Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fish Tank

I'm reblogging this review of Fish Tank because I just watched Kelly Reichardt's wonderful, empty, lonesome film Wendy and Lucy which deals with some of the same issues as Fish Tank and I'd really like you to check out both these films if you can find them...I'm also reblogging this because I keep reading reviews that portray JK Rowling as a satirist of the "real England". JK Rowling's heart is in the right place certainly but by her own admission she gets her information about the "real England" from reading the tabloids and from her privately educated children. If you want to know about the real real England you could do worse and try Fish Tank instead, and, if you want to know about life in a certain stratum of real America (and you're quite a patient film viewer) then please give Wendy and Lucy a go. 
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To really enjoy Fish Tank (2009) its best to know nothing at all about the film save the general context and milieu. However most of the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes contain major spoilers. (Roger Ebert's 4 star review gives away 90% of the film.) I'll just say that it's about a 15 year old girl who lives with her little sister and her 32 year old mother in a high rise housing estate in Essex. It's a State of England movie of the type that they don't really make anymore. This is not nice, safe, heritage cinema, which will get a wide audience: a real shame because Fish Tank is a wonderful film and the best thing British cinema has done in years. Visual, affecting, emotional and beautiful, this is grown up cinema, amazingly shot, without music, with a hand-held camera in natural light, much of it during the golden hour. Fish Tank doesn't feel minimalist or experimental: the story is far too gripping for that. And its a million miles away from the horrible upper middle class phoniness of Notting Hill or Four Weddings And A Funeral or the Harry Potter films. This also is England the way she is now not the way she used to be in the time of EM Forster or Jane Austen. This is life for many many people, the kind of people whose stories don't get told in films that aren't dull witted genre pieces. On the basis of this one picture I can tell that Andrea Arnold, the director, is an incredible talent and Katie Jarvis is a charismatic and powerful leading actress. According to BoxOfficeMojo almost no one saw Fish Tank despite the fact that it won BAFTAs and a Special Jury Prize at Cannes. It was ignored completely by the Oscars whereas the cheesy heritage cinema special The Kings Speech won Best Picture. This tells you everything you need to know about the value of an Oscar and nothing about Fish Tank
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Anyway do yourself a favour and rent it. Just 1) don't complain if its too rough for you (you have been - obliquely - warned) and 2) dont spend twenty minutes fiddling about with the aspect ratio (like me) cos I think its supposed to look like that. 
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When you're done with the movie (and only when you're done) check out David Denby's review, here, Roger Ebert's review, here, and Peter Bradshaw's review, here.