CE Films - Part 8 - 1999-2000



6 May 1999
Film | Dir. Charles McDougall | Wr. Jimmy McGovern
Role: Gary Ellis (pilot).

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Alex: "One more member of the 'good intentions pave the road to hell' club (which for me consists of 'A Price Above Rubies', this and a couple other films that will be reviewed later). This time, we have a good creative team and cast, but the story itself is already suspicious, and where the film loses me, is its overall tone and narrative presentation, weakened by some mechanical suspense building.

"'Heart' is about a morbidly jealous Gary, his wife Tess who is good at feeding his suspicions, and Gary's heart transplant operation. He finds donor's increasingly deranged mother who takes up stalking the couple. All characters are decidedly abominable, and while I'm normally perturbed by the hapless characters' fates, this time I – perhaps perversely – cheered Gary on (it's one of the toughest endings of all CE films).

"It felt though as if there was some kind of meta level, narrative exemplified what author wanted to do with his creations. The penultimate scenes were the best in the film, even managing an acerbic social commentary, but the final ones destroyed this impression, returning to dial-a-twist – when the punch isn't enough to knock you unconscious, you're bound to notice the papier-mâché nature of the scenery.

"Film's attempts at humour and sordidness missed me by a mile, and somehow I believe I could've probably been satisfied with writing this film off as a moderate attempt at psycho-drama without them. You glimpse the story that could've been powerful – especially if it pursued the analysis of social and moral questions it touches, instead of what you only could call deliberate aspiration to degrade itself to a B-movie.

"It's not captivating/gruesome enough to be a plain horror story either, it's just repulsive (and I don't mean queasy, though it is graphic in all aspects). A great big 'eh?' it is now, and while I understand what the creators wanted to tell, I cannot see why I should be willing to experience this story. Oh yes, because CE is beyond convincing – but that's the problem."

Conclusion: Avoid, unless you're of 'what-doesn't-kill-you' kind. 

DVD Notes:
2002 "Spartan" All Regions (sold as Region 1; check with seller). Spanish subtitles. Extras: Filmographies.

3 Sept 1999 (Venice Film Festival)
Film | Dir. Michael Winterbottom | Wr. John Forte
Role: Vincent Boyd (husband).

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Alex: "A film, watching of which I've been postponing as long as possible, so frightened I was by its genre and themes. And when I finally saw it, I found it's indeed a rom-com. It's about a couple: They're desperate to conceive a child, and experience various troubles both at home and at work, especially when certain individuals from their past get involved.

"And I found that I have nothing against it, despite not sharing the ideas expressed in it or with it. It didn't irk me: It's well made for its genre and rather funny (characters are shown sympathetically, with soft irony, and humour isn't automatic). This film perhaps won't change your life, but it won't ruin an evening in either.

"I liked its visual side, it supported the mood and gave the story a very homogeneous feel. Characters were interesting, easy to follow, and there's also the local problematic (protestant/catholic, f. ex.).

"While the film itself is slightly unusual for CE, Vincent is not that far away from the men he played before; a man's man, who prefers to go and tinker with his car instead of braving an honest conversation with his wife. He's also bitter that he gave up his job as a police officer, and sees himself as a sort of failure, and childlessness is obviously not helping."

Conclusion: Worthwhile easy-watching, could be recommended because of, among other nicely random reasons, the northern Irish accent, which suits CE and his character very well, or, for example, the boy racer sequence. For once, a feel-good (eventually) film. 

DVD Notes:
2008 "Film4" Region 2. English HOH subtitles. Extras: Interviews w/ the cast; Making-Of (CE featured); Theatrical trailer.

Watch: CE interview, making-of, trail

Short film | Dir. Brian Hill | Wr. Simon Armitage & Brian Hill
Role: Salesman.

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"A stressed out salesman regains his self-esteem when he loses his car's spare tyre in a valley." [Film4]

"Based on a poem* by Simon Armitage. A sales rep feels trapped by his life. During a business trip that takes him through his hometown, his car has a puncture. Whilst replacing the wheel, the salesman loses control of the spare down a hill, and the childhood memory of an unstoppable tractor tyre is triggered."

Winner of the 15th Leeds International Film Festival first Yorkshire Film Award, 2001. More info: Century Films.

* Read the poem. Trivia: It was intended to be included in a compilation honouring Ted Hughes, but Armitage ran out of time, and sent it to Hughes, the poet who'd inspired him, separately. "Very good story," was the verdict. [p. 682, 'Letters of Ted Hughes', ed. Christopher Reid] 
1 Jan 2000
TV film | Dir. Brian Hill | Wr. Simon Armitage (poem)
Role: Millennium Man.

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"Feature-length film of Simon Armitage's 1000-line millennium poem of the same name, broadcast on New Year's Day, 2000.

"Mixing documentary, drama and poetry, we follow a 'millennium man' as he roams the country, meeting real people and collecting millennial offerings, things that people have jettisoned to begin a new life.

"We meet a former IRA man who has renounced violence, a terminal cancer patient who is throwing away a pair of running shoes, a bankrupt farmer throwing away beef on the bone, a man entering the priesthood, a man about to become a woman and a woman about to have a baby.

"Meanwhile, Armitage's epic poem narrates the many grim events of recent years, the Columbine high school shootings, the Paddington rail crash, the London nail-bombings. Familiar stories and images are recast as surreal events reflecting an age of cynicism, materiality and media overload.

"Themes of transition, death and birth, at once painful and liberating are explored in this unique and acclaimed film." [Century Films] 

30 Jan 2000
TV series | Dir. Geoffrey Sax | Wr. Paul Abbott
S. 1, ep. 2: 'Fire' (aka 'Yvonne's Story'); ep. 4: 'Steve's Story'
Role: Jim Calvert (bachelor airport worker).

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Alex: "Continuing the varieté, this is a rather enjoyable series that boasts both an acclaimed writer and extensive starry cast, which includes John Simm, Philip Glenister, Sarah Lancashire and Lesley Sharp. Jim is a character from the second episode and reappears for a blink in the fourth. What is specific for the series is a combination of mostly down-to-earth themes (it centres around a factory in Manchester) and very acute, sleek style. It leaves the impression of good handiwork, and if a story works, there's nothing to impede it."

Chiclit: "Chris plays an airport runway controller – and we meet him in a heroic moment when he rescues the daughter of a neighbor from a fire. Next thing you know he is hosting the neighbor Yvonne and her children in his house while they find a place to live. We find out, as do his new housemates, that he has a good job at the airport, dates hot and cold running air hostesses and he's neat and organized.

"He discovers what's missing in his life as he spends time in proximity to the messy reality that is a family. I am still not one hundred percent sure he loves the Sarah Lancashire character (Yvonne) as much as loves the idea of her and playing Dad. I would not call this his most introspective role, but again its one of the more subtle and happy performances I have seen him give."

A: "There isn't much for CE to do – Jim is a bit shallow, and, in my eyes, he isn't fully developed as a character, because the surfacing duality of his preferences in life isn't grounded at all – universal self-confidence isn't enough – and stays merely technical."

C: "It's actually a more upbeat role for Chris – no real angst or intensity. It's probably one of his more mainstream, accessible performances – it would probably be good for someone who doesn't know a lot of his other work, or is not sure they are ready for some of his darker, more intense material. In fact, it makes you wonder if Chris had been drawn to more parts like this one, how his career might have ended up very differently. Overall the series is well cast with familiar British actors and it's a very compelling slice of middle class life centered around a textile factory."

Conclusion: A good series, a fun character. 

DVD Notes:
2004 "inD" All Regions (The Complete First Series). No subtitles. Extras: Photo gallery (CE image 1 see above, image 2 here); Episode synopses; Cast & crew bios (read here).