dancer director James Marsh delivers a fine, subtle film about the early Cambridge years of the brilliant theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything so remarkably portrayed on screen by Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn, Les Miserables) that he become one of the youngest best actor Oscar winners at the age of 33.

Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking from gangly awkward scientist in the early 1960’s, through to his courtship of the lovely Jane Wilde, beautifully portrayed by Felicity Jones (The Invisible Woman, Hysteria) to his devastating diagnosis of the life altering motor neurone disease is absolutely phenomenal. The expressive face of Eddie Redmayne, his physical contortions in portraying Hawking is beyond superb as the Professor grapples with the horrendous paradox of being intellectually gifted yet physically crippled as the motor neurone disease takes effect on his body, limiting his speech, his ability to walk and even to eat properly.

Despite this crippling diagnosis, Professor Hawking and his wife Jane, manage to produce three children so obviously his reproductive abilities weren’t affected by the disease as weren’t his mental capabilities in which he managed to expound the Big Bang Theory and then later to disprove it in his ground breaking novel, A Brief History of Time, which sold millions of copies worldwide and propelled him to international fame http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Hawking.

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The intellectual conflict in the film between Jane’s Church of England upbringing and Hawking’s cosmic atheism is delicately portrayed. One the most poignant moments is when Jane Hawking confides in her mother played by Emily Watson that she cannot cope with her husband’s crippling disability and having to bring up several children simultaneously. Her mother’s advice is typically English and suggests she should join the Church Choir. During Choir practice, Jane meets the able bodied and charming choral master Jonathan, played against type by Irish actor Charlie Cox, who soon befriends Jane and her famous wheelchair bound husband, Professor Hawking.

Unnaturally this seemingly impossible ménage-a-trios is not set to last as soon Hawking’s motor neuron disease takes a turn for the worst after he collapses during a Wagner concert in Bordeaux. Jane Hawking soon realizes that she is going to require a full time care giver to look after her famous yet incapacitated husband. The fact that the caregiver looks like a 1960’s Bond girl is testament to Hawking’s own flirtatious nature and soon through the aide of an American sounding computerized voice he informs Jane that him and the caregiver are flying to America together.

The mathematical probability of happiness is discovered in all its infinity as soon as Jane and Stephen find partners suitable for their own physical requirements, and this eventual separation becomes the emotional crux of The Theory of Everything, apart from the bleak physical disabilities and momentous scientific breakthroughs which has characterized a highly unconventional marriage.

Despite some directorial embellishments, James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything is a well-structured and sensitive portrayal of one of the world’s most famous Physicists who despite all the odds and being unable to speak or walk, manages to expand a theory of time which transforms all future scientific endeavour and quantitative research. Hawking’s insatiable will to survive is testament to the power of the human spirit, considering he was given two years to live at the start of his diagnosis.

At the centre of this film, based upon Jane Hawking’s memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen is a story of a very challenging marriage and of a couple whose determination to overcome every physical and emotional obstacle eventually led to their separation yet ultimately finding their own individual fulfillment.

The casting of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones is critical to this film’s success as they both give exceptionally meticulously and ranged performance of Stephen and Jane Hawking which is all the more admirable for portraying such venerated and surviving figures of the British academic establishment.

The Theory of Everything is brilliant cinema, and highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed films such as My Left Foot and Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

This is first rate acting at its best and has proven beyond doubt that Redmayne and Jones are truly gifted screen actors with an infinite career ahead of them. The soft focus cinematography of the entire film gives Cambridge a hallowed glow that ensures the audience gets a feeling that they too are watching a miracle, ably assisted by an exceptional musical score by Jóhann Jóhannsson.

 

 

 

 

Comic Book Moonraker

Kingsman: The Secret Service

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Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Jack Davenport, Sofia Boutella, Mark Hamill, Lily Travers, Edward Holcroft

X-Men First Class director Matthew Vaughn’s glossy Kingsman: The Secret Service although has some great finishing touching is certainly no diamond in the rough. Although from the outset, the film inspired by a Comic book series and despite the casting of Oscar winners Michael Caine and Colin Firth fails to successfully make fun of the spy genre and its plot falls flat in the face of some glamorous production design, Kingsman actually is not as good as the trailer makes out to be. Which is a pity.

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Whilst the storyline of a youngster, Eggsy played by Taron Egerton is a sort of male version of Pygmalion as he is plucked out of trouble and brought to the finishing school for spies, The Kingsman: The Secret Service with the elegant assistance of Harry Hart wonderfully played by Colin Firth, the overall effect of the film is absurd to the point of making it nothing more than a comic book version of the Bond classic Moonraker. The eloquent Hart’s best line is manners maketh man, otherwise the plot itself is disjointed coming off as a schizophrenic spoof of the usually intriguing spy genre essentially aimed at the teenage market.

The villain is an American tech giant, Richmond Valentine bizarrely played by Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained) in one of his least compelling roles. Whilst the storyline follows the classic megalomaniac aiming to take over the world and cull the downtrodden, while only saving a few politically connected elite, Kingsman: The Secret Service follows the traditional spy genre but then at some point during the film subverts this venerated genre, probably the moment when bigots are attacking each in a rural church in Kentucky, making the whole storyline utterly farcical.

Given the production values and the casting of such British acting talents as Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules, The Dark Knight) as Arthur a traditional figurehead of The Secret Service and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) as a sort of style master to the fatherless ruffian Eggsy, whose own father codenamed Lancelot met a gory end in a snow villa in Argentina, Kingsman: The Secret Service could have been so much slicker, better edited and infinitely smarter than what the finished product is.

Look out for a guest appearance by reclusive actor Mark Hamill who played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars as the mad Professor Arnold.

There are some wonderful moments when Firth takes out a gang of hoodlums in a pub aptly called the Black Prince with a very lethal umbrella, Kingsman: The Secret Service is overly long, with a plot which becomes more ludicrous as the film progresses and eventually does little justice to the original Spy thrillers the film is aiming to emulate: The Bourne Series, the iconic James Bond films and even the action TV show 24.

The action sequences are beyond credible and the first part of the film involving the training of the potential Kingsman has a sort of British upper class Hunger Games feel about it, the rest of the film could have been edited. All the great actors like Caine, Firth and even Mark Strong recently seen in The Imitation Game should stay clear of trying to star in films based on comic books and stick to more serious subject matter where at least their acting talents as actors are properly utilized.

Twenty six year old Welsh actor Taron Egerton is energetic in the role of Gary (Eggsy) Unwin, a juvenile delinquent transformed into a gentleman, yet given a more illuminating script, his true potential as an actor could have shone brighter. Recommended for viewers that enjoyed Get Smart or even some of the earlier X-Men films, but diehard spy fans should keep clear of Kingsman: The Secret Service – as its mainly poppycock!

 

 

 

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