DOCUMENTARY HELL AND BACK AGAIN (15) 86min ●●●●●
Constant television coverage of the Vietnam War so shocked American households that it is said to have helped turn the tide of public opinion against the conflict. The war in Afghanistan has received saturation coverage across all media and yet the general public seems largely indifferent to what has happened there. The contrast feels like a significant sign of the times. Photojournalist Danfung Dennis’ Hell And Back Again is an attempt to put a face to the human consequences of the war in Afghanistan. It follows Sergeant Nathan Harris on the front line of conflict and once he returns home, wounded, adrift and struggling to re-adjust to civilian life. It is a documentary with a dramatic arc that recalls defining classics of American cinema from The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946) to The Deerhunter (1978) with a dash of Taxi Driver (1976) thrown in, as Harris reveals his casual fascination with guns in some chilling scenes set in the family home.
Danfung’s combat footage has the operatic quality of
Apocalypse Now as helicopters swirl in the sky and a lone gunner fires randomly through the dust and haze. He also appears to have become another member of the Harris family in the way he has gained the trust of Harris and his wife Ashley. The film is sketchy and impressionistic in places, leaving a lot of unanswered questions about elements of Harris’ life and marriage. We never really gain much of Ashley’s perspective on events and what her husband’s injuries and attitudes have meant to her. The film is very emotional as Danfung unflinchingly captures
casualties and a moving mass funeral. There is the sting of truth in the film’s best moments that allow it to stand alongside Restrepo in the canon of exceptional documentary work inspired by an often unfathomable conflict. (Allan Hunter) ■ Selected release from Fri 12 Oct and GFT, Glasgow from Fri 23 October.
COMEDY/DRAMA CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE (12A) 118min ●●●●●
Suburbia, modern day. Emily (Julianne Moore) tells husband Cal (Steve Carell) that she wants a divorce. Cal agrees to move out and hits the local bar. After a period of drunken self-pity, local lothario Jacob (Ryan Gosling) takes him under his wing and teaches him the art of seduction. Cal soon gets his pride back but his life is about to get a whole lot more complicated. Having written and directed the quirky I Love You Phillip Morris and scripted Bad Santa, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have become the ‘go to guys’ for off beat, risqué comedy and Crazy, Stupid Love is packed with early promise. Unfortunately Ficarra and Requa are directing another man’s screenplay and that man is Dan Fogelman, who wrote Tangled, Bolt, Cars and the miserable Fred Claus. So what begins as an interesting observational comedy on the collapse of the nuclear family and the rediscovery of manhood becomes a life change rom-com stuffed full of the requisite farce, denouement and sentimentality. All the performers work hard to disperse the smog of conservatism that prevails but to little effect. (Paul Dale) ■ General release from Fri 23 Sep.
DOCUMENTARY PAGE ONE: A YEAR INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES (15) 91min ●●●●● DRAMA/ROMANCE PERFECT SENSE (15) 92min ●●●●●
These are dark days for the newspaper business. Advertising revenues and circulations are slumping in the face of ‘free’ online competitors, whilst scores of titles have already folded. Andrew Rossi’s fly-on-the-wall documentary charts a turbulent year (2009-2010) at The New York Times, whose survival is now at stake. Jobs are being slashed from its newsroom, a paywall for subscribers is announced, and the controversial editorial decision is taken to publish redacted WikiLeaks documents from the Afghanistan war. Will Apple’s newly launched iPad be, in the words of one staff member: ‘a bridge to the future or the gallows?’ The respectful Page One focuses more on personalities than questions of finances and ownership, and skims over the scandals. The film’s undeniable star turns out to be the rasping-voiced columnist and ex-crack addict David Carr, whose principled and rigorous investigation into corporate wrongdoing at the Tribune company upholds the finest traditions of his paper. (Tom Dawson) ■ GFT, Glasgow from Fri 23-Thu 29 Sep.
David Mackenzie’s seventh feature is, superficially, his most disturbing yet. Set in near- future Glasgow, Perfect Sense is an apocalyptic romance. Against the backdrop of a terrifying global plague that’s stripping humankind of its senses one by one, it focuses on two people, Ewan McGregor’s chef and Eva Green’s scientist, who have been unable or unwilling to feel love, until they meet one another. The awful irony is that, just as these two loners begin to experience love, their ability to feel it is stripped away. Pessimistic as that set-up might sound, Perfect
Sense, scripted by Dane Kim Fupz Aakeson (In Your Hands), is a surprisingly optimistic film. Its ending is, depending on how you read it, either utterly depressing or gloriously exhilarating. But there’s no getting away from the central message – make hay while the sun shines – and if you see the film as a metaphor for falling in love, then it’s positively sentimental. Who’d have thought that Mackenzie, making his most accomplished film to date, would do that? (Miles Fielder) ■ Selected release from Fri 7 Oct.
22 Sep–20 Oct 2011 THE LIST 63