Thursday, 3 March 2016


Image result for the assassin movie


This is an old 2002 film that we had never seen before. Sub-titled The Fast Runner, it is based upon a thousand-year old myth about an Inuit Indian who escapes his enemies by running across the Arctic ice, naked.

I thought it was superb: sub-zero temperatures; everyone dressed in furs and living off the land and a real feel for what life must be like for these people. They live in igloos and there is a riveting scene where the two brothers construct an igloo . . . a big one . . . from the inside.

There is a story-line. Wanna hear it? Girl is promised in marriage to son of tribal chief but loves another. The two young men fight for her/her lover wins/ the son character vows revenge/takes revenge by killing the lover’s brother/ the lover escapes with his own life because he is a fast runner. There isn’t much dialogue and few wasted words. The reason it is so great is because of the intimate insight it brings to a primitive hunter-gatherer tribe living in the harshest conditions imaginable, yet can still find the capacity within the tribe to care for the weak, the young and the old. Even an Attenborough-type documentary wouldn’t get this close to tribal peoples, someone somewhere would be complaining because you aren’t allowed to photograph our women or take images of our Gods or whatever.

Really excellent film; three hours long, by the way. It has been voted Best Canadian Film ever made, apparently. Won an award for cinematography in Cannes plus a million lesser awards at lesser film festivals.


Loved this. Should have won the Palme D’Or last year at Cannes. It did win Best Director but some French film about immigrants that no-one watched won.  Sight & Sound voted it Best Film of 2015.

It is not what you think. Although superficially it’s a Crouching Tiger martial arts film, the actual martial arts stuff is minimal. I haven’t got a clue what it’s about by the way . . . nobody has . . . all the reviewers talk about enigmatic ‘cos they can’t find anything else to say about it.
What story there is, essentially a trained female assassin’s loyalties are torn is just enough to hang a rapturous cinematic experience on; not enough to get in the way. It is set in 9thC China, blanketed in myth of course. The Director is quoted as saying, ‘I don’t think that plot is the only way to appeal to an audience’.

Just go. Watch the fabulous ending and gasp. Watch the exquisite scene with the billowing drapes reflected in glass or the zither scene with the bowl of grapes in the foreground or the scene with the huge bowl of oranges in the foreground; mist, steam, smoke in the background. Every scene, every scene composed meticulously to beautiful artistic perfection.

Fantastic film.


When I was a kid in fact for longer than that, well into my twenties, I wanted to be a cartoonist. Not funny ha-ha cartoons [I don’t have a sense of humour] not even Superhero cartoons but futuristic post-apocalyptic cartoons with tribes of scantily-dressed young girls slaying Buffy-type misogynists.

I spent every evening and every weekend out of the sun inking story boards.

Shouldda gone to artschool but in those days there were no courses teaching cartoon drawing and the computer programmes that are available now, simply didn’t exist. Then I got married, settled down and I no longer had the time and to be honest, you had to be brilliant to make a living at it and I wasn’t brilliant. I had ideas and I had the passion but just couldn’t get picked up by a studio. The great cartoonists were all Spanish in those days, I’ve still got some of their fantastic [the right adjective, for once] work in a box upstairs.

Fortunately for the sanity of civilisation Brendan McCarthy didn’t give up so easily. He scripted and storyboarded this and it is fab. Loved it. Kermode talks about Battle Fatigue. Yeah? It is wonderful. As good in its own way as The Assassin . . . a work of Art in other words. If Michelangelo were alive this is what he would have produced. McCarthy designed the spiky wheels on the Warwaggon; the bad-guys on poles; the motorcycle riders who turn out to be a group of old women; the white-painted trolls; the literally millions of tiny, clever details that won this film six Oscars the other day.

And apparently it was McCarthy who came up with the genius idea of making it a womans film.

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