Films seen in September 2011

This month I’ve seen Mongol (2007) on TV and Midnight in Paris (2011) and Tropa de Elite 2 (2011) in the cinema. Actually I saw the last one in October, but let’s include it in this post for convenience.

I can’t resist being the historical accuracy fundamentalist again when I evaluate Mongol. First off, kudos for the film being spoken in Mongolian and Mandarin and the great cinematography with all the beautiful shots of the Mongolian steppes. The film stays true to the story of Temujin’s life most of the time, but when Temujin is sold into slavery in China and his wife comes to rescue him it takes a very different turn. Life was hard for Temujin and we are shown frequently how he gets into trouble, loses to his enemies and then gets out of trouble to persist in his goal to unite the tribes. What I don’t like is the emphasis on the relationship with his wife and filmmakers trying to tell us that Temujin was the perfect family man.

What we don’t learn is how he gets his first allies to follow him, we simply learn that some people decided to accept his command out of nowhere. Even if he had a high social rank he was captured and enslaved by his father’s former allies, I don’t get how he could have convinced others to become loyal to him in his disadvantaged position after his escape. Yes, the Wikipedia article does not tell us this either and there is little reliable information on his early life, but the film makers should have invented a convincing explanation for it. The final battle between Temujin and Jamuha builds up to a climax but becomes a ridiculous anticlimax when we witness crazy suicidal ninjas on horseback employed by Temujin drawing their swords and simply racing at the enemy cavalry who simply ride into their sword edges. When the ninja cavalry take some losses they decide to retreat and get hosed down by volley of arrows from Temujin’s soldiers for some reason. Finally the god Tengri comes to save the day so Temujin can win, which is ridiculous. The script writers suffered from overindulgence in imagination. The use of Japanese actors for depicting Mongolians is a bit dubious I think, but maybe Mongolian actors were hard to find. My conclusion is that the film is good but could have been better.

With Midnight in Paris Woody Allen has again done nice work. I see some parallels with Vicky Cristina Barcelona, an earlier film of him. It’s fun and requires some knowledge about modern art and literature to appreciate and understand fully. Tropa de Elite 2 departs from the street level of it’s prequel, which had the daily lives of a few BOPE officers as it’s subject, and turns to corruption at the political level. The amount of (extreme) violence is much reduced compared to the first film, but the subject matter is very interesting. The message at the end of the film is not so positive: corruption affects higher levels of authority than we think and the system sustains itself so well that it’s difficult to eradicate it. I see a parallel with the banks who caused our financial crisis. They caused it but didn’t pay for it, they still earn sickeningly high salaries and they’ve infiltrated the politics of the USA so they can get what they want. Obama’s government is Wall Street’s government and nothing seems to stop them from causing an even bigger crisis in the future. I guess seeing the great documentary Inside Job (2010) influenced me to think more negatively about the financial sector.

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