Friday, February 24, 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011 film version)

Pappi lukkari talonpoika vakooja / Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy [Swedish name]. GB/FR/DE © 2011 Karla Films / Paradis Films [tbc, on-screen information flashed by too fast] / Kinowelt Filmproduktion. P: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Robyn Slovo. D: Tomas Alfredson. SC: Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan - based on the novel (1974) by John le Carré, in Finnish by Tammi / Eero Mänttäri (1974). DP: Hoyte Van Hoytema. Fuji. Digital post-p: The Chimney Pot. PD: Maria Djurkovic. AD: Tom Brown (sup.), Zsuzsa Kismarty-Lechner. Cost: Jacqueline Durran. Makeup, hair: Donald McInnes. Visual effects: Framestore. Special effects: The Chimney Pot, Framestore, Multifilm Special Effects. M: Alberto Iglesias. M selections include "Land du välsignade" sung by Jussi Björling; "Mr. Wu's A Window Cleaner Now" sung by George Formby; "La Mer" sung by Julio Iglesias. S: Stephen Griffiths. ED: Dino Jonsäter. Casting: Jina Jay. Loc: London, Budapest, Istanbul. C: Gary Oldman (George Smiley), Colin Firth (Bill Haydon), Tom Hardy (Ricki Tarr), Mark Strong (Jim Prideaux), Ciarán Hinds (Roy Bland), Benedict Cumberbatch (Peter Guillam), David Dencik (Toby Esterhase), Stephen Graham (Jerry Westerby), Simon McBurney (Oliver Lacon), Toby Jones (Percy Alleline), John Hurt (Control), Svetlana Khodchenkova (Irina), Kathy Burke (Connie Sachs), Roger Lloyd-Pack (Mendel), Christian McKay (Mackelvore), Konstantin Khabenskiy (Polyakov). 127 min. Original in English with some dialogue in Russian, Hungarian, and French. Released by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Suvi Jyrkilä / Carina Laurila-Olin. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 2, Helsinki, 24 Feb 2012 (day of Finnish premiere).

Technical specs from the IMDb: Camera: Panavision Panaflex Millennium, Panavision Primo Lenses - Laboratory: The Chimney Pot, Stockholm, Sweden (digital intermediate), i lab, London, UK (processing) - Film negative format: 35 mm (Fuji Eterna 500T 8573, Reala 500D 8592) - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

John le Carré has been treated well by the cinema from the beginning, from The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965). The dark, grim John le Carré movie adaptations were the antithesis to the flamboyant, pop hedonistic James Bond fantasies. The most highly regarded of all were the BBC tv series of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979) and Smiley's People (1982) starring Alex Guinness as Smiley. I remember reverent weekends devoted to them at the home of Helena Ylänen, then the film critic of Helsingin Sanomat. They are a hard act to follow, but the new film is very impressive indeed.

Initial observations:
1. The director Tomas Alfredson, the screenwriters Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan and the editor Dino Jonsäter have done a great job in adapting a complex novel into a normal-length feature film without losing a sense of duration and without Bourneish rapid cutting.
2. Gary Oldman is as unforgettable a George Smiley as Alec Guinness was.
3. The cast and the performances are consistently excellent.
4. The John le Carré stories have always been unheroic, and this version goes pretty far in that direction, although it is never unclear which side we are on.
5. The mutual infiltration of the secret services has strange manifestations such as the exchanges at the secret house, and most bizarrely at the Christmas party with a Lenin faced Father Christmas and a community singing of the Soviet anthem in Russian.
6. The life of the secret service is painted in the same way as life beyond the Iron Curtain used to be depicted during the Cold War, say, in Alfred Hitchcock's account of East Germany in Torn Curtain.
7. There is an overwhelming sense of melancholia and depression, like there was in the John Irvin adaptation of this story, and like in Tomas Alfredson's vampire story Let the Right One in where the sad vampires seem to be invincible.
8. This movie could be shown together with The Lives of Others and J. Edgar.
9. The movie has been shot on 35 mm Fuji film and the digital post-production has been in 4K. The bleak and grayish colour palette where there is never once a feeling of the warmth of the sun has been a conscious artistic choice, not just a consequence of digitalization. It has been said that the seventies were a decade which style abandoned but this vision is decidedly unrealistic, an artistic expression of a soulscape, a mental land in the shadow of death.

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