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Venice: "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" and "A Simple Life"

[Editor's Note: Here's Manolis, a Greek reader who is covering Venice for The Film Experience. If you can read Greek, visit Cinema News for more of his festival coverage.]

The spy thriller was eagerly anticipated here in Venice and reaction was generally positive though some critics felt that something was missing. English is not my first language and with the heavy accents I did have a hard time following all of the twists of the intricate plot. But despite my difficult I was delighted that the film doesn’t underestimate your intelligence and demands your full attention throughout. The film's technical aspest are very impressive from sets to costumes to cinematography and Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) directs with stylish gusto, creating magnificent shots and frames. Though the spy movie genre doesn't generally promise the slow pacing that Alfredson chooses, it's an interesting approach. The performances follow this same tone, all of them toned down. The triumph of the ensemble cast is that you can feel that underneath the icy surface of the British mentality of the period, there is an array of emotions ready to explode. A simple gesture is, for these characters, far more important than a whole sentence. In fact, Gary Oldman only raises his voice once in the lead role of George Smiley in a wonderful monologue towards the end. Colin Firth and John Hurt are also very good as is Tom Hardy in a small but memorable role.  

The one thing I felt Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy lacked is a heart as it is a particularly cold experience. This not automatically a flaw for an intelligent espionage thriller but a small dose of warmth would have added to the whole a great deal considering that the film turns on loyalty, values and ideals. 

Andy Lau at the Venice premiere of A Simple LifeTAO JIE (A SIMPLE LIFE)
The second movie today was Tao Jie by Chinese filmmaker Ann Hui. The film takes place in Hong Kong and deals with the relationship between the thirtysomething Roger Lee (Andy Lau) and his elderly nanny Tao (Deannie Yip). The roles in this relationship are reversed when Tao gets seriously ill and can’t serve him anymore. It’s time for Roger Lee to rise to the occasion, learn to appreciate the things that he has taken granted and take care of this woman who was more than a mother to him all his life; she needs to know that someone will be there by her side in the last days.

A Simple Life has humor, pathos and sensitive performances and provides an interesting window for Westerners of the way the Chinese view their elders. The tender story has broad appeal but breaks no new ground and begins to drag towards the end.  Although comparisons to Yasujiro Ozu’s films would be unfair, they are inevitable and naturally not favorable for Hui’s film. 


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Reader Comments (3)

Cold experience? Shouldn't bother anyone who loves Jean-Pierre Melville. (I've seen four of his (Le Doulos, Le Samurai, Army of Shadows and Le Cercle Rouge) and have very much enjoyed them.)

September 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Waiting until December to see Tinker Tailor... might just kill me. Could not possibly be looking forward to it any more if I tried. It's like the quintessential Movie-That-I-Am-Guaranteed-To-Flip-For.

September 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I'm just happy Tomas Alfredson didn't take forever to make another movie. Quality, be damned! Though I suspect from the review that this one has all the makings of something perfectly subtle and nuanced, as if Merchant-Ivory came back for one last one and decided to go sinister. And I like it when it's cold in the dark. ;)

September 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark
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