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dave jenkins
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« on: September 06, 2011, 08:36:37 AM »

The one to beat this year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TvdqRvCwGg

Some will worry about the irreverance done to Guinness's memory. I'm just thankful Tom Wilkinson isn't in it.

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« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2011, 07:10:20 AM »

I recall finding the TTSS miniseries dry and stilted. The trailer for this film looks great though. Afro

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« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2011, 07:57:49 AM »

Yeah, Guinness wasn't  good for the part.

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« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2011, 08:23:52 AM »

That's not what I said.

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« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2011, 12:26:27 PM »

Yeah, Guinness wasn't  good for the part.
Many believe this was his finest performance.

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« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2011, 12:42:38 PM »

One of his finest

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dave jenkins
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« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2011, 03:24:31 PM »

Saw it and very disappointed. Peter Hitchens ably covers most of the points I would raise:
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21 September 2011 8:27 PM
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Travesty

In a minute, I will say why the new film of  'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' is absolutely unforgivably awful, giving full details. But first I will give some background (and those who don’t want to have the plot spoiled can safely leave off reading here).

When John le Carre (David Cornwell) first began to write about the secret world, I was among millions who were overwhelmed by the power of his writing.

These books were thrillers, but also thrillingly potent ‘state of the nation’ novels about the decay of a country , the doubts of its governing class, the illusions of greatness which still clouded the minds of so many.
He knew exactly how his people spoke. He was a trained listener, and his conversations in dusty Whitehall attics, basements registries, safe-houses, committee rooms and clubs are so spot on that you can hear them in your head (though I should add that he cannot do male-female relationships).

I reckon he gained his amazing powers of observation during the alarming, chaotic, hilarious and tragic childhood which he more-or-less describes in ‘A Perfect Spy’, which I suspect is as near to his autobiography as we are going to get.
I have always loved his use of the word ‘actually’ in conversation. He had spotted that when a British public servant employed this word, he was (actually) saying ‘Oh, shut up, you blasted fool’.  It has gone now, and Mr Cornwell’s continued use of this device in some later books rings false, rather like the extraordinarily formal speeches which P.D.James gives some of her modern characters.

In those days, when someone ended a statement with ‘actually’,  it was a very bad sign, as it is now when an American official addresses you as ‘Sir!’ (when this happens, freeze).

His bottomless scorn for deluded sorts who could not see how much we had declined is savagely expressed in ‘The Looking Glass War’, a book so sad and full of rage that is painful to read decades after its targets retired and went to their graves.

‘The Spy Who Came in From the Cold’, likewise drawn from the life, explores the matching cynicism of East and West, and first introduces us to Cornwell’s conviction that a country’s spy services are microcosms of its whole society, and that there is an alarming equivalence between the secret services of East and West. There’s some truth in this. Much of the Cold War was a choreographed dance in which both sides told their peoples that things were worse than they were. But it was not as true as Mr Cornwell thinks it is, in my view. It is this conviction which has gradually turned him into a rather silly anti-American and which has made several of his more recent books disappointing and flat. I still buy and read them. But only once.

Whereas I could not say how many times I have read ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’, or seen the superb film which was based on it. Or ‘The Looking-Glass War’. As for what is in some ways my favourite, ‘A Small Town in Germany’, if I had a long journey to undertake, I’d pick up my tatty old copy of it and read it with joy yet again - holding my breath as the long-jammed lift ascends from the basement with its cargo of unwanted memories. It’s not in the Smiley sequence and is only marginally about spying. But it is marvellous about British embassies, diplomatic dinners, British decline, the aristocracy, the failed hopes of 1945 and the black German past. Mr Cornwell is that very rare thing in modern Britain, someone who knows and likes Germany and understands it. I often wonder if he privately thinks this book is his masterpiece.

As for ‘Tinker, Tailor’, I was thrilled when I learned that it was being made into a TV series for, as sometimes happens, I longed to know if others shared my own imagined idea of what the people were like. I was also annoyed, because I had for some years refused to have a TV set in my home, and knew that I couldn’t really watch the whole series by going round to friends’ houses (I tried, but it obviously wasn’t polite or sensible).

And the makers of the BBC series did share my imagined idea. In fact their pictures were better than mine. This is most unusual for me. The only other instance I can think of is David Lean’s ‘Great Expectations’, which I think Charles Dickens himself would have loved. My re-reading of the book since it was televised has always been enriched by what I saw back in 1979.

So when I heard that a new film of ‘Tinker, Tailor’ was to be made, I knew that I would have to see it, but expected I would be at least mildly irritated by it. I love going to the cinema for its own sake. I sometimes walk out of really bad or unexpectedly violent or coarse films, but in general the experience is pleasing enough to make for an enjoyable evening. There’s a bit of ceremony about it, and an audience to share the drama with (I’ve written a little about this, and its difference from TV, in ‘The Abolition of Britain’).

When I saw the trailers, I was a bit peeved to see the (to me) familiar vista of Budapest, a rather dull city whose charms are over-rated and which doesn’t feature at all in the book ‘Tinker, Tailor’ (from now on, when I say ‘the book’, I mean ‘Tinker, Tailor’, and when I say ‘The TV series’ I mean the Alec Guinness version).

Also I couldn’t work out what they were doing on an airfield. And Istanbul was a bit of a shock, though as I shall explain later, there are excuses for this.

Still never mind. Let’s see what they have made of it. (By the way, though I came out of the cinema muttering imprecations, and may have upset those sitting nearby with various groans and snorts, I am greatly encouraged in my apparently isolated view by a gloriously excoriating attack on the film in Tuesday’s  ‘Times’ by Roger Lewis - sorry I can’t link – who said among other things that it was ‘absolutely terrible’).

First of all, they have *needlessly messed it up*.  Of course there couldn’t be another Alec Guinness. But Gary Oldman? Smiley is famously described as being owlish and fat with short legs and ill-fitting clothes. Gary Oldman just has heavy glasses. And also he wastes great portions of valuable time swimming in Hampstead Ponds, something the Chelsea-dwelling, bookish, unathletic Smiley would never have dreamed of doing. Why? You might as well show him doing Pilates.
Then the sequence is tossed about all over the place. As I know the story backwards, it didn’t trouble me too much, but I don’t know if a newcomer would have been able to make it out at all.

For no reason I can think of, the crucial entrapment of Jim Prideaux is shifted from a forest in Czechoslovakia to a café in Budapest. The whole point of this event is that it should go spectacularly wrong, in a remote and inaccessible place rather than slap in the middle of a relatively open city, and be misrepresented as a British attempt to kidnap a Czech general. The book also contains a terrifying sequence during which Prideaux becomes keenly aware that he is being closely watched, but goes ahead with the mission anyway. All we get in Budapest is a walk through the streets of Pest and a very sweaty waiter. Plus, we see some of the gore that the makers seem to think is necessary. I might add that the pointless transformation of Jerry Westerby from Fleet Street old-timer to furry-faced junior spy (a merger of two different figures in the drama) is a sad waste of a character. In the time spent by Gary Oldman ploughing up and down the weedy waters of Hampstead, this gap could have been rectified.

Then there’s the vital scene in Istanbul. Actually (that word again) the original event on which this story is based did happen in Turkey, when the atrocious Kim Philby told his Kremlin masters about a Soviet defector in Turkey, and the man was last seen being carried on a stretcher into a Soviet transport plane. And, though in the book the events take place in Hong Kong, they could happen in any cosmopolitan major city. The TV series set them in Lisbon.

But you do just wonder if the crew didn’t fancy a few weeks in Istanbul, the way they let the cameras linger on the night clubs. The supposedly exotic city on the Bosphorus, much of it in fact quite banal and some of it rather grim,  has a strange charm for film-makers, as shown in the more or less idiotic scenes set there in ‘From Russia with Love’.
The meeting between Ricki Tarr and Irina is actually much more interesting in the book than it is in the film (check it out) and would have made better cinema. And it happens without any need for a long-distance shot of Russo-Turkish Rumpy-Pumpy. As for her delivery of the vital secret, I’d be amazed if any newcomer to the story had the faintest idea of what was going on. But while we don’t get much of an explanation, we do get gallons of wholly unnecessary gore, including the incomprehensible murder of Tufty Thesinger who, despite being a  retired officer of the King’s African Rifles speaks with an Oop North Accent (hardly anyone in the film speaks as such people really did). Perhaps Karla killed him for not speaking proper. I don’t know.


« Last Edit: December 24, 2011, 05:16:12 PM by dave jenkins » Logged


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« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2011, 03:26:57 PM »

Hitchens CONT.
Quote
Sorry about all these details, but it sometimes looks as if someone has gone through the book changing things for their own sake. Smiley’s London refuge is moved from Paddington to Liverpool Street (where as far as I know, faintly shady hotels are uncommon). Peter Guillam has his orientation changed from sturdy heterosexual with a lovely, enigmatic musician girlfriend to clandestine homosexual. Why? The comically appalling meal, during which flakes of white fat congeal on the ghastly food, is transferred to a Wimpy Bar. Why? Jim Prideaux is made to be needlessly cruel to Jumbo, the unhappy boy he befriends. Why? Prideaux is also supposedly listed as dead, while teaching *under his own name* at a prep school in England. Why? Prideaux shoots Bill Haydon in broad daylight with a rifle, rather than climbing into Sarratt aftr dark , sharing a bottle of vodka with him and then breaking his neck. Why?  Irina is murdered by a KGB interrogator during the interrogation of Jim Prideaux, who couldn’t conceivably have met her or know anything about her. Why? Ricki Tarr, a cynic, hoodlum and trickster so hard-boiled he once passed as a gun-runner and then shot all his confederates, is turned into a sentimental idiot who thinks Irina can be rescued from Karla, and is in love with her. Why? He would have known perfectly well that she was dead and never greatly cared for her anyway.

Oh, and Smiley claims he ‘can’t remember’ what Karla looks like. Is this because they’re hoping to make a sequel ‘Smiley’s People’ (more swimming?) and haven’t cast Karla yet? Smiley remembers very clearly what he looked like, and describes him.

Oh, and that’s another thing. Does Smiley really say that Karla had been ‘tortured by the Americans’ and that they had pulled out his fingernails? Or was I dreaming? This is such an absurd departure from the book, and so far from all likelihood, that I hope I was dreaming.

Percy Alleline, the smooth and pompous Secret Service Chief, cruises his way through Whitehall, associating with ‘golfers and Conservatives’,  speaking orotundly of ‘My brother in Christ, the Chief of Naval Intelligence’(to give a sample of his speech).  He simply has to be tall, pin-striped and slightly well-padded, with the trace of an Edinburgh accent. Instead he is a short ginger baldie who sounds and looks as if he has recently given up being a Glasgow bus conductor.
As for Control, is it possible to believe that the director of the Secret Intelligence Service (at one point Cornwell says that he was so secretive that his own wife believed till the day he died that he worked for the National Coal Board) would have left his London flat full of charts and notes about a mole hunt in SIS, and that it would all still be there, untouched, months after his death?

That’s just an example of the unlikleiness ofthe re-worked plot, and of the miscasting. There’s a problem in general with casting. Colin Firth is technically old enough to play Bill Haydon who, having been up at Oxford in 1939, would have been in his mid-fifties at the time the action is set. But like so many people of the post-war generation, who escaped wartime privation, post-war rationing and the age of cold baths and suet puddings, he doesn’t look old enough or ravaged enough. This applies to lots of the cast, but perhaps it only matters to those of us who know what the past really looked like.

As for Connie Sachs, well, what can I say? Not many women would want this part, basically an enormous squeaky, gushy schoolgirl, fat, lachrymose and boozy, but also brilliant, a hangover from wartime in more ways than one.  But the idea that she would tell George Smiley that she is ‘un****ed’ is just absurd. Her voice is, once again, hopelessly wrong.  And her amazing piece of detective work on Poliakov, the Soviet mole-runner, is hopelessly skimped.

As for the final, churning scene in the safe house as the Mole is uncovered, I cannot for the life of me work out why the director has removed all the drama from it. But he has. I’ll leave it at that for now, but might say more in response to comments.
Those reponses, and the original article, are here:
http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2011/09/tinker-tailor-soldier-travesty.html

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« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2012, 09:40:42 AM »

I'm not quite so upset as Hitch the Lesser, but it certainly feels like it could have been better.

Quote
There's a lot to like about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011), Tomas Alfredon's new take on John Le Carre's spy novel. I found the old BBC series a chore, Alec Guinness notwithstanding, and Alfredson crafts a more streamlined experience. Certainly Gary Oldman's George Smiley is superb. But the movie never becomes as absorbing as it should be, remaining detached and often unengaging.

In the early '70s, MI6 agent Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) is apparently killed in Buadpest by KGB boss Karla. Retiring boss Control (John Hurt) assigns George Smiley (Gary Oldman) to ferret out a Soviet mole, believed to be ensconced in "the Circus's" upper echelons. The suspects: Percy Alleiline (Toby Jones), the pushy new boss; Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), who has a personal connection with Smiley; Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds), an odious bureaucrat; and Toby Esterhase (David Dencik), a Hungarian emigre. Deep-cover agent Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) becomes the focal point, his recent mission in Istanbul providing Smiley crucial information.

Tinker, Tailor succeeeds on most levels. Writers Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan do a fine job with Le Carre's complex narrative and moral ambiguity. The twists are easy to navigate and the shifts in time and place are well-handled. Alfredson provides interesting direction, with nice use of internationale locales (Budapest, Istanbul, Paris) and clever imagery (the multiple window shots). The only technical demerit is a bland Alberto Ingelasias score, topped by the regrettable use of a La Mer dance mix (!) over the finale. It's certainly interesting to watch Smiley unravel Karla's plot.

Interesting is the operative word. For all its intricacies Tinker is never entirely involving. There's no sense of urgency, its twisty plot and brisk pace resulting in cold detachment. The large cast remain ciphers, when their relationships are crucial to the story. One climactic scene between two characters is a damp squib when it should be an emotional high point. Superior spy films like The Day of the Jackal and The Kremlin Letter achieve clinical versimilitude while engaging the audience. In this regard, Tinker is only a step or two above Topaz's terminal numbness.

Gary Oldman's Smiley makes the film. His cobra-like visage, with devious smile and piercing eyes, reveals his true nature, a ruthless spy hunter with a mask of gentility. Oldman's performance is a study in underplaying, rarely raising his voice but dominating the screen through sheer will. This makes Smiley's few unguarded moments, as when he recounts meeting Karla, all the more powerful. If there are sequels I'll check them out just for Oldman's sake.

The rich supporting cast is reduced to making impressions. An unrecognizable Tom Hardy (Inception) gives a standout turn, giving Ricki Tarr real depth and feeling. You can't go to theaters these days without tripping over Mark Strong and Toby Jones, and both do well in underwritten parts. David Dencik (The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo) and Kathy Burke (Elizabeth) benefit from their relative anonymity.

On the other hand, Colin Firth's pivotal role is so thinly sketched that his revelations make no impact. Benedict Cumberbatch (War Horse) has lots of screen time and an ugly haircut, but zero personality. John Hurt (A Man for All Seasons), Ciaran Hinds (Munich) and Stephen Graham (Public Enemies) get what amount to extended cameos.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a mild disappointment. It's certainly a good film, but lacks the depth or impact to push it into classic status. But if Gary Oldman returns as George Smiley, I'll definitely be watching. 7/10

http://nothingiswrittenfilm.blogspot.com/2012/03/tinker-tailor-soldier-spy-2011.html

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