Tag Archives: Kazuo Ishiguro

The Remains of the Day (1993)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Remains of the Day</strong> (1993)

(On Cable TV, January 2019) Anyone who starts a steady movie-watching program should be careful about scheduling and the danger of oversaturation. Watching too much of the same thing, especially if it’s not your proverbial cup of tea, is a recipe for disliking (or at least not caring for) some perfectly decent films. Or at least that’s the way I feel about The Remains of the Day, a smart, well-executed film that nonetheless feels like the same thing as countless other films. Clearly a Merchant Ivory production, it focuses on the stiff-lipped inner turmoil of a super-competent housekeeper as he struggles with what he wants compared to what is expected to him. It’s a very British drama, nearly to the point of parody as it studies the end of the servitude era and presents its protagonist as the last of his breed, to his own detriment as it condemns him to stay alone and detached. Adapted from a Kazuo Ishiguro novel, it does have interludes about the fascist tendencies of the British aristocracy, heavy romantic drama, convincing period details (such as ironing a newspaper). Still, I didn’t feel much love for the result, and I suspect that this isn’t due as much to the qualities of the film itself, but having seen too many similar stiff-upper-lip British downstairs drama films in a short period of time, with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson playing more or less their own archetypical personas. I suspect that revisiting The Remains of the Day (which, to be fair, is slow-paced and almost requires an undergraduate degree in early-twentieth-century English history to follow) later on would end up in a more favourable assessment.

Never Let Me Go (2010)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Never Let Me Go</strong> (2010)

(In theaters, October 2010) Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is generally acknowledged as a Science Fiction novel coming from outside the SF genre, and as such pays more attention to fine prose, character development and inner monologue than SF devices, coherent word-building or narrative excitement.  As an adaptation, Never Let Me Go feels a lot like that, with a thin plot, leisurely pacing and constant focus on the three lead actors.  (Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and -to a lesser extent- Keira Knightley all do well with their roles.)  The muted colors of the cinematography reflect the restraint with which the characters react to their fated lives, and the lack of urgency in the telling of the story is designed to let everyone reflect at lengths about the situation.  It’s one of those rare (and largely mythical) SF movies without obvious special effects, and as such should earn a bit of respect from the genre-reading crowd.  On the other hand, that genre-reading crowd will be more likely to recommend the film to others as accessible-level SF than to appreciate the film for themselves, given how it vaguely sketches the alternate-reality of the story’s universe, and features largely passive characters whose role is to stare into the face of inevitability.  There is, however, something very interesting in the film’s emphasis on sub-culture mythology, with a series of ill-informed rumours (all of them knocked down one after another) forming a good chunk of the characters’ inner landscape due to the absence of more reliable information.  (The final revelation perfectly fits into this motif.)  Does the world of the film hold together?  Absolutely not, but it doesn’t even try to address plausibility, betting instead on the real emotional core of the trio at the middle of the film.  Never Let Me Go will be a bit too slow and thin for some, but it’s a success in the same way that Atonement and other middle-brow character dramas can be.  Don’t let the “Science Fiction” label create false expectations…