19 December 2006

marie antoinette, stranger than fiction, the letter, kissing on the mouth, an update

more short cuts of films i've seen recently:

marie antoinette. why aren't more people talking about this film? its remarkable. of course i heard about the infamous booing the film got at cannes, and the critical drubbing the movie got in the states, and even some of my friends who saw it before me told me it wasn't very good. fuck that -- all the criticisms i've heard against the movie aren't valid, in my opinion. the first thing that people point out is the use of modern (or 80's) pop songs, but it works because the anachronisms in song (and accents, and fashion, and food) serve to create a bridge between our time and that time, and bring in an audience who might otherwise not want to see some costume drama. it also is coppola's way of showing antoinette's state of mind, her rebellious attuitude, her ennui. it works. and other folks have criticized coppola for making a movie about herself and her priviledged position, her interest in design and high-society life. what's wrong with that? "write about what you know" is the old maxim, and its true. and besides, in this case, coppola uses antoinette's decadence -- her interest in rich foods and gaudy fashion, in particular -- as a psychological reaction to her feelings of rejection from her husband, and as an escape from the crushing boredom and intense pressure of life as the queen. and once again, coppola shows a side of women that we don't see often in the movies (probably because there aren't that many women writer/directors working at her level): women trapped both by environment, as well as society's constraints against them -- them having to play the roles of sexual conquests or pretty appendages for powerful or important men. and above all that stuff, the movie is absolutely beautiful in design and photography, its well-paced, it knows when to be quiet and dialogue-free, and it is fucking funny:
"this is ridiculous."
"this, madame, is versailles."
this is a movie that will grow and expand with age, and the people who didn't like it will look back and act like they did.

stranger than fiction. this belongs to the sub-genre of "worker drone wakes up, learns to love and lives life". other notables include "american beauty", "office space", and maybe even "the apartment". anyway, the idea was interesting, if not fully realized. zach helms seems to be stretching, reaching for something he's not quite good enough to achieve. i don't necessarily mean that pejoratively -- i like to see someone doing something new, which he did. that said, the ending was an absolute cop-out. so more interesting to me than the writing was little directing decisions: the bleak and sparse set design, the use of chicago locales without specifying chicago, the silly cgi icons, the importance places on food (particularly with hoffman and gyllenhaal's characters), emma thompson using no make-up and kleenex's as ashtrays. some of these things worked, and some of them didn't, but it was fun to see a director fucking around and trying things, regardless of the outcome. after all, you've got will farrell as your lead -- no matter what you do, the film won't fail.

the letter. some old bette davis shit that i've had lying around for quite awhile. i believe this was the first william wyler movie i've ever seen, and it shouldn't be the last. i love the economy the old studio director's used -- in an establishing shot and a beautiful tracking shot across a backlot, everything is set up for us. and then we get a great push-in close-up on bette davis', her reaction to having just shot a man several times. watch bette davis' eyes throughout the movie. as melodramatic as her acting gets as times (which was the style at the time -- this is pre-method), she's also very subtle in revealing her methods and intentions through her eyes, her face, and her body language. she's a very expressive actress, and you can see her thinking through her next move throughout the movie, until the end, when she's broken and exposed and just gives up. very old-fashioned, good shit.

kissing on the mouth. joe swanberg's first. he set out to do something different, and i see this movie as almost more of a declaration or a letter of intent than a fully-formed film. i think joe wanted to make the kind of movies he likes to see, and wants to fill a void: experimenting with form (in this case, using the audio of real interviews along with the narrative), documentary-style shooting and cutting, graphic depictions of sex. part of his style -- and the style of some other young dudes working -- is a cassavettes-esque movement towards making movies almost as mundane as life. big moments in these movies are not very indistinguishable from small, everyday moments. it all flows into one thing. that's why there's so much focus on the details of everyday life; that's why there is such a focus on tasks or chores -- dishes, paying the bills, trimming pubes, taking a shower. they are all part of the same thing. i think joe wants to show sex as one more boring facet of life, just like anything else.

also: i got my rejection letter from sundance the other day in regards to "the stick-up kid". got through to the second round, but in the end they didn't choose my script out of the 200 or so that they had sent in. its easy now to wonder what i could have done differently, such as cut the fucker down from being a 175 pager with an intermission. but the truth is that i wrote the movie i wanted to write, and if they didn't want it, that's fine. i have another course of action now, which is to prep a comedy about college that i just finished and shoot it this summer, similar to what we did with "fingerman". more on that in the future.

1 Comments:

Blogger Sean said...

i gotta say man...ennui or not purple chuck taylors have NO place in a period costume piece.

8:42 PM  

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