Just Seen: Looper / Bill Cunningham New York / The Avengers

Looper

Rian Johnson’s third film is assuredly his best effort to date. The genre-bending director, having tackled film noir by way of adolescence (in Brick) and screwball comedy by way of conmen (in The Brothers Bloom), turns his hand to action by way of Philip K Dick-esque sci fi. In the future, time-travel has been invented, outlawed, and appropriated by criminal gangs who send marked men back thirty years in the past so their corpses will never be found. The assassins, known as Loopers, go about their time-warping work aware that they may one day be forced to confront, and murder, their future selves.

While the thrills are loud and bloody, the ideas floated are quietly philosophical. Some hefty ethical dilemmas amplify the ambiguity of our two leads, leaving us continually undecided which Looper is the true hero: present-day Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) or future Joe (Bruce Willis). Muscular and consistently unpredictable, this is genre filmmaking at its most confident and sophisticated.

Bill Cunningham New York

I went into Bill Cunningham New York knowing practically nothing about the eponymous Bill, nor the alien planet known as Fashion on which he inhabits.  To some degree, many of my prejudices about New York high society were quickly confirmed: a spoilt land where snobby socialites and nasal-voiced WASPs complain about the hors d’oeuvre at benefit galas, forever air-kissing. But sitting largely outside this pack is Bill, a humble eccentric who goes about as he has done for years – diligently photographing street fashion by day, and society parties at night, for his two columns in the New York Times, a toothy smile never far from his face.

Even in his ninth decade, Bill’s workload remains relentless. Fashion’s great and good speak of him in reverent tones (“we all get dressed for Bill” says Vogue‘s Anna Wintour, nasally). At Paris fashion week he’s ushered past a queue because one dogsbody designates him “the most important person on the planet”. To see such high esteem for a sweet old man makes Bill Cunningham New York utterly joyous to watch, even for fashion luddites like me.

The Avengers

Marvel’s dream team has lost none of its muster or bluster in the journey from the big screen to the small – it is still, unquestionably, the most entertaining two-and-a-bit hours Hollywood has conjured up all year, standing tall against plenty of other years, too. Joss Whedon’s sparkling confidence is spellbinding. How the hell did the guy behind Dr Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog summon the masterful dexterity to give so many swaggering super-egos an equal footing on a humongous stage? With a billion in the bank and universal acclaim, giving Whedon the gig will go down as one of Marvel’s smartest moves.

Yes, it is hardly the most unique of plots, and yes, it goes a little saggy in the middle, but what elevates The Avengers above all other cinematic superhero jaunts is its infectious, bubbling sense of fun. Nowhere is that better embodied than in the undulating green muscles of the Hulk, who smashes up New York City, and its alien invaders, with the glee of an sugar-intoxicated 8-year-old in a jungle gym, and we all find ourselves dizzy from the fun fumes. This is what comic books were supposed to look like on screen.

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