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PoA

Edited to split it off from main post, so as to avoid inadvertant spoilage


You know, there's nothing more off-putting in HP fandom than a few of the fans. Good god. If you were any more stupid, I would have to water you three times a week. Please put that deleted post back online so I can watch the sharper knives in the drawer eviscerate you with their customary elegance.

*cough* Anyway.

Yesterday I went to see The Prisoner of Azkaban.

For a little background: when I went to see Chamber of Secrets, I left before the end. I'd read reviews that said the last 10 minutes or so was self-congratulatory bunk and I was about to be late for work, so I left. I didn't like the film so much, thought it was amiable but cartoonish and lazy. My expectations were not high for the follow-up. I've not been so pleased to be wrong for a long time.

The Prisoner of Azkaban is an enchanting film, in every sense of that word.



It feels long, in the way that Return of the King feels long -- you know that you've been there a while and your arse is starting to ache but it's okay because you're fascinated. Not engrossed -- or I wasn't anyway, possibly because it was a full cinema of kids who were moving about and talking -- but fascinated. When I go to see it tomorrow (long story), I plan to focus on the details.

Cuaron has gone for a very different look -- a decision which works splendidly. Everything is a bit scuffed and battered and every inch of the frame is packed with detail. His locations aren't set in some Hollywood fantasy of what this country looks like. London *looks like* London. Hogwarts *looks* like Scotland, rather than some bizarre Ruritania. It looks real. It has verisimilitude.

As you can tell from the trailer, his directorial palette is murkier, in greens, blues, browns, burnt oranges. The performances are more realistic and there's less cheerful mugging for the camera. There's a sense that outside the parameters of the film, these people-who-are-not-Harry have lives that encompass pain and joy and all the emotions in between and they have relationships that are deeper than what we see. The jokes are not Hollywood jokes, they arise out of situation and character. And in one case, the malicious desire to maim.

Alfonso Cuaron has put Ian Brown, ex-lead singer of the Stone Roses, in the scene at the Leaky Cauldron. I almost clapped with delight.

I wondered whether there'd been a fair bit culled from the end of the film because at the start the pace is a little more leisurely, with time to linger over jokes and a great bonding moment in the Gryffindor dorm rooms, but by the end, Cuaron is piling one event on top of another, to the point where I am not sure it would be entirely comprehensible to someone who had not read the books.

Some of the cuts change towards the end. Cuaron is fond of the old fashioned fade to black, edges inwards (I'm sure there's a proper name for it, but I don't know what it is), and I thought that there were fewer of those towards the end of the film. That could be a pacing issue, or it could be Cuaron doing last-minute trimming to cut the running time. I am going to hope for the latter, if only because the idea of more MWPP on a DVD is irresistible

MWPP get short shrift, and from the credits on IMDB (not the most reliable source, I know), I would have imagined that there would be more of James at least. Sirius is entirely different to the figure I expected but he's perfect. Snaggle-toothed, tattooed and feverishly unhinged, Sirius is played as a man on the very edge of darkness by Gary Oldman. it's a shame he didn't have more to do.

And as for Remus -- well, I was dubious before, because I wasn't sure that Thewlis had the necessary sweetness and the moustache was upsetting, but Thewlis absolutely inhabits the role. He's ever so slightly broken but ever so slightly hopeful and a great teacher. And he listens to *swing* music.

Both were the embodiment of the adage that it's not the despair that kills you, it's the faint hope.

After those two, Timothy Spall was a disappointment as Peter Pettigrew, who felt like he came from one of the earlier Columbus films. Too broad a performance, but there's too little *there* to make anything of the part. I almost hope that Peter reappears in book 6 or 7 to have a major role, because Spall is one of my favourite actors, and capable of suggesting shade and depth with very little. Just not here.

Of the younger cast members, they're all improving hugely and Dan Radcliffe suits an angrier Harry. Or vice versa. Rupert Grint has been reined in a bit, so now it just looks like an exuberant Ron, rather than a young actor who's been told a bit too often how funny he is. Hermione is wonderful though. It's made absolutely clear that she's the one who's worked out the solution to save the day and Harry is her willing accomplice. Harry's Patronus saves Sirius, but the overall plan is Hermione's. You finally believe that she's living up to the promise made in the second film that she's "brilliant but scary".

(Julie Christie is in the film. Who knew? Certainly not me when I was watching it. When it got to the credits at the end I was all "She was? *Where*?")

There are great reviews that explain this better here, byAJ Hall and Fialka

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
se_parsons
Jun. 2nd, 2004 08:19 am (UTC)
I am beyond delighted to hear this. POA is my favorite book and the fact that somebody did a better job than with the previous ones makes me VERY VERY glad.

I am sorry to hear MWPP were cut down so much. The book is all about them.
muridae_x
Jun. 2nd, 2004 09:46 am (UTC)
Julie Christie was Madam Rosmerta. As I watched the film I thought, "hmm, she looks familiar", but it wasn't until I saw the credits at the end that I had that lightbulb moment.

I didn't walk out of CoS, but it felt desperately flat to me, and I came away disappointed. I didn't feel the need to go back and see it again and again and again, whereas I definitely want to go and see this for repeat viewings because there wasn't enough time to absorb the detail, and all the visuals. I like the more rugged, wilder Scotland that Hogwarts is now set in, and I notice that there's a lot more rain. Possibly that's the Dementors seeding the clouds, since movie!Dementors seem to have the power of flight, but I imagine that it's mostly (a) an attempt at greater realism, and (b) mood setting for a year when everyone is slightly gloomy and/or apprehensive. Also, I need to go back to double check my notion of where Diagon Alley is, since the journey there in the Night Knight Bus was very much more specific than in the previous films. I do love the extra sense of location that this movie has.

My expectation of the Harry Potter movies has always been that the adult characters will take a back seat to the kids, so I wasn't too surprised that MWPP didn't get too much screen time. Doesn't stop me from wanting more though. :-( Would it be too much to ask for a DVD version with commentaries and cut scenes and making of stuff this time instead of more games?

I wasn't sure that Thewlis had the necessary sweetness and the moustache was upsetting, but Thewlis absolutely inhabits the role. He's ever so slightly broken but ever so slightly hopeful and a great teacher.

The moustache is indeed very upsetting. My mind pictures of Lupin when reading are very definitely cleanshaven. But Thewlis was a revelation. He had great presence, and you can entirely see why Harry warms to him as a mentor over that difficult year. His departure scene was heartbreaking, with its "people like me" comment. Ever so slightly broken conveys it very well, and is something that will probably add to and inform my future re-readings of any of the books that Remus is in, much as some of the things the LotR movies told me about Peter Jackson's readings of the book opened my eyes to new ways to view certain people and events in that.

And he listens to *swing* music.

Which should tickle the readers and participants in hp_survivor, I guess, since a gramophone was the Lupin character's luxury item to take to his desert island.
infinitemonkeys
Jun. 2nd, 2004 06:15 pm (UTC)
I definitely want to go and see this for repeat viewings because there wasn't enough time to absorb the detail, and all the visuals

Exactly. This felt more like LotR, where when I was sitting in the cinema for the second viewing, I wanted to pause the action so I could look more closely at the wonderful throwaway background things.

And ditto on the proper DVD release. I feel sort of hopeful now that the books have been released in two versions and the two versions of the LotR trilogy have proved so profitable. Perhaps there could be a kids version then a two-disc mammoth adults version? I suppose not but I wish otherwise. *g*
(Deleted comment)
infinitemonkeys
Jun. 3rd, 2004 02:41 pm (UTC)
Re: squeal like a fangrrl
He looks absolutely as though he fits in. Apparently he's a friend of Cuarón's. He's just sitting there, reading a book and stirring his tea.

Also, it's as well that you know, so you won't spend the next five minutes of the film distracted and muttering to yourself "Was that Ian Brown I just saw?" *g*
angstville
Jun. 2nd, 2004 08:36 pm (UTC)
If you were any more stupid, I would have to water you three times a week.

This may very well be the funniest thing I've read in weeks. In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I plan on stealing it for my very own and using it without crediting my little pretend friend from another land. heeeeeeeee
pauraque
Jun. 6th, 2004 05:41 pm (UTC)
I love Peter, and I love Tim Spall, and... though I wasn't *disappointed*, because I didn't expect very much, I can't say it worked for me. What's wonderful about Peter is that he's nothing like what you expect -- rather than a moustache-twirling villain who gloats over his crimes (ie, what we think Sirius will be), we get this completely pathetic creature who cries, begs, and generally makes a miserable spectacle of himself.

And that's my problem with Peter in the movie -- he comes off as manipulative and wicked. He doesn't seem to believe his own excuses, which is what's so frightening about Peter in the book.

I have to wonder what sort of direction Spall was given. I mean, when you're in a movie for five minutes, how do you prepare for that?
infinitemonkeys
Jun. 9th, 2004 11:37 am (UTC)
Sorry not to answer this earlier -- I missed it somehow.

What's wonderful about Peter is that he's nothing like what you expect -- rather than a moustache-twirling villain who gloats over his crimes (ie, what we think Sirius will be), we get this completely pathetic creature who cries, begs, and generally makes a miserable spectacle of himself.

Exactly. He's fascinating because his villainy is so rooted in betrayal. It's his ability to justify it to himself and others and see himself as the victim that fascinates me because I feel certain that the betrayal wasn't a spur-of-the-moment thing. I feel as though he must have edged towards it with smaller betrayals first, and that his final betrayal was born of calculation, not panic.

*ahem* YMMV. *g*

And that's my problem with Peter in the movie -- he comes off as manipulative and wicked. He doesn't seem to believe his own excuses, which is what's so frightening about Peter in the book.

I think you've isolated what didn't work for me. I'd say this was a performance which would've fitted in with Chris Columbus's two movies, which were less subtle all round for all that the first was a good enough introduction to the series.


I have to wonder what sort of direction Spall was given. I mean, when you're in a movie for five minutes, how do you prepare for that?

I don't know. He's usually a beautifully subtle and moving actor but he had a tiny amount to work with here
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )