Sunday, March 08, 2009

Spring Forward

As I pass through another week, plus, without a post - I have to do something. Daylight Savings Time means I'm up and half awake at nearly midnight - the balmy weather meant I wandered around town today, like yesterday, in no hurry to get inside. My neighbors were making a din when I did get home, though I locked myself in and read Strindberg, which is not something I would do without a class to force me... I have no idea what I think of Strindberg - I shall let that pass.

David Cairns remixes Hitchcock - that's almost too wonderful to stand. Why don't more people do this? with films of all sorts? It's a beautiful thing...

I have seen some films this week: M for the German film class, which is, of course, one of the Greatest Films Ever Made - a fact confirmed and reconfirmed every time I see it. And Alphaville - part of an ongoing Godard series; Godard in the 60s - one of the two or three greatest decades any filmmaker has ever had (there's Capra and Ozu in the 30s; there's Ozu in the 50s - and there's Godard in the 60s; with Hou in the 80s, Imamura in the 60s not too far off)... But as I mentioned at Ed Howard's blog - it's frustrating that Godard in the 60s gets all the programming love. By now, I have seen these films many times - I own a lot of them - I know what they are. But his later work - I don't know what they are. I know some of them are available on DVD< but a DVD is not a movie. No matter how good his 80s films (say) might be, how can a DVD of First Name Carmen or Detective compete with a nice new print of Pierrot le Fou or Vivre Sa Vie? They can't.

And I saw Two Lovers - people keep trying to say James Gray is a top notch director, but his films - they're not bad, really - they feel like movies, all the way down, and that is worth something - but holy crap, this is boring. A very old and very tired storyline - poor artistic depressive Joaquin Phoenix is maneuvered into a relationship with nice Jewish girl Vinessa Show, while pining for the blonde loser played by Gwyneth Paltrow who is waiting for Elias Koteas to leave his wife. Neither woman has much personality - Phoenix' character is a sad sack who never gets to be much else but a sad sack. Isabella Rosselini plays his mother, and remains many orders of magnitude more beautiful and desirable than the two lovers put together... It's annoying - because Gray has something - the film, the story, and the film, flickers into somethign interesting from time to time, but never gets there... god, at times it reminded me of - I don't know - Edward Yang - how can a film remind me of Edward Yang and be this boring? One fo these days Gray will hit it: he will make a film that convinces me. But now - this is like watching all those David Fincher films in the 90s - I say, this guy has something, but these films suck... but sooner or later, it will work.

Probably by remaking M. With its letters to the press, its false leads and clues, its media savvy, its double world of cops and criminals - is the template of serial killer films to come, and most especially for Zodiac - with its newspapers and publicity seeking murderers and unreliable witnesses and double world, here of cops and newspapermen - follows the template closely and well...



Though with nothing to compare to Lang's way with images, or Peter Lorre.

2 comments:

Joseph B. said...

I'll bite and defend Gray (although I don't think "defend" is the right term since you seem to be on the fence with him. I loved "Two Lovers" just for the atmosphere- that scene of Paltrow walking down the alley in dark black is ominous and moving and exacts so much tension out of nothing. "The Yards" and "We Own the Night" are brilliant throwbacks to a more nuanced time of filmmaking- like the lush visuals of a Coppola or Altman. It just seems everything this guy does gets me. He WILL break out and make a bona-fide masterpiece before long though.

weepingsam said...

Yes, on the fence, for the reasons you mention, if nothing else - the shots and atmosphere and moments are there... But the story is just an outline, and one that is way too familiar; I'm never particularly convinced by the characters; even scenes, however interesting some of the treatment is, don't feel like they have a rhythm or sustaining purpose... I almost feel guilty for saying it, but it seems to be the script's fault - it's not developed enough to justify the film. So the visuals and performances are strained trying to cover for its sketchiness.