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7.03.2006

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

Brokeback Mountain
Directed by Ang Lee
Written by Larry McMurtry and Diane Ossana






Emotionally, it front-loads that doomed romance but the point of the gay cowboys may be to further the metatheme Sam Peckinpah and Anthony Mann pursued - - -men struggling against the twilight of their glories - - - except inverted, subverted even , into an emasculation of that hoary cliche that the Old West is the last bailiwick of machismo. But the achievement here is mostly tonal. The way claustrophobia is evoked amidst expanse ,the way heartbreak is a cutting silence , the way time passages dissolve into an almost graceful somnolence , the way life moves but little changes - - - not the drudgery of their working-class day to day , not the splendor of the landscape nor the way it dwarfs them, not the passion that dare not speak its name.
* * *

2.23.2006

DALKOMHAN INSAENG (A BITTERSWEET LIFE)

Dalkomhan Insaeng (A Bittersweet Life)
Directed and Written by Kim Ji Woon







It's fed the genre countless times before: henchman gets personal, gets backstabbed, gets even. Heroic Bloodshed hits pure jackpot when it regards itself as an apotehosis of pain. More blood shed, less heroism. The pain of impossible love. The pain of a knife wedged in your back. The pain of vendetta against friends. Pain - - - all makes and models - - - is the metatheme of the action movie. The chickenshit ones - - - hi-ho Joel Silver! - - - pull punches, strike poses, sugarcoat,pretend it doesn't exist or if it does, pretend it doesn't hurt. The gutsy ones deconstruct the machismo, count the costs, lance the boil, let it bleed. The gutsy ones hurt. Like hell. Like this. * * * *

2.20.2006

MIRRORMASK

Mirrormask
Directed and Designed by Dave McKean
Written Neil Gaiman





The makeover sequence is a highlight - - - McKean in full-on auteur mode unhinging from the anorexic story boxing his possibilities. Mckean unhinged is always a highlight. Also the point where the voices guiding him - - - Jan Svankmajer, the Brothers Quay , Jeunett-Caro, F.W.Murnau, Hayao Miyazaki - - - achieve total osmosis and invisibility. Also the point where it becomes apparent that scorer Iain Bellamy is the endeavor’s twin engine. The fairy tale’s immaterial ,almost, you could see where it comes from and where it’ll go. But the trouble McKean has in making the characters summon up something more resonant than leftover angst reheated is offset by the dense , intoxicating siege of imagery - - - orbiting giants, attacking sphinxes , riddling dog, temperamental books, traffic of fishes - - - he teases out of the little he has to work with. The emotional pay-off may be a mere awe for the cosmetic. But the cosmetic here runs poetic and deep.
* * *

2.05.2006

STAZIONE TERMINI (TERMINAL STATION)

Stazione Termini (Terminal Station)
Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Written by Luigi Chiarini with Truman Capote and Ben Hecht
From a story by Giorgio Prosperi and Cesare Zavattini








The neo-realist urges Selznick hired De Sica for crop up one time and it’s the one time the groove of the piece hits a snag. Otherwise, it's a slinky groove, a noir groove. Illicit lovers Monty Clift and Jennifer Jones untangle their messy affair in the bowels of a shadowy, labyrinthine train station in Italy with all the seductive duplicity, evasive dysfunction and slithery guile of the double agents that they emulate and that they are. The infamous melodramatic piffle of Indiscretion of An American Wife is Selznick tinkering with the cut. This is all De Sica, hands-on and without interference and, needless to say, it hangs better. The same movie, in many ways, but as envisioned - - - a long goodbye bathed in pure aura of spy. * * * *

1.02.2006

KING KONG

King Kong
Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens












Gone is the hallucinatory fugue and otherworldy off-kilter of the Merian Cooper-Ernest Shoedsack classic, as everything is sharpened to frightening and verging on anal detail. 1930s New York is resplendent - - -and ooh, Naomi, be still my heart, among others - - -but there are no new kinks, no new wrinkles, no new tweaks to the gorgeous architecture, to the overfamiliar tale. Just invisible graffiti pockmarking every overextended set piece: Spielberg Was Here. And much epic sliding into bloat. Has overcompensation become Jackson’s métier? Three hours for old wine in a new bottle (for a B movie,really) isn’t hommage, it’s arrogance.