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LIFE IS BIUTIFUL (SOMETIMES)
I went to see Biutiful, the latest film by Alejandro Inarritu, starring Javier Bardem. Inarritu, along with Alphonse Cuaron and Guillermo Del Toro, is one of the Mexican directors who has made such an impact over the last decade in Hollywood. He has made previous films like Babel and 21 Grams, movies that are cerebral with a lot to say. In Biutiful, he presents a Barcelona that is seamy, seedy and sleazy and yet vibrant and alive at the same time. Bardem plays Uxbal, a directionless man split from his crazy wife Marambra (Maricel Alvarez), and he has custody of his two children, a son and a daughter. To make money, he visits local funeral parlours and ‘speaks’ to the recently departed relatives of its mourners. He continues his meanderings until he receives serious medical news and it forces him to change his outlook on life. In the hands of a lesser practitioner, his part would be mawkish or disconnected but Bardem is magnificent as Uxbal: magnetic on screen, totally dominating proceedings. Inarritu is a fantastic director and, while Biutiful won’t be to everybody’s taste, anyone interested in serious cinema will be blown away by the depth and breadth of this movie, which also debates the plight of immigrants forced to live in substandard accommodation and exploited by their employers and how people come to terms with their own mortality. It is an exquisite masterwork and a more than worthy addition to the director’s other movies…
I also went to see Killing Bono, a film that is only really notable because it contains the last screen performance of Pete Postlethwaite. Directed by Nick Hamm, the film looks at two Irish brothers, Neil and Ivan McCormick (played respectively by Ben Barnes and Robert Sheehan), who went to school with Bono and the rest of U2 in Ireland and spend the rest of their lives trying to get out from under their shadow. The problem with the whole film is that the script is hackneyed, clumsy and unconvincing. The actors playing the two brothers make a decent fist of it but none of it rings true. Postlethwaite as gay photographer and landlord Karl shows why he was so well-regarded as an actor before his early passing this year but he’s totally wasted. Martin McCann who plays Bono isn’t bad but everything feels lightweight and artificial. Peter Serafinowicz as their manager, Hammond, is embarassingly awful on screen and the humour that runs through the film is cringeworthy. So not exactly a fitting epitaph for Postlethwaite, Killing Bono is the sort of British film that FilmFour used to make in the Eighties and will disappear almost as soon as it’s arrived…


THREE-DIMENSIONAL THINKING
It’s not often that I’m invited to something unusual for a press screening but when I received the email invite for U2 3D at the IMAX at Waterloo, I thought I’d give it a try. It’s, as it sounds, an 85-minute concert film featuring Bono and the band filmed in 3D for the entire length. And it was a very odd experience at first: sitting in your seats while people throw virtual beer and Adam Clayton seemingly stands three inches from your seat. I admit that I don’t like all of U2’s musical catalog and some of the songs here like ‘Love and Peace’ and ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’ were in danger of disappearing up Bono’s fundament but the versions of ‘The Fly’ and ‘Vertigo’ were absolutely electric. U2 3D is a totally immersive experience and it really does feel like you are at the concert with the tens of thousands of Argentinians filmed here except without the difficult parking and the exorbitant ticket prices. This film takes concert footage to a new level and points the way to the future of the form. Directors Mark Pellington (Mothman Prophecies, Arlington Road) and Catherine Owens, with Director of Photography Tom Krueger and Director of 3-D Photography Peter Anderson, have managed to pull off an impressive and memorable event. If you have an IMAX cinema then you could do worse than check this out but you do need to be a little bit of a fan of the band…

www.U23D.co.uk