Teens and Trekkies

Blog by Ray Philp | 08 May 2009


Sometimes, an ex-girlfriend is best left consigned to history.  Lovesick Trekkies have been searching for a film to take to their hearts for quite some time now, but the last few have left a bitter taste in the mouth, and they’ve become ever more infrequent.  Since 1998, only the lukewarm Star Trek Nemesis has bothered the box office, and it’s been even longer since the last Star Trek film that included the original cast and characters of the inaugural television series.  J. J. Abrams, the King Midas of cult television drama, has since set about reinvigorating the franchise from scratch, so expectations have been high.  Star Trek, billed as a prequel to the original series, will beam down to screens on general release this Friday.  Broadly, the film elaborates on the histories of both James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto), before they board the Enterprise together to make a fist of defeating Romulan bad apple Nero (Eric Bana).  A confident marketing campaign should assure the film achieves financial success, but what of the lovelorn fanboy?  With all of these fresh faces and only a semblance of the old guard present (Leonard Nimoy is the only member of the original cast to reprise his role), Star Trek may not be greeted with the expected fervour by those who might have cause to embrace it most; with the view of avoiding another false dawn and resisting all the fond memories, a nervous, tentative nod might be the best critical response that the film can hope for from diehard fans.  Until, that is, the opening credits roll, and then it’ll be just like old times. 

Another piece of anachronistic kitsch is given a facelift this week, and the critics seem to be impressed by the results if early reviews are anything to go by.  Sounds Like Teen Spirit, released this Friday, documents the journeys of several youngsters competing to win the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.  The entrants, ranging from 10 – 15 years old, tell their stories with all the disarming honesty you’d expect from a young person in front of a camera, and share their thoughts on what success in the Junior Eurovision would mean to them and their families.  If you think you’re too cool and detached to enjoy this, it may be very much your loss.  Sebastien Tellier aside, the hipster quotient is decidedly low in Jamie J. Johnson’s feature. 

Cheri, showing at the DCA and Edinburgh Filmhouse from this Friday, may also be similarly challenging in this respect, particularly for those averse to the charms of costume drama.  Michelle Pfeiffer plays the role of ageing courtesan Lea, who takes a fancy to Cheri (Rupert Friend), the free spirited but sexually inexperienced son of Charlotte (Kathy Bates), an old associate and sometime rival.  The kernel of the film lies in the role reversal portrayed by the romantic leads; Cheri is the reluctant yet affable object of desire, while Lea is the pursuer.  To say that they fall in love would not really rob Stephen Frears’ film of its intrigue, but the real interest is in the comparatively progressive dynamics of the relationship between Cheri and Lea, which should sufficiently engage the modernist in you. 

If post-modern musings are what you’re after on a Friday, you might like to turn your attention to O’Horten, showing at the GFT from the 8th.  Dealing with the theme of old age on a more quixotic tangent, Bent Hamer (probably remembered best as the director of Factotum) relays the story of old-timer Odd Horten, who is set to retire after forty years as a train driver in Norway.  After turning up late for a shift, his hitherto structured day is suddenly liberated of all responsibility, which to his mind also portends his life in retirement.  After realising that his timid demeanour has restricted his passion for life, how he addresses these fears provides the film’s narrative thrust. 

Finally, the Filmhouse provides an insight into the ongoing political fissure dividing Tibet and China in The Unwinking Gaze: The Inside Story of the Dalai Lama’s Struggle for Tibet, as director Joshua Dugdale presents an intimate portrait of the Dalai Lama and his careful attempts to negotiate with Chinese diplomats.  The film is a serious attempt to debunk the myths surrounding the Dalai Lama whilst still revealing him to be a formidable human being; the film is only available on the 8th, so those with an interest in Tibetan politics should be moved to give this a look.