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Film Round-Up December 2011

Jeremy Clarke

¬≠Rfilm.jpgOne of the better Christmas movies is  Arthur Christmas (cert U; 97 mins, right). Santa is getting on and one of his two sons will succeed him in the job, Arthur is the enthusiastic but inept one, but things change, and he must save the day. Aardman Animations latest CGI outing is as good as their plasticine classics.

A very different animation, Czech Surrealist Jan ҆vankmajer's Surviving Life (cert tbc; 109 mins) is a psychoanalytic drama employing cut outs and other animation techniques mixed together. The theorising is sometimes too much, but he can't be accused of repeating himself and it's like nothing else out there.

Terence Davies does Terrence Rattigan in The Deep Blue Sea (cert 12a; 98 mins), a postwar drama in which an aristocrat, Rachel Weisz, leaves her loveless marriage to move in with an RAF pilot. Lovingly crafted and performed, it's a terrific piece of work asking lots of questions about the relationship between wealth, marriage and the one-flesh relationship.
Staying with sex, you have to look beyond the extreme S&M surface of Tokyo Decadence (DVD, cert 18; 112 mins) to see its portrayal of a fragile human being struggling to survive in a ruthless world, but it sticks with you afterward. Jostling with its explicit imagery are journeys round cold, high tech shopping malls and skyscrapers and, ultimately, the unattainable paradise of suburban 'normality'. More lightweight is pink Japanese musical Underwater Love (DVD, cert 18; 87 mins) which mixes its sex scenes with indigenous mythology and wry social observation in a likeable, colourful romp.

Australia's deeply unpleasant Snowtown (cert 18; 120 mins) has a youth drawn into the mentoring circle of a serial killer and his acolytes. It adopts the strategy of a protagonist who really doesn't want to see any more of the central character's victim torturing activities than he has to, but is nevertheless forced to come back in and watch. Much can be said in its favour, but its a film I'd rather not have seen, thanks.

Norman Stone's KJB (DVD, cert U; 90 mins) has John Rhys-Davies in historical locations talking about King James I and his Bible translation project. Dramatising everything from the Succession to the Gunpowder Plot, it makes a potentially tedious subject (a book) deliver a compelling narrative.

Jeremy Clarke

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