Sunday, January 28, 2007

Children of Tomorrow World

Every year for the last few years I've always made the resolution to go catch as much of what's playing in the theatres as I can - a daunting task in NYC where amazing repertory shows are abundant and you get all the exclusive engagements as well. So far this year I'm hanging in there. I've seen Letters from Iwojima, Pan's Labrynth and Tears of the Black Tiger all this month. Last night we saw Children of Men. It's based on a novel by P.D. James and the story takes place in 2027 England. Women can't have babies anymore and the film opens with the murder of the world's youngest person (18 years old). It's a dystopian dillema if ever there was one but on top of that there's an overflow of illegal immigrant fugitives being brutalized and deported by the fascistic authorites. While I've heard mixed reactions, most were positive and all said it was worth seeing. As entertainment value yeah, there are some very intense sequences. Honestly for the first 15 minutes or so, while I was impressed with how they managed to relay this sort-of-contrived, semi-complex premise into the exposition, I still couldn't follow who this Clive Owen character was, what his job was or where he was headed. But once you get to that sequence with Julliane Moore and a few other pivotal characters in the car, WOW, what a cinematic wake-up. And from then on I was fairly riveted if not a little exhausted trying to keep up with the plot nuances - or more like the details of the premise again. Clive Owen plays it appropriately weary and is so suave that having him on screen almost the entire duration helps drive the film. Director Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien and one of the recent Harry Potter movies) works his 'magic' meaning he manipulates some heart strings, subtly enough not to completely undermine the film's message, though it is still a bit contrived. Michael Caine provides some comic relief as a reclusive hippie (he listens to rolling stones songs, sells strawberry flavored ganja and says 'pull my finger'). Was he channeling John Lennon (he sports long hair and glasses) or just channeling Michael Caine as a generic old British hippie?
SEMI-SPOILER: towards the conclusion the main characters escape on a row boat. This is reminiscent of two other dystopian films, Battle Royale and Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse - I think that must be a natural instinct in the collective unsafe - Man = earth and the earth is unsafe so the sea is the only reasonable route of getaway.

Japan has translated the film's title into (the Japanese pronounciation of the English words) "Tomorrow World" (it seems the book is published in Japanese under this title also). Apparently Japanese marketing execs feel like that had to put a quasi-fantastic title instead of the potentially esoteric, yet evocative original title. This looks cool though.