Friday, 18 November 2011

Eighties Night

 My parents flew to Singapore a few hours ago, and I, experiencing what my brother has termed "reverse empty nest syndrome," I decided to cheer myself with a bit of fantasy. I googled "fairy movie," and I was given Richard Donner's Ladyhawke (1985), which I then proceeded to watch. It stars Rutger Hauer as Etienne Navarre, Michelle Pfeiffer as Isabeau d´Anjou, and Matthew Broderick as Phillipe Gaston the Mouse. I enjoyed it. My brother tells me I could never be a film critic--he says I like everything--and so I shall fall back on being a film encourager.

Ladyhawke follows the tail of the Mouse, Phillipe Gaston, a lowly thief imprisoned in Aquila who escapes by pushing himself through the narrow sewers like a rat. The corrupt holy man, the Bishop of Aquila, sends out troops to find him to stave off a possible rebellion by the other prisoners. Phillipe is saved during a skuffle with the soldiers by the dubious Navarre and his hawk, who are both cursed--Navarre is cursed to be a wolf by night, and Isabeau his lover, a hawk by day. They are, as Phillipe so astutely points out, "together forever, eternally apart." He joins Navarre on his mission because the man saves his life, but much to his chagrin, Navarre intends to take him back to Aquila as a guide, and Phillipe is not thrilled to be forced back at sword point.

The successes and shortcomings of the film balance each other out to some extent. The oddest feature of the movie is the soundtrack, which alternates between traditional scoring (a la James Horner and James Newton Howard) and a peculiarly placed and strangley triumphant eighties music, complete with heavy drum beat, synth solo, and trumpet calls (was it?). The scenery, however, is spectacular with sweeping shots of the bleak Italian landscape and ruined castles.

The acting was a bit stiff, but I think Broderick can be forgiven. He is young and struggles with his rather non-descript English accent. But he is definitely the most enjoyable to watch. His wobbles are outshone by Phillipe's sincerity. This liar and thief has a funny informal relationship to God, often throwing out quips at his Heavenly Father as if He were listening in and providing a running commentary on his lot in life. When Navarre tells him he will take him back to Aquila because he is his "guiding angel," Phillipe is quite ready to dismiss him:
"Sir, the truth is I talk to God all the time, and no offense, but he never mentioned you."

Two reasons to watch this movie: accurate depiction of heavy swords (Phillipe can barely lift a sword) and Alfred Molina in the largely pointless role of Cezar the Unibrow.

(P.S. It also solved a mystery in my life. I have always wondered what movie was playing in the theatre in Richard Donner's Conspiracy Theory. And now I know.)

"Not for the life of my mother, even if I knew who she was."

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