Saturday, 12 May 2012

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Film-maker

Although film is my first love as a medium, this blog rarely mentions it. I'll make an exception for the superb Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

It is quality, pan-European film-making that questions the roles we play – in life or in performance itself and where the twain meet, join and split. I loved it, and the morning after, images and ideas linger. I haven't seen a film so carefully and creatively made for too long a time, and Working Title and Studio Canal are to be praised for funding a film that requires attention in a time when distraction is increasing and attention spans are shortening.This is old-fashioned film-making about characters already old-fashioned in a 70s setting, but it speaks to the universal and modern. The film's story – based on the detailed cold-war spy novel of the same name – is about hidden lives, about how games are both frivolous and deadly. Duplicity and multiplicity spin twists in a film directed by a Swede (Tomas Alfredson, of the also excellent Let the Right One In), written and performed by Brits, with a second crew in Turkey, and  funded from Britain, and France (and I believe Hungary and Germany). How spy games crossed Europe, the idiocy of sidelining women, the tragedy of hiding sexuality, the casualness of choosing a side – all feature both clearly and obliquely in a complex, condensed, compact couple of hours. The game of performance, the performance of games, the game of life.

Direction, acting and images all linger with me. In the image above, while being decidedly modern, the cinematography also harks back to the style of the era in which it is set. The car is probably filmed in a studio, the framing flat: a bee buzzes inside the car (you can see the bee on the right). While the camera doesn't move, the character Guillam, driving, swats it away, but Smiley watches it coldly and without moving: you hear the electric side window go down (though with the flat-on framing you can't see it) and the bee escapes. Beautifully framed, beautifully deadpan, beautifully timed. One tiny moment in a film replete with careful consideration.

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