I've been enjoying the fact that, from the start of this week, the Film4 channel has been available free on the Freeview platform. I've been waiting for this to happen for a while - whenever I've looked at the Sky packages, FilmFour (as it was known then), has been the most attractive channel, but you always had to pay extra to get it anyway. The channel arriving on Freeview will undoubtably get it a bigger audience, though at the expense of now needing to insert advert breaks mid-film.
Whilst film channels are plentiful on satellite and cable networks, Film4 will be the first one to arrive on Freeview. It's not just any old film channel though - I read in an article about the channel that it aimed to show only high calibre films, repeated frequently, aiming for quality not quantity. This, they hope, will build the channel trust with the audience, so that people will watch the films even if they haven't heard of them, on the basis that they're probably pretty good. In short, the channel wants to be as much about the brand as about the films. This is no doubt helped by FilmFour's history of co-producing some great British movies.
So, in a homage to Andrew Collins's mammoth triple-bill film review blog post, I'm going to watch as many of the films as I can in this opening week, and give them brief reviews here.
Lost in Translation
This was the headline film that Film4 has launched its arrival on Freeview with, it being one of those films that get highly praised by critics and receive Oscars, whilst remaining slightly arty, alternative and non-Hollywood. I had never managed to see the film, despire hearing the good things about it, and so this was a first viewing for me. It took about ten minutes to settle in to the pace and style of the film, but once I was there, I certainly enjoyed the - slow but endearing - ride. This is a film with two strong, fairly insular characters, who through the course of the film develop a genuine and enchanting relationship through a mixture of smiles and laughter but few words. There's not a single argument within the film, no raising of the voice, nor barely any outward conflict. Conflict, I was told in Drama class, is the basis for all narrative, yet here it is the emotional relationship between the character, and the hinted-at difficulties with their spouses, which is the crux of the story. A fun, moving film to watch, but without the intensity or depth to make it a truly amazing movie.
The Fifth Element
Now here is a film that I have seen and enjoyed before, but long enough ego and with a complicated enough plot to have made me forget why I enjoyed it. So the repeat viewing was a complete joy. This is a sci-fi thriller that's visually rich and creative, with plenty of great set-pieces that set it apart from most other comparible films. The enjoyment is no doubt helped by the sexy, scantily duct-tape clad redhead lead female, who falls into Bruce Willis's yellow flying taxi, speaking an exotic alien language. The plot itself is still somewhat unmemorable (to the extent that I probably still couldn't remember enough to explain it), but it somehow makes sense at the time, playing out more like some Shakespearian comedy rather than a deadly-serious Star Wars clone. It's a pity in someways that the film itself never grew into more of a cult franchise - indeed this could have generated a much better TV series than Stargate, a film it's easy to get The Fifth Element confused with. This was definitely worth watching again, and as I now have it saved on my PVR, I may even watch it a few more times.
More film watching to come...