Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Emperor Has No Clothes - The Films of Christopher Nolan

none of this has aged well
I used to think that Chris Nolan made films for intelligent 13 year old boys. I was wrong about that. Nolan's films are full of violence, sentimentality, bathos and passion - which pretty much describes your average 13 year old lad - but they are deeply uninterested in sex which, alas, is all teenage boys are thinking about when they're not blowing stuff up on their Xboxes. No, Nolan writes and directs films for intelligent 10 year old boys. They've got spaceships and gun battles and Batman and if I was 10 I'd probably love them too. But these are not films for grown ups. They create the illusion of cleverness, which, presumably is what they teach you in the English private schools, (where sadly most British directors now come from) but it's all surface cleverness - there's nothing going on underneath. All that matters is that you convince people that you're smart, you don't actually have to be smart. David Cameron and crew have learned that message as have the people at the forefront of British culture in the arts, books, movies, TV, etc. You probably know the sort I'm talking about.
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Nolan's childish and dimwitted Batman films were ridiculously overpraised by supine critics. Inception was a silly series of embedded action films inside a pretty good high concept. A high concept I would love to have seen exercised by, say, a French director. (Someone who knows that the best way of getting a man to reveal his secrets is not to point a gun at him but to point an attractive woman (or man) at him.) Insomnia, Nolan's remake of Erik Skjoldbjærg's original was just ok. Nolan's best films Memento and The Prestige weren't bad at all - The Prestige in particular almost lived up to the source material, an excellent novel by Christopher Priest. 
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Nolan's latest film, Interstellar, is a strange amalgam of 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Right Stuff, Contact & Disney's The Black Hole. The first 2 of those flicks are classics whereas Contact & The Black Hole are cheese festivals. On the basis of strong reviews in the UK and Australian media I went to see Interstellar but I should have realised that most film critics are science illiterates who were clearly baffled by the pseudo science of the movie. Nolan hired Kip Thorne as a 'physics advisor' to Interstellar but that doesn't mean anything - there's no physics in the film worth speaking about. No physics but much hokey magic (& no dont bother quoting Arthur C Clarke at me). Interstellar is an unholy mess, which like The Black Hole & Contact is sentimental and mawkish and deadly dull. As usual with Nolan the art direction and the cinematography are excellent, the female leads are good and the music is up to snuff and maybe with stronger source material there cd have been a good film in amongst all this. But the writing kills it - the writing is all over the shop: humourless, portentous, silly, fake smart. Nolan must have shat himself when he finally saw Gravity this year, a film half as long and twice as good as Interstellar, a film which will deservedly join The Right Stuff and 2001 as classics of the genre, which Interstellar will not. Distrust any film critic who gives this movie a good review.