Monday, December 03, 2012

Film Notes Catchup (Early Autumn Edition)

All right - it has been forever since I have written anything like a film post. Other than a post on the Master and For Ellen, I haven't mentioned any new films since - August? Since August... So - I don't know. We are into December - I might as well do some catching up. These are just captures - it would be nice to write something longer about some of the more important or interesting or just controversial films - but this will do for now. (Though this post does cover the best non-Anderson film of the year....) This one takes us through somewhere in October.

Restless City - 10/15 - Handsome and sober film about a young Senagalese man in NYC - he meets a girl, but she's a whore - he's beholden to her pimp, and things get worse. It's a great looking film (Bradford Young, who also shot Pariah, is building a neat body of work) but the script is very weak - and the filmmaking itself seems thin. It's all montage, all images - nice, but it has to paper over the story. I think it tries to do so to get around the derivative script - but not quite lively enough. Lots of better films have gotten there first, from Green Fish to Mona Lisa to take your pick. Full of flashes of better films - Breathless or Fallen Angels or Goodbye South Goodbye and so on.

Two Days in New York - 10/15 - Follow up on Julie Delpy's 2 Days in Paris, same principal, this time her family comes to NY to meet her new boyfriend, played by Chris Rock, in the person of Mingus, a writer and DJ. They are a bit uneasy about their relationship, though mostly happy. The French invasion ruins that. The relatives misbehave, Marion has a show and sells her soul, to the most terrifying person in New York, perhaps.... But it all works out.

Cosmopolis - 10/15 - continuing the run of New York films.... Here, Robert Pattinson is very very rich; he heads out across town in his limo to get a haircut, accompanied by his bodyguard, Kevin Durand doing Christopher Walken. He then interacts with a series of people - a nervous employee, his wife, Juliette Binoche who knows of a Rothko he could buy, a computer nerd, another employee, his doctor, his "ideas" woman, a female bodyguard he fucks, a man he goes to a club with, a friend talking about a dead Sufi rapper, Mathieu Amalric throwing pies... he finally makes it to the barber, takes a gun, then gets shot at from an abandoned building and goes in and has a somewhat frought conversation with a schmuck played by the song of a former commissioner of baseball... All this is very arch - DeLillo's style comes through - Cronenberg likes that style, no denying it, the clipped, not quite meaningless language - "I do not understand this" - the cycling ideas... I can't say it's all that good a film, but it was certainly intriguing.

Oslo: August 31 - 12/15 - superb film based on Feu Follet, The Fire Within, the novel and the film by Louis Malle. IN this version, in Oslo, we follow a young man in drug rehab who goes out on leave, to interview for a job. He visits friends, and tells the first one he is thinking of suicide... The interview breaks down in the middle, because of the rehab - he tries to meet his sister, but she never shows, and after meeting a different friend, then trying and failing to call a girlfriend in New York, he goes to a party.... and starts drinking, and once he starts.... he steals money, buys heroin, goes clubbing with another friend and some girls, up all night, but in the morning, as they go for a swim, he walks away from them. Home, his family's home (being sold - empty), and - what Chekhov said about guns applies to heroin too... It's a very strong film - standard euro-Indie look, but with care to the acting and words, and pieces that do what some art does - he sits in a cafe and we hear what he hears, as he attends in turn to the people around him - snippets of conversation... details of the city... people moving about. It is observational and beautiful - and his despair, his apparent decision to end the day in suicide focuses him and us on this world, which is given life in proportion to his own fading. The best non-Anderson film of the year.

Lawless - 8/15 - John Hillcoat directing anotherNick Cave script, this one set in prohibition Virginia. The Bondurant brothers, Howard, Forrest and Jack, are moonshiners - running their wares around Franklin county VA. Well - the law comes in - a special deputy from Chicago (Guy Pearce, looking like Jeffrey Combs in The Frighteners), whose main purpose is to get everyone a kickback. The brothers refuse, though everyone else gives in - trouble and violence results. It's all very archtypical, as one would expect from Cave, but disjointed - a series of episodes: they confront the deputy - the deputy beats up Jack - two men cut Forrest's throat, and he is saved by the girl - Jack starts running shine to the next town and sells it to Oldman's big time gangster - he courts the preachers daughter - a guy gets tarred and feathered - the law finds their stills and blows them up, along with a harmless crippled kid. So they go hunting for blood. It's got its points, but not enough.

Compliance - 11/15 - Rather harrowing fictionalized account of a real incident... At a fast food place, a cop calls and tells the manager that one of her employees stole money from a customer's purse. Over the phone, he convinces the manager to bring the girl in, search her bag and so on - then asks her to strip search her. He manipulates the two of them into all this (using classic manipulation techniques - getting the victim to supply info and exploiting it.) The manager goes along - and it keeps getting worse. The caller pushes the manager to do more and more troubling things - like getting a man to guard the girl; then getting the men molest her.... so it goes, until one employee makes a scene. The horror of it plays alongside the sheer awfulness of the workplace - everyone overworked, underpaid, everybody hassling everybody else...Everyone goes along with what happens in palpable fear of losing their jobs.

Paranorman - 9/15 - Norman talks to dead people and watches zombie movies - his parents disapprove, the kids pick on him, except for the fat kid, Neil. Then Norman is visited by his uncle - who has just died. He passes his mission on to Norman, sending poor Norman on a quest - out to the uncle's house for a book, then off to dig up a witch or something.... soon the dead are up and about and zombies are ready to face off against the inevitable armed mob - but Norman figures things out.... It is witty, sometimes handsome looking, and clever enough, especially where it goes at the end - but nothing really special.


Sam Juliano said...

I've seen every one in your superbly-penned capsule round-up except for RESTLESS CITY, which does sound intriguing if not essential.

The very best of this lot is unquestionably OSCO, AUGUST 31. Joaquim Trier, whose first film REPRISE deservedly won awards and accolades has gone even further with this film, which is the third film in 2012 I have gone the distance with the top rating, and still consider one of the best films I've seen in over the past 12 months. This is the wrenching personal journey of an intelligent and cynical young man who is out of a rehab to reassess his perceptions of whether life is worth living. It’s a lyrical jorney and an introspective one, complete with the director’s affections for Oslo, and with a singular voice and vision, negotiated by a searching camera and the astonishing performance by Anders Danielsen Lie, who also anchored Trier’s earlier film. But your own descriptive writing here frames this remarkable film beautifully. I did not like TWO DAYS IN NEW YORK at all, finding it tedious and trite, but I know many do like it, yourself included. I agree that COSMOPOLIS isn't all that great a film: COMPLIANCE at the end of the day stretches credibility with people who are clueless beyond belief, but it is still riveting; PARANORMAN is indeed nothing special, and I was more imprssed this year with FRANKENWEENIE, WRECK IT RALPH and BRAVE.

Again, terrific round-up here!

weepingsam said...

No question about Oslo, a great film that I think grows better in the memory. I might be underrating it here, if anything.... the fact is, I wrote most of this a couple months ago and somehow forgot to post it - I think a couple of the ratings would be different if I were doing it now. I think I overrated 2 Days in Paris - it's amusing, but I'm not sure I care all that much about any of it.

Compliance is a strange one, being based on a real incident. I'm not sure what liberties were taken, but i think the basics are there. It's rather terrifying - and the idea that people will act this way - is terrifying. And believable enough - and the politics, both in the treatment of the desperation of low wage workers, and the way everyone in the film seems to just accept the absolute authority of the policeman on the phone - are to the point...