Thursday, October 30, 2014

Film: Maps to the Stars, 2014, Directed by David Cronenberg

Can't quite figure out the source of David Cronenberg's appeal. He has a claim to originality and intellectualism but everything I have seen from him is pretty mainstream, plus snobbish and murky when it comes to a film's intellectual message. Quite often, his films border on the tasteless and kitschy. "Maps to the Stars" is a perfect example. (Other past works could serve as an illustration as well - "The History of Violence"- tasteless and banal with one of the worst performances by William Hurt. But also, isn't Vigo Mortensen, Cronenberg's favorite actor,  one of the most tacky actors alive? He looks like a hairdresser or a pimp or a child molester...Actually, "The History of Violence" looks like something shot by Verhoeven...)

Anyway, why is "Maps to the Stars" such a bad movie? It desperately wants to be a satire (and does it in a hysterical way, matching only the hysterical performance delivered by Julian Moore as a crazy-bitch-Hollywood-actress). The satirical intention is stuffed into a tacky, soapy plot about an incestuous family with murderous tendencies. They are rich and famous but tragically deprived of normality.They talk to themselves, they are suicidal, violent, they whimper in their bathtubs, smoke like maniacs or display other similarly "original" signs of "inner suffering". The so called "satire" is so trite and literal - e.g. Julian Moore's character is insanely happy when a tragedy befalls her competitor-actress because she gets to play the role she was after... How flat and unimaginative...Every scene in this film is as contrived and square as this little example.

If you are looking for a real satire of Hollywood, check Robert Altman's "The Player," of course...

But once proclaimed an "intellectual," David Cronenberg will stay one, I suppose, as long as he makes claims to this status either by talking about psychoanalysis, Jung, Burroughs, or quoting Paul Eluard. Though the products he manages to churn with Canadian state support, are not quite intellectual.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Film: God's Pocket (2014) Directed by John Slattery

Actors' directorial debuts tend to get snubbed - especially if the actor is a handsome man or a pretty lady. Examples abound. John Slattery's debut which he co-scripted with Alex Metcalf is based on an eponymous novel by Pete Dexter. The film feels like drama in its first half but then its genre gets confusing as dramatic situations are resolved violently in an absurdist manner reminding of the devices of the Coen brothers (Blood Simple). The social layer of the film is still prominent but it is stylized and deviates towards the lurid with its "metonymic" settings switching between the pub, the funeral bureau, industrial sites... The problem with the confusing genre stems from the novel itself - Pete Dexter's writing favors the sensational and the salacious over meaning and structure. "The Paperboy" (2012), also based on a novel of his, was a cinematic disaster. 
Given that, Slattery was actually able to convey more than the literary basis of his film - the picture oozes a kind of melancholic desperation which his low class characters couldn't possibly articulate. 

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Film: Boyhood (2014), Written and Directed by Richard Linklater

The film is a typical Linklater project -- sensitive, over verbose, overwhelming with dialog, and laden with banality philosophical conversations. But this is how people articulate their lives and human self-insight always touches on the banal.
I loved the film and its lighthearted but also melancholic message that "growing up" is actually the content of one's life. The main character's parents were growing up together with their son and their life was as confused at the end as it was in the beginning. Going off to college does not put an end to Mason's "boyhood" as he was well aware. It is just a "next step" in his life as it is in his mother's life - only marking different stages. For the mother it is the realization that there might be less "next steps" left.

The fact that the film was shot over a period of 12 years with the same cast and we see the physical change the characters go through - the phases of "mutation" from cute, through puberty-ugly, to weird and uniquely beautiful - is crucial for the message of the film. The gradual building of one's individuality, the formation of self, illustrated by physical change, lends truth to the film and makes acceptance of its philosophy on a visceral level.

Labels: ,

Books: The Nobel Prize for Literature

Patrick Modiano is a good author but Philip Roth is a formidable writer. And the Nobel Prize can't change that. 

The Swedish Academy is playing politically correct games and Philip Roth is NOT politically correct. Great writers never are. 

At least, (thank you, Academy!) Haruki Murakami did not win...But given that Elfriede Jelinek is a past winner - anything is possible....

Labels: , , ,