28 January 2006

cache (i can't find the right accent mark -- sorry franophiles)

spoiler warning: like with all these writings, its probably best if you have seen the movie first. this is for obvious reasons, but also because i don't consider these writings reviews, but reactions. so i'm going to write about things which would spoil shit for you if you haven't seen it prior to reading. that makes sense, right? and it certainly applies to "cache", as well. you know what i mean if you've seen it. otherwise, stop now. ok.

a bit of background: saw this beast with dan prazer, who had already seen it previously but was eager to go again. why not? for one thing, homie is a huge haneke fan ("funny games" in particular). secondly, the nature of the film is such that a second viewing would be helpful. indeed, its a dense one, and there are a lot of shots that don't make sense unless you mentally go back and connect the dots. and even then...

so we went to the music box, the only place "cache" is playing in town. i fucking love the music box. its what i romantically imagine watching movies was like for flappers and their gentlemen callers back in the 20s, back when going to the movies was reason enough to dress up. the main theatre is decked out in crushed red velvet, the architecture old italian, the ceiling has little lights to emulate the night sky. instead of shitty movie trivia and muzak, the pre-picture entertainment is an old fella playing organ jams. all of which is to say you could do a lot worse than watch a movie at the music box, and if you are in chicago, try your damnest to go there. ok.

so. the movie. my only other experience with haneke was "code inconnu", the structure of which i ripped off in certain ways for the first film i made. what he did there was use very long one-takes to represent "reality", and used either montage or classical editing to represent "media" or "falseness" -- ambiguous terms, but i can't think of anything better. watch the movie and see what i mean.

so "code inconnu" stuck with me because he used film grammar in a very thematic way, a way that i found interesting enough to emulate (badly). he does something similar here: uses establishing shots as a thematic device, and gives them serious subtextual power. indeed, there's a long establishing shot right after the suicide (see, spoiler!) outside of a movie theatre. the establishing shot by itself tells us a lot about georges -- how he reacts to tragedy, how cowardly he is, how he hides from reality, etc. to have such control of film grammar, and to use it in such unexpected ways -- this is why haneke is rightly considered such a master.

and on to the main mystery: who is sending these tapes? some would say this is a moot point, that it is a macguffin for haneke to explore voyeurism/the contract between audience and filmmaker, the remnants (political and personal) of the french and algerian conflict (and, based on the prominent featuring of the news program, occupation and conflict in general), and especially, guilt.

i disagree. i think there is something that a lot of people are missing, at least based on the scant writings i've read about this film. i believe haneke is also trying to address the sins of the father and how they carry on through generations, somewhat similar to what cronenberg was doing with the sneaky subplot of "a history of violence". my interpretation of the main mystery is this: somehow pierrot knows about the old conflict between georges and majid, and he is the one doing the taping. this makes sense, both in logical, practical ways -- who else would have that kind of access to their house, for example? who else would know how to push the parents buttons? but also haneke gives us a few clues. one is that the first dinner scene with the entire family. pierrot comes in late, with vague explanations of where he's been and what he's doing. then we see a seemingly meaningless scene of him swimming, over and over. just in terms of film grammar, haneke implicates him for the get-to, saying: "he's the one!" then there is the above picture -- haneke is too smart to allow videocameras in a movie about someone being videotaped without having a specific reason. in this case, he is implicating pierrot.

i happen to believe that majid knew either nothing or very little of the tape situation. but seeing georges again brings up old memories that he has never gotten over, hence the suicide (a marvel in many ways -- the fact that everyone gasped at the same time in my half-full theatre; the technical aspects of an actor slitting their own throat and having to fall over and play dead. not easy, nor is controlled fake blood). i also believe majid 2 when he says he didn't send the tapes. i believe he and pierrot are friends or acquaintances and majid 2 told pierrot that his famous father ruined his own father's life. pierrot, raging with a shallow sense of teenage angst and a deeper sense of familial shame, decides to torture his father. that he finds out his mother is cheating only strengthens his resolve to continue the damage.

that explains the final scene. most people think it is enigmatic. i think it shows the connections above while still allowing haneke to fuck with your head, because who is that woman with her back to us?

as we left the theatre, everyone was talking about the movie, trying to figure out what was what and top from bottom. whatever other goals haneke had (thematic or otherwise), this was surely the foremost in his mind: a film that doesn't end when the credits roll.

16 January 2006

top ten of 2005

tom mcalister sent me his list of best films of the year today. i've been putting off posting mine, but that spurred me to think about it and figure it out. one caveat: there are a lot of movies i didn't see this year, so there were probably a lot that you like that i don't have up there. sorry. in any case, here's my list:

  • the 40-year-old virgin - steve carell has a great screen presence, and i love that they made a sex comedy about a virgin and they still allowed him dignity and respect. in other words, carell's andy was a character, not a caricature. harder than it looks.

  • the aristocrats - save for the ending, totally amazing (especially seeing it with a packed crowd). this is improv at its finest, along with some fine sociology and doing what is usually forbidden -- explaining the nature of jokes and wondering what makes people laugh.

  • brokeback mountain - best film of the year, hands down. no weak link in this one. i'd list why i love it and why i think is and will be a classic, but it would take too long and it doesn't matter what i think. go see this movie and understand why its selling out like a motherfucker everywhere.

  • capote - they accomplished, in spades, one of the hardest tricks in the cinematic book: giving you a deeply flawed, even dispicable character, and came away making you feel for him and care about his downfall. plus, i fucking love phil hoffman.

  • the family stone - i expect some flak for this one, but this is exceedingly well-done hollywood entertainment. this reminded me of old hollywood movies that cared about giving movie stars good writing to play with. that roxine nightingale song is fucking sweet. also, paul schneider!

  • a history of violence - had it both ways, brilliantly. plus, the real theme about how we pass on violent behavior was sneaky and brutal and right-on.

  • hustle & flow - terrence howard got notices from everywhere for good reason. electrifying from his first monologue about dogs, to the scene where they construct a beat and song from seemingly out-of-nowhere.

  • murderball - gives faces to those you would normally dismiss. more drama, comedy and action than most narrative movies these days.

  • oldboy - fuck you, he ate a live squid!

  • tarnation - the first ever four-track movie.

ten seems so short, doesn't it? fine, some honorable mentions:

batman begins, downfall (does this count? if it counts as 2005, then it should be in the above category for sure), good night and good luck, me and you and everyone we know, sin city.

update: i don't know where it goes, but stick "the new world" in there somewhere. probably a tie with brokeback mountain for best movie of the year. amazing. go see it.


13 January 2006

marie antoinette

i often have problems with short-sightedness, but this is probably one of the best trailers i've ever seen.

12 January 2006

brokeback mountain

there wasn't a dry eye in the house when the credits started to roll. you wanna know why? because of a shirt! that's fucking storytelling right there. that's fucking amazing.

listen -- there's a lot of shit going on right now in the media about how this is a gay love story and its controversial and all this and that. the truth is that this is an extraordinarily well-done movie in every way possible. literally, not a weak link. and when a movie like that comes along, you enjoy the hell out of it and thank your lucky stars that it all came together in the right way.

this is the best picture winner this year, and it should be. this is a great film; this is a film that is going to last.

11 January 2006

about schmidt

you ever had that? i had that -- still have it -- that feeling all day where you wake up and you feel like shit, and all day you slouch around, that little voice in your head telling you you are a piece of shit, you are unlovable, your life doesn't matter.

i took an acting class a few years ago, and the teacher talked about how as an actor you need to experience an emotion, then file it away so that you can use it. after feeling something, pause and say to yourself, "ok, that's how that feels. remember it." so i was thinking about how i felt so lonely today (as biggie smalls said in an interview, "so lonely you're talking to yourself"), about how when you are down you feel like you are the only person in the world who feels that way, that you don't matter or that your life hasn't affected anyone in any positive manner.

(as a side note, that's pretty much what "it's a wonderful life" is about, which i wrote about last month. great movie, but what if you don't have a guardian angel to tell you you're worthwhile?)

so i'm thinking about these feelings of being worthless and lonely and negative, and i'm trying to convince myself that this too shall pass, and trying to get by them by doing with writing what my acting teacher told me -- file this away. what could i write about that would include these feelings? how could i best communicate them?

and the first thing that came to me was the realization that i'd already seen it done, and within the last few years. the movie is "about schmidt".

i was talking to rob at a show some many months ago about alexander payne and the theory that some have that he's condescending to his characters. and sure, he pokes fun. but its knowing fun. he revels in their foibles the same way a good friend, one who knows you well, can call you out on acting like a jackass or saying something dumb. i don't think he judges his characters, but he does put them in situations that most other commercial filmmakers won't because he is trying to get to a greater truth about how people can be more multi-faceted.

in this case, we're talking about warren schmidt. the first shot, as it should, sets up the whole thing. he's in a room, by himself. there's a party for him that night, but what a consolation prize is that? after that, he's on his own. he returns to work, because what else does he know? he offers his expertise to the young man who replaced him, but that young man is eager to make his own way; warren is not needed.

that's the common thread of the movie, the theme: warren schmidt believes, and is shown repeatedly in the film, that he is not necessary, that he is often in the way, a nuisance, etc. and that's why the last scene/last shot of the movie is so well-deserved, so complex in its simultaneous pity/joy/beauty -- after his whole life and this whole adventure he goes through during the movie, he gets one single, small sign that he actual made a difference to someone. its so well done and such a strong scene and payoff that i cried along with jack nicholson right there in the theatre.

but then i realized i was in hamilton and i needed to act more manly or risk getting my ass kicked.

06 January 2006

the dukes of hazzard (2005)

not enough close-ups.