Searching for a Lost City, eyeing the wildlife of China, honoring the guru of better cities
There’s a full slate today even though, since I’ve been traveling, there are three films I haven’t reviewed. (see below). Notice that three others deal with subjects the Vancouver Observer takes special interest in: urban planning, the homeless and that recent addition, survival of wildlife.
Here’s the entire list:
The Lost City of Z: 4 stars
Born in China: 3
Citizen Jane: Battle for the City: 4 ½
The Stairs: 3 ½
The Promise: --
Free Fire: --
THE LOST CITY OF Z: This is an exceptional film, a grand adventure, a true story, a history lesson, a family drama and more, all presented in a lush retro style that we don’t seen much anymore but fits perfectly. This one was made mostly in Northern Ireland and Columbia but was set in motion by Brad Pitt (after he read the book it’s based on) and directed by another American, James Gray who has only done smaller art films before this expansive exploit. His work and that of all the actors is flawless. The cast features Charlie Hunnam (soon to be seen as King Arthur), Tom Holland (the current Spider-Man), Robert Pattinson (you know his fame), Sienna Miller and a batch of top-notch British actors. Also Italian legend Franco Nero, briefly.
Hunnam plays Percival Fawcett, a British soldier who was sent to Latin America in 1906 to find the border between Brazil and Bolivia and prevent a war. Pattison is one of his crew and Miller his wife, though she’s stuck staying home bearing his children. The film brings in many contemporary viewpoints – equal rights for her, respect for indigenous people’s culture, and more – and revolves them as background around Fawcett’s belief that there had been an advanced civilization deep in the Amazon jungle. He became obsessed with finding it, arguing his case before a noisy Geographical Society, to his wife and then his resentful son. He went three times, floated the river by raft, dodging arrows and walking into jungles that got spookier the further he went. There was also an interlude of fighting in the World War I trenches. The film expertly establishes all these environments, stages the debates and gives us deep suspense as he explored. Best of all, though it’s a bit long, it keeps your interest every second. (5th Avenue Theatre and the Cineplex in Langley) 4 out of 5
BORN IN CHINA: The baby animals are impossibly cute. The cameras take us very close and let us see them grow up, play, make little mistakes and act like, well, kids everywhere as their mothers cuddle, hug, fret, feed and protect them. Human children will love this film. They laugh pretty loud when Mei Mei the baby panda slips and rolls down hill. Later its first solo tree climb is a moment of triumph.
Out of such scenes the Chinese director Chuan Lu has assembled a stunningly beautiful wildlife film which Disney is distributing as its annual nod to Earth Day. It’s the 7th in the series and follows three species, and a few extras, in very remote regions of China, from birth through one year of learning. They’ve all been given names and narrator John Krasinski tells endlessly-anthropomorphized stories about them. Tao Tao, a golden monkey, feels sibling rivalry when a baby sister arrives. He hangs out with a pack of “lost boys” in protest. Scientifically suspect but children appreciate it. A chiru antelope can walk just a half hour after birth, wobbly to be sure and funny.