Forster on being unique among Bond directors

The New York Times had an interesting profile the other day of Marc Forster, the German-born Swiss director of The Kite Runner and the next James Bond movie, among others. An excerpt:

The ability to generate suspense from some of the more aberrant emotional states may serve him well in his new assignment, because Bond, as played in his most recent incarnation by Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale” (2006), seems, Mr. Forster said, “very isolated, a man who’s damaged in some way.” Mr. Craig’s Bond felt to him like “a completely new interpretation of the character,” he said. “This James Bond is darker, more tormented. He’s humanized, in a sense.”

And that, he said, is the quality that will allow the franchise to go on. “In the ’60s and ’70s, when Sean Connery and Roger Moore were playing the role, a large part of the appeal of the James Bond movies was the travel to exotic locations, but that’s not such an attraction anymore,” Mr. Forster said. “People travel a lot more now, and with the Internet they’re more aware of what the rest of the world is like. In a way the most interesting place for a James Bond movie to go is inward — deeper into Bond himself.”

His mention of the ’60s and Mr. Connery was an abrupt reminder that, even more than Mr. Forster’s “non-Commonwealth” status, what really sets him apart from every previous Bond-movie director is that he is the first to have been born after the swingin’ heyday of the series. The canonical Connery Bonds — “Dr. No,” “From Russia With Love,” “Goldfinger,” “Thunderball” and “You Only Live Twice”— were all history by the time Mr. Forster entered the world in 1969. . . .

That he is the first director of a Bond movie who’s too young to remember the originals hadn’t dawned on him, either, until it was pointed out to him. That may be the most interesting thing about this not intuitively obvious marriage of filmmaker and film: After 45 years or so of 007 we’ll finally get to see what this dinner-jacketed warrior looks like through the eyes of a director whose points of reference are not “The 39 Steps” and “North by Northwest” but “Aliens” and “Die Hard.” (Those are the pictures Mr. Forster names as some favorite action movies.) How does James Bond strike somebody for whom the character is not merely mythic, but remotely mythic, like Beowulf?

But Marc Forster has another idea about why he’s the right choice for “Bond 22,” and why it’s the right movie for him. “You know, James Bond’s mother is Swiss,” he said. “That will make it all worthwhile.”

Obscure snarky soundtrack-buff quip of the day: If Forster cites Aliens and Die Hard as his two main influences, will his James Bond movie climax with the same piece of James Horner music that was used in the final scenes of both of those films?

Tim Roth almost played Severus Snape?

It seems so. But according to the MTV Movies Blog, he gave it up for Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes (2001). Yowch.

Interestingly, I had not considered until now that Alan Rickman is technically too old to play Snape — he was 55 when the first film came out, yet the character is supposed to be the same age as Harry Potter‘s parents, who would have been in their early 30s if they had not been killed by Voldemort when Harry was a baby. Roth was 40 when the first film came out, so he still would have been a little old, but nowhere near as much as Rickman.

Not that I’m complaining. Rickman is great in the role. But I think Roth could have done some interesting things with the character, too.

Atonement and gender in story-telling

Atonement was nominated for seven Golden Globes today, so now is as good a time as any to quote this interesting — and semi-spoiler-ish — comment on the film that Brian D. Johnson of Maclean’s magazine made at his blog last week:

Although I’m not exactly the most ardent reader (I’ve lost the habit to movies), I’m a huge fan of Ian McEwan. I’ve read every word he’s published. And we all know how easy it is to find fault with movies based on books you love. But Brit director Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice) and screenwriter Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons) adapt McEwan’s novel with a lush, eloquent drama that is admirably faithful to the original—even if its emphatic tone, which pushed into melodrama, lacks McEwan’s subtle touch. With his book, McEwan pulled off the considerable feat of writing in a woman’s voice. (One of the novel’s final twists is that the book we have been reading has been written, as an act of atonement, by the older, wiser Briony.) But this movie feels like it was directed by a man (which it was), and it recalls the opulent style of British period epics by the likes of David Lean and Merchant Ivory. The film’s most effective sequences were the most girlish, Bronte-like ones—all that devilish intrigue in and around the country manor. Once we get to the war, it seems that Wright is on a manly mission to show off, especially with a five-and-a-half minute continuous shot that wends its way through a surreal pageant of horror on the beach at Dunkirk.

Interestingly, Johnson ends his review by drawing comparisons between Atonement and Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient (1996) — but he neglects to mention that Minghella himself appears in one of Atonement‘s final scenes!

These villains are brought to you by the letter M.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out on DVD this week, and I was lucky enough to get a copy that has two bonus discs, one of which consists entirely of a 20-minute featurette on ‘Building the Magic: The Sets of Harry Potter’. Watching it, I was struck by this close-up on the logo for the Ministry of Magic:

It’s kind of reminiscent of the logo for the Magisterium in The Golden Compass — which you can see above and behind Iorek Byrnison in the picture below — no?

Incidentally, note the Byzantine icons on the wall behind Iorek — at least one of which he shattered on his way out of the building — as well as what seems to be a cross on the roof in the lower left corner of the frame. Supposedly, the filmmakers went out of their way to eliminate specific references to the Christian church from their film, but scenes like these suggest otherwise.

Pro-life? Pro-choice? Could it possibly be both?

If ever there was a much-debated topic where people needed to learn to just let words mean what they say, abortion might be it.

Earlier this year, the commentary on films like Waitress and Knocked Up went in some curious and bizarre directions, reaching its nadir with Mireya Navarro’s ridiculous claim in the New York Times that “Many conservative bloggers have claimed ‘Knocked Up’ as an anti-choice movie”.

Uh, no we didn’t. We might have said the film has a “pro-life” sensibility, because it makes the pro-abortion advocates look callous and stupid while casting the decision to keep the baby in a positive light, but I don’t think anyone claimed that the film took a stance against the idea that the film’s main characters should have had the legal right to make that decision.

As with Knocked Up, so now with Juno. Lou Lumenick of the New York Post wanders into similar confusion when he writes:

Harry Forbes, the embattled head of the film office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops . . . , in his review of “Juno” lauds what he calls the flick’s “strong pro-life message.” Really? As someone who is strongly pro-choice, I came away from this movie with exactly the opposite message. True, the pregnant title character decides against having an abortion; she decides to carry the fetus to term and to give it up for adoption. The key word here is that Juno makes a deliberative choice.

Quite so. But where’s the contradiction? “Pro-life” means you favour the continuation of a person’s life. “Pro-choice” means you favour giving people the option of continuing or terminating that life. You can be pro-choice without being pro-abortion. You can be pro-life without being anti-choice. You can be anti-abortion while being pro-euthanasia. And so on, and so on.

There are many facets to these debates, and no one is served when terms that apply to one of those facets are confused with terms that apply to other facets. Hence, in my own review of Juno, I made a point of saying that the recent films in this genre have had “implicitly pro-life — not ‘anti-choice,’ but certainly pro-life — sensibilities”. In discussions like these, a little more clarity — and complexity — would be a good thing, I think.

TIFF organizers pick Canada’s Top Ten of 2007

Variety reports that the Toronto International Film Festival’s organizers have released their picks for Canada’s Top Ten of 2007 — and I have seen only about three-quarters of one of them. Yikes.

Here is the list; the one I have sort-of seen is in bold:

Amal (dir. Richie Mehta)
Continental, a Film Without Guns (dir. Stephane LaFleur)
Days of Darkness (dir. Denys Arcand)
Eastern Promises (dir. David Cronenberg)
Fugitive Pieces (dir. Jeremy Podeswa)
My Winnipeg (dir. Guy Maddin)
A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman (dir. Peter Raymont)
The Tracey Fragments (dir. Bruce McDonald)
Up the Yangtze (dir. Yung Chang)
Young People Fucking (dir. Martin Gero)

All ten films will be shown at the Cinematheque Ontario in Toronto January 25 – February 5, and presumably elsewhere as well.

Click the years for my posts on the 2006, 2005 and 2004 lists.