Notes on a Scandal

As you know, I’ve become sort of a resident reviewer at Delirium Vault and every now and again I’ll use the front page to tell you about my views of recent movies (just before my views will be trashed to pieces by the resident DV members).
Reviews I’ve got lined up are The Prestige, INLAND EMPIRE, The Illusionist and Das Leben der Anderen: 4 of the 5 movies I’ve seen so far in 2007 (and, wouldn’t you know it, all in one and a half week – who doesn’t love a week of holidays?).

The fourth movie I’ve seen this year is Notes on a Scandal and I’m putting it here because I don’t think it’s worthy of a place on the front page. This picture is a pompous pile of pretentious pulp and what’s worse is that it isn’t badly acted and the director is skillful.
Which means there’s no way I can give this movie less than 3 out of 10.

In fact, I gave it 3.5/10 because there’s an occasional glimpse of brilliance. Sadly, you’ll have to sit through 90 minutes of shite.

The story in short: Judi Dench is an old nagging hard teacher who has denied she’s a lesbian. Cate Blanchett is going to teach art: she’s nice to look at and married. (Apart from the fact that I didn’t think the school life was adaquately described in the first scenes I already encountered the first in this film: ART teacher. If an arthouse movie is pompous and bad and needs to have a teacher: it’s an art teacher.)

Other major problems encountered in the first five minutes: a pompous soundtrack by Philip Glass that loudly informs you this is a work of art you’re watching and a condescending voice-over.

But let us not abandon this story, for you will not be able to foretell what’ll happen next… yes, exactly as you could guess from my little synopsis: the old hag falls in love with the art teacher, the art teacher has an affair with a young boy.
Not ramming the point home good enough? Aha, but you see, the art teacher is also married to her former professor (which she met when she was still his student) and she has two children: one is a boy with Down syndrome (so cute, so arthouse) and one is a slightly rebellious girl who has the same age as the boy the art teacher is fucking.

wtf?

The old teacher learns of the art teacher’s secret and wants to blackmail her, so that the art teacher will become the secret lover of the old lesbian teacher.
If you’re expecting a decent dose of Whip Mistress you’ll be deeply disappointed, because as perverted as the character(s) are is how boring and bourgeois the movie itself is.

Oh, and pompous… at one point, when the art teacher breaks down and regresses in her adolescent (i.e. she dresses up like a punk girl) she finds out about the old teacher’s schemes and runs into the street, mascara all over her face, shouting to the paparazzi who have heard about the art teacher that fucked a 15-year-old boy, “Here I am! Here I am!”
My only thoughts at that point were: Cate Blanchett does not deserve a scene as bad as this. Which means that by that time I’d lost complete faith in Judi Dench already.
Hoping someone would jump up and shout stop ? Sorry. The story continues, but I will not tell any more. You see, I’m not as clever as the narrator of this movie (Dench’s character) and there’s no music of Glass telling you you’re reading grand literature here. Suffice to say that it’s a damn shame that talent like Cate Blanchett (and Judi Dench) is wasted on this sort of movie. Sadly, there is a room for this sort of movie: the arthouse crowd that doesn’t dare to challenge itself and has a thing for weepy melodrama that pretends to be grand cinema but is actually wannabe Hollywood.

If you’re a clever wanker that likes his/her movies only when steamy topics are covered in a dull grey sauce, go and see Notes on a Scandal now. It’s the best movie in theatres since La Vita e Bella.

3.5/10

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