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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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SOME 10 days ago, foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides raised expectations by announcing the possibility of a deal with Turkey for the opening of the fenced off area of Famagusta, for the return of its inhabitants. In exchange the Cyprus government would agree to the opening of Tymbou airport to direct flights. ...
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By George Psyllides PRIVATE auditors have expressed doubt the electricity authority (EAC) could be considered a going concern and have asked its board to draft a credible plan to tackle the problem, according to the auditor-general’s 2012 report on the semi-state company. Among other issues, ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Consider the Source ]

Consider the Source

AN INFERIOR REMAKE AND A SUPERIOR COMIC-BOOK MOVIE

3:10 TO YUMA **

DIRECTED BY James Mangold
STARRING Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, Ben Foster
US 2007 122 mins.

IRON MAN ***

DIRECTED BY Jon Favreau
STARRING Robert Downey Jr, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow
US 2008 126 mins.


Welcome to my nightmare. I’ve been hoping they wouldn’t show 3:10 to Yuma at the cinema, or at least that they’d show it in a week when I wouldn’t have to write about it – but they have, and I do, so I guess I just have to deal with it.

Let me explain. Yuma is a remake of a 1957 Western with the same title, starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin as outlaw and rancher, respectively. It’s not quite a classic Western, but it’s certainly well-thought-of. Knowing this, I felt I should revisit the original (I saw it a couple of years ago) before watching the remake; I didn’t really plan to watch them together, but then TCM showed the original at 8 p.m. on a night when I had the remake rented out from the DVD club. The coincidence was too good to miss – so I ended up watching them back-to-back, three and a half hours of rancher-and-outlaw shenanigans separated only by the 50 years between Yuma ’57 and Yuma ’07.

Now, this is a problem. Film writers already run the risk of becoming estranged from their readers – films play a bigger part in my life than they do the average punter’s, so I come to them with different expectations – but this is like that problem pushed to ridiculous extremes. I’m the only person in Cyprus (possibly the world) to have watched this Yuma immediately after that Yuma; what good is my skewed perspective to someone who just wants to know if it’s worth a Sunday-night trip to the pictures? Yet I also think it’s wrong to treat films as if they exist in a vacuum. After all, for the price of two tickets to the multiplex you could order the original Yuma online (it’s currently $12.99 plus shipping at Amazon.com). Isn’t it my job to act as consumer guide, pointing you towards superior merchandise?

The original Yuma is indeed superior. I suspected I’d like it more, but I thought it’d be closer; instead, almost all the changes in the remake – changes of tone, scale and characterisation – serve to coarsen the story and make it more simplistic (my actual rating would be one star, but that would be misleading for viewers watching the film in isolation). Briefly, 3:10 to Yuma is a tale of a bad man and a good man, and how the two are closer than they seem. The outlaw in Yuma ’57 is quite civilised; he believes people should be buried in the place where they lived – which is something a farmer might say – and treats people reasonably, unless of course they force him to shoot them. The rancher in Yuma ’57 is quite forceful; he’s fallen on hard times, but he’s loved by his family and respected by the folks in the small Western town where the action takes place. That’s why the plot is so poignant, the outlaw sacrificing himself for the sake of his better self, the life he could’ve lived but never did.

The remake is entirely different. Instead of two similar men separated by Fate, it creates two diametrically-opposite men brought together by circumstance. The outlaw (Russell Crowe) is a Hannibal Lecter-like ?bermensch: he kills at will, and is always in control – and his newfound artistic streak (he likes to sketch things) only adds to the impression of psychosis, the post-Lecter psycho being of course an Artist gone wrong. The rancher (Christian Bale) is a craven wimp, scorned by family and townspeople alike. Crowe’s final sacrifice is a gesture of pity more than anything – and a detail at the very end (the horse) implies the ‘sacrifice’ isn’t much of a sacrifice at all. Instead of two men forming a tentative bond, spurred by the presence of a Good Woman, we have the frankly dull sub-plot of Bale’s teenage son wrestling with ideas of manhood gleaned from pulp novels, finally learning to respect his father.

There are caveats. Yuma ’57 is very poor as an action movie. The action scenes are implausible, as if no-one particularly cared. The new film is a much better action flick, even if it adds such lurid touches as Apaches (who “enjoy killing”) and cowboy vigilantes. Also, of course, times change. Older films are more likely to hinge on self-sacrifice, just because people’s lives involved more self-sacrifice in the old days (life was hard, money scarce, society oppressive). Newer films are more likely to care about fashionable concepts like the Meaning of Manhood. Still, the new Yuma is a bloated thing (clocking in at half an hour longer than the old Yuma), lacking the grace of the original. You can see it in the way everything’s bigger, louder, cruder – the opening stagecoach robbery now a pitched battle, the family now dysfunctional as well as poor, Bale’s younger son now asthmatic, Crowe’s right-hand man now a raving loony, the look now dark and grimy instead of beautiful and painterly, the climax now set up so the whole town’s trying to kill Bale (they all miss, of course) instead of just the outlaw’s men. There’s even a torture scene!

I wish I could forget all these odious comparisons, taking the film as it comes to someone unaware of its history (for the record, most viewers seem to like it; with 50,000 votes counted, it has an 8/10 average on the Internet Movie Database). But I can’t – and maybe it’s just as well. You might think it’s unfair to judge a remake on its antecedents, but in fact it’s the only fair way of judging it. To quote William Faulkner – a quote that’s even more apropos for film history, most of it now accessible at the click of a computer key: “The past isn’t dead. It’s not even past.”
Things are sooooo much simpler with Iron Man. Not only have I not read the Marvel comic on which this is based, but everyone seems to agree the film’s an improvement on the (rather undistinguished) comic. Best of all, I’ve seen the trailer, so I knew exactly what to expect – and got exactly what I expected, which I guess is better than being ripped off though still slightly underwhelming.

This is the first of the big summer blockbusters, and it’s no classic but it entertains, largely due to a top-tier cast (it’s weird watching some of the best actors in Hollywood lending their talents to a superhero movie). Robert Downey Jr is Tony Stark, arms manufacturer and international playboy, who gets a Road to Damascus moment after being kidnapped by Afghan terrorists. Jeff Bridges is his villainous, alarmingly bald colleague. Gwyneth Paltrow gets the thankless role of Tony’s secretary.

Downey’s comic flair and manic energy carry most of the movie, but Iron Man still comes off looking flimsy. The star of the show is the jet-powered metal body-suit, and it makes for the usual excitements – slapstick trial-and-error as Tony learns how to work it; a first, thrilling flight through the night-sky – but it’s not a personal superpower, like Spider-Man’s. It’s really just a super-weapon (like Robocop), so the real question is what Tony plans to do with it. He does hit back at the Afghan terrorists, but that seems to be a one-off (avenging a friend, for the most part). Does he plan to work with the military – his best pal is a high-ranking officer – hitting whatever targets they assign? Will he just fight urban crime? Or has he turned into a pacifist?

Answers presumably to come in Iron Man 2 (hints are given at the end of the closing credits, if the Cineplex doesn’t cut them off) – but keeping things fuzzy tends to hurt Iron Man, muddling our emotional connection. In the end, it’s just a film about a really cool body-suit – not a drama in comic-book clothing, like the last two Spider-Mans (Spidey 3 was almost a weepie), not a political film about the war in Afghanistan, but a light-hearted action flick that’s fun to watch and doubtless going to make a lot of money. Simple as that.

NEW DVD RELEASES

Here’s our regular look at the more interesting titles released on DVD in the US and UK over the past few months. Some may be available to rent from local video clubs, or you can always order over the Internet: dozens of suppliers, but http://www.amazon.com (for US) and http://www.play.com (for UK) are among the most reliable, if not necessarily the cheapest. Prices quoted don’t include shipping. Note that US discs are ‘Region 1’, and require a multi-region player.

NEW FILMS

BRICK LANE: British drama about Bangladeshi immigrant girl in the East End, based on a bestseller. Extras include interviews and commentary. [UK]

WEIRDSVILLE: Black comedy about druggies tangling with Satanists (!), all played for laughs. Copious extras include interviews with director and writer. [UK]

ZODIAC (Director’s Cut): Slightly longer cut, on a 2-disc package with loads of extras. The film remains a masterpiece about the Nature of Truth or slightly overrated, according to taste. [US/UK]

MY KID COULD PAINT THAT: Fascinating documentary (shown in the recent ‘Views of the World’ Festival in Nicosia) about a little girl whose abstract paintings sell for as much as $300,000 – but does she really paint them? Extras include a couple of mini-docs. [US]

BIG BANG LOVE, JUVENILE A: Stylish, claustrophobic prison drama from prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike. 2-disc package with lots of extras, including a making-of. [US]

OLD FILMS

THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER (1968): Sensitive version of Carson McCullers’ character drama, winning Alan Arkin an Oscar nomination as gentle deaf-mute in the Deep South. [US]

PAYDAY (1972): Another, very different Southern drama, starring Rip Torn as hell-raising country singer. One of five films recently released on the Warner Bros. ‘Director Showcase’ label, others including ‘Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ [see above] and lesbian-tinged sports drama ‘Personal Best’ (1982). [US]

MARKETA LAZAROVA (1967): Legendary Czech drama with a medieval setting, making its debut on DVD. Includes a 16-page booklet on the film. [UK]

W.C. FIELDS COLLECTION: Misanthropic, bulbous-nosed, deeply zany comic of the 30s and 40s gets a 17-film collection (!) including most of his classics – notably ‘It’s a Gift’ (1934), ‘Man on the Flying Trapeze’ (1935) and ‘The Bank Dick’ (1940). A must-have, assuming you like 30s comedy and have around £55 to spare. [UK]



(Source: Cyprus Mail)



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