|Index||7 reviews in total|
Do not walk, run to the video store and rent this movie. Whoever had the
idea and courage to bring this vision to screen should have won big awards
and big bucks. Special thanks to Sheryl Lee for a great
This film portrays a side of humanity that is never explored by Hollywood because it doesn't make you feel good. Gary Walkow has directed and film for adults that offers a kind of redemption that comes from looking at hard truths.
He's either nuts to create such a movie in the middle of an industry that is busy turning out mindless fare for teen age boys or he's courageous to put out a film where good actors create a mirror that reveals the stain on our modern souls.
Look at the United States, we're becoming a nation of overweight dim wits from a steady diet of junk food and junk movies. Where are the writers and performers working to imagine ourselves into a better future, a stronger vision of who we are?
A handful of them created this film; honor their courage by viewing it.
When I saw this film, I was aware that it was a retelling of a Dostoyevky
story but not one I had read it. I still found it a very enjoyable film,
which held my attention the whole way.
The self-defeating, somewhat neurotic protagonist manages to mess up every opportunity of improving his life that comes his way but manages to do so from a position of either moral or intellectual superiority. He justifies logically all his disastrous decisions and questions the sanity of anything he does that is motivated by emotion. He can't see the point.
He vacillates constantly between rejecting everyone around him and craving their love, friendship or forgiveness. Having met the "hooker with a heart of gold" who tidies his flat and, uniquely in the film, shows him respect and love, he drives her away with brutality and insults. In a momentary spell of remorse, he searches for her in the rain-soaked streets and looking back on this act in his video diary asks: "Why did I look for her? If I had found her, I would just have got back with her and tormented her again"
The acting is excellent, the photography tight and claustrophobic, which suits the protagonists tiny world. The editing cuts between his direct contributions to video diary, historical narrative and his flights of fancy at various points. It DID make me want to read the book but I think the film a work that stands up well on its own.
Ignore the last user, this film is definitely worth the view. As a big
Dostoevsky fan and film nerd I remember seeing this film listed on the
line up for the Boston film festival and was immediately intrigued.
I'm very picky when it comes to adaptations of books I like, so I was pleasantly surprised with how well cast the film was. Czerny was a brilliant underground man and Lee (better known at that time from her Twin Peaks fame) was a perfect blend of hard and vulnerable. The only casting choice I was somewhat iffy on was Jon Favreau, who was just starting the "Swingers" hype, I just never pictured him to be the right age and sort for the role.
Adapting a book whose entire structure is the monologue ramblings of a conflicted character is not an easy task, but here the film is a perfect blend of snide voice over, action and still manages to convey the spirit of the novel.
I'll always remember the Boston Globe reviewer commenting that he never thought one could put Dostoevsky and comedy in the same thought, but somehow this film had. I agree, though I always knew Fyodor had has witty side.
All in all I was greatly saddened that the film never got a wide release after that, so I never saw it again, pity I'd have dragged all my literary minded friends to it.
This is a VERY good movie, a surprisingly well-done adaptation and
modernization of Fyodor Dostoevsky's novella, "Notes From Underground,"
where the action is transplanted from 19th century Russia to the Los
of today. Now, this book happens to be one of my all-time favorites so I
very concerned that the movie would be a kind of hip desecration: "How can
you separate this story from its roots in the squalor and misery of St.
Petersburg and plop it down in La-La land without removing its guts?" I
thought. Well, the film somehow manages to do it: watching it, the setting
seemed to make perfect sense, as what becomes emphasized is the hero's
inability to fit in with the gorgeous and glib Southern California
and the consequent rage and self-consciousness he feels because of it.
picks up on one strand in Dostoevsky's book, but because of the new
enlarges upon it and gives it a new focus.
Of course, because of the nature of movies, other aspects of the book had to be shortened or else removed entirely, particularly the extended philosophical and existential monologues the hero spins out in his "notes" (wonderfully converted in the film from a diary format, to a videotaped "confession" - this is perhaps the film's best conceit: once you think about it, it's the obvious solution, but no less inventive for it). The film would have been stronger, and more true to its source, if these videotaped scenes included a bit more philosophical elaboration by the narrator on his motives - twisted though his rationalizations are - because then his actions might become slightly more explicable, particularly to those who haven't read the book.
Actually, that brings up an interesting point: can you enjoy, or at least appreciate, this film without having read the book? I'm a little bit too close to the source to say for certain, but my guess would be no. I don't think the film truly does enough to stand on its own, to stake out its own ground which would make sense to an audience unfamiliar with the conceits of the book. This is a shame, since I don't think it would necessarily have taken much more to do this - the rest of the film is so well done. But maybe I'm wrong; I hope I am, because as a study of an insular, cut-off soul (with an absolutely OUTSTANDING central performance by Henry Czerny, one of the most precise and amazingly controlled I've ever seen in a movie), this film definitely deserves to be seen. Whether it's possible to is another story: I saw this in Chicago at an art-house theater and have never been able to find any kind of proof of its existence again, either on video store shelves or in any kind of movie directory listings (until this site, of course).
Anyway, good luck finding this film - and if you do, drop me a note and let me know where: I'd love to get a second look at it.
I loved this movie. It is dark, but well acted and I thought quite
hilarious (in a life isn't always so great--I wish I could do that kind
of way). Henry Czerny possesses such an intensity, "victim" portrayal
and convincing self-hatred; it is not difficult to understand why he
acts as he does (even though the past wrongs done to him are vague).
Anyone who has experienced alienation from a group or hating who they are/what they were doing but couldn't stop the compulsion to cease their behavior, will be able to relate and appreciate the dark humor of this film.
I caught it on IFC years ago by accident and my sister and I were both so unexpectedly drawn to the film we could not turn the channel!
For anyone who has read Dostoevsky's novel upon which this film is
based, they will be pleasantly surprised to find that Gary Walkow has
done a superb job of adapting it to the screen and placing the story in
a modern context. Of course, those who haven't read the book will not
be disappointed--it stands on its own as a relentless critique of
(post)modernity and an examination of forms of all-inscribing social
control that permeate one human being's alienated existence.
The Underground Man (played brilliantly by Henry Czerny) is, in his own words, "a sick man". In every interaction he sees only the potential to dominate or be dominated; human relations for him are a disease. He is spiteful, frightened, and ashamed of his condition and his perceived inability to change. In order to mitigate the sting of such painfully acute self-awareness/self-consciousness, the Underground Man creates a video diary, in which he records his "confessions" about his interactions with others. These "confessions", while "sincere" expressions of self-loathing and a tortuous desire to change, end up being ultimately dishonest--he cannot even finish some entries because of his awareness that confessions for an unseen "audience" provide him with nothing but shallow comfort and artificial relief.
In the film we see the Underground Man fantasize about becoming the strong, desirable, upright person he wishes to become, only to later criticize these fantasies and his reliance upon the very constructs or images of "strong", "desirable", and "upright" he so despises. It is the perceived irreducibility of this cycle that causes him to feel ashamed of his helpless condition. However, he is also plagued by guilt: somehow he sees within himself the ability to change. His intimate knowledge of the reducibility of "consciousness" forces him to acknowledge that man remains, in the words of Sartre, "condemned to freedom."
Again, this film marvelously realizes Dostoevsky's vision in its portrayal of the Underground Man. Sheryl Lee's talent in the role of Liza, the prostitute, is highlighted as well. Jon Favreau, in a rare pre-"Swingers" performance, plays Zirkov, the Underground Man's more successful college acquaintance. Seth Green also appears in this early indie film.
This film (and the book, of course) come highly recommended, with 10 stars. One's perception of the world and of interactions with others cannot possibly be left unaffected by Walkow's brilliant adaptation and Czerny's performance.
I love this book. It was my bible for years from high school on. Notes
From Underground (what happened to the *The*? My text versions always
included it) was arguably the first truly modern psychological
ontological existential novel, the forerunner to, among other things,
Catcher in the Rye & many of Woody Allen's better works.
This movie, on the other hand, comes off as nothing more than a very lame imitation of a Steve Martin routine. The lead even looks like Steve Martin but the ancillary characters are barely cardboard in substance. What should have been wryly & universally satirical simply becomes high-school sophomoric.
A dreadful disappointment.
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