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Children of Men (2006)


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Can't find a thread on this yet. Has it not come onto the radar of others here?

I'm hoping to see this sometime this week. It's had some positive reviews so far and sounds very interesting:

QUOTE
The movie that Children of Men most brings to mind is the 1990 adaptation by Harold Pinter of Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale. Both are examples of what might be called obstetric or gynaecological dystopian sci-fi. The Handmaid's Tale, as a film at least, is a glum, portentous feminist take on Nineteen Eighty-Four set in an America run by right-wing fundamentalists, where blacks, homosexuals and radicals are either exterminated or deported to death camps abroad. The few fertile women are forced to serve as handmaids, bearing the children of the nation's leaders whose wives are barren. Children of Men moves rather more briskly but has a similar theme. For no specific reason, no child has been born in this ghastly new world for 18 years, which is to say since 2008. Pollution, genetic experimentation and uncontrollable diseases are suggested as the causes. I believe PD James hints at a judgment of God, her novel being Christian and moral, whereas Atwood's is social and political. . . What the narrative demands, and what Cuaron provides, is moral ambiguity and a teasing hopefulness that suggests the possibility of redemption.This is quite an achievement. (Philip French, Observer)

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Good grief!!! What a way to describe women who dare to write sci-fi (and their books, natch). ;)

Isn't this a comment on the subject matter rather than the women?

I've not read Children of Men despite being enthusiastic about James generally. I'll post some comments if I get chance to see it.

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The writer is talking about the subject of the story, which concerns The the fertility of women. It is *not* a comment on the fact that it's written by a woman. Those adjectives were references to the plot, albeit slightly "colorful" references.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

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Tony Watkins wrote:

: Isn't this a comment on the subject matter rather than the women?

That's how it read to me, yes.

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Am wondering if I'm the only one in this discussion who's read P.D. James' book? Because it's the men who are infertile, not the women - and only people born after a certain time. So it's hardly "gyencological."

Ahah! On that basis I see why you inferred that the reviewer was referring to James and Atwood. My guess is that he simply used the first two medical terms connected with childbirth or the lack of it. Over here the hospital wards relating to such matters are (or were at least) generally referred to as Obs. and Gynae. So, here are two narratives which relate to childbirth or the lack of it, and therefore that's the part of the hospital they relate to.

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nardis wrote:

: Am wondering if I'm the only one in this discussion who's read P.D. James' book? Because it's the

: men who are infertile, not the women - and only people born after a certain time. So it's

: hardly "gyencological."

That may be how it happens in the book, but in the film, who knows? Since the trailer indicates that the film is all about a WOMAN who has become pregnant, and about Clive Owen's attempts to protect her (or whatever), it stands to reason that it might be the WOMEN who are infertile in the film; otherwise the Clive Owen character might be expected to protect the FATHER of that woman's child.

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I watched this the other night (not read the book though).

I found this extremely powerful. I don't know what I would make of it after a second viewing, and I can't really work out why, but for some reason there were a couple of scenes that nearly had me in tears. Anyone else seen it yet? I would love to know if I was just in a strange mood when I watched it, or if it really is that powerful. I might go see it again this week...

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I watched this the other night (not read the book though).

I found this extremely powerful. I don't know what I would make of it after a second viewing, and I can't really work out why, but for some reason there were a couple of scenes that nearly had me in tears. Anyone else seen it yet? I would love to know if I was just in a strange mood when I watched it, or if it really is that powerful. I might go see it again this week...

Is this out already in the UK? Or did you get to go to a preview screening?

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Is this out already in the UK? Or did you get to go to a preview screening?

Came out on 22 September - and I still haven't had time to see it. :angry:

Goodness, we've had a film before the US!! ::w00t::

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If you've seen the preview, well... you've mostly seen stuff from the first ten minutes of the film. And let me tell you... you ain't seen nuthin' yet.

Greg Wright and I saw this together today, and I think I can speak for both of us in saying that we were enthralled... no, ROCKED... by this film. If you see one Christmas movie this year... this should be it.

(And I'm willing to include The Nativity Story in that rather large claim, even though I haven't seen it yet. Because, well... this IS a nativity story of sorts. And I highly doubt that Hardwicke's film will give me a clearer sense of how dark and dangerous was the world the Christ child entered, how desperate Mary and Joseph felt, how badly people needed him to come, or how much it meant to the vigilant, the humble, and the wise when he arrived.)

Stu, you're not alone. Children of Men brought tears to my eyes more than once.

The film has played in enough places, and been reviewed by enough publications, that I don't understand why the publicists are telling us not to publish reviews. I mean... it's already out there, folks! Oh well, I'll save my *review* until later, but I'm not going to box up my enthusiasm.

I'll just say a few very general things to get you curious:

- Alfonso Cuaron is suddenly one of the best action directors on the planet. All plans for another Die Hard film should be dropped, and they should start from scratch with him. It might end up being as good or better than the original. I might even consider giving him Indiana Jones 4.

- The vision of the future is both terrifying, heartbreaking, and unnervingly plausible. I can't think of a futuristic film that has made me feel like I really am living in the last days of the world the way that this movie does.

- STUNNING, SHOCKING things happen in this film. I think I actually shouted at one point.

- It has chase scenes. Wicked chase scenes.

- Michael Caine. 'Nuff said.

- Peter Mullan. 'Nuff said.

- And

Charlie Hunnam

is a freaking chameleon. I didn't even know he was in the film until I saw his name in the credits, and even then it took me a moment to figure out who he had played.

- What I said about Danny Huston in The Proposition thread... I'm saying it again here (although I wanted a lot more of him).

- A classic rock song that never meant much to me suddenly means something to me.

Oh... so much more I want to tell you. It's more of an entertainment than a work of art, but it's the kind of entertainment that Danny Boyle talks about when he talks about being a "smuggler." Cuaron is smuggling some commentary and allusion into what is, basically, a big-budget action flick. I can't wait until you all see it.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

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I'm even more convinced now (sight unseen) that this will be the perfect double feature with Apocalypto . . .

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Jeffrey Wells says it's the best movie of the year. And the camerawork? "If Stanley Kubrick were alive today he would absolutely drop to his knees."

There's a screening in town on Tuesday. I'm stoked.

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It's true.

The camerawork in the opening sequence alone made me cast off all of my expectations and brace myself for something out-of-this-world.

Oh, wait until you see the chase sequences.

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I'm excited, too. This is one of my December assignments.

UPDATE: Oh, wow. I just read Wells' post and love his reasoning:

In short -- it's the photography, stupid. The dp is Emanuel Lubezki and the cam- era operator was George Richmond. I don't know who precisely did what but the hand-held lensing is the stuff of instant legend....

The photography is legendary not just for the excitement factor, but because it's fascinating to try and figure out how this and that sequence was shot.

The Black Dahlia has been my favorite film of 2006 precisely because of this very thing: the visuals. And anyone who's been around these parts for a while knows that I'm a sucker for a film that, first and foremost (although not exclusively) dazzles me visually.

I cannot wait.

Edited by Christian

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nardis wrote:

: Am wondering if I'm the only one in this discussion who's read P.D. James' book? Because it's the men

: who are infertile, not the women . . .

Hmmm, in this interview, the director keeps referring to "female infertility" ... which, in a way, makes a whole lot more sense, or is at least a more terrifying prospect, because a single man can impregnate a thousand women if he has to, but there is no way a single woman can bear the children of a thousand men ...

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FWIW, from an e-mail I sent someone today -- nothing thoughtful or review-y, just the first few tiny things that popped into my neurons:

- - -

*** PRELIMINARY NOTE: I just realized that I might have typed a spoiler below, but suffice to say, virtually no movie with a pregnant woman has ever ended before (1) she gives birth, (2) she has an abortion, or (3) she has a miscarriage. So if you don't want to find out which of these options Children of Men follows, don't read any further. ***

I definitely *like* Children of Men. It's solid, all the way. But I find myself thinking that it didn't "move" me the way that some other films have. I mean, I think Children of Men is a better film than Bobby, but I shed a few tears during Bobby and nothing during Children of Men. That kind of thing. That said, I also find myself thinking that Children of Men is almost a nativity story that *matters* in a way that The Nativity Story sort of doesn't. The Nativity Story makes a few nods to the politically-oppressed times into which Jesus was born, but my goodness, Children of Men makes you *feel* the political distress into which its own miracle baby is born. My one complaint is that it looked to me like the baby was a CGI creation; I was trying to figure out how they did the birth-giving shot, and then I realized, "Oh, of course, CGI," and then it dawned on me that the baby's facial movements looked just a little fake, not unlike what you saw in the digitally-enhanced version of E.T. But that's a minor nitpick. On an allegorical level, Children of Men just may be the best sort-of Christmas movie since the original Terminator.

- - -

BTW, I see that this film, which I gather has been out in Britain since September, is opening in "select" North American cities on Christmas Day ... but I checked the schedule in the office of the theatre manager today, and saw that there will still be promo screenings for this film in Vancouver as late as January 4 -- so it seems we won't be getting it until the new year.

And yeah, this film is pretty clear that the problem is FEMALE infertility, not MALE infertility. One character, a former nurse or midwife, reminisces about that fateful week nearly 20 years ago when all the women began having miscarriages.

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nardis wrote:

: I think I'll re-read the book soon - her points re.

government-regulated murder of the elderly

. . .

FWIW, the film doesn't get into this. In fact,

the only euthanasia we see is committed by one of the most sympathetic, positive, good-guy characters to spare his elderly catatonic partner from being killed when some of the bad guys show up

. I picked the book up at the library on the way home from the screening, and hope to read it myself in the next few weeks; it will be interesting to see if that plot element is in there.

Cinema Signals wrote:

: It's 2027, England. An unforeseen, uncontrollable calamity has befallen mankind in the form of universal

: human sterility. For reasons scientifically unaccountable, sperm count has gone missing.

I don't recall any reference to this in the film, and I'm not sure how it would square with the reference to all the sudden miscarriages.

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Alfonso. (There, now the search engine can see it.)

David Poland calls the film "over-rated", and I can see at least some of his points. (Yes, I too was blown away by the long shots -- not that I am convinced they WERE single shots, since you can always blend separate shots together digitally these days -- but there is always something show-offy about such shots that makes you wonder whether they are more than just stunts.)

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Keith Uhlich at Slant:

It would be foolish to deny the supreme technical achievements of

Children of Men

. The movies have rarely given us such a fully realized near-future dystopia, and it is impossible to be unaffected by the film's superbly executed series of "one-ers": single-take, or cleverly disguised single-take sequences that set a new standard for the mechanics of cinematography. There's an action sequence set entirely within the claustrophobic confines of a moving vehicle that must be seen to be believed, not to mention a climactic assault in a run-down immigrant ghetto that plays as the ultimate first-person shooter. Director Alfonso Cuar

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Anybody have questions for Alfonso Cuaron?

I'm meeting him downtown on Monday.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

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Lucky you!

I guess given the discussion on this thread you could ask him what made him decide to change it from being male infertility to female infertility.

: spoilers

Alternatively, if you wanted a gag you could ask him how many pregnant stunt women had to give birth until they got the right take for that scene.

Matt

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MattPage wrote:

: I guess given the discussion on this thread you could ask him what made him decide to change it

: from being male infertility to female infertility.

FWIW, I'm only a few chapters into the book so far, but so far the book has not specified that it was any one gender's infertility that caused the problem. There IS a brief mention of problems with sperm, but only in a passing reference to the fact that the infertility crisis affected not only people, but sperm banks as well.

: Alternatively, if you wanted a gag you could ask him how many pregnant stunt women had to give

: birth until they got the right take for that scene.

The beauty of CGI is that you don't NEED stunt people any more. ;)

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: The beauty of CGI is that you don't NEED stunt people any more. wink.gif

That's why I said it was "a gag" :P

Matt

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What a huge disappointment. As some of you may know, I'm a big SF literature fan, and although I hadn't read James' novel, the idea of a talented director adapting a SF novel with a great cast stoked my expectations for a smart, visually sophisticated, SF cinema of ideas. About the only critical comment I had inadvertantly read before last night was Ed Gonzalez at Slant contending that "Cuaron directs the m-f'ing sh*t out of a flimsy script," but that line kept resounding in my head throughout the entire film as its perfect summation. This is not a movie of ideas, this is under-developed, apocalyptic miserablism thatfunctions as a CGI war movie on the scale of Saving Private Ryan.

Yes, the battle scenes are stunningly staged and filmed in long takes, but this is literally the only thing the film has to offer, and had I known that I would've skipped it. It is unrelenting and without nuance in its images of human suffering and cruelty (though it could've been worse) to the point where it loses its effectiveness, sort of a dumb, literal approach at evoking "mankind at the end of its ropes." A rubble movie for sure, but one that never has anything at all to say about the rubble, where it came from, or its dwindling culture--the stuff of great SF--despite throwaway references to Homeland Security, Immigration issues, and Abu Ghraib. It's all there for dystopian decoration; none of the fighting factions--the police state, the terrorist/rebels, the opportunists, the pathetic masses--represent any ideological position, they all just serve as perpetrators and targets for explosions, chaos, suspensful chases, and deus ex machina escapes.

All of which wouldn't be so bad if the technical direction and acting wasn't top-notch. The film screams so loudly for us to take it seriously that its lack of seriousness is virtually insulting.

And the music is especially gauling; when it's not foregrounding the film's hip soundtrack, it's cranking up angelic arias in each and every "meaningful" scene.

Cuaron has some polished set pieces here, but frankly, I'm tired of filmmakers who only want to immerse us in tour-de-force, vicarious sensations of violence with little or nothing to say about it. Saving Private Ryan revolved around flimsy ideas, but this film only revolves around flimsy sentiments, if that.

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Doug, I agree that the film doesn't have much to say about "the rubble," but I felt like it was a sledgehammer (in the Flannery O'Connor sense) about the power of innocence to cast everything around it in sharp relief.

I realize I'm just speaking from my own experience with the film here. And I agree that the storytelling here doesn't dig very deep intellectually (it's more Die Hard than Time of the Wolf).

But the severe darkness and chaos of it led to ... at least for me... a resonant conclusion in which the echo of the "nativity story" brought tears to my eyes and gratitude to my heart. One of the reason The Nativity Story didn't work real well for me as a film was the fact that there wasn't enough of a sense of jeopardy or trouble through which Mary and Joseph had to journey. The film was so tame, the nativity itself felt more like, "well, there it is" than "Thank God."

And in a culture that devalues children I think that kind of stark reminder is valuable indeed. Whether audiences are willing to reflect on that aspect of the experience, that remains to be seen, and the majority probably won't. But I find it very interesting to observe just how many "nativity stories" are coming to a theater near me right now.

On top of that, the constant reminders of how capitalism has led to narcissism and self-centeredness... all of the advertisements for drugs that let us live in blissful delusions... the central quest becomes, for the hero, a story of learning to cast off his apathy and serve something greater than himself again.

So, the film works for me on an emotional level very powerfully, and not in a frivilous and sentimental way, but as a sort of tonic that I think audiences need.

Perhaps the best comparison is Minority Report. This film does a similarly interesting job of setting up a futuristic context, but I felt more emotionally invested in this story. And the special effects are better, but at the same time they're not saying "look at me!" the way Minority Report's effects did.

I'll be interested to see if I feel the same way on a second viewing, which I hope to catch on Wednesday.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

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