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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2012)


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#101 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 10:42 PM

Looks like our very own Darren H independently came to the very same conclusion that Mike D'Angelo did:

DH: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is very badly made. Incompetently, even. Right? Or was I supposed to laugh during final montage? . . .

DH: I just saw the 8 from @msicism & assumed I'd watched it wrong. The cutting is nonsensical in random, uninteresting ways.

MD: Thank christ somebody else finally independently noticed this. I was losing my mind.



#102 John Drew

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 11:06 PM

I went to see Alexandro Jodorowsky's El Topo a few weeks back, and was admiring some of the various posters the theatre had in the lobby for the film. Went on Google images when I got home to look for some more, and here's what I found...

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Three years of high school Spanish didn't stick with me. Es muy malo. Didn't remember that El Topo translates to The Mole.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah, 21 April 2012 - 11:10 PM.


#103 Darren H

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 11:47 AM

Peter wrote:

Looks like our very own Darren H independently came to the very same conclusion that Mike D'Angelo did


When I really like a film, I usually feel pretty confident in that opinion, regardless of what others are saying about it. But often, when I watch a film I don't like or a filmmaker I don't trust, as was the case with TTSS, I also recognize that others will likely find things to admire about it, and I try to remain open-minded to those arguments. I can think of several films I actively disliked on a first viewing and then came to love later. I'm pretty sure that won't happen with TTSS, but I've enjoyed skimming through this thread and reading other reviews of it.

My gut response to TTSS is that Alfredson doesn't know what he's doing. As I also mentioned on Twitter, I could probably write a fun essay that justifies the incoherent editing in this film. Although I never finished my dissertation, I did my doctoral work in Cold War literature, and there's a tradition of criticism that sees narrative confusion as an analogy for existential dread (see criticism of The Maltese Falcon). But if I wrote that essay, it would be more of an exploration of my ideas than of the film itself. I would probably make TTSS timely by calling it a film for our new cold war with the Axis of Evil (Iran and North Korea are back in the news, after all), and by describing it as a bleak portrait of the senseless waste of it all.

I like parts of Anderson's cinematographic strategy -- all of the shots through windows are beautiful and paranoia-inducing -- but I think what we're seeing in all of these comments about the characters lacking depth and the plot being confused is evidence of just plain bad filmmaking from Alfredson. It would require a long formal analysis for me to prove this (and maybe the process of writing one would change my mind?), but here's one example. We first see Irina from Ricki's POV. He's standing in the dark, looking at her through binoculars from a building across the street. As she's being beaten, Alfredson cuts to a medium shot of her bloodied face as she looks up, matching Ricki's eyeline, which signals to us that some kind of connection has been made between them. She doesn't have binoculars, and he's hidden in the dark, but we're made to feel like they've seen each other, which justifies the next scene: he knocks on her door and she lets him right in.

I suppose one could defend the cutting there by saying that the entire scene was "staged" for Ricki's benefit. "I know who you are," Irina tells him a few minutes (in film time) later. Or, we could say that since Ricki's recounting the story to Smiley months later, we've now entered the subjective space of Ricki's memory -- that he remembers her looking up and making a connection. Setting aside the fact that nothing in this film's form suggests a subjective POV (unless we consider the Cold War an ideological subjectivity -- that would be part of my fun essay!), both of those readings require us to throw away any ground rules for understanding the narrative. Either we as viewers can trust traditional continuity editing within a sequence or we can't.

I can think of a couple other examples like this: the intercutting of the Christmas party, the telling of Prideaux's story, the entire closing montage.

On a positive note: that long-lensed shot of a plane landing while Smiley interrogates Toby is awesome.

Edited by Darren H, 23 April 2012 - 02:15 PM.


#104 Persona

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 07:58 PM

On a positive note: that long-lensed shot of a plane landing while Smiley interrogates Toby is awesome.

Yeah, it was, and I remember wondering whether it was real or CGI.

I tend to agree that this film is a bit of a mess - especially in the editing (I couldn't tell if the narrative structure was a mess or if I was simply not following certain strands) - but I kinda enjoyed the film as a whole anyway.

#105 SDG

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 09:02 PM

I wonder if I am just not smart enough for this story, or something. I'm two episodes into the miniseries starring Alec Guinness, and I still don't really know what's going on. And that's after seeing the feature film, reading some reviews of it and poking around on Wikipedia a bit.

#106 Nick Olson

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 12:14 PM

I struggled with this film when I saw it in the theaters, but I was eager to give it another try, thinking that I just wasn't engaged enough for its demands (I was very tired that night).

Anyway, the dvd is on its way from Netflix, so I'm going to give it another shot sometime this weekend.

#107 Jason Panella

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 10:06 AM

I avoided this movie for a while because of Darren and Stef's comments. I love the book, and really like the miniseries. I didn't want to confirm that the movie was a mess.

Well, I finally saw it, and yes....it's a mess. While I loved some of the technical aspects of how some of the scenes were framed, there was no visual continuity, not much to connect the bits of narrative tissue. If I wasn't familiar with the book, I think I'd be pretty lost. My wife gave up after about ten minutes, which is pretty rare for her.

I'm also really curious about some of the choices in the screenplay. I felt like some things were overemphasized, others underplayed. Bill Hayden's magnetism is a big one; he's such a fascinating figure in the book, and I think le Carre really paints the picture of a complex, strangely alluring (in several ways) man. I don't think was communicated well at all in the film.

What I DID like, however: the casting (for the most part), especially Oldman and Mark Strong. I also liked the cinematography quite a bit, especially the grimy, Cold War feel.