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Showing posts from January, 2011

The Illusionist

There is a lanky Frenchman, seen usually in an ill-fitting suit or trench coat.  One might characterize him as bumbling, but he's not without an antique, gentlemanly grace.   The occasional utterance can be heard en Francais, but little in the way of speech emanates from the genial man or those around him.  And he seems slightly at odds with the supposed progress of the world about him.  For those who have seen any any of the features of the great Jacques Tati, this will sound very familiar.   It should, as this animated feature by Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville) is based upon an unfilmed script co-written by monsieur Tati.  
We're taken into a theater in Paris, where the illusionist Tatischeff (Tati's actual surname) performs his routine to a sparse crowd.   Well, he tries - his rabbit has grown rebellious to an existence that involves no more than living in a cage and obediently emerging from a top hat once summoned.   It's the late 1950's and clearl…

The King's Speech

“The family has been reduced to the lowest of creatures – we’ve become actors.”  A sad state of affairs indeed, as pronounced by the King of England, George V (Michael Gambon), to his son, Albert (Colin Firth).   The realization proves troubling in more ways than one to the stammering Duke of York .    
The advent of "the wireless," as radio was so quaintly known, meant that it was no longer enough for a monarch or his family to simply look the part and occasionally vouchsafe one of those swively, restrained wave to the masses.   A king or queen would have to speak, ingratiate him or herself to their subjects in their homes, their pubs, their places of work.  This meant that the Duke of York, paralyzed by that stammer since childhood, would be forced into the acting, the theater of public life.    Even worse, the relative safety on which he was counting, playing understudy to his brother, David (as ever, members of the royal family were as weighed down with as much nomenclatu…


A man lies in bed in his Chateau Marmont suite, while before him twin blonde strippers in matching candy stripe dresses perform a pole dancing routine, while the Foo Fighters "My Hero" crunches out of a boombox.  While this might seem to be the stuff of fantasy for most men, this particular man views the twins' playful routine with all the enthusiasm of a someone watching a documentary on knitting or furniture refinishing.   He even falls asleep before the leggy twirling is finished, leaving the girls to break down their poles (which answered THAT question) and quietly excuse themselves.  Clearly, there is something wrong with this guy.  

The unenthused guy in question is actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff).   He's in the midst of an indefinite - an adjective that applies to most every aspect of his life - stay at the Hollywood landmark, discreetly situated just off Sunset Boulevard, the hotel itself almost as evocative of movie lore as the name of the street.

For ab…

True Grit

True Grit would seem to offer all the ingredients of a classic Cohen Brothers film experience, both for the auteurs and their audience.  It's a period piece.  There are characters who speak with a grandiloquence quite foreign to our verbally-starved, texting present.   There is a genre with which to toy, interesting mayhem to depict.   And there's a guy who rides around under a bear skin, the animal's former head flopped over his own, his halting speech reminiscent of a cartoon character.   He's called Bear Man.  So, are these just the wiseacre Cohens of yesteryear?  Not quite.

If you've seen the t.v commercial advertising True Grit - the one featuring Johnny Cash in full brimstone mode, singing "God's Gonna Shoot You Down" - you might get the idea that this version of the film is quite a manly, ass-kicking affair, full of gunplay and reckoning.   Of course, that's the idea.   That's marketing.   But the film's first scene, in which a 40-y…

Black Swan

Somehow, I don't think this ever happened to the great Pavlova.   The insecurity? Perhaps.  The starving and/or bulemia?   Maybe, regrettably.   But probably not the hallucinogenic, body-loathing freak out that besets poor Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) in Black Swan.   Welcome to a dancer's meltdown, Darren Aronofsky style.  

Some, Mr. Aronofsky included, regard Black Swan as a companion piece to the director's previous feature, The Wrestler.  Certainly, both films concern themselves with the often brutal toll taken on a body devoted to athleticism of one kind or another, whether that profession happens to involve frequently taking metal folding chairs over the head, or performing gravity-defying ballons.  

The Wrestler was a near perfect convergence of star and subject matter for Aronofsky.   Mickey Rourke,  his bulky physique and visage mutated over the years by steroids and plastic surgery, seeking professional redemption, was perfectly cast.  Both the grotesqueries o…