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New Guardians film assaults 'eye and ear': Charlton

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Action film a great contrast to the quiet of Emily Dickinson
by Alan Charlton

A Quiet Passion;
Guardians of the Galaxy

In cinemas throughout the Lower Mainland

Photo Caption: Chris Pratt stars in a scene from the movie "Guardians Of the Galaxy Vol. 2." The movie was designed with great box-office appeal, but offers teh same requisite formula, writes Alan Charlton. "The whole thing becomes monotonously repetitive in its assault on eye and ear." (CNS / Marvel Studios)

What one chooses to see at the movies is largely dictated by personal taste so that even when a film has received general critical recommendation, it will not necessarily appeal to every viewer. Such is certainly the case with regard to two films in current release.

A QUIET PASSION, theoretically a biography of Emily Dickinson, the reclusive 19th-century American poet, is a film that has much to recommend it, though its audience appeal is likely to be very limited. Writer/Director Terence Davies has elected to tell the story of the poet by showing her as being, by her own choice, confined to her home – and to a great extent inside that home.

There she spends most of her life with her sister, Vinnie, her depressed mother, and her controlling father. Even when her brother marries her close friend and moves into the house next door, the impression given is that Emily remains in her own home, and indeed her own bedroom. Though the film is about a poet, the poetry is essentially and understandably introduced as background; it will do little to popularize the verse. Instead, the film concentrates on the family dynamic, which was not always easy, and simply shows that the outside world, a world which included the Civil War and its aftermath, is experienced by Dickinson only at second-hand.

A QUIET PASSION is essentially Davies’ own descant on Dickinson’s life which reveals little of that life – even omitting the poet’s passion for raising plants. Instead he attempts to show the woman as self-absorbed, frustrated with her lot as a woman of the period, and, despite her often caring and loving side, able to be hurtful and antagonistic to everyone around her.

While there are scenes of dramatic intensity, much of it is devoted to conversation, with the dialogue often appearing contrived, almost artificial, as Dickinson engages in banter with her fellows.

The result is a film of incredible beauty, faultlessly acted, and often cleverly challenging. It is, in fact, a film-enthusiast’s delight, though that it will have wide audience appeal is unlikely.

On the other hand, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is obviously designed to have great box-office appeal, catering as it does to all those Marvel comic fans, who are legion.

As the latest offering in the franchise, it follows the requisite formula: a group of assorted characters – most of them aliens – set about fighting other aliens to the accompaniment of spectacular computer generated special effects and loud noises.

To those who saw the first film or are familiar with the characters, the complexities of the plot will doubtless be clear, though as a neophyte I found myself frequently confused about what was happening or why.

Early in the film the Guardians face off against the empress of another planet for whom they seem to have performed some service. As to why it was so terrible for the raccoon to have stolen batteries and why they are so important, I have no idea.

Later Sylvester Stallone appears and seems to be annoyed with Groot, but the import remains for me a mystery. While I could generally follow the main story that unfolded, despite several threads and jumps from one to another apparently at random, the whole thing becomes monotonously repetitive in its assault on eye and ear.

The film makes some attempt at humour, but since this largely consists of the characters insulting each other by engaging in name calling with an admixture of scatological commentary, I did not find it particularly entertaining – nor, apparently,  did the small adult audience who endured the film with me.

Clearly, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is box office gold and appeals to a huge number of movie-goers, but I would gladly forego a dozen such films to attend such a cinematic triumph as A QUIET PASSION. In the end, it becomes a matter of personal taste.


Last Updated on Monday, 29 May 2017 09:18  

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