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Children of Men (2006)

Alfonso Cuarón

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#1 Tony Watkins

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Posted 25 September 2006 - 10:39 AM

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)


#2 Tony Watkins

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Posted 25 September 2006 - 01:47 PM

QUOTE(nardis @ Sep 25 2006, 07:41 PM) View Post

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

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.

#3 Overstreet

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Posted 25 September 2006 - 04:48 PM

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, 10 December 2006 - 08:35 PM.


#4 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 25 September 2006 - 08:37 PM

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

That's how it read to me, yes.

#5 Tony Watkins

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Posted 26 September 2006 - 02:37 AM

QUOTE(nardis @ Sep 26 2006, 02:43 AM) View Post

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.


#6 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 26 September 2006 - 09:26 AM

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.

#7 stu

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Posted 02 October 2006 - 08:11 AM

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...

#8 Anders

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Posted 02 October 2006 - 10:23 AM

QUOTE(stu @ Oct 2 2006, 05:11 AM) View Post

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?

#9 Tony Watkins

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Posted 02 October 2006 - 10:52 AM

QUOTE(Anders @ Oct 2 2006, 04:23 PM) View Post

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.gif

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

#10 Overstreet

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 01:16 AM

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
Spoiler
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, 10 December 2006 - 08:41 PM.


#11 David Smedberg

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 09:55 AM

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

#12 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 18 November 2006 - 03:41 PM

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.

#13 Overstreet

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Posted 18 November 2006 - 04:19 PM

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.



#14 Christian

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Posted 18 November 2006 - 04:23 PM

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, 18 November 2006 - 04:30 PM.


#15 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 19 November 2006 - 11:42 PM

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 ...

#16 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 12:26 AM

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.

#17 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 22 November 2006 - 02:46 PM

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

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

#18 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 05:25 PM

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.)

#19 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 02:27 AM

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 Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have outdone themselves in this respect, and I intend on seeing Children of Men again purely to bask in the glories of a perfectly tuned machine.

But a machine it remains, slave to a similar problem that afflicted the single-take melodrama Nine Lives (to which I offer a Louis-Macarel-to-John-Boorman-on-the-Croisette mea culpa: "It was a very bad film, but not as bad as I said"), namely that the preponderance of one-ers stems not out of a need to illuminate character, theme, or emotion, but to cover up Children of Men's many glaring ideological and narrative deficiencies. From a photographic perspective, Cuarón knows this world intimately (it's only a quick Steadicam track to the left before a character is perfectly framed within a teardrop shaped broken window), but his mastery is out of place and damn near oppressive in a world that is meant to possess some level of the speculative unknown. . . .


#20 Overstreet

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 03:22 PM

Anybody have questions for Alfonso Cuaron?

I'm meeting him downtown on Monday.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet, 10 December 2006 - 08:44 PM.